Tomorrow is my first official day of classes and, surprisingly enough, I’m not all that nervous. I mean, I’m good at classes. It might seem kind of obvious to say, but they’re what I’m here for. Generally speaking, I enjoy them and I understand them – but that isn’t to say that they’re all peachy keen 100% of the time. No, classes (and professors in particular) can have their frustrating moments, and many of those come up on the very first day. And so, in preparation for tomorrow, I’m going to count down the fatal four things that can happen on your first day of classes.
1. “How about we go around the room and tell everyone a fun fact about ourselves?”
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a room full of strangers who you know nothing about besides that you all looked at the course description and thought, for one reason or another, “that looks interesting”. But then the professor (or, in some cases, the TA) decides to remedy that problem, and all of a sudden, everything you knew about yourself goes rushing from your head.
Who am I?
What do I like?
What do I do?
It occurs to you in that moment that you must be the single most boring person on the planet. You try to get inspiration from the students that offer a fun fact before you, but all of them have lived much more interesting lives than you.
“I lived in Spain for three years.”
“Over the summer, I played the lead in a gum commercial.”
“I once wrestled a mad shark off a baby.”
It’s getting close to your turn, and your mind runs desperately through all the things that you do, searching for something you can say that will make you look interesting, but what is there? You can’t say that you live most of your life on the internet or playing video games. You can’t say that you once ate an entire large pizza by yourself. But what else have you done? What!?
It’s your turn. You sit up straight, sweep your gaze over the room, and you say it: “My favourite colour is purple.”
2. “Now, you should have had this reading done for today, but as you had no way of knowing that, you can just do double reading for next week.”
Now this one is just rude.
It’s the first day back at classes, you’re still getting adjusted after all that time off, and what does the professor do? Give you two weeks worth of reading to do in one week, while simultaneously making you feel like a jackass for not knowing something that you couldn’t possibly have known!
Whoopdie-doo, can’t wait to be taught by you!
3. “I hope you didn’t take this class because you thought it’d be fun.”
Hey, man. Let me tell you a thing or two about life.
Life is a journey. We’re here for a good time, not a long time. And, yes, I will accept that this class will be hard. I can accept that I will have a lot of work to do, and I am prepared to buckle down and plough through. But at the same time, man, actively trying to strip all the fun out of it is doing no one any good.
Because, really, what did we all think when we walked through that doorway, our bags already hanging heavy from our shoulders with the weight of the unknown semester before us?
“Oh boy, I really hope that this class stresses me out to the point that it becomes a black spot on my otherwise decent life”?
No, we all came in here hoping that we might enjoy this class, maybe make a few friends, and along the way, learn a thing or two. Life isn’t about dwelling on the difficulties – it’s about learning to have fun and be happy despite the hardships.
So let this class be fun. Let your students be happy. You don’t need to bleed joy out of their lives in order for them to take you seriously.
4. “Just so you know, I have a reputation for being strict/difficult/mean/whatever-unpleasant-synonyms-you-want-to-place-here”
If you’ve heard number three, then you’ve probably heard number four too. This is often said by the same professor, that sour-faced old grouch who thinks the only way you’ll take them seriously is if they make you fear them. And I take issue with this for many of the same reasons that I take issue with number three: you don’t need to cause your students stress right out of the gate to make them respect you.
But there they are, those professors who wave their alleged unpleasantness proudly, like it’s their house’s banner or something. “You’re going to have issues with me!” they shout to the classroom, and the majority of the students shift nervously in their chairs, wondering to what extent this is true and hoping that they’re exaggerating a bit.
Great way to start a new semester.
I want to make it clear that, at the end of the day, most of the professors I’ve met are amazing, passionate people who only want to help their students become better and more enlightened. I am not trying to belittle them, and I am not trying to say that you shouldn’t take your classes seriously. Just have fun with them! There’s no reason at all why learning can’t be an enjoyable experience from time to time, even if your professors don’t see that. So keep your head high, power through that reading, and try to think of an interesting fun fact to share with the class beforehand.