The First Day of Class

Thanks to Ken Gillam and the incoming GTAs for having me and Margaret Weaver come to their orientation and talk about “the first day.” I promised links to the things I talked about and maybe more, so let the link-o-rama begin.

First, check out a site I forgot to mention today at orientation, Prof Hacker. This is a brand new site run by rhet/comp faculty and grad students, so it is worth adding to your RSS reader, or at least checking once a week.They say they are still in beta with a September launch date, but I think they are ready for prime time now–a great site for composition teachers! Check the post about the ingenious concept of a“catch-up” day.

From the presentation, take a look at Delaney Kirk’s ten tips for teaching the first day of class. Sometimes it’s nice to see the obvious all lined up so that you know you’re ready. One thing I’d like to add to Kirk’s list is that besides being comfortable yet professional in your clothing choices, right now all the English and Modern and Classical Language folks need to consider what teaching in a newly renovated building will be like. The construction  crews may still sprint to the finish line and be done before Monday, but I bet it will be dusty for a while yet. I know wearing black is the English Department default, but this is one time to pull out the natural linen instead. Look at your wardrobe, and if the outfit is approximately the color of drywall dust, go for that one. You won’t be sorry.

Next, for a bit of context, check Beloit College’s Mindset List. They’ve been doing this annually for twelve years now, and it never fails to fascinate, amuse, and give you the context you need about your incoming students and the world they know.

Finally, we ran out of time to really do the Burkean Parlor exercise, but I hope you read about it and about the follow-up to it. You should have a whiteboard, so some variation of this should work for you.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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