First dip

Akshay Agrawal

Dear teachers: what makes a first day a good first day.

There is a first for everything. After the much anticipated -though not always appreciated -first day, the school year is slowly falling into place: period by period, assignment by assignments, green sheet by green sheet. First impressions are (almost) everything; while the pace of each class is not set in a steady rhythm yet, certain dynamics are already created in each classroom; and much of these dynamics are direct response of the impression of the class teachers introduced the students to. Surely, dear teachers, after the all the hard work invested in preparing for the coming year, you would not want your lesson plans go wasted. Here are some heads-ups to not tipping the boat over before you start to paddle:
1. Unless a) you think “My dog ate my homework” is a decent excuse or b) you have a freshman class, skip the green sheet. Most of the students are conscious of what percent grade constitutes an A and what constitutes failing. They are also aware of the fact that test scores are weighted more than quiz scores, that they need pens or pencils to write with daily, and that they will be studying the “various elements of World Literature” when they see world literature all over the classroom. So unless you have something really special to say that is unconventional or different from the other teachers’ policies, save your voice for the real teaching and Unless, of course, the students are freshmen, in which case they would love all the help you can offer. This brings us to point two:
2. Be helpful, but not like Auntie Sally at the family reunion. Remember Auntie Sally? Everyone has an Auntie Sally. She is the one who piles pieces of grilled sirloin after sirloin on your plate, despite your plea of not wanting any more. Don’t be Auntie Sally. Be Cousin George at the back corner instead. Students want to approach you and feel comfortable when they ask for help. If you constantly pester them with inquiries and unnecessary concerns, students, especially freshmen, will be scared away and end up not receiving the help they really need.
3. We bond over hot summer gossip, not hot potato. Freshmen might appreciate a little warm-up game or a scavenger survey to help them to feel more comfortable with the classroom environment and their classmates. But for the rest of the student body, we are more interested in getting to know you rather than our peers, whom we would have time to bond with outside of class time. Believe it or not, we actually care about what your favorite donut flavor is (since you are the one who will be giving us grades, not our peers, and some of us happen to be dropping by Krispy Kreme on a cold, rainy winter morning.)
4. A good beginning is half-way to a good ending. This is not an excuse. The first day of school sets the mood for the rest of the year. It gives us an idea of how many all-nighters we might have to pull (“There will be a quiz after each section in a chapter.”), how much baking to do on the last day before Christmas break (40-people French class!), or how much we are going to have to polish our interpersonal skills (APUSH study group anyone?). We would like to utilize our first day to re-adapt to the academic environment we have almost lost touch with, to ease the transition from reading Breaking Dawn to reading Shakespeare. So let us stretch our backs and arms and hamstrings one last time, then we will be ready on the mark when you say go.