Your first day of class is almost here! Are you excited? Anxious? Whether it’s your very first time teaching ever, you’re teaching a new course, or you’re just starting a new semester, beginning a class for the first time can be nerve wracking. To get us all ready for that first day, we asked educators to share practical tips about how they handle a new semester. Here is a compilation from their years of teaching experience.
1) Be prepared!
In teaching, confidence is key. While it can be nerve wrecking, displaying confidence will show students you are up to the task and ready for the new semester. Check out the room in advance and familiarize yourself with its resources. Test out any technology you want to use beforehand. There’s nothing worse than finding out something doesn’t work on that first day. Knowing those details are set can help free you up to relax, focus on your teaching, and exude the confidence that students respond to.
2) Practice, practice, practice
Practice makes perfect. If you are nervous about teaching a new class for the first time, make sure you practice your lesson in front of a mirror, with a partner, or with a peer a few times. It will help build your confidence in the material and sequence of your lesson, anticipate any areas of potential challenges that might come up, and adjust in ways that will set you and students up for success.
3) Dress for success
Although different schools and institutions will have varying dress codes, and individuals have different stylistic choices, make sure that you know your instructor of record and/or supervisor’s expectations before school starts.
4) Rehearse your power pose
Body language can be important in teaching. Some research has even shown that power-posing reduces anxiety and boosts confidence. One suggestion is to stand tall with your chest out and your hands on your hips.
5) Show your enthusiasm
Students pick up on your excitement (or lack thereof) about teaching their class. If you’re thrilled about the material, there’s a better chance they will be too. Communicate your enthusiasm by sharing personal stories, anecdotes or artifacts about the topic at hand.
6) Always bring water
It’s easy to forget about some of our practical needs when we teach. Having a bottle of water can sometimes be a lifesaver, especially after teaching for a long time or when feeling nervous.
7) Connect with students
Make sure to engage with your students, learn their names, let them introduce themselves to you and to one another, and create opportunities for them to share about what matters to them outside the classroom and connected to the disciplinary questions your class will support them in addressing. These steps will help you connect with students and build community.
8) Expect the Unexpected
Sometimes, even though we’re ready and have planned our lesson plan by the minute, things can go wrong. A projector doesn’t turn on, you have more students than syllabi, students are late, etc… Be ready for anything and everything. Stay positive and confident. That’s the beauty of teaching!
9) Don’t feel discouraged
After your first day of class, you may feel discouraged if things didn’t go as planned, or if you felt like you didn’t get the reaction you expected from your students. Just remember that they are also starting the semester and may have a lot to manage at the same time. Think about both the positive aspects of the day and reflect about the things you could improve.
10) And remember, students enjoy a little change!
If and when you feel it is appropriate to change things up in your class, engage with elements of popular culture, and mix up the materials you use to support learning, try anecdotes, gifs (animated images) or memes (images with words) to also communicate ideas. A little (suitable) popular connection, new content, and humor can help students engage differently.
*note: distancing and other precautions required during the COVID19 pandemic may influence how some of these tips look in your face-to-face/hybrid classes, but remember even if you're teaching 100% online- these tips still ring true!