It is the start of another school year and that means in a month the calm of the first few weeks will be overshadowed by the insanity of contacting parents, getting kids caught up/ back on track, and never-ending lesson planning. Last year I chose to be proactive in hopes that I could at least help kids from falling behind early in the school year.

Here’s what I did.

**1.) Ask around to see if it was possible to receive an organized list of my students’ math grade from the previous year.**

- This is important because otherwise I would have had to individually look up each and every student one by one; always find the easiest way

**2.) Find all students that ended the previous course with a D or failed the course and are repeating**

- Last year I chose to find students with and C, D, or F. This year’s students are coming in with more D’s, so I’m not worrying about the C’s to keep the process manageable. Choose what works best for you.

**3.) Email parents asking them to meet the first week of school to get to know their student’s strengths, weakness, and to set goals.**

- Below is the message that I sent to parents:

“Hi there!

My name is Casey Ulrich and I will be your daughter/ son’s math teacher this year for Algebra 2. I am excited to start the new year and know that it will be a great one!

I am reaching out to you because looking at last year’s math grades your daughter/ son seemed to struggle with Geometry. Algebra 2 builds on many of the concepts that are presented in geometry and I want to make sure this school year gets kicked off with a positive start.

I would love to set up a meeting with you and your student to get to know some of the strategies that help them learn best and to set a goal for the semester. I am available any day after school this week Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as well as most days the following week. Please let me know if you would like to set up a conference and what times would work for you!

I look forward to the chance to meet you and learn all about your awesome kid.”

It turned out to be super effective in helping to understand incoming students. Knowing a little bit more about them at the start of the year as well as establishing communication with parents led to great relationships and a positive learning atmosphere. What I saw in these students was an increased level of grit. They were less afraid to ask questions and often times were the students I spent the most time helping after school. It allowed them to see that struggles are a part of learning and developing strategies to improve led to more learning. (what a novel idea)

No data to prove that this was a direct success, but I can vouch that it passes the gut check (certainly feels like it helped). Not all parents responded and not all students that showed up changed their learning habits drastically, but it was conversation that laid out the fact that I believed that they could learn. Hearing that from the teacher the first week can go a long way.

What else do you do to foster grit at the start of the year?