Monday, January 17, 2011

The First Day of Class

No matter how long I teach I will always be nervous the first day of class. There are so many unknowns. Each student, for example, is just a name on a piece of paper; so different from how they seem at the end of the semester. The course content is always slightly different too. Sometimes a new topic such as the WIDA Standards for teaching English Language Learners is introduced and sometimes a new activity is included just for the sake of change and keeping things fresh and exciting.

When I was in grad school one of my professors, Lilian Katz, said that all teachers should teach with a sense of "productive anxiety". This, she said, keeps teachers on their toes and makes them constantly aware of the dangers of boring their students out of their minds. I've always heeded this advice because I am very aware of those times, very occasionally I hope, when I drone on and can see students beginning to nod off. They don't happen very often but they always serve as reminders of the need to make sure that I am aware of how my students are reacting to what I am teaching or wanting them to learn.

So I think this is the reason why the first class is so nerve wracking. I don't know who the students are and how they will respond to my teaching strategies, or my somewhat droll British sense of humor; "we have a lot to get through today so we may have to stay until 10pm" said with a straight face (the class finishes at 7:30pm). But toward the end of the first two-and-a-half hour class when their personalities and reasons for being there begin to show through I begin to feel more comfortable. But, thank goodness, that sense of productive anxiety is always there in every class I teach throughout the semester. I hope my students feel the same way.

Summer (aaaahhhh) in Richmond Vermont; the Old Round Church "with no corners for the devil to hide in".

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