Armed with a master’s degree in public administration and a second in communication in progress, I recently set out to teach my first college course. The university I work at full-time is a predominately white, private institution located in the heart of a well-to-do neighborhood. I’m teaching a 300-level communication class and my goal is to give my students the best insights on being responsible and creative information consumers and creators. But before that could happen, I had to get past the first day.

Here are five major lessons I learned after the first day of teaching a college course as a 20-something .

Be Prepared

Get to class on time, know how to use the technology and be prepared with your interesting materials. I need to take my own advice because I first went to the wrong classroom, which made me 10 minutes late. Then, I couldn’t figure out how to work the projector and finally, I ended the class 20 minutes early because I wasn’t prepared. Granted, it was the first day, so there wasn’t much to go over. But I need to remember that as a young African-American woman, I am not equally represented among higher education professionals. Sometimes we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard to get the same level of respect.


Speak with confidence

As a college student, you totally expect your professor to be knowledgeable on the topic. After all, they are the content expert. This goes right along with being prepared by reading and studying the course materials and giving relevant examples in class.


Be humble

There’s nothing wrong with a little vulnerability on the first day. It shows your human side. Be accessible and don’t expect it to be easy.


Keep it light

When all else fails,  you should have to have punchlines on deck to ease the mood. When you’re with a classroom for 16 weeks, there’s nothing worse than getting off on the wrong foot and being awkward and strict for no reason. This is a matter of opinion and perhaps just my teaching style but I always like to have a couple of one-liners ready to go. The jokes make it easier for your students to open up about what they’re learning.


Be prepared to be misunderstood

Right before class, a fellow adjunct mistook me for a student. It rolled off my back with ease because this happens regularly. If you’re teaching at a young age, don’t be surprised or offended if someone mistakes you for a student. As a millennial that teaches millennials, I have come to expect this. You know where you stand, so sometimes you don’t have to explain yourself at all. Other times you can use that title to flex a little bit. You’ve earned it!


What do you want your young teachers to know? Black teachers, what advice do you have? Join the conversation at @BLAVITY.