Trainee Tip #6: First Impressions Count

Teachers’ Standards: 1, 7

All of you newbie Teach Firsters out there, NQTs or general other trainees/teachers will currently be thinking about the first lesson you have with each of your classes. This is the prime time to lay down those ground rules, motivate the masses and set you up for a great year. However, this time last year, I was concerned about how to spend that first hour with my classes so that it was meaningful. Therefore, here are a few suggestions based on my experiences over the past year and what I will be doing come September.

No second chances at a first impression

Luckily, I spent quite a bit of time talking to peers about what they did in their first lesson. This meant that I am generally happy with what I delivered last year… despite the fact it was the first time I ever taught. However, it easily could have gone a lot worse and it certainly was not perfect. Here is what I included:

As they enter- Straight into their seating plan.
I have a whole blog on this. Don’t fall into the trap of “getting to know the kids first” as I believe that you should start as you mean to go on. Whilst I think the phrase “don’t smile until Christmas” is OTT, I do believe in not trying to be seen as too nice and friendly at the start. No one wants the kids to slap them with the label of “doss teacher”!

1- Who am I?
I was a new teacher to the school so I felt it important to introduce myself.

2- Brief run though of what we will cover during the year
First lessons fly by; therefore, I do not think this was necessary for the first lesson.

3- Rules, routines and rewards
See my “Behaviour Tips” series for the exact rules, routines and rewards I use on a daily basis. Whilst not all of them were introduced on the very first day, I did introduce the big guns like raffle tickets (something I swear by… Go check it out!) and my basic rules right from the start. This meant that everyone (including me) knew where they stood and I could legitimately start picking kids up for low level disruption as they had been warned.

4- Boring admin stuff
These are the essential things like giving out exercise books. However, I did make it into a bit of a game and time each class giving things out. The following week, the class who whizzed through it all the quickest won lollies.

5- Getting to know you game
I made every student stand facing each other in two rows. We threw around a ball and the student holding the ball would say their name, best/worst subject and what they’d like to be when they’re older. I played too and this was really interesting as it showed me how many students appreciated English (or not) and also highlighted who had the stereotypically low aspirations common in my school.

WHAT?! No real work?!

With lessons only being an hour, after you have done rules and routines and the admin, you’re halfway through. Therefore, I believe in getting through the above so that I do not have to waste time at a later date re-hashing rules, for example.

I do see the logic in diving straight into work and “starting as you mean to go on” in that way. However, I believe that you cannot teach an outstanding lesson without embedded rules, routines and rewards. Therefore, at some point, you have to stop and get those R, R & Rs clear…why not at the start?

Do I have to be all doom and gloom?

No. Certainly not. My aim is to establish what I expect and to show my personality. Lacing the rules with games and rewards is essentially how I operate throughout the year. Therefore, I would rather establish that from the start than pretend to be evil!

Bottom line…
Start strong. Start clear. Start as you mean to go on. Even if your rules, routines and rewards are strict, students will respond better to knowing exactly where they stand than bumbling through a haze of fluffy friendliness. The “cool” teacher persona every newbie desires will evolve from there… Don’t worry!

Please drop me a comment below or follow me on Twitter @miss_trainee 🙂

This is somewhat out of sync in terms of the Trainee Tip numbering. However, it is a pertinent point for the time of year it is at the time I am posting this (end of August).

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