There is a quote on the wall of my room this morning. After attendance is taken and the first day jitters begin to slow, my students will be reading and discussing it.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Cliché? Oh, maybe a little. Powerful? You are darn right! Think about this … when meeting students for the first time, you are constantly feeling them out. The clothes they wear, the peers they sit themselves next to, their ability to pay attention and follow direction … it is like we are dissecting and analyzing every part of their persona, and all for good reason. We want to give that child our best, and to do that we must connect with them. In order to connect with them, we must get to know them. This is not judgment; this is being a good teacher!
Some of the kids might squirm a little when I anonymously call them out on their behavior. For example, I might say, “If first impressions matter, the student who arrives late to class, interrupts my opening discussion with the class, and then goes on to laugh at their friends joke in an inappropriate manner has already done himself a disservice. He cannot get that moment back. That first impression is now frozen in my mind, and do you know what? It might take days, even WEEKS for that first impression to thaw.” By that time, the kid who did this, who obviously knows who he is, shapes up quite well.
All that being said, we as teachers are certainly not excused from first impressions. Let me pose some questions that separate the good teachers from amazing teachers.
1. Are you greeting the students at the door?
2. Are you trying to learn names?
3. Are you attempting to connect with them already? For example, if they are wearing a KU shirt, are you telling them, “Hey, I went to KU! Did you watch their last basketball game?” It matters!
4. Are you smiling? Kids love positive teachers. The theory of not smiling until second semester to strike fear into them doesn’t work, guys.
5. Are you providing them with sound structure, laying down the rules and regulations and then enforcing them as needed? Kids NEED structure, and they actually crave it.
6. Are you being fair, treating all students the same, not playing favorites?
7. Are you showing passion at all? Or are you just going through the motions?
8. Are you asking how their older brother or sister is in a genuine way?
9. Are you quickly reminding the kid that has had an older sibling come through your room that you will be looking at them in an entire unique light? Judging students by their older siblings is not fair to them.
10. Are you dressed in a professional manner that separates yourself? I know a teacher that is fond of wearing polos with his shirttail out. Is it possible he might get more respect by dressing with that shirttail tucked in? Maybe. Just maybe.
First impressions do matter, and there is one overall impression I want to impress upon my students today. I want them to know that I am a Christian. Not just a poser who says this, but a real Christian. I want those Christian kids out there to know that I worship the Lord through my every action. Forgiveness, love, self-control, positivity, thankfulness, a genuine lust for living life … I want these qualities to be seen in every word, every step I take. If my students do not know I am a Christian through my actions by the end of the day, I have not done my job. I have failed. And it is more than me just saying I am a Christian. Saying it is one thing. Actually doing it is something else.
I’d like to give some scripture for you to chew on before you make that first impression. It is one you more than likely have heard before, but think about it. Analyze it. Let it sink in. It comes from 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13.
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Let’s add one more question to that list above. Are you showing love? If you fail to do this, your first impression is off. Through every word, every action, every breath you take, show love. It lets these kids know that the ways of a Christian teacher are just a little higher than that of the world. Believe me, if you do your job right today, these kids will be talking about you at the dinner table with their folks tonight. They’ll be asking their friends if they are lucky enough to have you. Most importantly, they will be that much more apt to express love themselves through their own actions, modeling after someone that took the time to let them know they cared.