In his bestselling book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell contends that human beings are particularly adept at making rapid, intuitive decisions based on very little hard information. Interestingly, those intuitive decisions are often correct. The instant in time when you introduce yourself to a classroom full of students is one of those “blink” moments. Your body language, your tone of voice, the confidence you project, and the words you use are all part of an image that helps the students decide what type of person you are and, unconsciously, how they will interact with you throughout the day.
You have little more than a “blink” to establish yourself, and that’s why it’s so important to introduce yourself properly to the class. In this article, I’ll suggest how you can do it effectively.
What Should I do as Students Begin Entering the Room?
Greet the students as soon as they walk in. If you’re working in a primary grade, it’s wonderful to greet them at the door with a warm “Good morning, how are you today?” Or, “I love that shirt!” Or, “Your hair is so pretty today.” Or, “Those are great sneakers. Are they new?”
One or more students will ask who you are (if it’s your first time in the classroom). As the students are entering the room, you might respond with, “I’ll be teaching for Ms. X today. I’ll tell you more about myself once everyone is here.”
How Should I Introduce Myself?
Once all students have arrived and it’s time to start the day, take the time to tell students who you are. First, write your name on the board. Turn to face the class, making eye contact with as many children as possible, and say your name. Then get personal! Tell the class about yourself and your family. Talk about children, pets, your spouse, and any hobbies you enjoy. If you’re a New England Patriots fan, let them know.
Be sure to describe any teaching experience that you have had. It gives you credibility. For example, “I was a first-grade teacher for many years. It’s a real treat for me to work with sixth graders today. You guys are so capable and independent!”
After you introduce yourself, you have a decision to make. If the students seem blasé and disinterested (it does happen), move directly into the day’s work. But if you feel that you’ve engaged the class well, you might want to keep the good feeling going by asking the students to introduce themselves.
“I’d like to learn something about each of you,” you might say. “Tell me your name, but more important, tell me something about yourself, so I can get to know you better.”
Be careful not to let these introductions run too long. When you sense you’ve spent enough time on the activity, stop and tell the students that you’ll meet the rest of them throughout the day.
This technique is effective because students will find it harder to act out and cause problems for you when they are aware that you know something about them and cared enough to ask.
I like to tell the children that I have two sons, their ages, and some cute little quirky things about each one. Just being a mom gives me credibility. If this is not the case for you, tell the students something interesting about your siblings, nieces, nephews, or even pets to accomplish the same goal.
I have a nephew who is (at the time of writing this book) on a Big East college basketball team. He is a dedicated athlete who has worked hard to get to his position. I love to tell students his story. It is inspiring and creates a fascination, especially for those students who aspire to be athletes.
I also like to tell stories about myself when I was their age. Children love to hear what life was like “back in the day.” As a sub, you can create a real bond with the class by being an interesting, sharing individual. Give it a try!
You only get one chance at a first impression. When you introduce yourself to a classroom full of students, you lay the foundation for their interaction with you. The following guidelines are worth considering:
- Greet students individually as they walk into the classroom. Smile.
- Write your name on the board and then make eye contact with as many students as possible as you begin your introduction.
- Get personal; tell them something about yourself, your background, or even your family.
- If you feel a good vibe, ask them about themselves.
If you introduce yourself effectively, you’re much less likely to have behavioral problems throughout the day.