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First Things First on the First Day!

by Professor Joe Martin

One of the greatest mistakes that a new teacher can make in a classroom (especially on the first day) is to assume that the student values the class as much as the teacher does. In a perfect world, this assumption would be true. However, in the “real world” of teaching, this just isn’t the case.

As a new (or even a veteran) teacher, it is your responsibility to communicate to your students the importance of any class. In a sense, you have to sell them on the class. This is critical on the first day. If you don’t convince your students that there is something of value in your class that they need, then your dream class could easily turn into a class nightmare.




To validate this point, you don’t have to look any further than your own experience as a student. How many times have you been in a class only asking yourself after a week, “Why are we learning this stuff? How will I ever be able to use this in the real world? Who cares?” In fact, as you reflect on your own experience, you may still be asking those questions.

The point is…teaching is a process. You can’t teach if students aren’t listening. And the students won’t listen unless you first grab their attention. So, the question is how do you grab a student’s attention? Well, depending on “what” you teach, grabbing a student’s attention could either be easy or a challenge.

Regardless, your job is simple: remind your students where the pain is (as it relates to their personal experience), and show them how your class will help them to relieve or avoid most of it. That’s it.

For instance, I start every class I teach by asking a general question: “As students, what are you tired of?” I simply write every response on the board and relate a class objective (verbally) to one of their issues.

Of course, no one class will solve all of their problems, but they’re quite impressed that it can solve or address any of them. Just be thankful you don’t have to convince your students on the practical use of the Quadratic Equation (I’m sorry math teachers).

However, do you think you can show students how reading, writing, employability skills, learning, and certain math skills can help them achieve some of their goals and relieve a little stress (even if it’s just getting their parents off their backs)? Hey, it’s worth a shot.


Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author, professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students, teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To find out more visit his web site at


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