Your teachers put a lot of thought into making the right impression on students the first time the class meets (except for those who put no thought into it whatsoever, but even in that case – and perhaps more so – it still makes an impression!), but what can you do to make the right impression on them, when you’re one of as many as 100, 120, or even 150 students they will encounter throughout the day? Unfortunately the kids who often make strong first impressions are the ones who show up late to class, don’t follow the dress code, or refuse to pay attention while they speak, but if that’s not the sort of attention you want to generate, how can you distinguish yourself among the all other motivated, friendly, and cooperative kids who shuffle in and out that teacher’s door amidst the chaos of the first few days? If simply showing up, being polite, and paying attention doesn’t do it, what else is there? And does it really matter, anyway?
I’d suggest that, while it isn’t crucial, it does matter to make an impression as soon as possible, if for no other reason than most students won’t do it, and it’s an easy way to make an early connection that will benefit you as you move through the year. What I would suggest is that at some point in the first week of school, you introduce yourself to your teachers. Sure, they’ve already called your name out during roll call, and you’ve told them you were present so they could match your face to your name. But that’s just a procedure, and not really an introduction. Perhaps they had some ice breaker games or had you write out some information about yourself on a form – but that’s all stuff other kids are doing, too. I’m suggesting you take it one step further, and personally introduce yourself to your teachers.
In my opinion, the easiest way to do this is with a note card. That way, you have time to write out exactly what you want to say, and hand it over to the teacher without having to remember any of it in the moment. Plus, teachers are often busy both before and after class, and standing by awkwardly waiting for a free moment to speak to them can really whittle down your confidence. So, if you see an opportunity and feel comfortable extending your hand, introducing yourself, telling the teacher you are excited to be in their class, and thanking them for being your teacher, then go for it. But it may be much easier to hand them a note card, smile, and take your seat (if it’s the start of class) or leave the classroom (if it’s after). If the teacher is busy at the moment, they can put the card aside and read it later when they have time.
You could also make your introductions through email, but in my opinion a hand-written note is a nicer gesture, especially at the beginning of the year. Still, emails are certainly an acceptable form of communication with teachers nowadays, so if it feels best to you to do it that way, it would work – just be sure to format the email properly and be cognizant of your tone. Emails are easy to misread, and you want to be sure your message comes across clearly. Be it note card or email, be sure the message includes your full name (first and last) and the class period you are in (teachers won’t know right away who you are, so help them out), and a thank you to them for being your teacher. That’s really all it needs to say, but you can also include anything you might want them to know about you, like being on the swim team, or being a new student at the school, or having a learning disability of which they should be aware. If you like the subject they teach, you could share that, or, if you struggle in that subject, let them know that too. If the teacher said something the first day that caught your attention, you could mention that. Whatever you say, keep it brief, and be sincere. You’re not trying to kiss up to them so that they give you an A later. You’re letting them know who you are, and that you appreciate the effort they are putting in to teach you.
This may make you nervous because you fear how the teacher will respond. And certainly, we can never predict how others will react to anything we do. Is it possible a teacher might misconstrue your gesture of kindness, and react negatively? Yes, that is always a possibility (although it would be a strange way to react to a kind note expressing gratitude to a teacher!) but remember that you are not doing this to get some sort of reaction from your teachers – that would be manipulation, which is not what I’m suggesting. You are doing it to introduce yourself, and to put your best foot forward for them. Whether or not they appreciate it, you will have still achieved your goal. Celebrate the fact that even though you didn’t get the response you expected, you still did your part and took a risk, and your actions will still be of benefit to you in the future. For the most part, though, you will get positive responses from your teachers for such a gesture – teachers don’t hear thank you very much at all throughout the year, and they never hear it at the beginning of the year!
What’s most important about this is that you are taking charge of your learning experience a little bit more than you have before. You are owning your participation in that class, and your connection with that teacher. So, write those notes and file those first-day documents into their proper folders. And then, get ready for a great year!
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