The Flourishing Academic

A blog for teacher-scholars published by the Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence

Tips for the First Day of Class

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hello first day

The start of the academic year is rapidly approaching and with it the first day of class full of possibility, first impressions, and nerves. For instructors, day one brings with it opportunities to spread enthusiasm for favorite subjects and to establish a positive and productive tone that influences the remainder of the course. It’s not uncommon for the importance of this first impression and the experience of walking into a room of unfamiliar faces to create some anxiety. If you’re new to the profession, never fear. Even seasoned instructors can feel anxious walking into class on the very first day of the semester. Instead of looking at those nerves as a hindrance, interpret them instead as a sign that you genuinely care about the course material and students you are about to teach.

Whether you’re flying high on the energy of new beginnings, caught up in last-minute syllabus revisions, or feeling the pressure of establishing a good first impression, we at CTE invite you to relax, grab a cup of tea, and check out these tips for making the most of day one in the classroom.

Dos and Don’ts for the First Day

What NOT to Do

What to Do

Prepare ahead of time!

Make just enough copies of the syllabus

Make extra copies of your syllabus

Wait until the day of your first class to make copies

Copy all materials for the first class ahead of time

Wait until the day of your first class to find the classroom

Preview the teaching environment a few days before your first class

Wing it!

Practice your lesson ahead of time

Make a great first impression!

Dress informally

Dress professionally

Arrive late

Arrive early

Let your students get to know you.

Provide students with little to no information about you

Briefly inform students about your educational and professional background

Don’t introduce yourself at all

Tell students what you want them to call you and how to pronounce your name; invite students to get in contact with you and tell them how best to do it

Show little to no enthusiasm for the course

Generate enthusiasm for the course; briefly relate your personal interest in the course content.

Get to know your students.

Show little to no interest in getting to know the students or learning their names

Learn students’ names/nicknames

Consider ice-breakers

  • Social: self-introductions; three-step interviews; self survey
  • Subject matter: specific surveys; course expectations or concerns


Do not collect any personal information on students

Collect student information and/or interests (index cards, survey, etc.)

Teach on the first day.

Distribute a vague, brief, or unclear syllabus

Distribute a comprehensive, well structured syllabus

Simply hand out the syllabus

“Teach” the syllabus, drawing particular attention to the most important items; develop a creative way to go over the material

Overwhelm students with too much information

Introduce the course topic and/or some initial material

Do not engage with the course topic or material in any way

Incorporate an activity that allows students to engage with the course topic

Do not provide students with the opportunity to ask questions

Invite students to ask questions and participate

Set the tone for the entire semester.

Let students leave early

Make productive use of entire class period

Set a negative tone for the semester

Model the expectations and behaviors you want to establish in your classroom for the semester


Find more helpful tips on teaching and learning here.

Author: duqcte

Founded in 1989 as a faculty initiative, the Center for Teaching Excellence helps faculty and graduate student teaching assistants excel as teacher-scholars deeply invested in their students’ learning. We believe that excellent teaching is an art that grows through scholarship, practice, reflection, and collaboration. Our approach at CTE is a personal one. We promote excellence in teaching by getting to know our faculty and TAs, learning from them, fostering their leadership, and bringing people together from across the University.

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