Feeling a little nervous about the first day of the new school year is totally normal. Many teachers, no matter how experienced, feel anxious about greeting their new students, having their awesome resources prepared, and getting back into the swing of things. It all starts with making a great first impression because research shows that first impressions matter.
Did you know that psychologists from Princeton University (Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov) showed that it only takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of a person’s face!?
No sweat – This blog will help you get it right the first time!
One of the most important aspects of being a teacher is to be authentic. Remember that you deserve to be where you are. You’re a teacher because you worked hard to become one. You know your stuff. Take the time to remind yourself that you have the knowledge and the skills to help your students learn. This will help you to have a positive attitude and to avoid a negative first impression.
Equally, be ready to learn yourself. It’s okay to get things wrong. Own your mistake and move on!
During the first meeting with your new students, your body language (or your nonverbal communication) is the first thing they’ll notice about you. It may sound simple, but it’s super important to give a genuine smile and to make eye contact with each of the students you speak to – your facial expressions matter.
Maintain good posture and an open stance – try to avoid gestures like crossing your arms across your chest. You’ll automatically seem friendlier and more approachable. Considered body language is a great way to make a good first impression. It can take your class from a stuffy lecture to a fun and engaging lesson!
Whether your school has a dress code or not, it’s important to dress in a way that puts your best foot forward. Aim to feel comfortable, smart, and professional.
Your voice is one of your most important teaching tools – It’s how you impart your inspirational wisdom to your students! Consider the following aspects to make a good impression:
The volume of your voice – If your voice is too loud, you may scare your students, or if your voice is too quiet, you may appear shy (and your students at the back may not hear your instructions). Don’t always shout to show authority – sometimes a whisper is every bit as effective!
The pitch of your voice – It’s only natural to get higher and shriller when feeling like you’re not being listened to. However, it also tells your students that you’ve lost control and are getting a little desperate. Instead, deliberately lower your voice. The aim is low, slow, and loud. You can return to your usual pitch once you’ve regained your class’ attention.
The tone of your voice – If you don’t sound enthusiastic and sincere, your students are not going to be engaged. You’re an expert in your field. You’re passionate about learning. Let that passion show in your voice!
A crucial part of making a positive first impression is to model excellent communication skills to your students. Pay attention when they’re talking to you and respond in a way that shows you’ve listened and considered their input. If you invest in them, they’ll invest in you!
Here are some awesome tips to show your attentiveness:
Learn your students’ names quickly – This should be one of your goals for the very start of the year.
Once your student has shared their ideas, follow up with open questions that directly relate to what they said.
Make sure your body language shows you’re listening and interested!
Your students already presume that you’re an expert – and you are! So, make sure that you know your material and have prepared your lessons in advance. This will help you to feel confident and informed, as well as avoid a potentially bad first impression. If your students see that you’re prepared and confident, they’ll naturally have more confidence in you. Win-win!
Now you’re confident about how to make a great first impression! Stay true to your authentic self, be aware of your body language and what it suggests about you, use your voice to your advantage, always show attentiveness, and be prepared. Most importantly, stay calm and remember that you’re more than an expert, you’re a hero!