Making a Great First Impression By Delivee L. Wright Teaching and Learning Center, University of Nebraska Introduction The first day of class is a very important time for faculty to establish a tone for what will happen the rest of the term. It is appropriate that a teacher reflect on just what climate and first impression she/he would like to establish. This article offers some ideas about that all important day. Reflecting on the first day of class, McKeachie (1986) suggests that "... meeting a group of strangers who will affect your well being, is at the same time exciting and anxiety producing for both students and teacher." Research on the first day of class by Knefelkamp showed there was a real desire on the part of both students and teachers for connectedness, but neither group realized the other shared that desire. If the participants on both sides don't understand how to develop their relationships, learning will be diminished. If you have experienced some anxiety about this meeting, planning some specific steps can not only reduce that feeling, but can get students to share in the sense of purpose you hold for the class. Some faculty avoid the "first day anxiety" by handing out a syllabus, giving an assignment, and dismissing the class. This only postpones the inevitable. It also gives students a sense that class time is not too important. Most of all, it loses the opportunity to use the heightened excitement and anticipation that students bring that day; the chance to direct that excitement toward enthusiasm for the class. What can you do to establish a positive beginning? How can you make sure student's attitudes toward you, the course, and the subject matter will support a constructive learning climate for the semester? The following ideas have been gathered to stimulate your thoughts about these questions. Perhaps you will think of others, but the following are things which could contribute to this goal. They are not in a particular order, but can be sampled to fit your own preferences. Enthusiasm Conveying a sense of enthusiasm for the content is important. Scholl-Buchwald suggests that professors "Rarely ... need to impress students with our command of the material. What is not always clear to students is whether we are interested in the subject and whether we will be able to help them become as competent as we are." He suggests that one way to demonstrate enthusiasm is to talk about yourself and your own excitement about what you teach. What intrigues you, and what could
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- Spring '12