Monday, August 27, 2012

Tips for the First Day of Teaching

Many of us have just started classes, or just about to. To ease the transition into teaching, here is a collection of ten tips for professors on the first day of class.

1. Dress the part.  You have not worn pants for three months, so make sure they still fit. Just a tip: they don't. That's okay. Having a belly hang over your belt is a sign that students should take you seriously. Tell them it means you sit and read erudite philosophy all day, not that you have been watching old sitcoms on Netflix while eating Chunky Monkey in your underwear.

2. On the first day of class, make sure that you have an ice breaker.  I find it best to break the ice into a glass, and then pour the scotch directly over the broken ice. Some people add water, but hell, ice is made of water, yes? I'm not sure: I'm in the Humanities.

3. Start memorizing names. To remember student names, associate each name with a student you had in the past. This will help you realize that you are on a treadmill of repetitious action, accomplishing nothing and going nowhere, facing the same faces, the same names, over and over until you retire or die. You're welcome.

4. Come to class prepared. Print out your class roster and syllabus so you can call people's names in a monotone and whisper the entire syllabus from beginning to end. This will hopefully get some students to drop, which is fewer papers to grade later.

5. Be yourself. If you're a perverted manic-depressive with delusions of grandeur, by all means begin the class by insisting that you are able to fly because you are, in fact, the Prince of Siam, and hence the students should all sleep with you.

6. Do something productive on the first day, to set the tone for the rest of the semester. That's why I let class out early and wash the car on the way home. At least that's done.

7. Remember, students are often scared, so put them at ease. I find it helps to gently stroke the back of their necks while making a chuff-chuff sound very softly, but make sure you let them sniff your hand before you touch them. Or is that puppies? Whatever.

8. Be ready for common concerns from individual students, and have your answers prepared. For example, students often ask questions like: "Do I have to buy the book?" or "Can I have extra test time for my ADD?" or "Is it okay if I come a few minutes late?" I find the best and simplest solution is to have one answer for all questions: suddenly yowling like a wolf while ripping open my shirt.

9. Establish yourself as a professional. Wait until after the drop date before you start slapping students, and try not to come to class drunk until at least the third class period.

10. Decide how you want students to address you. Some people prefer Dr. So-and-so, some prefer first names, and some prefer titles like His Most Holy Divine Majesty of Carnal Love, Professor Sex-Monster the Tremulous.   


  1. All joking aside, this is actually an excellent list. Is that allowed here?

  2. Thank you, Professor Chiltepin. POW in my opinion!

  3. Nice list (weeps into bowl of cereal).

  4. Just looking through my student's photos now. The problem:
    1 - they were all taken when my students were indistinguishable freshmen,
    2 - none of them are wearing the sullen looks I will most likely see in class

  5. I really hate how true #1 was this morning.

  6. My pants work in the opposite - fall wardrobe 34, spring wardrobe 36 (and snug by April). Summer biking falls by the wayside and office chair occupancy increases through the fall semester. Also - i get hungry sitting down, but can go all summer with two meals.

  7. Hey! I'M Professor Sex Monster the Tremulous!

  8. Thanks for number 3. I need a drink now. As for learning all their names- I really do try. The sad part is that my memory is like an etch-a-sketch, every semester I shake it clean and fill it up again with a new combination of Kaitlyns, Megans and Mikes.

  9. Oh NOES, I broke about 4 of these. Lucky the scotch was on hand.

    Btw, did you know they make a knock-off of Jack Daniels called Evan Williams? Someone brought it to a party this weekend. Apparently this is what our students are drinking. I was disappointed in everyone there.

  10. Bravo!

    I solve #1 by always wearing (initially) loose-fitting dresses. They allow a lot more leeway than things with waistbands. Male faculty members may want to check relevant local nondiscrimination policies before following suit.

  11. I prefer the title Exchequer Superlative Sawyer.

    And #7 makes me laugh out loud, every time I read it.


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