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Profs. also get first-day jitters

While the first few days of classes bring about anxiety, stress and new expectations from the students, teachers are affected in the same manner. According to Gary Lee, chair of the sociology department, most professors are as nervous as the students on the first day of classes.

“Most faculty members are nervous, wondering what kinds of students will be in their class this semester and if they will be teachable,” he said. “I just started my 31st year of teaching and I’m still a little nervous on the first day.”

Ron Lancaster, professor of computer science shared similar thoughts, saying, “you want to set the right tone and you want to give the right impression about the class. Really, the first week sets the tone for the rest of the semester.”

Easing the students into the semester is a key thing for Lee to do during the first week of classes.

“I make the assessment that we’re all starting from zero, so I start with the basics,” he said.

Lancaster said he tries to be early to the first class of a semester and talk to his students about current events in the world and around campus.

“I do that more just to let them relax,” he said. “So by the time the class starts we’ve already been talking back and forth about things that have nothing to do with class material.”

Many teachers at the University will start the semester off with a shorter class period than usual to help ease the students into things.

“What we need to do on the first day is give the syllabus out and walk people through it,” Lee said. “After that, you really only have ten minutes left, so rather than just start off and quit, you’re better off to say ‘see ya Wednesday’ and we’ll get down to work.” Other teachers, however, like to get right down to work on the first day.

“I think it sets the wrong tone,” Lancaster said. “I usually run out of time at the end of a semester as it is. It’s not like I have a lot of time to spare.”

When the semester first gets underway, professors typically have their own expectations about what to expect from the class, usually based on how far along in a curriculum they have advanced, Lee said.

“I try to give students an indication of what to expect in terms of grades, performance and attendance,” he said.

Those expectations and ideas that the professor goes into the first day with will most likely change throughout the semester, though.

“Sometimes you get a class that’s more advanced and wants you to move faster (in covering material),” Lancaster said. “Likewise, you might get a class that can’t handle the pace you’d like to carry the course at, so you have to adjust.”

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