Preparing for first class
Preparing for the First Day of Class
On the first day of class, your students' concerns are, "What is this course all about and what kind of person is the teacher?" For you as the instructor, the first day of class is your opportunity to answer those questions and to establish a tone for the entire term. Under ideal circumstances, you will have had at least a month prior to the first class meeting to plan the syllabus, calendar, course sequence and lessons. As the first day of class approaches, your attention will turn to the logistics that will make your class run smoothly throughout the term. The more organized you are in those first class meetings, the more you will be relaxed and so will your students.
At Least One Week Before the First Day of Class (or as soon as possible)
- Find the building and visit the classroom.
- Find the restrooms.
- Obtain a key to the classroom and any computer/audiovisual cabinets.
- Check textbook orders in bookstore.
- Have alternate materials prepared for students who may not have received financial aid for book purchases yet--it's good to know what dates your college disperses financial aid to students.
- Learn about the college library reserve system and place books on reserve in the library as needed.
- Plan for any special supplies needed for class.
- Make sure web resources used to support your class are ready to go.
- Ask department members to recommend web resources they find helpful.
- Check the availability and operation of smart classroom equipment (projection, computer, audio)
- Find out your department's enrollment management policies and forms, (e.g. if the class does/does not fill, add/drop, wait-listing students).
- Have a printed roster of students' names
- Check the sound and carry of your voice in the classroom.
- Make sure that your handwriting on the board is clear and readable from the back of the room.
- Be prepared to deal with your specific student population. For example, if a significant number of your students are likely to have Spanish surnames, learn how to pronounce common names for that group correctly.
- Post online or print out your syllabus (or both).
On the First Day of Class
- First impressions tend to be lasting impressions. Strive to convey organization, preparedness and most importantly, enthusiasm. Be yourself and be respectful.
- Arrive in the classroom before your students and organize any handouts, roll sheet, recheck equipment functionality, and other materials.
- Put your name and the title of the course on the board for students to see as they come in.
- If there is additional material to be written on the board, try to do so before students arrive, if appropriate and not distracting to student involvement in the lesson. Notes should be written/taken in context.
- Greet students as they enter the classroom.
- Breathe. Understand and accept that being nervous is quite normal.
- Let students know when you'll handle enrollment issues such as signing add/drops.
- Show a human side. (If you haven't read "The Necessity of Looking Stupid" yet, now would be a good time to do so.)
- Share information about yourself such as the history behind your teaching career and other professional activities.
- Share any activities or connections you have with the community outside of your teaching, and any hobbies or other special interests which you enjoy.
- Make these comments brief. (If you have students introduce themselves in pairs, have a student introduce you.)
- Get to know your students.
- Ask about career and educational goals.
- Inquire about their expectations of the class.
- Allow students to introduce themselves.
- Immediately try to associate names with faces. Knowing your students' names is critical to successful classroom management.
- Avoid making apologies for any lack of teaching experience. Your enthusiasm for the subject matter and your ability to engage students is more important than experience.
- Use an icebreaker to initiate the exchange of information.
Class Structure, Tone, and Expectations
Probably the most important function of the first day of class is to provide students with the structure and expectations of the class.
- Review the syllabus completely.
- Use your college's course management system as a place to post your syllabus but it's really good to have a printed copy for your students, as well.
- You might have students do a paired exercise to discuss the syllabus or give an ungraded syllabus quiz.
- Identify and describe textbooks, lab materials or supplies.
- Make your academic and behavioral expectations very clear.
- If appropriate, you may have planned to let your students identify key topics they want to discuss late in the semester. If you have done this, you will want to discuss the intent of this plan and how students will be engaged in the design of the course.
- Remember that we learn best when doing, applying or teaching content. Get students involved in this process.
- Describe the organization and scope of content of the class.
- Explain attendance policies and ground rules for class interaction.
- Explain to students that you will frequently offer them learning strategies for your content. And, that it will be helpful for them to pay particular attention to learning strategies in addition to course content.
- Be honest about the skills needed to succeed in the class and identify college and community resources available to support student success.
- Describe any prerequisites for the course.
- Give time estimates for study and assignments.
- Suggest some study strategies that may help students succeed.
- Clearly explain the grading system.
- Make sure students know how to reach you.
- Review your contact information, including office hours and location, email, phone and fax numbers.
- Do what you can to dispel the myth that a visit to your office, or other attempt to contact you, will automatically signal to you that they are in trouble.
- Review safety precautions.
- In ongoing classes, large visuals, such as posters, can be a better learning cue than a verbal reminder.
- If your course requires laboratory or fieldwork, demonstrate the procedures for using equipment and supplies safely.
- Discuss emergency procedures in the event of an accident, illness or natural disaster.
- Encourage questions and allow frequent opportunities for students to ask them. Remember that some students need reflection opportunities before they will know what they want to ask. Anonymous questions on 3 x 5 cards or post-its can be very helpful or a discussion forum in your CMS for this purpose, works well, too.
- Turn in all required paperwork to the Human Resources Office; if you are a new employee (for example, transcripts, TB test results, fingerprints, and previous work experience validations).
- If you are new to the college, familiarize yourself with the Student Services available to you and your students. Check out these links, as well as links at the bottom of any Gavilan College website:
When you are considering finding assistance for your students, you will want to check the Student Services website. Common student services in California Community Colleges can be found on the Chancellor's Office website.
New and Continuing Instructors
As soon as you know what class(es) you will be teaching, please obtain an official Course Outline of Record from your department office, from the Office of Instruction, or from the Curriculum website. Check to see if your course has prerequisites AND if it is a pre-requisite for a subsequent course. You can also access the course content, student learning outcomes, and critical thinking points for any course under the Curriculum website.
My Gav Portal Access:
Make sure you are able to access your account in the MyGav portal. This is where you will be able to update you contact information, access add/drop codes, download your class roster, submit grades, download your W-2 forms, and much more. If you need assistance with accessing your MyGav portal, contact your area Dean or the MIS department at 408-848-4900 x4357 or email@example.com.
To find out the expected enrollment maximum for each class, check with your Dean or the schedule of classes. If the class has an enrollment maximum, this will help you to determine how many spaces if any will be available for students to add on the first day.
Check to see if there is a prerequisite (also on the course outline). Prerequisites and co-requisites are enforced through banner during the registration process before a student arrives in your class. Students may file a pre-requisite/co-requisite challenge form.
Instructors wishing to order books should do so at least eight weeks before the start of the coming semester.
All publishers now require that instructors personally contact them for desk copies but the bookstore would be happy to help research books or provide publisher contact information. You can contact the Bookstore at 408-848-4742 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Gavilan Online Bookstore.
New options for students:
Students may purchase or rent textbooks and supplies for all classes at the Gavilan College Bookstore located on the main campus in Gilroy or online. For bookstore hours, location, and contact information, visit the Bookstore website. In addition to new and used copies of our textbooks that have always been available to students, the bookstore is now offering new options:
To obtain a key, you must submit a work order to email@example.com requesting a key. On the work order, include the name of the key recipient, the site name, the room number, door number, and any other pertinent information. The originator of the Key Requisition Form then submits the signed forms to the Facilities Maintenance department. Key Requisition is retained by the Facilities Maintenance department and the key is returned to the requestor. When an employee terminates their employment from the College the bottom portion of the Key Request Form along with the key is returned to the Facilities and Maintenance department for re-entry into the system. The key may be submitted to Facilities and Maintenance via the Human Resources Department upon termination of employment. Employees who are issued keys are responsible for them and should be aware of the policy since key and key systems can be compromised by lost or stolen keys. Unless otherwise stated via contractual agreement, a fee of $25 will be assessed to the employee for lost pass keys and $100 for a lost master key. C-5 Employees who have site access and keys are responsible for becoming familiar with intrusion alarm system codes, pass codes, and procedures before entering any alarmed buildings or areas on weekends or off-hours. Contact your area Dean or his/her assistant to obtain a pass code. Campus Security is responsible for the issuance, authorization and change of alarm codes. Administrators cannot change a code with the security service provider. Keys are not generally issued to part-time faculty. On weekdays, Facilities will unlock the doors and Security will lock them after classes. Any exceptions must be made through the appropriate Dean.
Staff spaces are available in all parking lots. A valid staff parking permit is required to park in staff spaces. Faculty/staff may also park in student spaces displaying a valid staff parking permit if no Staff spaces are available. Parking permits are initially issued to all new hires through the Human Resources Department. Thereafter, replacement permits are available each Fall at Professional Development Day (PDD). Please visit the Parking Information website for specific times and locations where you can pick up a parking permit. If you are only on campus during the evening, you can request your parking permit through the evening secretary by calling 408-848-4750.
Where to Park
Try to keep up with the ever changing parking lot openings and closings during construction. Updates are sent to your Gavilan College email address. You will also find updated campus parking maps in public areas across the campus.
Schedule of Assignments and Exams:
Plan your course to ensure that you cover all relevant material and allow time for review before final examinations. Whenever possible, include opportunities for written work. Refer to the Admissions and Records website for important dates and deadlines including the final exam schedule.
Writing a course syllabus will allow you to set the tone for your course, review course learning outcomes, and communicate student expectations and responsibilities, meeting days/times, office hours and contact information, textbooks, penalties for late work, exam information, grading criteria, and attendance policy. Cornell University's Center for Teaching Innovation has good information regarding the creation of a syllabus. Make sure your syllabus includes add/drop deadlines and procedures listed on the Academic Calendar.
If you need to make copies of your syllabus, complete a Reprographics Service Request Form by logging into the Intranet (MyGav) and under Employee Information click Other Documents. You may also contact reprographics at 408-848-4792 or visit them in the Security Office.
Electronic/Digital Copies of Syllabus and Course Materials:
Consider preparing an electronic copy of your syllabus and readings: While many students benefit from having early access to your syllabus and required reading list, it may be essential to the success of students with some types of learning disabilities. Providing early access to electronic copies of course material allows students to view the syllabus and reading list in large-print format, or make arrangements to have that material voice-recorded. Instructors may leave an electronic copy of their syllabus and reading list with their department secretary for easy student access or post them online. (See Student Accessibility Services below.)
Keep Track of Enrollment:
Do you want to keep track of how many students are enrolled in your class? You can do this through your MyGav portal under the Faculty Tab.
To-Do Checklist Before Your First Class
- Sign your contract and turn it in to Human Resources.
- Get a parking permit.
- Receive office assignment and update your faculty website.
- Order necessary books using the Online Adoption Tool .
- Confirm availability of book orders.
- Prepare your course packet/reader if applicable. This is due to Reprographics well before the start of the semester.
- Familiarize yourself with the college MyGav Portal/Intranet and the Canvas pages specific to your classes.
- If unfamiliar with Canvas, refer to the Canvas Help website.
- Prepare and finalize syllabus and grading policy and get it printed.
- Receive office and classroom keys.
- Prepare your lesson plan for the first day of class.
- Visit classroom beforehand and view the campus map.
- Most classrooms are already equipped with a computer and projector. Reserve any other A/V equipment in advance by logging on to the MyGav Portal/Intranet and under Other Documents, click on Request Media Equipment.
- Post your class schedule and office hours outside your office door.
- Print your class roster before your first class.
- Check online schedule for any last minute changes to your class’s schedule and location.
Distance Education: Teaching Online
This document provides the "how-to" deliver online education at Gavilan College. It includes the College’s policies and procedures as well as where to get help. This document is a must read for anyone delivering distance education, online or hybrid, instruction at Gavilan.
This document provides guidelines, suggestions and best practices for teaching in the online environment and serves as a guideline for the college in delivering distance education.
Instructional Technology / Distance Education Help
Online and face-to-face help is available for students and faculty. For personalized assistance, students can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org while faculty can request help by completing an online help request or sending an email to email@example.com. Refer to the Distance Education website for Office hours and contact information.
- Additional resource for faculty can be found:
Here is a useful book for teachers:
Tools for Teaching, Davis, B.G., Jossey-Bass; San Francisco, 1993.
A compendium of classroom-tested strategies and suggestions designed to improve the teaching practices of all college instructors, including beginning, mid-career, and senior faculty members. The book describes 49 teaching tools that cover both traditional practical tasks--writing a course syllabus, delivering an effective lecture--as well as newer, broader concerns such as responding to diversity on campus and coping with budget constraints.
As a community college instructor, your job is to facilitate learning and achievement of student learning outcomes, not just to impart information. Lecturing alone does not necessarily facilitate learning!
There are a variety of ways to involve students more actively in the learning process by making your classroom more student-centered:
- Brainstorming and problem solving in pairs or groups
- Discussions or debates
- Involving students in Q and A sessions
- Giving reports and summaries either orally or in writing
- Role-playing, simulation games, or panel presentations
- Using case studies which focus on problem solving skills
- Taking field trips
- Library research and writing term papers
In addition, learning will be enhanced if the instructor's preparation and planning includes:
- Clearly stated goals and objectives
- A variety of presentation methods
- Use of multimedia
- Where possible, multiple choices for assignments
- Regular assessment to see that student learning outcomes are being achieved
- Prompt grading and return of assignments
- Every effort to motivate students to do their best work
The best teaching and learning occurs when:
- There is mutual respect among all participants.
- Students are motivated.
- The learning environment accommodates different ways of learning and knowing so that the whole brain is engaged in the endeavor.
- A context has been presented for the specific content being learned.
- Student interaction is encouraged and student responses and opinions are respected.
- There are opportunities for first hand experience to apply what students are learning to specific problems.
- The students feel safe enough to begin to think outside of their normal frames of reference and to develop critical and abstract thinking skills.
- Assessment is used as a learning tool and natural part of their studies.
- Set clear standards for classroom behavior and stick to them
- Give them clear guidelines regarding academic honesty and plagiarism.
- Make sure students know what to do when they miss a class – how to make up missed homework or tests.
- Articulate your expectations clearly, so that students can submit work that will meet them.
- Try to balance your assessments – in terms of what, when, how and how often.
A few more helpful hints!
- Oral participation from students increases retention.
- Writing helps students to integrate what they are learning.
- If students know that you expect and demand performance, they will tend to work harder.
- Positive reinforcement works better than criticism.
- Blocks to learning come from boredom, irritation, confusion, and fear. Beware of creating any of these blocks!
Working with Struggling Students
- Begin with concrete items and gradually move toward more abstract content.
- Integrate study skills into your lessons and syllabus.
- If you are lecturing, give students an outline of what you will talk about each day and then stick to the outline so that their notes will make sense later. (Put the outline on the board or give it to them in writing.)
- Write down a list of important words, names and/or formulas that will come up in class.
- Pause occasionally during the class to ask students to write down one important idea or fact presented in the lecture so far to share with the class.
- Use visual aids.
- Encourage active listening.
- Be approachable and make time for questions.
- Write out your assignments clearly. Never assume students understand what you want.
- Talk about how to choose a topic and how to find and build support for the topic.
- Provide a rubric for how you will evaluate an assignment.
- Give and get feedback frequently.
- Give constructive comments as well as compliments for things well-done.
- Give opportunities for revision.
- Integrate problem solving, group work and games into class sessions to provide review and opportunities for active learning.
The University of Minnesota has a great website devoted to active learning strategies.
Student Support Resources
- Learning Commons
- Math Lab
- Tutoring Center
- All Student Services (Core Services, Special Program, Support, Student Life)
Accessible Education Center (AEC)
See Accessible Education Center website.
An Introduction For Gavilan Faculty:
As a member of the faculty of Gavilan College, you will have students with a disability in your classroom who may be requesting some form of accommodation through the AEC. The purpose of the following information is to prepare you to better serve these students and better understand your role and obligations in supporting these students.
- Student access in the classroom is a legal and ethical responsibility colleges must be attentive to, and for which faculty play a key role. It is legally mandated by federal and state law (and institutional policy) to provide reasonable accommodations to students with verified and documented disabilities.
- An individual’s disability is often a very sensitive and private matter. We ask that faculty not discuss the disability with other students and not ask personal questions of the student. Any questions should be limited to the specific accommodations. Instructors having questions are encouraged to speak to a student privately about their accommodations in order to maintain confidentiality. Speaking or announcing to the class about a student’s disability violates a student’s right to privacy under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). If you have questions or need help in providing the accommodation, contact the Accessible Education Center.
- Faculty should not provide an accommodation unless they have been specifically notified by the AEC in writing. Not all students who have a disability have registered and are receiving services from AEC. Just because a student has a noticeable disability or shares information about their ability, doesn't necessarily mean they would like to use the college's services (or even need them).
- Please make every effort to ensure that equipment provided for students with disabilities is available for them, such as special chairs or tables.
- Faculty will not be asked to change the fundamental nature or content of a class for a person with a disability. The goal of the support effort is to provide the student with the best possible access to the material that is being taught. AEC counselors will be very specific in detailing accommodations.
Providing accommodations is both a privilege and an obligation of the faculty. Students with disabilities have a right to access educational opportunity, and we as educators have an obligation to support that access.
The Accessible Education Center is here to support faculty in meeting the educational needs of our students. We seek to work collaboratively with you and your student(s) to create the most effective environment and services for learning. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
What Instructors Should Know About the Accessible Education Center (AEC):
The AEC at Gavilan College provides equal access to education for students with a wide range of permanent and temporary disabilities, including: learning disabilities, chronic health conditions, psychological disabilities, acquired brain injuries, as well as mobility, vision, and hearing impairments. We strive to equalize student educational opportunities and improve access so that every student can participate fully in all aspects of college programs and activities.
It is NOT the responsibility of faculty to identify students with disabilities, nor to initiate accommodations, but it would be beneficial to be familiar with what services and accommodations are available, as well as referring a student to contact the AEC. Instructors are encouraged to list the AEC as a resource on their syllabi if a student may need services or accommodations. See the following ADA statement for your course syllabus.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accommodation: If you require special services or arrangements because of hearing, visual, or other disabilities please let me know or contact the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at (408) 848-4865 or TTY at 408-846-4924 to be provided with a reasonable accommodation.
The AEC provides a variety of Services and Accommodations. The purpose of accommodations is to equalize the learning environment. Each semester the AEC creates an Accommodations Bulletin to inform faculty of the current AEC procedures and contact information. The AEC requires faculty to complete a Test Proctoring Request form for students who qualify for extended time on tests.
The AEC provides a variety of services, educational assistance courses, and programs. The six AEC program areas include: Adapted Physical Education, CareerPrep, High Tech Center, Learning Skills Program, Vocational Training for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities, and a Workability III Program for Job Readiness and Placement.
The AEC has created the AEC Faculty and Staff Guide. This guide provides information regarding the Accessible Education Center and suggestions for how to provide accommodations to students and tips on learning styles and instructional strategies. It contains a brief description of some of the disabilities and health limitations that students may have here on campus, as well as an explanation of the laws and regulations that pertain to individuals with disabilities.
The AEC recommends training modules for Faculty and Staff
Americans with Disabilities Act (Section 508) Compliance
Gavilan has a college-wide Section 508 policy to ensure access to District programs and services to individuals with disabilities, as guaranteed by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA. All courses fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate that they must be taught through means that are accessible to all students, including those who have disabilities. The statute is clear that the college is responsible for ensuring ADA compliance for all of the courses it offers (whether taught face to face or as an online format).
A student who is blind or has low vision, hard-or-hearing or deaf, or who has limitations in mobility, must be able to access all materials for the course in a format they can access.
Under the law, colleges are not permitted to wait until a student with a disability enrolls in a class to make accommodations in a given course. All courses must be accessible at all times.
We strongly urge you to learn more about how to make your courses compliant because, as you add materials to your courses, you will need to know how to address these issues. You can visit the Teaching and Learning Center for more information or review the @ONE webinars.
If you are requiring students to use online resources, teaching a hybrid, or online course, you must make sure that your materials are accessible according to federal regulations. Section 508 requires that all information and communication technology developed, used, maintained, or procured by public agencies receiving federal funds be accessible to people with disabilities. If you do not comply with accessibility regulations, the college is at serious risk of losing all of its federal financial aid funding. This is a very serious compliance issue. For more information, please visit the following resources.
- Online Accessibility: Information and Tutorials
- Five Ways to Make Canvas Courses More Accessible.
- Why Accessibility?
- Accessibility Laws (Section 508 Standards)
- Web Accessibility Guidelines
- Accessible Web Design
AEC Contact Information
The AEC Contact information can be found on the AEC Website.