By now you're probably wondering
how to make a positive first impression on your students. The
rapport established with students in those critical first moments together
learning environment that is relaxed but orderly
in students an excitement to learn
confidence to participate fully in the learning experience.
If you feel a twinge of apprehension
on the first day of class, don't worry; you're not alone. Even veteran
teachers experience the first-day jitters. Just remember, what you feel
as nervousness will probably be perceived as energy and enthusiasm by
your students. So take your nervousness and translate it into high spirits.
Six Rules for Making a
Good First Impression
To Know Your Students and Their Needs
Let your students know, from
the beginning, that youíre interested in them as individuals and their
progress in the class. Students tend to work harder and respond more
positively if they believe the instructor is genuinely interested in
their personal learning goals and success. Once your students realize
that you care about them as people, you are well on your way to a rewarding
Create a sense of community
in your class. People learn best when they are engaged and their intellectual
curiosity has been sparked. Make sure that your first lesson has an
exercise that gets students to talk to each other or engaged in a problem-solving
Students will probably come
to class with questions about you and the class content. In your opening
remarks, address their concerns about prerequisites, the workload and
expectations, the appropriateness of the class to their learning needs,
and your abilities as a teacher.
Here are simple, effective
teaching techniques that let your students know you care about them.
These techniques will help you set the tone for the rest of the semester.
Greet the students as
they enter the room. Think of yourself as the host and the students
as the guests. Creating a friendly and inviting atmosphere gives
you and your students a sense of belonging.
Take attendance. This
is a prime opportunity to make eye contact, check name pronunciation,
and let your students know you recognize them as individuals. Address
your students by their preferred names. You will be amazed at how
much difference it makes to speak to your students by name. To help
yourself learn names, you can play name games as icebreakers at
the beginning of class. For example, give the students a few minutes
to interview the student to their left. Each student then introduces
his or her colleague. Another is to have each student say his or
her own name--the twist is that each student has to repeat ALL the
names before theirs. Let people take notes, of course, and make
it as much fun as possible. Other choices are to create name cards,
seat maps or any memory prompt that will help you recall names.
Open your class with
survey questions. Simple questions can help you gauge the students,
lets them tell you something about themselves and starts to create
camaraderie for the group. For example, at the beginning of a class
on Web design, a teacher might ask, "How many of you can use
a word processor?" or "How many of you have taken photographs
before?" By reminding students of previous, relevant experience,
you'll help them feel confident about learning new skills. Equally
important, those few minutes of interaction at the beginning of
the class helps to set a tone of mutual attention and respect.
Hand out and address
the course syllabus. One activity is to break into groups, read
the syllabus, and then have each group pose two or three questions
about the course or the instructor. This can help the students get
to know each other, the expectations of the class, and you.
the class material. Once you know a little about your students,
through introductions and name games, use what you know to create
examples and stories that have relevance to their lives. For example,
use geographic locations, occupations, hobbies or activities that
might be familiar to class members.
2: Introduce Yourself and Your Material in a Positive Way
you start off your first classroom presentation by declaring that you
won't be very good, you've just shot yourself in the foot and set that
expectation in your students' minds. It is surprising how
some people belittle themselves and get off to a bad start. Take a look
at these videos and see if youíve ever heard these openings before.
is my first lecture after the New Year, ... "
another speaker) "Iím not
as good as MaryÖ"
response to a question) "I
should know the answer to that, but I donít. I just got this class
"I don't really
know much about the subject. You probably know more about it than
Letís see how these responses
can be improved by simply rephrasing the statements to make a better
"Iím excited to
be back with you after a long and refreshing breakÖ"
"Mary, that was
an excellent presentation. Thank you. Now letís take a look atÖ"
"Thatís a really
good question. Let me research that and get back to you next week."
Or "I havenít had any direct experience. Can someone in
the class address this?" Or " I was
reading about that on the Internet just the other day. Letís
take the last five minutes of class and look at this together."
"This area of content
is changing every day. There is always something new to learn."
you donít have confidence in yourself, your students wonít either.
3: Help your Students Establish Learning Strategies
One of the true pleasures
of teaching at the community college level is the diversity of experience
and knowledge you will find in your classroom. Many of your students
will be adults who bring experience, motivation and diverse backgrounds
to your class. Use these and other characteristics
of community college students to turn this valuable classroom asset
into an opportunity to partner with your students to create a richer,
more stimulating learning environment.
Although much of our knowledge
about pedagogy comes from the experience of teaching children, or
of being a child ourselves in a classroom, teaching adults is a
very different experience. Andragogy,
initially defined as "the art and science of helping adults
has now come to mean learner-focused education for people of all ages.
Understanding your students' general characteristics as well as their
styles can pave the way for a rich, multi-layered classroom experience.
Finally, do yourself a big
favor and read through The
Thirty Things We Know For Sure About Adult Learning. You will
probably recognize yourself and your own preferences in the list. Your
students will have similar needs. Once you have a grasp on adult
learning theory, you can help your students learn more effectively by
helping them grasp the scope of the class and develop their own learning
strategies. Some standard techniques are:
Discuss the objectives
of the course. Be specific about goals and topics.
Ask the students to write
down their personal goals for taking the course. Some teachers use
contracts to help students clarify and commit to their learning
Give your students ideas
about how to study, where to find help outside of class (learning
labs, tutoring, etc.), and strategies on how to approach the material.
Present and work though
a real world problem to illustrate how the course content will be
To help students measure
their preparedness for the course, give a short pre-test.
Move straight into course
content by giving a short assignment due the next class session. This
will show that you are well organized, that you respect the studentsí
time and learning goals, and that the course is worthwhile.
4: Use Technology to Address Different Learning Styles
Imagine teaching a geology
class. As you describe a trip to the Chocolate Mountains in the California
desert, you show a Virtual Reality image of an alluvial fan. Your students
will get a rich, interactive 360-degree panorama of your trip.
Or letís say youíre teaching
a language class. You can create presentations with images, printed
words and clickable sound files of native speakers pronouncing the words
you want your students to learn.
Adding multimedia to your
classroom is easy. With a few simple and inexpensive tools you can add
the visual, kinesthetic and sound elements to your classes that address
multiple learning styles and bring multi-layered richness to your classroom.
Ask your dean or department chair if there is a Learning Resources Lab
or New Media Lab on your campus to help you create multimedia presentation
materials. You'll find examples of the media available for classroom
Just as in Scouting, in teaching
there is nothing like preparation. Here are suggestions that have proved
useful for teachers in the past.
Visit your classroom
before the first meeting to become comfortable in the environment.
Check your keys and security code to ensure that they work. Check
the lights, the windows, and the sound of your voice in the space.
Make sure you know how to use the equipment (overhead projector,
PC, SmartBoard, digital cameras, VCRs, digital microscopes, etc.)
and who to ask for spare bulbs and help when things go wrong. Also,
check that your handwriting can be read from the back of the room.
Prepare your opening
remarks. Rehearse with a friend, a spouse or even in front of the
mirror. Try to get into your classroom in advance and practice in
front of empty seats. Hold the marker, write on the whiteboard,
do whatever you will do that first day. It's good to practice in
your mind, but talking out loud and holding your props will help
prepare you for that first day with an audience. Some new teachers
feel awkward introducing themselves and describing their credentials
and experience. Donít be shy or overly modest. Your students need
to know about your background, knowledge and expertise. Your experience
will inspire confidence.
Pack up your books and
supplies by following a Checklist
for the First Day of Class of everything you'll need. Download
the checklist and personalize it for your own needs. Some teachers
use plastic filing boxes, others use rolling travel bags to cart
their supplies in and out of classrooms. Another good tip is to
use small plastic food containers with pop on lids to keep track
of small items like pencils and pens, batteries for microphones,
sticky notes etc. Many teachers carry their offices from room to
roomómake it as easy and portable for yourself as you can.
Prepare for technological
inconsistencies. For example, if you will be using Internet sites
in your lecture, bring a copy of the site on a CD or on a Zip disk.
If your Internet connection fails during your talk, you can access
the CD to finish your presentation. This kind of protection is called
ďredundancyĒ and it will save you.
6: Take Control of Your Class Through Classroom Management Techniques
Know campus rules and
regulations before your first class. Let's say students press you
about adding or dropping a class--if you know the policies you'll
keep your composure even during first day confusion.
Write your name, the
course name and number on the board. Students will feel confident
that they are in the right room. Or, if they are in the wrong room
they can gracefully leave.
Learn a few key phrases
for gaining your students' attention. At the beginning of class
and after break-out sessions, you'll need to bring focus back to
the front of the room and it can be daunting to gain facilitative
control. Some effective examples of phrases are:
"Let's come together now."
"Can I have your attention up here now."
"Thank you, now let's move on."
Take a few minutes to
review campus and class policies with your students regarding academic
honesty, use of the Internet and technology, breaks, where the bathrooms
are, food and drink policies in the classroom, turning cell phones
and pagers to vibrate, etc.
Review safety precautions
and emergency procedures. Let students know what to do during earthquake,
fire, evacuations and other emergencies. Make note of exits. Inform
students to stay together and move quickly and quietly to the campus
emergency assembly areas. Be sure to take your roll book. Each campus
will have a set of procedures to follow in emergencies. Be sure
you are thoroughly familiar with your responsibilities during an
Remember to use these strategies
and you'll help develop a good rapport with your students and make a positive
impression on that all-important first day of class.