We all know how important first impressions are, and that’s especially true with the beginning of your school year. We also know that poor first impressions often are difficult to undo. So it’s important that you have a strong beginning to your year. But how do you go about it?
- Have (at minimum) your first day’s materials ready to go. You don’t want to be madly searching for copies of handouts while your students are waiting for you to take charge.
- Have a filing system that categorizes your information by classes.
- Greet your students at the door so they know you’re excited, you’re prepared, and you’re in charge.
- Have a seating arrangement in place before your students ever enter the room. It creates less disruption, especially if the seating chart is posted on the overhead screen as they walk in. If you don’t want assigned seats, make sure your students can get seated as effortlessly as possible.
- If you can, send a quick note home to your students before the first day of school—especially if you have a particular home base group or small group that you’ll be responsible for through the year. Send a postcard or an email with a brief note saying you’re excited about having them in class and that it’s going to be a great year. That gives you an early connection with the students and their families. It also opens the lines of communication before the first bell even rings.
- Establish basic rules on the first day; have them posted to reinforce them. But keep the list small and manageable. For example, “Respect” is a one-word rule that covers nearly everything.
- Avoid referring to students’ mothers and fathers; today, family can be defined in a variety of ways.
- Smile…even though it’s not Thanksgiving yet. We’ve all heard the idea that teachers shouldn’t smile until Thanksgiving; don’t take it literally. There’s no need to scowl. Instead, the real intent of that saying is for you to be ready to manage your class as needed. As for smiling, give it a try. It will help you and your students feel a little more comfortable in the first days of the semester as you all get to know each other.