Teaching and Learing at Indiana University Bloomington
Teaching and Learing at Indiana University Bloomington
Teaching and Learning at IUB
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Handbook Table of Contents > Preparing to Teach > First Class Survival Tips

Indiana University Teaching Handbook

Preparing to Teach

First Class Survival Tips

Adapted with permission from Unruh, 1986

The first class sets the semester in motion, so consider carefully what you want to do in that first meeting. The culture of a course is fixed very early in the term; the first thing students learn in any class are the “rules of the game.” If you want your students to do writing or group work or to ask questions late in the semester, get them to do these things from the beginning. Once their expectations for the class are formed, it is difficult to get them to change. The following is an agenda that may help you structure the meeting and allay some of your anxiety.

If you want to achieve an informal style, arrive early and begin to know your students. This will help you relax and help your students get to know you. If you prefer a more formal style, wait until the appointed hour and then enter the classroom. Allow a little extra time for “lost” students.

Once you begin speaking, try to speak slowly. Remember to slow the rate of speech and focus your attention on what you want to get across instead of how you are saying it or how you appear. If you are afraid of speaking in front of a group, you are not alone. Public speaking beats out sharks and flying as the number one fear in the United States. It does get easier.

Begin by introducing yourself and write your name on the board. You might go around the room and ask for names, majors, city of origin, and the like. Remember, the students are at least as nervous as you are. Locate each name on the roster and make a point of learning student names.

Let your students know that you are organized. Give them a syllabus that includes the following information: your name, office hours, times and locations of other class meetings, the professor’s name and office hours, your office telephone number, the required text and readings, the number and dates of examinations, information about lab or homework assignments, guidelines for term papers or class projects, a breakdown of how the course grades will be determined, the time and date of the final exam, whether class notes are available, and other information of interest. For complete syllabus contents, see “The Syllabus” section below.

Prepare for predictable enrollment problems and procedures. Tell students who wish to add your course or section to call the Registrar’s Office Automated Course Exchange at 855-1000; students can check for waitlist statistics by referring to the Registrar’s Office web page at http://www.indiana.edu/~registra. If the course or section is full and students ask to be added on an overload basis, consult with your department about its policy.

Briefly sketch the kind of material presented in your class and the kinds of activities required of them throughout the semester to give students an idea of what to expect from your course. Be enthusiastic! Enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the subject, and pleasure in teaching. Your facial expressions and smiles, attentiveness to students, movement away from the podium or chalkboard, and eye contact that is long enough to observe students’ expressions will all demonstrate your enthusiasm. Other ways to express enthusiasm include using vocal inflections to emphasize and de-emphasize material, and being willing to listen to students and to express interest in their contributions (adapted with permission from University of Nevada, Reno).

Finally, ask if there are any questions regarding the course, its requirements, or your role within it. Be sure to pause long enough for the students to reflect and formulate questions.

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