InClass

Sarah Simpson dishes her back-to-school tactics for when it feels like herding cats. As I approach my eleventh year of teaching, 10 of which have been in the Balsz Elementary School District, you would think I would have back-to-school with kindergarten down to a fine art. While I have perfected as

Jul 27, 2018

Sarah Simpson dishes her back-to-school tactics for when it feels like herding cats.


As I approach my eleventh year of teaching, 10 of which have been in the Balsz Elementary School District, you would think I would have back-to-school with kindergarten down to a fine art. While I have perfected aspects of planning those first days, there is one piece that keeps me up at night. Fortunately, I have learned a few things that have saved me year after year:

  1. Prepare way more than you ever think you will use. Typically, this is inevitable because I always underestimate how long everything takes to complete. One year, I had a shockingly efficient group of students, and was out of plans with two hours left in the day (yikes!). Although it is a cliché, it is true: It is better to be over prepared than underprepared.

  2. Schedule every minute of the first week of school. I like to make a PowerPoint for each day. Doing so helps me transition from one activity to another without having to clumsily look over plans while my baby kindergarteners go wild.

  3. Back-to-school season is legitimately like herding cats. Plan everything the week before the first days back, because each afternoon when the dismissal bell rings, you will be way too exhausted to plan for the next.


I always follow these three rules, but there is always that X factor each new class brings — something distinctive. Some years, your class will be quiet, and it will be a challenge to get them to open up that first week back. Some classes are extremely social, so much that you end up spending those first few days practicing when and how to talk to each other. This is what keeps me up at night, even after having 10 years of fairly successful first weeks.

But not to worry, I have another applicable cliché in my back pocket: Life is a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. The best advice I can offer you (and myself) is be prepared with your bag of tricks, and don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t go well. Because, let’s be real, it never goes exactly as planned. And that’s part of the fun, right?

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