6 Ways to Make Students Love You on the First Day of School

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One of our most popular posts, “14 Things Teachers Should Never Do on the First Day of School,” sparked plenty of discussion here on Brilliant or Insane and on our social networks.

Even though most agreed with our “Not to-do list,” many longed for the positive spin? “Okay, this makes sense,” one reader allowed, “but I’m a new teacher, so what exactly should I do?”

The short and simple answer goes like this: Make them love you. Here’s how.

6 Ways to Make Students Love You on the First Day of School

1 – Learn every single name (yes, even if you have 150 students)

No one is suggesting that this is easy, but it is arguably the most important thing you can do on Day 1. For years, we’d be well into week three, and I was still asking kids to tell me their names (there was no excuse; I was just lazy). Many of your students will already feel like they’re invisible. Show them how much they matter by learning their names on the first day.

Play name games, ask questions, repeat names, write names as you say them. Whatever it takes, learn those names. Because, as the old Cheers theme song says, “You want to be where everybody knows your name.” So do your students.

2 – Smile

I need an abacus to count the times a student said, “Mr. Barnes, you never smile.” Those were awful days. I was a militant curmudgeon, who was easy to hate. I’m so happy that I learned to smile. When I started smiling, students smiled back; they grew to like me and my class, and then learning became fun.

3 – Ask students what they hate

This presents a wonderful opportunity to group students and learn about them (practice names) as they discuss things they hate about school, your subject, or particular teaching styles. Lots of teachers like to ask students to write things about themselves or about their summers or things they enjoy doing. When you turn it around and ask what they hate, and you promise you won’t be mad at their honesty, they’ll start to trust you. And trust is a stepping stone toward love.

4 – Forget about curriculum

What might happen if you make it through the entire first day of school without ever mentioning curriculum? Sure, a few studious kids may ask you about the syllabus. Just say, “Don’t worry about that right now. Let’s have some fun.” Imagine the looks on their faces.

5 – Make them laugh

There was a time when laughter was considered a blight on my class. It was all business all the time, and it definitely was not fun. Then, one amazing summer, I discovered that learning was as much about joy as it was about knowledge.

There is no better time than the first day of school to make students laugh. Wear a funny shirt, tell a silly joke, or dress like a clown. Make them laugh, and the next 179 days might be the best ones yet.

6 – Promise them inspiration

End the first day of school with a sincere promise (of course, you’ll have to keep it). Say something like this: “We are beginning a journey of curiosity and inspiration. If you promise me your best effort, I promise to inspire you.”

Think back to your childhood. There was at least one teacher you loved. You even said it–not to the teacher but to friends and family. You had a marvelous day with a teacher who made you curious, who inspired you. A teacher who made you realize that you loved to learn, that you wanted to make a difference.

To this day, you tell people that you loved a teacher.

Someday, if you do things right, a student (hopefully many) will tell someone that they loved you.

That journey begins on the first day of school.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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