I believe one of the most significant school changes I have been able to make as a classroom teacher in my current building is my use of grant writing. I have taken the risk several times to put myself and my ideas out into the world to hopefully bring new resources into my classroom and our building, and have been pretty successful (which has been quite exciting!) In two school years, I have successfully obtained nearly $10,000 in funds for my classroom, and roughly $5000 for our building.
One recent grant will bring a book vending machine to our building that will integrate with our PBIS program to promote at-home literacy. Over time, students will be able to earn points that help them earn a token to redeem in the vending machine. I was able to select several hundred new books from Scholastic that reach a variety of levels and interests for our K-6 building. I will work alongside my principal and our BLT team to develop the specific system for students to earn this reward and look most forward to the building of at-home libraries as students earn these books to keep. We are training and transitioning to literacy instruction based on the Science of Reading, and I am happy to help promote this initiative with a new program that also interweaves with PBIS and our behavior management strategies while doing so with grant funds to keep costs minimal for our district. In looking at the order of change, I find this to be a second order change, as it is a break from the past and outside of existing paradigms. Other teachers in my building have not written grants, and especially not to the degree of impacting the entire student body in our building. It will require new skills and knowledge to be implemented by the BLT and the entire staff, as we will need to work together to promote the new PBIS program for students to earn points and tokens for new books. This will entirely alter the structure of our building, as currently, the climate is very isolating. The culture is also very isolating and this will disrupt the cliques and teacher-groups that are currently in place. Looking back, my first year, I was unaware of how negative and toxic our culture was, but I am thankful I was oblivious to it. Had I known I was being talked and gossiped about privately by my closest colleagues, it may have hindered my ambition and my excitement. However, knowing myself and what I have continued to do since learning a lot of this in the spring, I don’t know that it would have hindered me. But it is interesting to look back at what I didn’t know then, especially in the first grant I wrote, to now and the knowledge and skills I have gained as a grant writer.
Our principal, as I mentioned, is moving our literacy instruction to be based on the Science of Reading. Since I was hired in 2018, I have been teaching a self-developed, however still systematic, explicit, and researched-based phonics and spelling scope and sequence in my second grade classroom. This has been a break from my colleagues who use student “self-selected” spelling lists and no phonics instruction. I have disrupted how I instruct reading in the building and been ahead of the current trajectory. I have watched my students grow exponentially in their word recognition, decoding, blending, and encoding skills. This has increased their confidence, fluency, and also comprehension. I have watched reluctant readers blossom and now request books as gifts, not able to put them down. Our Title reading teacher is currently a push-in service, becoming a co-teacher in my classroom for about an hour every day. She has seen my teaching in action and is now growing in her application of the professional development we have been receiving in the Science of Reading. She is taking this knowledge and ideas to other classrooms, impacting the instruction of many students in our building, and sharing this practical information with other teachers. Due to the climate of our building, it is more positively received from her than it would have been from me, and I am thrilled to see that positive impact for our students and the overall instruction of literacy in our building in another second order change.
As a Board member, I have pushed to increase the communication level of our district. Last November, I attended the OSBA Capital Conference and attended a session about social media use with my Treasurer. I advocated for several months the need of our district to reach our community through social media (specifically Facebook) and saw my efforts come to fruition in April whn both my Treasurer and Superintended asked me to begin a page for our district. Since then, I have worked to increase our social media presence, informing the community and families of student achievements, Board meetings, and COVID updates with targeted branding. Our reach has increased and the feedback has been positive, especially since many community members and parents had expressed the desire for increased communication in our district when I ran for the Board of Education. This is a also a second order change, as it again requires new skills and knowledge to be implemented, especially not for myself but for my fellow administrators. My current Superintendent and 3 fellow Board members are not familiar with Facebook and communication with the community has been through phone calls and in-person conversation. It has opened us up to more public comment and this brings discomfort. But this discomfort is necessary to expand our reach, and to help us push out new information.
In the future, we have begun discussion to use this platform to better inform the community of our financial status, which is increasing tight with continued budget cuts from the state, and decreasing enrollment. This is a break from the past, as usually flyers or postcards of levy fund breakdowns have been mailed out just before a levy is on the ballot. Instead, I am working to instill the belief that we need to begin informing our public now of our financial status, before we have a need or deficit. When our Bond drops off in less than 3 years, I want to see our levy presentation be more understood and, therfore, more supported due to the increase of knowledge for our taxpayers.