All of my Fridays belong to my first year Dentistry students*.  I had orientation with them last week and I’ve no complaints beyond the usual need to engage them a little more. Most of them come fresh from my colleagues across campus or downstate, so I know they’ve had some exposure to librarians and our databases but there’s always something that is new and different (or might actually take this time around).

The class is 68 students. I only see half of them at a time and repeat each session twice. Fortunately, I don’t do this on the same day, but orientation was back to back and inevitably I notice some challenges. We had a library student intern (80 hours in two weeks and, wow, did he pack a lot of stuff in! Kudos to my coworkers who had interesting assignments for him and to him for all the work he got done.) who observed my first session and after I’d finished the second session, we chatted about some of the challenges of repeating a lesson, particularly twice in one day.

For me, the first session is always a little more unstructured. I’ve got a little more nervous energy and I’m not sure how things will go in the next hour or three.  As the first orientation session was at 8:30 a.m., I was the first thing for those students too and that changes how they are. Some students are a little quieter, present but not awake. Some are more alert because their brains haven’t been overtaken by other things yet.  All of us are feeling each other out.

When the second session comes, I’m more into my groove. I know how the first session went and if there was something that I need to shorten or spend a little more time on. I’m past the first round of nerves. They’ve all had coffee or Mountain Dew and are more awake. Of course, now I’m the only thing standing in between them and lunch…

One of the challenges I have is that I try to make sure that questions I was asked in the first session are pre-emptively answered in the second session. This can benefit students in that they need not ask, but at the same time, it means I’m usually talking more and we’re interacting a little bit less.  Students need to know that their peers had questions, so I try to say “something that came up last class was….”  I worry though that by answering the questions as I’m going, they’ll feel less willing to pipe up and ask.

Over the rest of the semester, I’ll see them every other week and that helps a little bit with the “I just taught this” feeling.  I’ll also be able to get a better sense of personalities with repetition. Sometimes in my Gymboree days I’d get a really high intensity class followed by a really low key group or vice versa: different parents, different kids, different personalities, different time of day–everything could be a little different, despite a similar age group. Working with graduate students isn’t all that different, minus the parents of course. Some classes need more prompting than others, sometimes the really extroverted students are all in one sorting. Because I’ll have a week  between when I teach Class A vs. Class B, I hope I’ll be better able to not stuff in everything I wanted to say plus everything we talked about in the first class. My goal is to keep things  fresher for the students in Class B as they are discovering the new information.

Going through this time, I also have to try not to rely on my expectations from last year’s class. I have to go back to baseline with these students, remember that they aren’t yet used to working closely with me and don’t know all of the dental acronyms.

This Friday, I get to see the D1s into their white coats–which is  a formal ceremony at which I’ll get to meet some of their parents. And then next week we’re off and into the nitty gritty of EBD.


*And I think my second year students are a little jealous 🙂