Wednesday, November 12, 2003

November...

is a rough month for teacher-bloggers, it seems. We lost one - Eric of "I am a teacher" - and many have been light on posts. I feel rather swamped, myself. But, as you know, I am addicted to my sitemeter and the little graphs it produces for me, and I fear that if I post less often, the bars will get shorter and shorter...

Seriously, though, I am feeling as though my head is weighed down by all the hats I wear. The real, multi-colored knit hat, the full-time science teacher hat, the afterschool teacher hat, the helping-run-a-school hat, the tech coordinator hat, and, as of today, the grantwriter hat. I got sent out of the classroom today to the Foundation Center's Grantwriting Workshop. It was a good workshop; I learned a lot about what foundations are looking for in a grant proposal, and how the proposal fits into the process of fundraising. I think I could actually be pretty good at writing grants and raising money - but we don't really need any money, and I don't need anything else to do!

Now, wait just a minute. When I say, "we don't really need any money" please don't go quoting me as evidence that schools are funded well-enough. The thing is, we spent our budget carefully, so we're in decent shape on the basic stuff, textbooks, science materials, furniture, etc. And, since we only opened our doors last year, we got start-up money to buy new furniture, new equipment, and so forth - in ten years, if it has never been replaced, we will desperately need new stuff, but for right now, we're fine. There are plenty of things we could do with more money, but nothing so urgent that I want to commit hours of my life to writing a grant and doing all the grant follow-up.

What we are short on are PEOPLE and TIME, and those are largely out of my control. There are formulas about how many kids in each class, how many periods a day are spent teaching (as opposed to planning, collaborating, grading, professional development, helping to run the school, etc.). We get the money the state decides we deserve based on the number of students who attend. As far as I know, I can't write a grant and get a foundation to pay for another teacher for my school so that we could break up our classes into smaller groups or have an extra teacher helping with labs or more periods off for working on special programs, planning lessons, or working together with other teachers.

The other things we could use but I can't get a grant for are bigger classrooms, better building maintenance, or an elevator or air conditioning in our (ancient) building.

I did have a couple of ideas. First, next year we are supposed to begin implementing two special programs, a community-service program for the eighth graders, and a partnership that would place eighth grade students with working scientists to help them with more advanced projects. Getting these two things started and running smoothly is going to take a huge amount of work! I am thinking of writing a grant to pay someone half-time to start these programs and implement them, to take the burden off of myself and my colleagues. It might also be possible to make this a full-time position and have the person do high school counselling, as well. Basically, eighth grade brings a lot of new projects for our school, which are going to exhaust us if we have to do them on top of everything else... maybe we could find money to hire someone to help?

Second, we always seem to run out of time for real professional development. The time the Dept. of Ed. and the union agreed on for professional development - 50 minutes afterschool on Mondays - gets used up by the week-to-week business of running a school. In theory, we are all committed to go beyond the minimum to create a great school, but in practice, none of us is eager to stay for even more hours each week for professional development. Money isn't the only issue, but I was thinking that perhaps some sort of stipend & materials grant would encourage people to make the time - maybe even on Saturdays once a month. I need to think about this one more and discuss it with my colleagues.

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