Preparing what you are going to say and practicing it is a good way to feel more confident in front of your students. Try going over your script in front of the mirror or a friend. When we say "script," we aren't trying to imply you should have every word worked out and memorized---just having an idea of what you want to say, practicing it, and maybe having some bullet points will go a long ways towards a smooth first class.
TA Testimony-- "Having no prior teaching experience, I made sure I rehearsed my lesson plan for my first class the night before (and also the morning of) in order to ensure things went smoothly. With that, things actually went better than I had expected. My students were nervous, but at attention nonetheless, and I was simple and straightforward with them. I find that coming into class prepared is the best decision I'd made--and the fact that I articulated things clearly and carefully allowed my students to fully understand what was expected of them without obfuscation. On days when I haven't prepared, class doesn't go smoothly, and I think my students notice..."
It is likely your first day will consist primarily of introductions and a review of the syllabus.
With everything else you're trying to prepare, it can be easy to forget about your own introduction to your class. Not having an idea of what you want to say ahead of time can sometimes be flustering and lead you to share information you'd rather your class didn't know.
Think about how you want your students to view you. Be yourself, but also remember you're trying to cast yourself in the role of teacher. While telling them an interesting fact about you is a good way to establish interest and make you more personable, telling them stories on the first day about the time you went cow tipping may not be the best choice.
- Having bullet points of things you want to say, educational background, professional interests, personal interests, etc.
- Expressing your credentials. “I have this and this degree,” “I went to this and this university/college.” The goal is to let them know that you are well qualified to teach the course. Even if you doubt yourself, you don’t want your students to harbor the same doubts.
- Not telling your students it’s your first time teaching. They won’t know unless you say so, let them think you’ve done this before. However, if they ask you directly, don't lie. Try to frame your answer in such a way that calls on your credentials, that explains what you have to offer them as a teacher.
Having your students introduce themselves on the first day is a good idea. It helps get your students interacting with you and with each other, starts to create a sense of community, lets you learn more about your students, and helps alleviate your students' nervousness.
See The First Day section of this blog for some first day ice-breakers.
Know your syllabus. If students ask you questions while you're presenting the syllabus on the first day, you want to be able to answer them without rifling through the pages trying to find your own policies.
See The First Day section of this blog for creative ways to go over the syllabus.
Your first day should be an exciting one. After all, you have worked very hard to get here, so don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be. Relax, remember your students will be nervous too, and prepare your performance, and your transition from the role of student to the role of instructor should be less frightening, and hopefully even enjoyable.