What do I want my students to know?

Tomorrow you get to set the tone for your Spring 2018 classes. Why leave that to chance? Take a few minutes and, just as you would with any other lesson, set up a plan to ensure your students walk away with the right understanding and feeling about your class.

Here are a few questions to help in this planning:

What do you want them to know about you?

This may feel like an intrusive question, but it is worth asking. They are entrusting you with three hours of their week. It is fair to want to know just a little bit about who you are, what your background is, and what makes you tick.

Revealing what qualifies you to teach the class is important. In research terms this is called “teacher credibility” and it does matter to students.

Cracking the door to your personal life may also be the key to cracking student motivation. We work with people and people, like it or not, need to know something about who they are working with to learn from them well. You don’t have to give them a peak into your bedroom, but giving them an idea of what is hanging on the walls of your living room is worthwhile and can be done while maintaining professionalism. Consider sharing your:

  • Education – where did you go to school?
  • Favorite music – a great way to make connections!
  • Favorite food or restaurants – food always opens doors.
  • Family – let them know you’re human and that there are valuable people in your life.
  • Passions – what wakes you up in the morning or how do you spend your free time

What do you what them to know about your class?

The first day of class can be more than syllabus day. It is a chance to demonstrate to your students that your class, your content, is important to their future – and not because they need the credit to graduate.

What are the burning questions in your content? What amazing problems can your content solve? How does the content they will learn in your classroom already impact their lives?

Yes, share the syllabus, but do so in a way that is meaningful to students. And then prime them in a way that will make them want to come back for the next session.

What do you want to know about them?

It is a two way street. What do you want to know about them? What information will help you make your teaching relevant?

One of the most memorable first days of school I have ever had was my undergraduate constitutional law class. The professor asked us to write our name, hometown, and major on an index card and pass it up to her. It seemed like the normal rigmarole, but she then did something I had never had a teacher do: she asked us to be patient with her as she memorized our cards.

And she did. One by one she went through the class having a short discussion with each student about their card and committed the name and face to memory. It wasn’t overly engaging or exciting, in fact, much of the class we were simply watching her talk to another student.

But when she addressed each of us by name the next class we were sold.

And when she proved that she knew not only our names, but our hometowns and majors, we were willing to take anything she threw at us.

Invest some time, consider what will work best for you, and establish each students’ name to memory. If nothing else, they deserve to have you know that about them.

Good luck in your new semester and have a great first day!

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