The first day of a new class can be quite daunting for students. They are about to start learning a new subject, with a new teacher, and are possibly in a classroom full of students that they may not know very well. Overall the experience can be quite overwhelming, but this can also apply to the teacher as well. While the teacher will obviously be familiar with the material they are about to teach, they are now faced with a group of students, which could be quite small or a large lecture hall full, who they aren't familiar with. This can be quite difficult as they don't know how the students will react to their teaching, what sort of learning styles the class might display, or if they are going to encounter anything like behaviour and attitude problems.
As a teacher it's important to make a good first impression during that first class, and make sure that your students are able to connect with you so that you both get as much out of the class as possible. While your first day might be quite nerve-wracking, taking steps to make sure it is a positive experience for you and your students should be a top priority. So when you're making up your lesson plan for that first day, why not consider some of our tips to help you really make a connection with your new class.
Set the Tone
While your students are filing into the classroom for their first day, they may already be trying to suss out what kind of teacher you are going to be. It's important that you give them a clear impression of yourself right from the get-go. If possible, make sure you are in the classroom before any of your students start to arrive. It creates a good impression, but it also shows that if you are likely to be on time for all the classes, you definitely expect them to be punctual as well.
Similarly, make sure you start the class promptly as well. Any students who turn up late will see that the class has already started, and they have more than likely missed something already. No one wants to have to walk into a class that's already started, as it can be embarrassing, and similarly they won't want to miss out on anything you're teaching which could be important.
Arriving and starting the class promptly can be a great way to encourage your students to turn up on time, without having to have a go at them on the first day about punctuality, as this may give them a negative impression of you. Starting a class by giving people a telling off is never a good way to create a good bond, so simply setting your expectations for the class right from the start will hopefully show your students what to expect. Obviously, if time management becomes a larger or more persistent issue with your class, you'll need to address it.
Additionally you may want to smile and say hello to your students as they enter the room, as this shows that you are friendly and approachable from the start. If students are scared of or dislike a teacher, they will be less likely to approach them if they need help at a later date, so it's important to get a good relationship going so it doesn't negatively affect their learning at a later date.
The first step in meeting new people, especially on a large scale like a whole class of them, is to make a good introduction. Not only will this let you briefly introduce what sort of things you'll be covering in your class, but it also means they your students will be given an insight into your personality. As we mentioned above, you want to make sure that your students feel they can approach you, so this is your chance to make a great impression.
It's also a good chance for you to get the class to introduce themselves too. While it probably won't be possible to remember their names from that first attempt, it's always good to be able to attempt to put a face to the name. Your students will appreciate you taking the little bit of time get to know them, instead of just cracking right into the material straight away. It will give them a little bit of time to relax in your classroom, before you start hitting the books!
A great idea when introducing both yourself and your material is to let your students know how you plan on supporting them throughout the class. Setting up a clear plan at the beginning of the class will mean your students have clear expectations of you, and they shouldn't get stressed later on in the course if they get stuck, as they will know exactly what kind of support you have on offer.
Different types of support could be providing students with your email address to ask you questions, running extra study groups to let struggling students attend and get some one-on-one help, or simply giving them a copy of the hours you will be in the office so they are able to come and find you if they have a question. It's up to you how much support you provide, and this may depend on how many classes you teach, how big your classes are, or how complex the material you teach is. The important thing is to let your students know that you are there to help them in some capacity, and to make these support channels clear to them. This should also make it clear to them that you are making the extra effort to make sure they can get as much from your class as possible.
Lay Out the Class
Another great idea is to lay out how your class is going to be run. This may be best displayed in a hand-out that you give your students, so they'll always have a copy to reference in the future. It's a good idea to lay out the rough topics of every session, so they know what to expect when they turn up. It may also be a good idea to provide a list of the reading you expect them to complete for each session, as handing it out this far in advance will mean they can read ahead when they have some extra time, or give them the time to buy a copy of the book if they can't get access at the library for example, without getting stressed or having to do it all last minute. You may also want to mark out the dates for any assessments you will be giving them, or provide them with an additional reading list if they wish to do some extra studying.
This outline doesn't have to be incredibly detailed, but just letting your students see what you expect from them and when you expect it will mean they can work on their study plan to make sure they have enough time for all the work they need to do. Not telling students they have to read a large chunk of text for your next class until the week before may lead them to be stressed if they have a lot of work due for other classes, so it's always good to set out things like this right at the start. Also, as you gave them ample warning of all the work you need them to do, they won't be able to claim they didn't know when things were due later on, which again fits into setting the tone of your class.
It's important to create a good relationship with your students from the get-go, so really make sure you plan out your first day with a new class is going to go. You may think these are things you would do anyway, but the stress of the first day and meeting a lot of new people could mean you end up getting flustered and forgetting a lot of it. Even if you use the same rough outline for every new class you teach, taking a little time to make than plan will make your first day a lot less stressful.
Your students will also appreciate you taking that little bit of extra time to get to know them, and explain how you expect your class to run, and should hopefully look forward to attending all your future classes!