How to teach a class for the 1st time?
Scary, daunting, frustrating, isolating! Here are the words that come to my mind when I think about my first day as a teacher. So, why do it will you say? Because teaching is also exciting, rewarding, challenging, fun and interesting in many ways. The first thing to do to avoid pressure and any possible breakdown is to prepare yourself carefully for that first day. Prepare cautiously your lesson plan with lots of ice breakers and activities to engage your students and to get to know them. Some teachers also have a friendly worksheet to hand out where their students write personal information about their family, activities they like etc. This can be quite useful when it comes to understanding some family challenges and also to know what they are into. On your first day be ready to explain clearly what you expect of the students and be ready to give them an overview of what they will learn during the course. I also suggest that you review the school policies and agree on some basic rules before starting. Last but not least, start teaching!
Once you have your lesson plan, your resources and your enthusiasm, there you go! Try to arrive early to make all the necessary arrangements you want. Set up any equipment and make sure it is working perfectly. Display or write the outline of the course along with your name. Once your students are in, engage with them, chat with them. Interacting with your students right from the beginning will create a nice atmosphere and they will be more likely to take part in the lesson.
The best thing to do first is to introduce yourself. You can simply write down your name on the board and explain why you like and teach your subject or you may want to use some fun activities. I personally like the 2 truths one lie activity as students guess what is true about me and I get to know some truths about them as well. What is good as well is that you start learning and using their names. Learning students’ names quickly is vital as it will help you interact with them efficiently. If memorizing names and faces is not your strength prepare a seating plan with their photos to help you.
Once the ice has been broken explain the course and provide them with some examples of teaching methods you will use. Show them how each unit fits in the curriculum and tell them about the importance of attendance, punctuality and assignments. Be clear about your expectations and review the school policies but also your own rules within the classroom. I generally have my students to write their own rules as they remember them better and I then display these rules in the classroom as a reminder.
Don’t forget to answer any questions they may have about the course and ensure that they are clear about what is expected of them. Your first lesson has to be friendly, engaging but you should also be able to set the boundaries.
You may also have to be ready to defuse some situations. I remember my first day as Head of French in a college in London and I will never forget M. as one of my students. I was completely new there and I was only 23 years old so almost the same age as my students. In agreement with the department we had decided not to accept any students who would be more than 10 minutes late. M. arrived 15 minutes late without any good excuse or even knocking on the door. I explained the situation to him and to the rest of the class and told him to come back after the break. He started shouting and threw his bag on the floor in a quite threatening way. I was shocked but I stayed on my position because it was not just about that student it was about the whole class. I had to show my determination. When he left the room I used some humor with the class to avoid any escalation of the situation. It paid off. Just five minutes after the incident they were back on track and getting part in the discussion about the course. When the student came back after the break I just welcomed him as I would have done with any other student. He wasn’t defiant anymore just pretending to be bored at start. But when he realized that the rest of the class was actively on task and enjoying the tasks then he started participating. I spent the rest of the lesson encouraging him and praising him for his participation. M. came to see me at the end of the lesson and just apologized. I would always remember his words: “I am sorry, it was great actually. I don’t know how you did it but I am on board now.” M. then proved to be an excellent student if not the best of that group and he even took French at University. THAT is the rewarding part of teaching.
So, if things are not perfect the first day- and they won’t- don’t panic. It’s part of the game. Just take things calmly and try to see where things could have been improved and adjust them for your next lesson.