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  • Rachel Merle-Smith

The First Month of School

There are major milestones in any teaching career, ones that stay with you and shape your experience as a teacher. Nothing is as turbulent and as magical as the first month of school. Especially, if it is your first year of teaching.

I will never forget September 2016, my first ever month leading a Montessori elementary classroom. I spent all of August getting prepared, organizing and reorganizing my classroom, and having sleepless nights thinking through each and every lesson. Once the weekend before the first week of school came around, I was just ready to dive in. I had a plan for the first day and I felt as prepared as I could’ve ever been.

The thing about your first year of teaching, is, that you really don’t have a plan because you really are experiencing change and improvisation at every moment. Nothing could’ve prepared me for that first day. No book, no lecture, nothing.


I remember feeling so overwhelmed at the sight of my students. But once that moment passed, I just went with the flow. I quickly began to realize all the things I hadn’t thought through, as it was happening before my eyes. I remember having one plan and after it blatantly didn’t work not really knowing where to go next. Just at that moment, one of my youngest students, picked up a yarn ball and began to do hand crochet. After that moment, all of the students swarmed him and wanted a lesson on hand crochet That was what we did for the next hour and I was so grateful for this little boy who chose work and helped me out when I needed it.


The first month was a journey, but I remember each day got better and better. I learned on my feet and got more confident with each day and each lesson. The kids laughed with me, we sang, and we did a lot of music lessons. We played outside and I watched them become a little community. They goofed off, they learned, they surprised me and loved me.

My first year of teaching will always be one of the most transformative years of my entire life. Managing a classroom for the first time and watching young elementary students learn in front of my eyes shaped me as a teacher and as an adult. I reminisce fondly on that year not because it was easy, but because it was so damn hard and I made it through.

To anyone preparing for their first month of school, as always, go with the flow and lean into the improvisation. Forgive yourself and keep showing up. The kids are lucky to have you and you are lucky to have them.

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