Teacher introductionJust walking into class on the first day and mumbling, “I’m Dr. Smithereens,” and then just launching into whatever that day’s lecture is (or bringing up your opening PowerPoint) or doing anything else that doesn’t start to build interaction and rapport with students is going to cause a collective ‘oh, great, not this,’ from your students. Introducing yourself effectively to students on day 1 sets you apart from (way too) many other professors. Students will think, ‘hmmm, this could be OK,” which may be as excited as they are willing to get until you’ve proven yourself even further.

Consider this: Students register for particular class sections for either (or both) of two primary reasons: the convenience of its time slot, and the reputation of the professor. Said another way, consumer-oriented students care most about fitting the class into their already busy schedules, and having their needs met by a reliable professor. While greeting the students as they enter the classroom does much to establish the environment, your self-introduction is critical either to confirming the expectations students have already formed–or to creating expectations from scratch.

Many of today’s students are skeptical toward authority figures, i.e., they question the motives, knowledge and experience levels of those in charge. Some enter your class neither highly motivated toward, nor enthusiastic about, learning, and perhaps intolerant of activities they do not perceive as productive. So your introduction of yourself needs to be sensitive, yet highly focused on the particular course you are teaching. Convey your understanding of their limited time, while also reinforcing your expectations of rigor.  You will have many opportunities throughout the term to reveal your broader background, but in your initial introduction you should strive for succinctness, humility, and a bit of enthusiasm (and just a touch of humor if that’s your style).

Your introduction should also clarify when and how students can contact you. Your syllabus will provide your office hours, phone and fax numbers, website, and E-mail address, and you need to let students know clearly whether or not your home phone is somewhere that they can call. My recommendation is not to allow or encourage that, however, other professors have found that students do not abuse it. Either way, make your policy clear on that (including off-limits times, etc.)

You will also want to let the students know when you will be available to meet with them individually, particularly if your classroom is not located near your office. Regularly reserve fifteen or twenty minutes before and after class for discussions with individual students who either arrive early or who want to hang around after class. Most students will not take advantage of these times, but your providing them conveys that you care about students’ needs.

In today’s technological world, most professors have established Web pages for at least one part of their courses. These pages enable students who are not inclined to ask questions in class or to approach professors outside class, to get to know you.

In your introduction, avoid saying, “This is the first time I am teaching this course” or “I was only asked to teach this class two days ago.” Although such statements may be true, they serve no useful purpose and will surely hamper your ability to establish a positive classroom environment. Even if you have not had sufficient time to fully develop your syllabus, you should provide an overview of the course and its learning objectives, and then ask the students for feedback about their expectations. No later than the next class meeting, perhaps via e-mail before then, provide the class with a complete syllabus that includes a schedule of activities. If you do this confidently, students will feel that they had input into the planning of the class and perhaps will be more invested in its success.

Strategic professors know that the first day of class sets the tone (and can *almost* determine the success or the lack thereof) of a course. Pay attention to the ideas in this article and others available from Meggin McIntosh. In addition, you can learn much more about teaching and reaching the many different types of students who are in today’s college classroom by reading the book *Teaching College in an Age of Accountability* (Allyn & Bacon). The book was written by Richard Lyons & Meggin McIntosh (the author of this article).

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