Back to school season is a glorious time: we’re all excited to return to campus, reconnect with people we haven’t seen over the summer, meet our new students, and welcome new colleagues. How do we make the most of that enthusiasm and create truly amazing first days? In this episode I outline four simple principles drawn from my experiences as a teacher and leader, and share more than 20 actionable strategies you can use right now to put these principles to work.
Here’s the episode at a glance:
>> 0.08. Welcome to the new fall semester! You’ll have lots of opportunities for first days: with each of your classes, with new colleagues you’re welcoming to your institution, with colleagues transitioning into new leadership roles, with folks new to committees and task forces, etc. First days matter, so I’ll share four principles and more than 20 actionable strategies you can use to kick things off this #newsemester. These strategies are things people actually use: some come from my experience, some from my teaching colleagues, and some are practices from Priya Parker’s book The Art of Gathering.
>> 4.33. Powerful first days make all the difference. I share my experience teaching before, and then after, the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
>> 08:25. Principle #1: Galvanize Your Guests. Think of your students and colleagues as guests at an event you’re hosting, whether it’s a classroom, a meeting, a lunch, etc. How do you set the stage to energize them? I share strategies for…
>> 16.07: Principle #2: Create Meaningful Engagement. At a truly memorable gathering, people connect with each other and the purpose of the meeting. How do you make that happen on the first day when folks are all new? I share strategies for…
>> 24:34. Principle #3. Spark Curiosity. Meaningful gatherings are NOT boring, and curiosity is the opposite of boring. How do you spark curiosity for folks who are new to a group or are just learning new content? I share strategies for…
>> 34:31. Principle #4: Parking on a Downhill Slope. At some point your specific gathering will end. But if you’re teaching a class, the same group of people is going to reconvene in a day or two. If you’re welcoming a new colleague, they’ll be back tomorrow. Your committee or task force will probably meet in another week or so. How can you use the end of your time to together to make it easier to get started when you get together next? I share strategies for…
>> 40:49. One last thing: Priya Parker’s 90% rule, and how it applies to your preparation for amazing first days.
Extra Reading & Resources (not affiliate marketing – just sharing information!)
James Lang, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. https://www.jamesmlang.com/books
James M. Lang. “How to Teach a Good First Day of Class,” published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/how-to-teach-a-good-first-day-of-class/?cid2=gen_login_refresh&cid=gen_sign_in
NYU Arts & Science FAS Office of Educational Technology: “A Brief Take on James Lang’s Small Teaching”: https://wp.nyu.edu/fas-edtech/2019/01/a-brief-take-on-james-langs-small-teaching/
Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching: “First Day of Class.” https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/first-day-of-class/
Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation: “The First Day of Class.” See especially the section on Considerations for the First Day of Class. https://teaching.cornell.edu/teaching-resources/designing-your-course/first-day-class
Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation. https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/firstday.html
Uncommon Commonalities. https://transformativetoolkit.org/activity/uncommon-commonalities
Have a long commute? Here’s some ear candy:
Designing Culture First Gatherings, with Priya Parker. Culture First podcast, hosted by Damon Klotz.
A Meeting Makeover, with Priya Parker. Dare to Lead podcast, hosted by Brene Brown.
Remaking Gathering: Entering the Mess, Crossing Thresholds. On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett.
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