May 23

Perseverance AND Obsession

CenturyLink2016Two weeks ago I wrote about a failed grant opportunity. I had written and submitted a proposal to CenturyLink for their CenturyLink Teachers and Technology program back in January. We were supposed to find out if we got the grant by April. When April came and was quickly becoming May I started to panic. Was I going to get one of those dreaded thank you for application but letters? I searched and found a teacher that got the grant. Someone had already heard. At that point I thought those of us who didn’t get the grant were going to hear last because the teachers who got the grant are the ones who get notified first, of course.

I even wrote that post two weeks ago about my obsession with writing grants and getting money for some very cool projects. I wrote how writing as many grants as you can is the way to go because you will miss some. The more grant proposals you send out the more chances you have of getting a project funded. So you can imagine my surprise when last Monday, while training a group of students on how to use their water quality testing equipment so we could go down to our creek and collect data, our school counselor comes in and tells us that she has a visitor who wants to share something. I was actually bothered thinking it was an ASB announcement or some such thing. I was going to say, can this wait, we’re really busy right now, but instead I held my tongue.

In came two adults with a giant check and a bunch of CenturyLink balloons! I was floored and speechless. I was thinking, “could this be the CenturyLink grant I didn’t get?!” Well, it was! They found my project worthy of funding! I’m so excited and, quite frankly, relieved! I thought it was a great proposal and was wondering how I could have made it any better and now I have validation that it was good enough.

I’m including a copy of my proposal for those interested in seeing another one of my sample grants in case you need ideas or motivation or just to see how easy it is to write one of these! Here it is:

Here’s a link to the above Google Doc in case it doesn’t show for you.

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May 22

Diigo Links (weekly)

My latest finds! Check these out:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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May 15

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are this week’s finds! Great stuff!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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May 10

Perseverance or Obsession

board-928392_640This is my 25th year teaching. In that time I’ve gotten 38 grants. I have been getting at least one grant a year for the last 17 years straight. I’m working on making that 18 years straight. Of those 38 grants, 17 were awarded for one project, my environmental stewardship project.

I’ve learned that there are two secrets, at least in my experience, to getting grants.

  1. Have a great project where kids are doing some pretty cool stuff.
  2. Find grantors that are looking for projects like yours and write proposals for them, over and over again.


That’s the key, writing proposals over and over again. I think, although I haven’t actually kept track, that I get fewer grants than I send out. This year I got a grant from a local foundation to test out the Sphero Robotic Ball and a grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation for my stewardship project. But I did not just submit two proposals last year to get those two grants. I actually submitted four. This year I found out that I did NOT get a grant from a CenturyLink Foundation as well as from the No Child Left Inside program.

I hate not getting grants but getting those sad, “thank you for submitting a proposal, unfortunately blah, blah, blah,” letters or emails actually fuels my resolve to get more equipment to have my students do awesome projects! I was lucky enough to be able to work with a great team of educators to adapt an NEA Grant Writing for Educators Course for us to present here in WA state. We did it as part of a grant for our Washington Education Association (WEA). Three of us in the team have presented the course to two groups of educators, each, in different parts of our state. It’s being met very well. Teachers are very interested in getting money to do better things with their students than their building budgets can afford.

As part of the course we found some grants that were due at the time of the course. I myself submitted FIVE proposals in the last few weeks. I submitted a professional development proposal to the NEA, as well as a student project proposal, an environmental proposal to the Ocean Guardian School, a similar proposal to the VOYA Unsung Heroes, and a small proposal to a local bank foundation. I figure I stand a better chance of getting something funded the more I apply. I mean the opportunities are out there. Yes, it does take work. But isn’t it worth it if something gets funded?

Sure, I could get none of those funded and all the time I spent writing would have been wasted. I won’t let that stop me. So I don’t know if I have amazing perseverance or if I’m just obsessed with writing grants. Either way, my record is proof that a classroom teacher, with no training, can get lots of grants, over $340,000, by just not giving up. So find some grants and submit proposals!

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May 09

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are my most recent finds, great stuff!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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May 05

Backing up Claims

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 9.52.27 PMMy latest CoreLaborate blog post is out! In my backing up claims with evidence post I share what I’ve learned at some excellent common core trainings I’ve attended. I share resources for asking great questions to help students learn from text. I also share how writing conclusions in Science using the Claims, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) method aligns with the common core!

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May 04

PLC Work Takes Time


Image from Raymond Teodo.

Our middle school’s second year participating in a WA STEM PD grant project is coming to an end. One thing I can see clearly is the time it takes to do PLC work right.

Our plan has been to engage in professional development together in our teacher teams. PLC teams in schools are the best way to serve the needs of that school’s students. We use a protocol for our PLC work called the Professional Teaching and Learning Cycle (PTLC). Using that protocol teacher PLC teams find a student learning need in their school, plan a lesson to address the need, and observe the lesson while looking at student work samples to adjust the lesson to better meet the student’s needs. (Here’s the guide we use for the PTLC protocol.)

It takes time to meet with your PLC to find an area to investigate and improve. A teacher, or teachers, then need to teach the lesson and somehow record it (we got a Swivl Base through the WA STEM PD grant and it has been fantastic). The teacher or teachers who teach the lesson collect samples of student work then the PLC team meets again to analyze the student work. Recording the lesson helps the PLC team see what the students were learning and doing to generate the work samples the PLC team will analyze. We use another protocol to sort the student work into high (they got it), medium (almost getting it) and low (didn’t get it) piles. The PLC team then discusses how they each sorted the work samples. Rich discussions come from seeing how each teacher sorted the work samples!

Finally, the PLC team works to adjust the lesson to help students learn better.

Last year and this year our goal was to complete one entire cycle with our departmental teams and one entire cycle with our grade level teams. A great goal and very worthwhile work. In departmental teams we could focus on our subject area with all our students sixth through eighth grade, while in grade level teams we could focus on our shared students through our different subjects. We conducted the first cycle from October to January and the second cycle from February to June. Last year we started with grade level PLC teams and ended with departmental teams and this year we started with departmental teams and ended with grade level teams.

One major different between the first cycle, October to January, is that we get early release days that our principal was able to give us to do our PLC work. From February to June, for our second cycle, there were no available early release days. In order to do our PLC work we have to find time to meet on our own. With work, life, and teachers that also coach, finding time to do this PLC work is DARN DIFFICULT.

So what have we seen both years of working in this project? We complete our first cycle successfully. The second cycle doesn’t always get completed. And it’s not because of the PLC team because this year we ended with the PLC team that successfully completed a cycle last year.

Conclusion? While we know that it takes time for teachers to do PLC work in schools, that time needs to be built in to our workload. Expecting teachers to meet on their own time doesn’t work (see my last post on salary vs hourly wages). I envy schools that get an early release or late start work day once a week to do this kind of work. I know it’s less than convenient for parents but since it benefits their children it is worth it.


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May 03

Salary versus Hourly Wages

Image from Evan Jackson.

Image from Evan Jackson.

I’ve heard this argument before. Teachers shouldn’t complain about having to work extra hours to get their work done. Other professionals get paid to get their job done whether they work a 60 hour week or a 100 hour week. Some of them work endless hours when getting a project done.

So why do teachers complain when they are asked to work extra hours to get their job done?

When I first started teaching I thought of myself as a salaried employee. I was fine working for a few hours after the kids went home and coming in on weekends to prepare and grade. After all, I thought, I’m getting paid a salary to do my job.

It wasn’t until I got involved with my local union and pad close attention to my pay stubs that I saw how we were treated like hourly employees instead of salary employees. If we think of ourselves as hourly employees then putting in overtime requires overtime pay. Any hourly wage person knows that and overtime pay is usually pretty darn good (except for teachers that is!). I remember one year when one of our school board members finally understood what we were asking for when we used the term overtime pay. He finally got why we wanted to negotiate for more pay.

As a teacher, an educator, a professional, I can easily get behind being a salaried employee. I can easily get behind putting in as much work as I need to do to get my job done. But here’s the catch, my salary has to be enough to actually make a living. Yes, I can honestly say that what I get paid now is not enough to make a living to support my family. Part of that comes from having taken quite a bunch of pay cuts coupled with increasing health care costs. I actually took home less money every year for six years straight! That took its toll and our debt surmounted. Catching up is difficult.

Had I been making a decent salary, we might have made it through those tough times. Either way, if I made enough so that putting food on my table, being able to buy clothes when we need them, fixing and fueling our automobile, paying bills and a mortgage, AND having healthcare was not an issue, then I could focus 100% on my job. It’s when your monthly check is not enough that a teacher has to look for extra work. So when my job takes more of my time than I can afford I absolutely want to be paid for it! These times are tough and as a professional we want to make a professional’s wage.

I don’t think that is asking for too much for what we teachers do.

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May 02

6th Grader Blogs About the Ills of Money!

One of our 6th graders published a blog post for our World Solutions Blog about the problems caused by our obsession with MONEY!

If you have the time, please leave her a comment and/or share her post with your social networks!

Thank you!

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May 01

Diigo Links (weekly)

Here are this week’s great finds! Lots of great stuff here:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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