What do You Think About on the First Day of Class?

June 5, 2008

This is a great question. Whether teaching in an on-ground classroom or online, there are two, parallel thoughts that go through my mind on the first day of class.

Still a Thrill

First and foremost, I’m extremely excited. It’s really fun for an instructor to finally launch a class after preparing for so long, particularly if it’s a new course. So there is a strong energy behind the first day of class.

I am particularly conscious of trying to set a positive tone on the first day, and I hope that opens the way for a positive environment during the rest of the term. I try to remember to be welcoming and warm but also structured because there is a lot of information to convey on that first day.

To be honest, I’m also straining my brain to remember all the new names. It’s something that many instructors dread, but most of them take little notes to remember pronunciations and nicknames.

The First-Day Race

Practically speaking, I’m also thinking about all the administrative information that needs to be covered on that first day. Time is short each term – maybe it doesn’t feel that way for students, but instructors have a very limited time to squeeze in an enormous amount of required material.

During the first day, a professor strives to achieve some basic understandings:

  • Communicate course requirements and policies. 
  • Go over the syllabus and course objectives
  • Convey one’s style of teaching
  • Provide tips to succeed in the class
  • Begin the first lesson to prepare for the next class
  • Respond to student questions

Instructors often also take the first day of class to observe students and get to know their styles. Professors are constantly trying to gauge the mood of the students to see if the information is connecting well or if some students appear confused. So there is a lot of internal processing that goes on.

Professors like to make tiny adjustments to help students understand the material better. So a part of every professor is always thinking ahead to present material in accessible ways.

On a side note, a lot of students think it is okay to miss the first day of class. This is one of the biggest mistakes a student can make. Coming in on the second day is a lot like trying to board a moving train. It’s a lot harder to catch up than it is to join on time, find a comfortable seat, and move forward as a group.


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Professor Kim
The Online Professor

Eson Kim has been teaching College Writing and Literature for nearly 10 years. In addition to her blog,, her work has recently appeared in flashquake. She is also a fiction reader for Ploughshares Literary Journal. She strives to improve the quality and accessibility of education for all students from all backgrounds.


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