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Archive for August 30th, 2012

On the first day of the first course that I taught, I went to the wrong classroom. Fortunately, I wasn’t entirely alone. Two male students had also neglected to check the updated list of classrooms and accompanied me on my walk of shame from the business building to the library. On the way across the street I jokingly told these two guys that they would be my favorite students. The thing is, I have no idea who they were. It isn’t that I remember nothing about the students in that course. I remember that I labeled one student “squirrely looking” when I was trying to make notes that would help me remember students’ names. I remember the student who had excellent class participation but mediocre grades and who needed to take an incomplete because of a recurrence of cancer. I remember the student who later joined the military but came to sit in on one of my subsequent courses when he was on leave. I remember these things because I got to know my students over the course of the semester. On the first day of class, however, I was so caught up in my efforts to make a good impression (and the fact that I had likely failed by going to the wrong classroom) to pay much attention to the students who were with me.

Although I was especially flustered on my first day of teaching, this pattern has held over subsequent semesters. Despite, or perhaps because of, my efforts to make a positive first impression on my students, they fail to make a first impression on me. This actually works to the benefit of my students, since I fail to form negative impressions of those who start the semester without the required books or who take a while to grow comfortable participating in class discussions. So students, you have a few weeks to make a positive first impression, regardless of how things begin. Take advantage of it!

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