Student success will be enhanced when we establish an
environment of personal validation and respect.
[NOTE to reader: This week’s post comes from my forthcoming book (work-in-progress) on mentoring faculty. In the weeks ahead look for posts on this blog that relate to the topic of effective teaching and mentoring faculty. As always, I appreciate your comments. Make it a great week!]
With the first day of class nearing for students and teachers, I would like to take time this week to speak to my colleagues—the teachers across this nation (and the world).
The first day of class is arguably the most important day of the school term. This is when impressions are made, trust begins, and relationships either begun or dashed.
As the teacher, consider this: Think to a time when you entered a room of strangers. It could’ve been a party. Maybe it was your first day on campus as a new teacher. Do you remember how you felt? Perhaps you were excited with a tinge of anxiety. Or maybe you experienced symptoms of full-blown fear and wanted to run away.
For our students this first day is so critical. For first-generation students especially, it could mean the difference between them coming back on day two or leaving the campus forever.
Consider this mantra for day #1: People Before Paper! (Tip of the hat to my friend, Joe Cuseo, for always reminding us of this truism!) In a word: Relationships. Establish a human connection before plopping down your tome (AKA: syllabus). More specifically, consider the following questions. Ideally, these would serve as effective conversation starters with your colleagues.
□ Initial greeting. How will you great students before the “formal” introductions (see below)? Where and when will you do this?
□ Introductions: Them. What will you ask the students to share with the class about themselves? Will you ask them to share anything? Why or why not? How will you guide them and make them feel at ease?
□ Introductions: You. How will you introduce yourself? Will you simply be the disembodied “Professor So-n-So”? Will you share something “human” about your life—and your journey to the classroom? If you could only share three things with your students about who you are, what would those three nuggets be? Why did you choose to share these? How self-revelatory will you be? What is appropriate? Inappropriate?
□ Timeliness. Will you be in class early, right on time, or whenever the mood hits you? Will you require punctuality from your students? If you will, how will you explain this to them?
□ Technology. When will you have checked out the technology in the classroom? Will you have been in the class before the start time of day one so that the technology (the computer; the projector; other items) is up and running when the students arrive—or will you use (and lose) the first few minutes of class to do that while the students are getting settled?
□ Trust. What will you do on this first day to begin the process of trust-building in the classroom? What will you do to begin the process of demonstrating the classroom is a “safe place” for expressing views and opinions? Do you want the students to express their views and opinions?
□ Icebreaker/Community Building. What initial activities will you do on this first day to begin the process of building a community for teaching and learning? Do you believe building a classroom community is important? Why or why not?
□ Baggage. How will you convey to students that the classroom is their time to explore, be curious, learn—and focus on their growth? What will you do to encourage them to “check” their personal “baggage” at the door each day? How will you “check” your own “baggage” each day?
□ Passion. What will you do to demonstrate your authentic enthusiasm and excitement for the class and course material? How will you show authentic excitement for their (your students’) presence?
□ Names. How will you remember the names of your students? How will you encourage them to know the names of their classmates? Why would you even want to do this? Will you use photographs of students to help you remember names?
□ Seating. Will you require students to sit in assigned seats? If they can choose their seats, do they have to sit in the same one all semester? Can they sit in any seat at any time during the term?
□ Goal. What is one overriding and specific goal you have for the first day of class?
□ Honest feedback. How will you get honest feedback from your students about the first day in class? Will you: ask general questions in a class discussion; ask for anonymous written responses before they leave class; assume if no one asks questions all is ok?
□ Announcements. What announcements will you want to make before dismissing the class for the first day? What will your parting (last) words for the day be to your students? How do you want them to remember you and the class?
□ Civility. What will you do to encourage civility in your classroom? How will you respond to acts of incivility?
□ Gratitude. How will you show gratitude to your students? How will encourage them to show gratitude to the class?
□ Syllabus. Do you plan to distribute the syllabus on the first day of class? If you do, will you read it to the class? Why or why not? What will you do with the syllabus once you distribute it to the students?
□ Social Media. Will you use social media for class communication and lessons? Will you accept “friend” requests on social media?
□ Boundaries and limits. What boundaries (how far they can go) will you be sure to emphasize the first day? What limits (how far you will got) will you tell you have?
□ Class rules. What are your major rules for the class? Are there any rules for the class?
□ Attire. What will you wear? Why? How do you know what you will wear has the impact you think it will?
□ Relevance. What will you do to establish relevance between this course and the students’ lives? How will you demonstrate this course has meaning to their dreams?
□ Resources. Are there any campus, community or career resources you want your students to be familiar with from day #1?
Video recommendation for the week:
See how one professor builds relationship from day one.
The old adage holds, “We never have a second chance to make a first impression.” What will yours be on the first day you welcome the students to the classroom? You will set the tone for the entire semester. Continue to make a difference!
Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.
(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.