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4. What should I do on the first day of class?

Whether you are the instructor of record, leading a discussion section or lab, or assisting in a large lecture class, remember that the first day of class is a time of anxiety for all instructors. For some, this anxiety is little more than a mild elevation of heart rate, while for others it may approach the terror stage. As a new TA, you should not be too concerned about feeling anxious; in fact, you might think about the fact that the same adrenaline rush that produces the physiological symptoms associated with anxiety will also give you the intellectual and emotional energy you need to make your classroom a lively, interesting environment.

Before the First Day: Preparing your Classroom

The First Day: What Your Students Need to Know

Other strategies



Before the First Day: Preparing your Classroom
A first step is to become familiar with the territory, your teaching environment—that is, the classroom. You can find the classroom assignments for your courses by logging on to MyUAlbany, or if you are a TA for a large class, ask your lead instructor. If you want to change classrooms, the process begins by putting in a change request through an administrator in your home department.

Go to your assigned classroom before your class starts, preferably a day or two early. Does the room have a screen for projection if you need it? Is there an overhead projector? A computer projector? Chalk and erasers? Other types of equipment? Do you want to arrange the room in some special way for your class? (If so, be sure to rearrange it when you are done!) Are there enough seats for the size of the class? In other words, familiarize yourself with your classroom before you actually start teaching, and you will have one less thing to think about on the first day.

Many smart classrooms are available throughout the campus. If you need media support but are not assigned to a smart classroom, Audio/Visual Services can, with advance notice, provide you with portable equipment (i.e., TVs, slide projectors and portable computer projection systems). (Return to top)

The First Day: What Your Students Need to Know

Other strategies
No matter how well prepared you are, you will probably tend to speak too rapidly at first. This is a normal reaction to anxiety; to help yourself relax, make a conscious effort to speak slowly. You might even put a reminder in your class notes: “Slow Down!!” Speaking slowly has multiple benefits: relaxing you, allowing your students to take clearer notes, and helping them to understand you better.

Keep in mind that the first day of class sets the tone for everything that will follow. Don’t let it be a throwaway day, but take advantage of the opportunity to get the students interested in your course. More strategies for the first day of class and suggested icebreaker activities are available in ITLAL’s General Teaching Resources. (Return to top)