Imagine it is the first day of classes. Today, you will be interacting with your students for the first time. Watch the following scenarios:
Which TA would you like to be?
In which of the these scenarios do you think the students would have a better first impression of the teaching assistant? YES! The latter two scenarios. Setting a good first impression starts by getting to know your students on the first day as well as their getting to know you. BUT—it doesn't stop there. Getting to know them is the first important step, but building rapport throughout the remainder of the semester is just as important.
Break the ice.
The first day can be nerve-racking for both students and TA alike. Ease the tension even before class begins by posting an agenda, putting your name on the board, chatting with early students about something that would indicate your interest in them, and telling students as they come in to get acquainted with students sitting next to them (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2006). Other useful icebreakers:
- Tell students to share their majors, year in school, and something they've done that makes them unique.
- Write down words and phrases that describe their feelings on the first day, as well as how they think you feel
- Write down one goal they hope to accomplish in this class
- Give them a chance to ask you questions
- Play a "name game" — each person pairs with someone else, they share their information (e.g., name, major)—then each person introduces their partner to the group.
Learn (and USE!) the students names.
In a large classroom over 100 students, this may be next to impossible. However, when you do interact with these students in office hours or after class, make it a point to ask them their name at the beginning of the conversation, and use their name throughout. In a lab or discussion section, TRY to remember their names at least by the second week of school. Addressing students by their names indicates to them that you care about them.
Ask how the students are doing.
In everyday life, we start a conversation by saying, "How are you?" Why not start class by saying this too? Asking the students how they are, how their weekend went, etc. indicates that you are interested in them.
Recognize them outside of the classroom.
If you see one of your students walking on campus, say "Hi!" Walking right past them on campus indicates to them that you know them only as your student in the classroom, and don't care much about them otherwise.