Almost all new ESL teachers start their career without having received any clear instruction on what to do during the first day in the school as well as never having seen a first day in the school as an ESL teacher. The first class is the most important day for you as a teacher. Harry Wong, in his priceless “The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher“states that there is only one first day and what you do will determine your failure or success for the whole year. This is the only chance to create good first impression of you, because you only have seven seconds to form a positive impression. Dr. Wong’s classroom management strategies take some time to implement and most of them need to be set up from the very first day .
The Power Of Positive Greeting
Dr. Wong believes that positive greeting is crucial. Students must feel your positive attitude. When students are entering the class room, welcome them to come in. Some students (especially primary school learners) will ask who you are. You can answer with, “I’ll be your new English teacher. I’ll tell you more about myself once everyone is here.”
Watch a lecture of Dr. Wong’s wife and co-author on why positive greeting is so important; and how you can practically implement it in your class!
Dr. Wong emphasizes that there are 7 things students want to know on the first day:
1. Am I in the right room? For many students, this can be the first ESL class ever; or even a first day in the school. They may feel anxious and even get lost in the school. If you see the student looks lost, ask him/her what class he/she is looking for. To avoid such problem, provide signs and welcome messages. A sign should be on the door as well as the blackboard with the teacher’s name and subject.
2. Where am I supposed to sit? You have two options: open seats or assigned seats. According to Dr. Wong, if the teacher is effective, the students already know where to sit. For instance, when you welcome your students at the door, you can assign the seats right away; or let them choose. You can do it in many different ways that are discribed in the book, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher.
3. What are the rules in this classroom? Every single student knows that he or she has to behave well. They are expecting the teacher to reveal the discipline plan so that they know the restrictions on the school room. Dr. Wong suggests to every teachers to have a hard copy of a discipline plan and give it away to every student. As an ESL teacher you can adapt this method to your class room environment. Prepare a colorful poster with the illustration of the Do’s and Don’ts. Make sure every student knows the rules.
4. What will I be doing this year? According to Dr. Wong, effective teachers manage their classrooms with procedures, ineffective teachers discipline the students. The “procedures” include what students will do in the class room. More details on procedures read in unit C of The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher OR watch the video lecture of Dr. Wong on Procidures and Discipline.
5. How will I be graded? It is normal that students want to know about their grades. Explain your grading system, when you give them their first assignment. By explaining how you grade the assignments, you can avoid a lot of disagreements and misunderstanding.
6. Who is the teacher as a person? Once all students have arrived and it’s time to start the class, write your name and the subject on the board (if you haven’t done this before the class), and tell your name and subject. Remember to tell students who you are. Tell them about yourself, your family and hobbies. You should summarise any teaching experience that you have had. It makes you look credible and human being.
7. Will the teacher treat me as a human being? Just like you, students want to be treated with respect and care. After you introduce yourself, show the respect to students and ask them to introduce themselves. Make sure these introductions will not run too long. When you feel you’ve invested enough time into the activity, tell the students that you’ll meet the other students next time; and move on to another activity. Dr. Wong is convinced that effective teacher should not be selfish. Ineffective teachers want to do “their thing” and introduce students to fun activities to become student’s favorite teacher. The students are not looking for friends. They need security, consistency, respect, and care which you may express through outstanding class room management skills; clear lesson planning and execution. Your class room management skill will show the students if the class will be interesting or boring, whether or not they will succeed in learning.
If you introduce yourself properly, you will have less behavioural problems during the class. Dr. Wong and his wife have put together an amazing teaching resource called “The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher“, which is based on the experiences of hundreds successful educators and is used by many teachers.
Please, share your first teaching experience below in the comment section!