You’ll be so nervous you might have diarrhea at least ten times before you leave for school AND you really need to be in your classroom to meet the little boogers. I’m serious. Ask veteran teachers.
Have Plenty of Bottled Water
You’ll be dehydrated from the diarrhea, and when you are nervous you get the worst case of dry mouth you could ever imagine. You need to be able to talk to the kids. Bring water.
Greet Students at the Door
A simple “Hello” or “Welcome” with a smile and eye contact goes a long way to show you want to know them and that you are happy they are in your room. This is a great thing to do every day.
Sell Yourself and Your Class
Basically, this is your sales pitch to your students. (Rehearse between visits to the toilet.) Seriously, rehearse what you are going to say. You only get one “first day”. You want your first impression to be positive. Here’ how.
Use a firm, confident, but friendly voice. Have good posture. Make eye contact with your students as you talk to them.
Students want assurance that you genuinely care about them as people and as learners. You can say this, but your actions will speak louder. They also want to believe you are knowledgeable and passionate about your subject matter. You must convey this to them day one. Talking about upcoming projects, outings, and learning goals are great ways to build interest and assurance that you are “about the learning” as I used to say.
Give them the 411
Students want to know what supplies they need for your class and how they are going to be used. Be sure to give them a due date, and the cheapest stores that carry what they need. Have your stock answer/Plan B ready when they say, “My mama won’t/can’t buy…”.
Next, students want to know how the classroom works (procedures, rules, rewards, and consequences).
Note: Over time, I discovered that when the class has an opportunity to discuss and reach consensus as to what rules should be in place so that everyone can learn, there is tremendous buy in from the students. You have empowered them and, that tells them you care about what they think. This matters.
Give them your school contact information and hours, the class website addresses, Remind101, days and times you will tutor, how to ask a question after school hours, etc.
Clarify Your Expectations and Practice Your Classroom Procedures
Using a firm voice, make it clear to students on day one that you expect everyone to follow all procedures all the time. Model what you expect, then practice your procedures until 100% of your students give you 100% of what you expect consistently.
It helps to narrate when the students are doing what you want. For example, “Keisha and Pattye are walking to the door.” “Lupita and Steven put their books under their chairs.” Some students don’t hear you the first time. Some students need to see what needs to be done.
When the kids perform the way you expect, praise them. This will be important to practice these procedures throughout the first week or so, depending on your students. The key is to be consistent.
Put Your Students to Work
Engage your students in a challenging task that wakes-up their brains from a long summer’s nap, but also allows you to get to know them. Activities that cause genuine laughter are great at easing first day jitters, yours and theirs. It is also an excellent way to practice procedures for lowering noise levels, getting their attention, moving from one place to another in the room, etc.
Personally Interact with Every Student
Have a mental list of open ended, get-to-know-you questions you can ask each individual student while they work on tasks. Try to make connections between your life and their lives. Relationships lead to learning.Remember this.
Keep Your Eyes on Your Students
If you want to maintain control and know your students, you must look at your students at all times. This is called “With-it-ness”. This helps you gauge interest, see puzzled looks, see who is not paying attention, who is playing around, who is sick, or see hands for questions. Do this every day.
Get Home & Personal Contact Information
Don’t rely on the computer system. Have kids fill out cards or sheets that tell you who takes care of them, the best way to reach their caregivers, and when. Find out if they have any health issues you need to know.
Wish them a Good Day
Be at your door to wish them well as they leave. Try to use their names. Shy kids will sometimes ask questions or for help as they leave. Other kids will reach out to you with a comment or want to tell you something personal. This is one of the best ways to build relationships.
At the end of each class, just breathe. Think positive thoughts and reflect on what went well and what to never do again. After all, it’s only the first day of school. You have 179 more days to practice.