Monday, August 23, 2010

Day One, Part III

Well, Linear went wonderfully, too.

I am tremendously happy about the way this first day went, and in all three classes I think I owe the smoothness and success to several different sources:

1. The students (duh). They were almost without exception engaged, focused, and excited to be where they were. They clearly came ready to learn, and I hope I didn't disappoint.

2. I came ready to teach, not to recite a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense from the syllabus. I truly feel that the act of delaying the handout of the syllabus by 40 minutes (at the end of the first period instead of at the beginning) does more than any other single act to place the class's focus on the proper point (learning) and not on the improper ones (grades, lateness and attendance policies, etc.).

3. Student-centered, student-driven first day activities. Both courses began with activities whose pace and ultimate outcome were determined by the students. I provided an overarching structure, but the students led in the act of discovery. Of course, this is what happens all semester long in my classes, but it's important to do this on Day One. Do NOT put it off. The more you're able to get the students working together, helping each other, and sharing ideas on the board on the very first day of class, the more comfortable they'll be doing these things all semester long.

4. Knowing their names. It cannot be overstated: no single act more quickly earns the students' respect and admiration (by showing them respect and admiration) than learning their names as soon as you can, as many as possible on the first day.

It's going to be a great semester. Dare I ever? We shall see.

Students: thank you for making today a wonderful one. (And a welcome to all of you who are joining one of my courses for the first time! Post a comment, if you'd like!)


Anonymous said...

Ice breakers are fine, but an ice breaker that pertains to the application of the course material to econ models? Now that's pretty cool. I don't know about everyone else but the first day of linear has me excited about what we are going to lean this semester. See you Wednesday!

Derek said...

I'm with you on deferring the syllabus discussion. I went as far as to defer it to the second day of class this year! I handed out copies of the syllabus in the last minute of class on the first day, told my students to read it (all 4.5 pages of it), and come with questions on the second day. That gave me 74 minutes during the first day of class to get the learning started!

Also, I completely agree with your assertion about learning student names. That's so huge, particularly at a place like my school, where many of the classes (especially first-year classes) are huge.