Making a Positive First Impression


Periodically throughout the upcoming school year, I will be referring to a recently published Eye on Education book, Making Good Teaching Great: Everyday Strategies for Teaching with Impact. Its authors are Annette Breaux, whose ideas I have written about extensively, and Todd Whitaker, who is one of my favorite guys on Twitter.

Although I got this book late last school year, I put it away until now. The book is written in a way that provides you with daily strategies to use throughout the school year to make an impact on students. It is a 180 chapter book, each one providing a new activity to try. I’ll write about selected chapters as the year goes on, focusing on those that present new ideas or ideas for which I am passionate.

I’m going to start with the book’s day one activity, called, “First Impression, Positive Expression.” The authors write:

The fact is that students need happy adults who serve as positive role models in their lives. You cannot help your students by being yet another negative influence in their lives. Therefore, it is vitally important that the first impression your students form of you is a positive one.

I was one of those teachers, in my first year, even my second, where I wanted it to be crystal clear that I was in charge and NOT TO BE MESSED WITH. I actually shudder to think back on my opening day lectures, which could have been titled, “This is How It’s Going to Be: NO QUESTIONS ASKED.” What must have these poor kids thought of me? I was their first male teacher, and there I was reinforcing all of their preconceived (and highly misguided!) notions.

(Video: Thoughts for Your First First Day)

Needless to say, that’s no longer my modus operandi. My goal now is to build the community from the get-go, a community that doesn’t revolve around me, but the students (novel, eh?) I shake the kids’ hands when I go to pick them up, introducing myself and asking for their names. I greet the parents. I make chitchat. The happier the kids are to start the school year, the better. It is actually quite thrilling to see their fears yield to excitement, positively bursting out of their uniforms as we begin the ascent to the classroom and I give them an idea of what’s waiting inside. Bottom line: I don’t need the power trip anymore.

Last year, I had five students for the second consecutive year, so there was lots of catching up to do. This year, I have one student that I had two years ago, and I know a few of the others only distantly. So they are undoubtedly going to be intimidated and it’s on me, first day jitters and all, to make them feel comfortable.

I can’t imagine ever going back to the way I once was. Our students want respect and care. They have enough people in their lives putting them down, ordering them around, telling them they’re worthless, etc. I’m not going to be one of those people.

I don’t think you should be, either.

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