Often teachers report that on the first day of school, their students are eager to learn and seem to embrace the new experience and the opportunities ahead to learn new things. Their enthusiasm can be inspiring!
You can learn a lot about the maturity levels of your students by observing how they react on the first day. It can be a bit difficult to notice much on the first day as you, too, will be under some stress. Still, you should be able to see a number of indicators of what you will face in the coming months. Try to observe their behaviors and reactions. Which ones are aggressive, shy, calm, overexcited?
Your preparations for the first day should include considering the students’ various emotional states. Think about what state you would like to foster in the class and how you can get them there.
Tip: Video your class
It can be useful to make a video of the class and then watch it afterwards to see things you may not have noticed and to evaluate your own performance. If you cannot video, photographs can also be very useful (more on that in a minute).
A video camera can be set up unobtrusively in a corner of the room with the camera set to a wide angle to take in as much of the class as possible. Placing the camera in a high place can give the broadest view – and ensure the students do not play with it.
Alternatively, you could plug an inexpensive webcam into a computer and let it run during the class. If you have a video operator, they could also follow the students, zoom in on reactions, and pick out activities that you might not see as you focus on leading the class.
Video and audio recording of your classes, or having someone you trust sit in and take notes on the students’ reactions, especially on the critical first day, can provide useful information.
Later on in the term, go back and look at the first day. It can be startling to see the growth and transformation of the students over time. They will inevitably change physically, but you can also often see changes in their attitudes, level of comfort in the class, and concentration levels.
Tip: Photograph your class
You will want to get to know everyone in the class by name as soon as you can. One way to do that is to take portraits of each student – a fun “Break the Ice” activity! You can also get informal shots of the class (catch a student sleeping once in a photo you show the class and it will never happen again!).
ACTIVITY: Student Portraits
Invite students to come up to the black/whiteboard one at a time. They should write their name on the board, and then stand next to it. Then you, a parent or volunteer, or a student from the class can take a picture of the student including their name.
Another variation is to have students write their names in large letters on paper or poster board with a magic marker, then hold up their signs in front of themselves to be photographed (although this can be too suggestive of being arrested so you may prefer to have them write on the board).
A third variation — if you wish students to remain in their seats – is to have each student fold a piece of letter paper into three parts (2 folds). They should write their name in large
letters on one of the parts. Then they can set up the folded paper as a ‘nameplate’ on their desk. Photograph students with their nameplates to help you remember both their name and face.
If your students are not too shy, you can also ask them to speak to the class while they are getting their portrait taken. They can introduce themselves by name, tell where they were born and what street they live on. Ask them about their favorite hobbies.
Include the other students in class by encouraging them to ask questions of the student who is “onstage”. You can learn a lot about your students from the Q & A. Moreover, they will learn a lot about you and how well you listen to them….
The Student-Teacher Relationship
What’s the number one thing that a student looks for in a teacher, do you think?
Yes, students look to teachers for knowledge. Whether in a private after-school tutorial or the daily routine at a public school, students (and their parents) assume that the teacher knows more than they do. Typically, students and parents evaluate the teacher’s ability to impart that knowledge to students in interesting and memorable ways to determine whether he or she is a “good teacher” or a “bad teacher.”
So – probably the first thing we think of when we consider the student-teacher relationship is knowledge. The teacher should have a certain level of competency in the subject to be taught.
Second, the teacher’s teaching skills can make all the difference between whether a subject is boring and uninteresting or fascinating and motivating to students.
There is a third less-definable issue that students immediately react to on the first day of school: the teacher’s integrity. As a teacher, do you say what you mean? Perhaps more importantly, do you mean what you say?