Back to School with STYLE: Why Organize by STYLE?


Editor’s note: Today we kick off a series on helping your kids get organized for back-to-school. Author Lisa Hess is a psychology instructor and former elementary-school counselor and she writes from her own experience and expertise. I can vouch for her tips: I used some of the strategies she’ll be sharing with the second-graders I taught last fall. Here’s to a great start to the 2015-16 school year! –Barb
Organizing by Style

Every day in every elementary school classroom across the country, teachers demonstrate organizational skills and systems. Binders. Folders. Pencil boxes. And every day, the majority of elementary students succeed in absorbing these skills and putting them into practice.

But sitting alongside them are peers for whom these instructions might as well have been given in Japanese. They try to use binders, but the papers never make it into the rings. They aim for the pockets in the folders — sort of — and miss more often than not. They fill their pencil boxes with pencils and erasers…and rocks from the playground and the straw paper from lunch and the shiny bead that was a leftover from a craft activity.

These are the kids I want to hug. Because I know just how they feel. They’re smart and funny and creative, but all the world sees is their disorganization. And ongoing encounters with well-meaning adults sap their confidence, making them feel inept, despite a plethora of skills in areas besides organization.

But a hug is fleeting. A lesson, on the other hand — especially one taught in a person’s native language — lasts.

Back when I was an elementary school counselor, I used to teach those lessons. My fifth graders, whom I’d had for four consecutive years, knew my desk was pretty much the opposite of a lesson in organization.

So I put it out there immediately. I asked them if someone with a desk like mine should be teaching them about organization.

And you know what? They got it. They got that sometimes it takes one to know one.

The kids I call the “Type A organizers” — the ones for whom organization comes naturally — bought into my crazy style names (I need to see it, I love stuff, I need to be busy, drop and run, cram and jam and I know I put it somewhere) and let’s-play-with-school-supplies style. And the kids who struggled with traditional tools?

They knew I was one of them.

As you prepare to shop for school supplies, I hope you’ll join me for some insight into these styles because if you have kids, I can practically guarantee you’ve seen them in action. And regardless of the state of my desk, I believe that teaching a child (or an adult, for that matter) to work with his or her instincts instead of against them does more than improve his or her organizational skills.

It improves his or her confidence as well.

I hope you’ll stop back next week to take my (unscientific) quiz to see where your kids (and maybe you as well) land in the world of personal and organizational styles.


Copyright 2015 Lisa Hess
Logo background image: “Unageek color” by Unageek (2013) via Morguefile. Text added in Canva.


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and is a blogger at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.


Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.