You might be thinking, "I don't have time to write a grant" or maybe even "How can a single-sentence lead to anything meaningful?" The fact remains, we’re asking educators to make some really important pedagogical changes, but we have not changed how we think about school finance.
If transforming learning is a priority our budgets and professional learning will reflect it. Meaningful change is unlikely without purposeful resource allocation and sustained professional development. Simply stated, people need to feel supported as they are taking responsible risks to improve practice. Fortunately, change doesn't have to be complicated.
Our school has maintained a modest line-item in our budget to support innovation for a couple years now. We've also iterated our approach to be more nimble in responding to ideas that could be difference-makers as we move forward on district vision together.
Last year, we invited teachers to submit a quick request via e-mail to tap into the innovation budget and any remaining carryover dollars. These requests were coined, "1 Sentence Grants" because they were easy to write and focused on improving the student learning experience. Educators are extremely busy, so eliminating "red tape" that cuts into teachers' prep time (or family time) is important.
1 Sentence Grant requests are different than the regular curriculum or supplies needed annually, but we took any and all requests and sorted things out in the office. The goal was to give everyone a voice and opportunity to share what they were hoping to try before committing any carryover dollars to projects that were already on our radar.
We did our best to support a variety of ideas and encouraged everyone to be mindful that we would not be able to honor all requests due to budget categories/restrictions or the overall costs associated with requests. (However, we were able to partially fund many of the larger requests so that teachers could move forward.)
Here are just a few examples of things that were funded through a "1 Sentence Grant" last year:
$370 to replenish and build upon our existing fleet of Mobile MakerSpaces
$500 to support more flexible seating options for students
$282 to invest in a more sophisticated digital camera and Adobe software
$100 to purchase a book series supporting character education
$500 as seed money for our new Kindergarten "Flex Room" (a.k.a. Smart Room)
Some of the requests came in the form of ideas to approach work differently and cost no money at all! For example, we received a suggestion to reconfigure how some book shelving was being used to better support guided reading in Kindergarten. We also received a request to retrofit new table legs onto some old tabletops that were sitting in storage. This retrofitting transformed the tables into collaborative stand-up workstations for 5th graders who appreciate choice in how and where they work. In both these examples, we supported staff members who were looking at using existing resources differently. How cool is that?!
I share the approaches our team is trying because that's how I've learned so much; from the free exchange of ideas being implemented by others who are committed to making a difference for kids. We'd love to hear how you're fueling innovation and supporting staff in the comments below.
In the meantime, we’re going into our 2nd year of funding 1 Sentence Grants in our school. I’m excited to see the ideas our staff generates.