New students come to class with their emotions on high alert. “Will I like the class?” “Can I do it?” Will I be embarrassed?” Their defenses are up. Their own nervousness about the newness of the situation causes them to be hypersensitive to anything you say or do. This fact can work either to your benefit or harm. If you say the wrong thing, you can easily scare the new student away. If you say the right thing, you may turn that new student into a participant for life. Seemingly small things can be very important to help new students.
In part 1 of this series, we addressed how to evaluate and improve your own attitude toward new students. In parts 2 and 3 we will discuss some of the practical things you can do to help new students feel especially welcomed in your class. Part 4 will finish with an example of a new student handout and provide tips on creating your own.
In this article, I want to help you:
Most of your work helping new students is done in the few minutes before class. This time is limited, and crucial. You must have a plan to use this time effectively. Otherwise you may waste it.