Following up the First Class Meeting

As stated in last week's tip, the first meeting of a new class not only lays the foundation for your course, but is one of the most critical to retention of students throughout the term. Your ability to achieve this increasingly important accountability goal will become well-known to your instructional leaders, and will greatly impact your selection to teach the courses of your choice in the future. If you addressed each of the items in Tip #1, your first class meeting was dynamic, and thus might have left a few loose ends in some students' minds as they left. Therefore, it is critical to follow up that first class meeting to clarify any questions they might have, increase their perception of you as an approachable person, and further reinforce your vision of the remainder of the term.

Immediately following the first class meeting, review the cards upon which students provided their informal feedback on the first class meeting. Note any duplicated comments and/or questions - especially to your question "Is there anything about which you are unclear?" After completing your review, try to discern any patterns in the comments. If you are new to teaching, this would be a good time to foster a mentoring relationship, and review the cards and your comments with that veteran instructor. Within a day or so, develop a summary response to the comments, suitable for emailing to your students. (Their email addresses were prompted on the Student Profile form you used - see page 77 of The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success for a model form.)

As any professional correspondence, your email message should first create positive common ground with the students reading it. Thank them for being so attentive to your review of the syllabus, participating so actively in the icebreaker, and making such constructive comments on the informal evaluation. Then go on to address any questions that have implications for the class as a whole. Also include any detailed information which, upon reflection, you believe might not have been fully understood. Close by reminding them of any assignment for the following class, and by a statement of how you are looking forward to investing the term with them to learn more about your very interesting and relevant subject matter. In a P.S. statement, encourage students to communicate with you individually to clarify any aspects of the course that remain unclear.

Following up with students right after the first class meeting conveys your proactive nature, and models a behavior for them that will maximize the satisfaction of the course -- both for students and for you. The few minutes it takes will likely save you hours in "fire-fighting" throughout the remainder of the term.

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