How to Make a Good First Impression On Your Students

The first day of school will soon be upon many teachers. We’ll spend the night before tossing and turning, our brains sparking with anticipation, excitement, and anxiety. We know how important it is to get the first day right. We’re setting a tone, establishing a culture, and sending messages with everything we say and do.  At the very least, we want to make a good impression on our students. They’re going to be spending more time with us than with their parents over the next ten months, and it’s important they like us enough to want to come back each day.

About a month ago, a teacher who had just been hired for her first job wrote me and asked what I do to make a good first impression on students. Here’s what I told her:

Dress Professionally

I always wear a tie on the first day, even if it’s 95 degrees and we’re going outside for an icebreaker. People judge others based on their appearances. We don’t have to like this fact to know that it’s true. Kids are people, and they are especially harsh and honest critics. Don’t look like a slob. If you want to be treated like a professional, dress like one. If you want authority (and you should), wear the uniform.

Know Your Students’ Names

When I was a kid I was a huge baseball fan. I knew stats, the value of almost every rookie card I owned, and the jersey numbers of every player on the Detroit Tigers. It’s easy to memorize stuff that’s important to you. Knowing your students names on the first day is important. To the extent possible, know your students’ names before they walk in on day one. Get hold of a yearbook, highlight the kids on your roster, and study their names and faces. You’ll be able to call on them by name that first day, and your continual use of their names will make it easier for classmates to learn them. It will also prevent you from needing to play that horrible name game that wastes time and makes students uncomfortable.

Note: If you’re looking for good icebreakers, check out this article from Cult of Pedagogy

Project Confidence and Authority

Confidence and authority come from experience, but lacking that, fake it if you must. Preparation will give you confidence and confidence lends you authority, so over-prepare. Speak assertively, even if you don’t feel assertive. Leave no doubt that you believe 100 percent in what you’re saying, even if you suspect you might be full of shit. Students want to feel like they’re being led by someone who knows what they’re doing. They also want to feel safe, and having a confident, assertive teacher that sets limits sends the message that their learning will be protected.

Smile

Part of the confidence you display can be in how relaxed you are in front of your students. Smiling breaks down barriers and conveys the message that you’re comfortable and nothing will ruffle your feathers. Smiling makes people more likable. It also makes you seem more intelligent. And you can be assertive without being a grump. When a kid asks you if they’re allowed to [fill-in-the-blank], tell them assertively, “Nope.” Then smile.

Use Your Hands When You Speak

Research shows that people like speakers who use their hands. They find them more charismatic. A study of TED Talks found a correlation between the number of hand gestures and the number of views. A cardinal sin is putting your hands in your pockets. Even if you don’t gesture, keep your hands visible. It makes you seem more open and approachable.

Make Eye Contact

A problem I had early in my career was not looking at my students. I’d look over them, but not actually at them. Good speakers make a personal connection to listeners by looking them in the eyes as they talk. Try to make eye contact for three seconds with a student before moving on to another one. Looking at your students sends two important messages:

  1. You’re talking for their benefit, not just to hear yourself.
  2. You’re “with it.” Students will realize you’ll notice if they’re not paying attention.

Show Vulnerability

One way to quickly connect with others is to share something personal. Showing vulnerability makes you authentic. You’ll immediately humanize yourself. Nobody likes people who act like they’re perfect. Be willing to tell your students something that embarrasses you a little. You might start by telling them how nervous you are. Since they are nervous too, this will help them relate to you and begin to erode walls that exist between teachers and students.

What else do you do to establish rapport, build relationships, and make a great first impression on your students? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.

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Other First Day Advice:

3 Common First Day Mistakes from Smart Classroom Management

Overcoming the Back-to-School Teacher Jitters… by Angela Watson

Classroom Management: 4 Keys to Starting the Year Off Right from Cult of Pedagogy with a heavy assist from Michael Linsin

 

As a Teacher, You Need to Appreciate the Daily Work You Do

Guest Post by Alice Clarke

Alice Clarke is an experienced and passionate teacher who has dedicated more than 3 years of her life to inspiring young minds in the classroom. Today, Alice likes to write about innovative educational approaches, the struggles that teachers face and ways to make their work much more enjoyable.

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For many teachers, self-worth and value come from the appreciation that they get from students. While this is a great and important form of validation, self-appreciation can go even further.

The job of a teacher is a really challenging one – it involves a lot of quick thinking, experimentation with different approaches and compassion. This is why, as a professional involved in education, you need to reach some level of self-appreciation.

Most professionals out there crave at least a little bit of recognition for the work that they do. Teachers are far from an exception. If you want to feel inspired as a teacher, you have to start giving yourself the kudos that you deserve. Here are a few simple ways to introduce the change in your life.

Build Your Self Confidence

The first and probably the most important thing to do is to build your self-confidence. Not only will you feel a lot more satisfied with the work that you do, you’re also going to act as a role model for kids who doubt themselves and their abilities.

Be the thing that you want to inspire in your students. Such a change could be difficult at first. So many teachers feel under-appreciated and pressured by the school administration, by parents and even by their students. Still, you have to recognize the importance of the work that you do and the manner in which it can shape up the life of a young individual.

Children are watching you all the time. They’re incredibly intuitive and perceptive. Even if you think that low confidence isn’t showing, children have a way of picking up such vibes.

This is one of the main reasons why you have to understand how crucial your role in their lives is. Celebrate every single success and recognize your role in it. If you take pride in your accomplishments, you will also make it easier for others to respect and honor you.

The Positive Impact of Small Gifts

Sometimes, we all need a tangible object to stand as a token of appreciation. Getting cards and small gifts from students is definitely that all teachers adore. Giving yourself little presents is another excellent idea that you can practice to boost self-appreciation. Once the inner change begins, chances are that students will also take notice and their attitude will change.

A gift doesn’t have to be expensive or even bought. You can write about the things that make you feel great at the end of the work week. “Collecting” such memories and getting to relive them in the future can be tremendously inspiring.

Accept responsibility for the successes of your students. True, they need the potential to learn and excel academically. It is you, however, who has inspired them and guided talented kids in the right direction.

Finding access to better teaching supplies is another great way to increase your level of self-appreciation and creativity. Negotiating such challenges with the administration can be notoriously difficult but the outcome will definitely justify the effort.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Every school has at least one stellar teacher – a person that kids adore, that gets along well with everyone and that seems to be out of this world. If you compare yourself to this person, chances are that you’ll never feel the level of self-appreciation that you deserve.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Once you do, you will recognize the merits of your professional approach.

Your teaching style is unique. You’re not the young educator who gets along effortlessly with kids and who has adopted all of these cool, hip hi-tech techniques. You can accomplish a goal in your own way, which is something to celebrate.

There’s no need to think about how others are doing it. Focus on your own methodology and observe the response of students to it. Chances are that you’re getting much better results than you would have ever expected.

Try New Things

While sticking to your own teaching style is definitely a good idea, you shouldn’t be afraid of experimentation.

Learning new things and pushing yourself a little bit further every single time will show you the amazing professional potential that’s hidden inside you. We are created to learn throughout our lives. While your methodology could be highly effective, chances are that the world of education offers many new and amazing techniques to try.

Keeping your work exciting and fresh is probably the best way to refrain from getting jaded. Even the most devoted individuals will experience professional fatigue every now and then. When the routine and boredom set in, the mission of a teacher will suffer.

Be brave, be bold, and do new things that both you and your students will enjoy. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. Some of these experiments will potentially fail but at least you’ve tried. Attempting something new can give you amazing ideas to broaden your horizon, work better with kids and get satisfaction out of the work that you do every single day.

Validation comes from the inside. While getting recognition from others feels great, it may be a long time before you are thoroughly appreciated for the work that you do. This is why you have to work towards recognizing your professional self-worth. As a humble teacher, you may find the task to be daunting at first. With the passage of time, however, you will find out that self-appreciation opens new opportunities and it ultimately makes you a better teacher.

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Related Content:

20 Free Ways to Recognize Teachers

The Best Way to Thank Your Child’s Teacher

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