I love butterflies. Over the summer I watch butterflies in my garden, and am delighted when they flutter around, landing for just a moment on a flower before heading off to search for more nectar.
The kind of butterflies I DON’T like are those I get on the first day of class. Walking into a classroom (virtual or otherwise) with a group of new students, wondering what kind of impression I’ll make has always made me a bit nervous. When I share this with students, they can hardly believe it – What? they say…but you’re the expert! You’ve been teaching a long time! Why do you still get butterflies on the first day??
Delaney J. Kirk, Ph.D. from University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (and who has 27+ years teaching experience!) still gets a little nervous at the beginning of a class. In an article she wrote for the Faculty Focus blog, she outlined 10 tips for getting ready for that first day:
Develop your own routine before going to class. Take a short brisk walk beforehand. Twirl your wrists to gently shake the stress out of your arms. Relax your shoulders; people tend to “hunch up” their shoulders when tense. Do some deep breathing.
Check out your classroom before the students get there. Walk around and get familiar with the room, podium, how the seats are arranged, etc. Make sure you know how to work any technology you’ll be using.
The first few minutes are crucial. Your students are curious about you and the course. Everything (how you dress, walk, present yourself) are clues as to your personality and credibility. Walk briskly and with purpose into the classroom.
Chat briefly with the students as they come into the room to make yourself (and the students) feel more comfortable.
Act confident and enthusiastic about what you will be doing that first day. Don’t say that you are nervous as this makes the students uncomfortable and you will lose credibility with them.
Also, it’s best not to tell your students that this is the first time (if it is) that you have taught this particular course. You should know more about the topic than they do so they’ll assume you’re an expert.
Use notecards or form to gather information about your students (name, email address, past class experience with the topic, work experience, etc). This takes the focus off you and onto the task which gives you time to get comfortable.
As you begin, make eye contact with two or three people in various parts of the room. Learn their names and use them several times. You are essentially beginning to build a relationship with your students.
Be enthusiastic about being in the classroom so that they will be also. Don’t just stand behind the podium but move around and move toward them. Look happy to be sharing your knowledge with them.
Start with something that is easy for you to talk about. Tell a story you’ve told often before, read something that is relevant to the class from the newspaper, share something from your days as a student or talk to them about why you went into teaching.
Are there some other ways that you prepare for the first day (April 5!)? What do you do to help with that nervous feeling on Day 1 of the course?