What do you do first lesson of the year? What do you do first in that lesson? With that group for the first time. Remember, this is the first class of the year after the long summer break, and after the long induction and prequel and all that thinking about how you’re going to do it better this year; how you’re going to do it different this year.
What do you do that first lesson?: talk about the summer break? roll out the PowerPoint about the course again (in case they missed it last year when you had that orientation session)?, ask them to talk about their reading over the summer? share some stories of first impressions of the text (Mrs Dalloway), mark the roll or get straight in to the book?
I must admit that, even after all these years of teaching, I still get slightly edgy about that first lesson of the year. I want to get it right. I want it to be a start, and not a talk-fest from me but an idea about how this class will be, and who we will be in this class together.
So I did all of the above, maybe not as purposefully and mindfully as I should have, and we made a start. I spent a little time getting OneNote organised (because it’s got to be from day 1 and organising it isn’t super-easy) and I asked a student to read from a passage (the skywriter scene) and we talked about that for a while. I told them how much I enjoyed reading Woolf again after a few years without having read her, and I got some nods, but also one or two half-looks of ‘I didn’t’. I should have followed up that look I think; what was troubling about Woolf? And what was difficult? And, I couldn’t help but think that a couple of students hadn’t quite finished it and didn’t want to talk about the text in too much detail, and didn’t want that conversation yet.
Afterwards, I felt vaguely disappointed that I hadn’t really grabbed them somehow. Not sure why, but it was that anti-climactic feeling that I could have done better. So, I emailed them all and clarified the lesson’s objectives, what I hoped they’d got out of it, and what the homework was, and a mindmap I’d done on the iPad and put into OneNote.
And, so we’ve started.