Before the First Day of Class and the First Day of Class
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato, The Republic
A Few Guiding “Principles”
The playing field is not level, and it is our job to level it.
We have choices to make in design and interactions every day that provided opportunities for continual improvement.
Engagement and relationship are key for learning.
Students’ lived experiences are content.
Teaching to the margins improves learning for all.
Intelligence is not fixed. Develop a growth mindset.
We should assume all identities are in the room all of the time.
Transparency is essential.
Feedback at regular intervals impacts how successful we are.
What would you add to this list?
Some Effective Practices and Considerations
Before the first day of class:
1. Get to know your students, help them know you, and help them know each other.
a) Get the roster, and if possible, pictures, so you can begin to get to know your students ahead of the first class.
b) Give your students some information about yourself – Introduction Video or welcome email or message before the first day.
c) Have students introduce themselves online or through “bio cards” for both large and small classes. Ask whether they have a preferred pronoun.
d) Learn and use student names. Make sure everyone learns the proper pronunciation.
e) Use and relate office hours as an opportunity to get to know your students early in the semester, and for them to get to know you.
2. Make sure the physical space accommodates everyone.
3. Consider how to keep costs down. Provide alternative ways to get readings and books that cost less, or see if your school has funds available.
4. Some students work and need to pay attention to schedules – don’t assume everyone is flexible.
Click on this chart that lists some ideas for creating an inclusive climate.
Included in the second column are some of the things that most of us do. As you read through, check off in front of it the ones you already do.
In the fourth column are ideas for how you might enhance what you already do by using more inclusive, student-centered language, and some new ideas that you might like to try. As you read through this list, check off a few you might like to adopt or adapt.
Write a welcome email or develop a script for a welcome video for your class to send to students before the semester begins. Consider how this communication might set an inclusive and supportive tone for your course, what you want to let students know about you as a teacher, how it might help set expectations for the learning environment.
The first day of class:
Spend less time planning to review details on the first day, more time creating a relationship – connection is key.
Greet students as they enter the class.
Facilitate an introductory exercise.
Set ground rules for conversation together.
Ground rules are a very important component of creating an inclusive climate. When possible, it helps to have students help generate them, but make sure everyone understands what is meant. You can always add some as well.