Ready, Set, Teach! Navigating pre-class jitters and set-up

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You’ve got your lesson planned, your water bottle filled, and your slides ready, but still, you’ve got butterflies in your stomach as you approach the classroom 10 minutes before the class start time. It’s pretty normal to feel a range of emotions in those minutes before starting to teach: nervousness, excitement, uncertainty, anxiety, anticipation . . . Getting your class off to a timely and confident start is central to ensuring the success of the lesson and the time spent with students. 

In this Hub post, we’ll look at the 10 minutes before class begins, with a focus on in-person instruction (although some of the strategies mentioned here apply to teaching online synchronously as well). We’ll focus on strategies for sharing the classroom as a transitional space as you get set up to teach, as well as managing the excitement and anxiety of starting class.  

For strategies on wrapping up class in the last 10 minutes, we have a Hub post forthcoming in the next few weeks, so keep a look out!

Navigating the shared space of the classroom

Very often, one class will exit a classroom as the next one arrives. With classes ending 10 minutes to the hour, this transition between classes can be tight on time and buzzing with activity, so it’s important to be purposeful and focused as you enter your classroom and set up. 

Some best practices to keep in mind for navigating the 10 minutes between classes:

  1. Wait in the hall until the previous faculty has wrapped up class and opened the classroom door.
  2. When students start exiting, make your way into the classroom and directly to the podium to signal that you are the next faculty teaching in that classroom. Greet your colleague who is wrapping up and begin to set up. 
  3. If you notice that the previous faculty has not yet signed out of the computer console, let them know. 
  4. As your students begin to enter, welcome them with a message and an agenda on the board. Here is some information you can put on the board for your students:
    • The date
    • Agenda for class
    • Key terms
    • Key learning outcomes or goals
  5. Collect your materials to make the room and technology ready: have your slide deck open, handouts in an accessible stack, resource links open in your browser, markers and pens within reach. Do a quick test of multimedia materials (e.g., sound, videos), if you are using them. 
  6. If you use an attendance sign-in sheet and/or name tents, put them out right away and alert students to their presence (again, maybe with a note on the whiteboard or on a welcome slide). 
  7. Some students may approach you with questions while you are setting up. Acknowledge students and assess their questions or concerns. Answer briefly with directions for further support. It’s important not to let students derail your setup, but it’s equally important that students feel seen and heard when they enter the classroom.
    • Phrases you might use to acknowledge students: “Thanks for letting me know,” “Let’s discuss this as a whole class,” “Excellent – let me add that to the agenda for today,” or “This sounds like a conversation for office hours. Please reach out to me [indicate best way for the student to connect with you].” 
  8. Once you are feeling logistically prepared, it’s time to check in with yourself and settle your mind. As you keep an eye on the clock, take some deep breaths. Walk around the class to say “hi” to students, pop your head out into the hall and welcome those still arriving. Ideally, you’ll have a few minutes to mentally bring yourself into the space of teaching before class proceedings begin.
  9. Start class on time. You might close the classroom door (but don’t lock it) to signal that class is officially in progress. 

If you’d like further resources on getting the classroom ready and setting expectations with students early in the semester, consult this Hub post on the first two weeks. 

Claiming your space

There’s a chance that the previous class will run overtime. If you are waiting in the hall and watching the clock tick down, you might start to feel anxious to get into the room and set up. 

Some best practices in this scenario: 

  1. When a class runs overtime, it is fair to pop you head into the classroom and give a friendly smile to the faculty, who will likely acknowledge you and wrap things up. 
  2. If the faculty has ended class but is still in the classroom and students are milling about, move into the classroom and toward the podium. You might say something to the faculty like, “Hi, I’m teaching in here next and am going to get set up.”
  3. If you end up starting class late because it took a while for the previous group to exit, give yourself some space to slow down. Starting to teach while feeling overwhelmed and frazzled can create a frantic energy that students pick up and may reflect back to you in distracted or disruptive behaviour.
    • In this case, assign students a short, quiet activity for the first few moments of the class period, perhaps journalling, a partner discussion, or a reflection on last week’s lesson. While students work on their activity, you can refocus, get organized, and start the lesson feeling more composed. 

Copilot helped generate ideas for the title of this Hub post. 

Ada Sharpe

Ada Sharpe, Ph.D. (English and Film Studies), has worked in faculty and support staff roles in the post-secondary sector for over a decade. She has taught and researched in literary studies and writing studies and co-led a university writing centre. Ada specializes in understanding how assessment shapes the teaching and learning experience for faculty and students.

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