This is harder than it sounds. They don't want to laugh at my jokes and admit that maybe, just maybe, it's okay to stay in a difficult class because the professor might be cool. They are cold (hey, you try trekking across campus to my icebox of a basement classroom one day!) and they are tired (it is the first day, after all) and all they want is for me to stop talking, give them homework and send them on their way.
So, I use a Homer Simpson reference to break the ice. Usually, Homer does it. These students cannot remember a world without Homer Simpson so I figure I am in the clear (unlike when I mention ALF or Happy Days, both of which clearly show my age). I give the reference...
...and this is how my students react:
I'm trying here; I really am! Today was rough. A few snickers at the Hunger Games reference (probably just because they can't believe I know what they read), and I'm done for the day. Getting them to want to be here is usually a little easier than this.
The point here is, I am trying to get them to engage and the usual tricks just didn't work today. Ice-breakers galore and all of my previous training is still useless.
But I will get them to love books! I will! (says every literature professor in America on the first day of classes...)