Tag Archives: teaching college students

Dear Students: Let’s Have a Great Semester!

Instructors: As you start the new academic year—hopefully refreshed after a summer of recharging—think about sending your new students an e-mail detailing what you will do to help them learn, and what they can do to help themselves. Below we share a template that you can adjust for style or content, or simply use as is.

Dear Students,

Welcome to my class! As we kick off this new academic year, I’m writing to tell you how much I’m looking forward to getting to know you all and to teaching you about business communication. I think you’ll find that the skills you take away from this course will make you not only more confident as you go into the workplace but also a more marketable employee.

However, I need your help to make this the best possible learning experience. Below are some strategies you can use to get the most out of our class.

Be present. Of course, I mean this literally—attend class regularly—but I also mean to tune in when you’re there. Listen, take notes, ask questions, and show you are thinking and understanding by nodding your head occasionally. I need to see more than a sea of blank faces to know whether I’m reaching you. When you’re checking your social media feeds instead of focusing on what I’m teaching, I become discouraged. I am here because I wholeheartedly believe that what I teach is relevant to your life. Help me by being engaged.

Join in.  I know you don’t want to hear me drone on throughout every class session, so chime in! Raise your hand and participate when you have something to say—and be sure you have something to say by coming to class prepared. Do your reading and any homework I assign. I promise you it’s designed to help reinforce core concepts I cover in class. Also understand that when you speak up, you energize me. I’m only human, and when I think no one is tuned in, it’s harder for me to be enthusiastic.

Attend office hours. I want to get to know you! Much of what I enjoy about teaching is learning about my students, but I cannot do that in the classroom. You’ll find I’m quite approachable and helpful outside of class—and I keep a basket of chocolate on my desk for anyone who comes to visit me! In the privacy of my office where I can ask you more personal questions about your major and goals, we can work together to make the most of the course and your education.

Help me learn your name. As hard as I try, it’s difficult remembering all my students’ names, so please help me. When you speak, remind me of your name. If I call on you and do not use your name, tell me then and there: “I’m Janelle, Professor.”

We’re in this together, students. Let’s make the most of it!

Regards,

Your Instructor

Start the Semester Strong

None of us entered our field because we wanted to alienate students. Yet unwittingly, much of our traditional first-day agendas do just that. Reading the syllabus as a contractual obligation, warning about late work and poor attendance, and being the “sage on the stage” can create the opposite of an atmosphere that will excite students about our courses.

So just what will engage our students from the get-go? At Spartanburg Community College, new faculty watch a video called Voices of Our Students that was created by a student intern, reports Dr. Tena Long Golding. The video contains students’ perspectives about their college teachers and reveals that students describing a “great professor” use words such as honest, relatable, engaging, concerned, invested, and enthusiastic.

Students in the video also describe what makes for a “favorite professor.” They list the following desirable traits:

  • are consistent and predictable
  • believe in students’ ability to succeed
  • entertain when lecturing
  • help students having trouble by being available and offering feedback
  • make connections between course content and the “real world”
  • motivate students using a variety of methods
  • open discussions after lectures
  • share personal anecdotes
  • view students as individuals

As we start our new academic year, perhaps we can use these student impressions to help us create more meaningful courses—and maybe even become those “favorite professors.” Below are some ways to start the new semester off on the right foot.

Offer a meaningful promise about what students will learn. Tell students what they will take away from your course. A statement such as “Everything you read and write about in this course will be relevant to your futures as business professionals” will likely grab their attention.

Engage the class with multimedia. Our millennial students are used to being dazzled by images on their screens. Can you create or show a short video? Play a podcast? Project photographs? You’ll wake up even the most uninterested students if you appeal to their need to view learning at least in some part as entertaining.

Demonstrate consequences of poor classroom behavior. Perhaps you can make your own cellphone go off or respond to a text message while you are speaking. While going over the syllabus, you might tell a “sad story about Missing Student” who skipped so many classes and got so hopelessly behind that she [fill in the blank.] Present your pet peeves to students in a creative way.

With a little effort and a few tweaks to the standard way of starting a new course, this may be your best year of teaching yet!


Do you have any first-day activities or strategies to engage your students? St