As a new teacher (especially TEFL educators), the first day of school can be pretty daunting. I had no idea what to do, but my biggest words of advice now are 1) be ready to actively learn through experience, 2) be patient with yourself and your students as you go through this together, and 3) whatever you do, try to be consistent. If there are hiccups, let them inform your teaching moving forward. Maybe you come to find that the attention getter or hand signal you were trying to implement didn’t work in a class. Maybe it takes a little longer for students to get that routine or procedure down for turning in papers. Whatever it is, keep going forward, reflect as you do, and celebrate the little successes. With all that said, here are my tips to help make the first day(s) of school something you and your kids can look forward to.
Greet and get to know each other.
Make sure when you introduce yourself; say your name and have it written on the board. It’s good practice for you to ensure that you’re teaching to multiple learning styles and it will help your students learn your name right away. One of the most important things that you can do on the first day is really take time to get to know your students. It will show that you value them and that they are important. This sets the tone for the rest of the year and creates a sense of community. As a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher in Namibia, I had to learn that In Namibia, there is a specific way to greet students; observing these practices and asking questions to colleagues will be really helpful wherever you are teaching.
Start establishing rules, routines, and procedures.
Do this the first day! For many new teachers, they focus on what to do once a student has broken a rule or disrupted class, but having routines and procedures set, helps prevent kids from going off course. Make sure you are consistent with the structure of class so your students will understand what’s expected of them (get creative in your activities, not your structure). Be concise and clear when communicating with your students. Practice how you’re going to give instructions, how they should write the activity or notes in their notebooks, etc. By practicing, you’ll be able to be more concise and eliminate extra unnecessary words. With rules, I like to have some key rules and then get the kids involved in developing a few more. The shorter the list, the easier it is for them to remember, but involving them in the process creates buy in, a sense community, and ownership of their class. The rules should be posted in the classroom where students can reference them throughout the year. Present the most important classroom routines and procedures the first day, and you can teach the others as they come up naturally during class. Allow for students to practice; it’ll take time and sometimes longer than we might have hoped for. Again, be clear when giving instructions and hopefully it’ll eliminate some of the confusion. Having the agenda visible can also help so students know where they are in the lesson and how much more work is intended.
Reinforce positive behaviors.
I really love using positive narration and affirmations. It reminds students what behaviors I am looking for and most of the time they’ll self-correct so I don’t have to correct them. It also makes the learning environment feel safer for learning and a place where students actually want to be. This doesn’t mean you don’t correct behavioral problems, but it is supposed to help.
Be prepared, keep it short, and be patient.
You want to be prepared for the day. Write out a guideline with what you want to cover. It doesn’t need to necessary be followed exactly or even completed, but it is nice to have a general idea of what comes next. Try not to create an elaborate lesson the first day. Create a space where students also have the opportunity to talk. This can be done through icebreakers or activities. By giving them the time to share, shows that you value what they have to say and starts normalizing speaking in class (in a structured manner). There’s a lot going on this day, so keeping things short and simple will help prevent overwhelming them. You may not get through your entire lesson, but it’s only the first day, which brings me to my last point.
Make the day fun.
This is the first time you all are meeting! The first day isn’t just about running through the rules, routines, and procedures; it’s supposed to be time to get to know your students! Find activities that are fun and educational. You don’t need to rush through everything. You have an entire year, but only a limited amount of time to create initial rapport with your kids. Make it a day that is memorable and want to tell their parent(s)/guardian about.
I hope these tips help you on your first day! If you are looking for more posts about teaching, click here. If this was helpful for your first day or you have any comments/questions, please leave a comment below. Best of luck teachers and have an amazing year!