Category Archives: making memories

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Apply for a Grant

It’s not easy to get motivated to fill out grant applications. I know that. I spent twenty years in public schools as a teacher and an administrator. Asking for money shouldn’t be an educator’s job. After all, we signed on to teach children, to bring light into their lives, and to build a love of learning within their hearts. Unfortunately as the years roll by, you may find yourself discouraged, underpaid, and pulling money out of your own pocket to fund the basic needs in your classroom or building.

Try not to be discouraged. I believe teachers are still the most influential people on the planet. I have many conversations with past students, and it still amazes me how much they remember about my class and about me. My wife retired three years ago after teaching first grade for thirty-four years. She still gets more hugs and smiles than the law allows, often from large men a foot taller than she is. They love her. She taught them to love school. She taught them to read.

While teaching is a tremendous vocation, it can still get discouraging when money is not available from your district to fund the activities and projects you know your students need. You need to motivate yourself to write grants to supplement the money in your budget. Here are seven ways to get motivated to write those grants:

1) Write a grant for a very special project that you have personally always wanted to do but could not get the district to fund. This is very motivational because it’s all about you and something you want personally.

2) Write down new skills that your students will be able to develop by using grant money to enhance your budget. You may need to buy special materials or get help in your classroom to make sure students develop these new skills. Think about how these new skills could change your students’ lives.

3) Apply for a grant with a partner. It’s always easier to do a chore when you have some help. You should share the burden of writing the grant and the joy of what you both accomplish with the grant money.

4) Write a grant that will allow you and your students to have a very special experience. You might go on a very unusual field trip, bring in a motivational celebrity to your school, or build something together that your students will never forget.

5) Write a grant to keep from spending money out of your pocket. Then, buy yourself a gift with the money you didn’t have to use for school supplies.

6) Write a grant centered around the bottom few students you’ve had the most trouble reaching. This might be a program to get help from parent volunteers, an after-school tutoring program, or a program to buy computers and software that might help you reach these difficult students.

7) Let others know you intend to apply for a grant. Just like a New Year’s resolution, you’re more likely to complete your grant application if others know you’ve made a commitment to apply for a grant.

Grants shouldn’t really be about the money you’re going to receive. They should be about student achievement and the positive impact that a grant will have on your students. However, sometimes we need a little extra motivation to complete those applications. Maybe one of the above seven motivators will be just what you need to start completing a grant application this week. Don’t delay. Apply for that money you need and stop getting it out of your own pocket.

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Classroom Grants for Classroom Memories

While the majority of school days are taken up by routine lessons and mundane tasks, I believe that teachers and principals should strive to give students very positive memories of their time in a particular class or building. Students often remember special projects and particular activities far longer than the day-to-day grind that makes up most of the school year. While it is true that some teachers just have a more vibrant, fun personality than others, that doesn’t keep any teacher from developing engaging activities that students will remember for the rest of their lives. The good news is that you may be able to get grant money to help fund your special project.

Now don’t get me wrong. Each of these projects should have a very specific purpose and be centered on students developing skills or acquiring knowledge not already in place. Every project and every unit that you develop should have a pre- and post-test of some type to determine each student’s starting point at the beginning of the project and measuring the growth of each student during the project. Units involving Native Americans and dinosaurs abound in elementary schools because students like them, but I wonder how many of these units teach and track the skills that students should be developing? They certainly have plenty of potential for helping students learn skills and acquire important knowledge. It’s really up to the teacher to make sure these components are included and measured.

If grantors are going to give you money to develop a unit or a project, you can bet they will want to know the positive results that you achieve. Grantors have helped teachers develop gardens at their schools, install piano labs, set up outdoor science labs, build service-learning units, establish mobile computer labs, participate in a series of unusually productive field trips – the list goes on and on. If you can develop a unit or project that is unique and particularly meaningful to students, you have a good chance of finding a grant partner.

To get started, you need to think of a fun, productive project that gives you an opportunity to teach a skill that is included in your curriculum. You then need to set the scope of the project including some sort of pre- and post-test so you can measure growth. You need to give a lot of thought to the activities that will enable all of your students to develop the skills and learn the information you require them to learn. Once you get the entire project planned from start to finish, you should use a grant database to find a possible sponsor for your project. If you do not find a grantor in a month or two of searching, you might want to find a local sponsor for your project. This could be a local business, your own PTA or PTO, a wealthy individual in the community, or even an interested parent who might have the money to spare and needs a tax deduction.

I think it is important when developing your project and seeking a grantor to keep in mind that you want your students to remember this project for the rest of their lives. In the middle school where I was principal in Northeast Texas, we called it “making memories.” I encouraged every teacher to develop one such project every year. We were fortunate because even though we were a poor school, we brought in enough money through grants and business partnerships that we could fund almost any project our teachers developed.

As a result of our “making memories” program, every student raised his or her mother a plant for Mothers’ Day in our school greenhouse. One hundred seventy-five of our five hundred students took free piano lessons every day in our piano lab. Our eighth graders were treated to a robotics program in one of our two computer labs. One hundred of our students participated in a service learning class where they helped in our local hospital, senior center, elementary school, or our sheltered workshop every day. Those are just a few of the projects our teachers initiated. I can tell you that although years have passed, our students still fondly remember each of those projects.

It is important that students have positive memories of their time at your school. These positive memories tend to make them better students as they move through the educational process. Take the challenge and begin thinking about the special project that you can initiate next school year.

Remember, you’re not going to necessarily have the money to initiate the project you develop. Try to find grant money using a good school grant database, develop a business partnership locally, or find an individual to sponsor your project. Make those memories and don’t let anything get in your way.