First-day Butterflies

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My stomach muscles are tensing. 

I’m just lucky I didn’t get the nightmares this time around.  You know.  The first-day-of-school nightmares.  When you’re a student, the nightmare might feature horrors such as forgetting to put on essentials like clothes.  When you’re a teacher, it’s worse.  You show up with nothing prepared.  Nothing.  No syllabus.  No lesson plans.  No curriculum.  Just you with 50 minutes to fill and nothing to teach.

Or in my case, 80 minutes for each class.  And I’ve got two different classes this time around, so that’s 160 minutes I’ve got to fill.  I’ll try to be as funny as possible so that we can eat up a few seconds at a time with laughter, but really the biggest challenge of the first day is that they don’t know each other, so they’re not ready to raise their hands and risk saying anything.  My teaching style leans a lot toward class discussions and away from lectures, so 80 minutes without student responses is a long time for me.

Generally I do some sort of get-to-know-you activity to compensate for that.  Sometimes they work.  Sometimes they’re just sort of pathetic.  We’ll see how it goes tonight!

In the mean time, how do I make the anxiety go away?  I’ve been teaching since January 2004, so if the first-day butterflies haven’t flown away by now, I’m thinking they might not ever.  Darn it.

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3 responses »

  1. I hope the first class went well! My own teaching experience is limited to elementary school so I had an easy time with games and activities. What sorts of ice breakers do you use in college-level courses?

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    • Elementary school would be fun! I just have them memorize each other’s names, mostly, and time them to see how many names they can remember in 20 seconds.

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  2. I finally know what goes through a teacher’s mind on the first day of school. It is funny reading your thoughts and thinking back to the first day–a couple days ago–of this fall semester. It is hilariously true what you said about no one speaking or even raising their hand. Long pauses and awkward silent moments are what most of the class consisted of. I will try to break the ice by speaking more next time, even if I don’t know the answer, I will try. Thanks for the laugh.

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