The first day of class is always an exciting moment for a teacher and it’s a very important day indeed. You will never get a second chance to make a first impression. So, what can a teacher do to make the first day of class successful? How can you make it a day that will build the foundation for a great student-teacher relationship?
First and foremost, be confident, professional, and enthusiastic without trying to impress. You are there to educate, not to present yourself.
How to Dress – Not Just on the First Day of Class
Your appearance is very important. You need to dress properly, especially in Thailand.
For male teachers this means: formal pants, a long-sleeve dress shirt (although some schools allow wearing short sleeves, but not T-Shirts or Polo-Shirts), polished street shoes, and perhaps even a necktie.
For female teachers, this means: a skirt that covers your knees, a properly buttoned blouse (no cleavage must be shown), and shoes without high heels.
A teacher’s appearance also includes hair, fingernails, body odor, and breath. Especially smokers should wash their hands and enjoy a mint after a smoke break. Although you can’t smell it yourself, people around you often think you were rolling around in an ashtray after you return from a smoke break.
Your First Lesson
Your approach during the first minutes will set the tone for the rest of the semester. Especially during your first hour, it is always more effective to be firm, rather than frivolous. You can always relax a bit as the semester progresses, but it’s difficult to become more firm once students have experienced you as an easy-going, careless teacher. This doesn’t mean you should not display a healthy portion of humor to ease up the classroom and make learning fun. It simply means that you should demonstrate to your students that this is your classroom and you make the rules.
There will inevitably be some moments when your class’s noise level will rise. Especially when you are using lots of humor, the laughter can turn into chatter. Make sure to silence the classroom with a friendly, yet firm “Quiet please!” — or even better, a request to “Please listen up!”
Make Your Students Feel At Ease
Your students need to feel comfortable in their learning environment. Showing approachability and empathy gives students a sense of security and reassurance. As a teacher, one of your functions is to make students feel comfortable and give them motivation to study your subject. A student who clearly sees the benefits of studying English is by far more motivated than a student thinking “why should I learn this?”
On the first day of class, give students a chance to get to know you. Don’t brag with achievements and qualifications, but rather give them an insight into your life. Where do you come from? What is your favorite sport, Thai food, or movie. How old are you? The simple things. If possible, don’t just talk about your life, but show large-sized photos of your hometown, your country, your favorite athlete, or a celebrity you like.
Get to Know Your Students
Also use the first day of class to get to know your students. It’s impossible to memorize 1,000 names, but the first lesson will already give you a feel for the class dynamics. Find out how much English your students already understand. Get a little insight into each individual’s life. Allow your students to introduce themselves in a similar way you’ve introduced yourself. This will give them an opportunity to get used to speaking English in the classroom. Ask them to tell you their name and their favorite fruit, vegetable, or sport. Especially the word “favorite” is a great word to drill for proper pronunciation, since the letter “v” is not a natural sound for Thais. The word “fruit” also doesn’t come natural to Thai learners either, so the combination “favorite fruit” is a great way to start practicing proper pronunciation together.
A Thai English teacher will often be present during your classes, especially in the beginning. This means you won’t have to cover any housekeeping rules and the procedures for absenteeism. Simply focus on making a useful first impression; get to know your students and install a high degree of motivation, while teaching a few basic things like pronunciation and word-stress. This will make your first day of class enjoyable for you and your students alike. You want them to feel great during this first encounter with you, so they look forward to your next class together.
At the end of each class, document your observations briefly. You will teach about 20 different classes each week and it will come in handy to have a brief overview ready for quick reference before heading into the classroom the following week. You won’t have to create a big report. Simply jot down the name of the Thai teacher assigned to each class, the proficiency of the students in general, and any behavioral observations.
If you make the first day of class a pleasant learning experience for your students, you’re building a great foundation for the rest of the semester. Be confident and professional. Show your enthusiasm and a genuine interest in your students, and you will be off to a great start.
I wish you good luck and much joy in the classroom! If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experiences, please leave a comment below.