A group of students and a professor gathered around a computer discussing a topic.

In education, the connection between teachers and students goes beyond mere instruction. A dynamic relationship can profoundly impact a student’s academic journey. As educators, our role extends beyond the classroom, encompassing mentorship, guidance, and fostering an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their intellectual journeys. Ken Bain’s insightful words from “What the Best College Teachers Do” (2004) emphasize the importance of professors establishing a special trust with their students. This trust is grounded in openness, where instructors share their intellectual experiences and encourage students to do the same. This blog explores the significance of such openness in the educational process and its benefits.

Personal Biography

First, professors must connect with their students by sharing a bit about themselves. For example:

“My name is [Your Name], and I have had the privilege of teaching at this [school name] for [X] years. My journey in education has been both fulfilling and enlightening. I specialize in [Your Field of Expertise], and my current projects include [Brief Description of Current Projects]. As for the future, I’m excited about [Your Future Plans]. However, what truly excites me is the opportunity to engage with students like you and learn from your unique perspectives.”

Educational Biography

Continue the discussion by explaining your biography and any relevant publications in the field. Here is a guide:

“My path to becoming an educator was driven by a deep passion for [Your Field]. I firmly believe that my role is not just to impart knowledge but also to inspire and guide students on their intellectual journeys. This journey, which we’ll explore together this semester, is rich with ambitions, triumphs, frustrations, and, yes, even failures. In sharing these experiences, we can foster a more meaningful connection in the classroom.”

Teaching Biography

Every professor arrives with some story about their educational and teaching journey. Connect with your students by openly talking about it. This may sound like this:

“Throughout my teaching career, I’ve had the privilege of teaching various subjects with diverse groups of students. Each class has taught me valuable lessons, and I genuinely enjoy the collaborative learning process within these walls. Your perspectives, questions, and interactions are instrumental in shaping our class dynamic, and I’m eager to see what insights you bring to the table this semester.”

Allow the Students to Introduce Themselves

Anyone who knows me knows I have three favourite days of teaching. The first day, the presentation days (where students strut their stuff), and the convocation as it celebrates the students’ efforts. Teaching in higher education in Ontario has taught me that students come from extremely diverse backgrounds. They may have just arrived at the school, the city, or the country. Build a bridge by talking to them about themselves – where they are from, what they like about the school, or what they miss most about home. You may want to introduce it like this:

As I’ve shared a bit about myself, I’d like to get to know you better. In the spirit of openness, let’s take a moment for you to introduce yourselves. Rather than sticking to the usual name, major, and year, let’s talk about this. For example, if you were in a geography or history class, sharing your origins could spark interesting discussions about our diverse backgrounds. In a math class, you could share how mathematics impacts your daily life, making the subject more relatable.

Moreover, you may want the students to pair up with a classmate and introduce each other to the group. This exercise not only helps break the ice but also promotes collaboration, a key aspect of the learning process.

Discuss and Evaluate the Room Environment Together

Explain the expectations of the classroom to the students. This helps to ensure that the classroom environment is conducive to learning. Encourage the students to share their thoughts on the acoustics and visibility in the room, as this input will help optimize the seating arrangement to enhance communication.

Course Expectations and Requirements

Now that you’ve established a foundation of trust and openness, discuss the course expectations and requirements. What happens in this classroom largely depends on what you and the students want to achieve. Explain to the students that you will provide them with a roadmap for the course, outlining goals and objectives. Your students need to understand how the course is structured, what materials they’ll need, and how they’ll be assessed.

Student Responsibilities

As you embark on this academic journey, remember that your engagement and commitment with your students are pivotal to your success as an instructor. Establish that attendance and participation are required, and the timely completion of assignments is essential. Remind the students to contact you immediately if they encounter challenges or need assistance. Point out all the resources available to ensure the academic journey is as smooth as possible.

Learn The Proper Pronunciation of The Students’ Names

I had the privilege of teaching an all-international student cohort in my second semester of teaching. This was the most formative semester I have experienced, as I learned so much. For instance, did you know that the IRCC actively encourages some students to change their given names as “they are too difficult for North Americans to pronounce?” When I heard this, I was shocked, and I promised myself and my future students that I would take the time to learn the pronunciation of their names in a non-threatening and inclusive environment. When an international student introduces themselves, repeat their name out loud and keep trying until you get it right. But also, because the semester is so busy, you may slip and revert to the “North Americanization” of their name. Stay alert and remind the students to please remind you of the correct pronunciation. This is respectful, and of course, it further builds trust.


Trust, openness, and collaboration are the cornerstones of effective teaching and learning. Sharing our personal and intellectual journeys creates an environment where students feel comfortable exploring their paths. As the semester progresses, keep the lines of communication open, engage in meaningful discussions, and embrace the opportunities for growth and learning. Ensuring the classroom is a collaborative space where everyone plays a vital role in shaping the educational experience. Here’s to a semester filled with discovery, enlightenment, and growth.


Bain, K. (2004). What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press.

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