First Questions First
As a beginning teacher, two questions will undoubtedly be circulating through your head: Will they like me? and Will I be any good? Interestingly, those are the same two questions that students have about new teachers at the beginning of each new school year. For students, the questions are Will I like my teacher(s)? and Will my teacher(s) be any good?
Parents will reinforce these two basic questions when their youngsters come home after the first day. They will typically ask, “How's your new teacher?” and “What did you learn in school today?”
Although you might have some fears and trepidations about your first day of teaching, please keep in mind that students, too, have similar fears about the first day of a new academic year. Whether they're entering school for the first time in the academic careers (kindergarten) or are just starting the last leg of a long educational experience (high school seniors), they'll have some concerns about their teacher(s) and what they can expect during the next nine months.
You can alleviate many of their fears as well as most of yours by focusing on four basic concepts. These are areas to focus on during the first day of classes, but they will also be important areas of concentration throughout the entire school year:
Building a community
Routines and schedules
A very effective tool — even before school begins — is to send your students a brief newsletter to introduce yourself. As soon as you get your class list, compose a newsletter (Mrs. Smith's Chronicle, for example) that provides some inside information about who you are: hobbies, books you read during the summer, how excited you are to meet everyone, your family life, etc. This will help students and their parents get to know you even before they set foot in your classroom.
Be sure your students see you as a human being first, rather than an authority figure in the classroom. Take time early during the first day to introduce yourself. Tell students something about yourself, particularly about your life outside the classroom. This can include the following:
Your youth and educational experiences
Your hobbies and interests
Places you've traveled
Books you've read
It's important for students to know that you have experiences and interests not unlike those of other adults. In fact, I've often found it helpful to share a funny incident from my past, an embarrassing moment I had in school, or some self-deprecating humor. These humanizing touches cue students that their teacher does human things and is not always perfect.