A Teacher's Day

The day in the life of an inner city large urban school district teacher after the high stakes testing ends and there is still three more months left before summer vacation.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I have taught school for over thirty years always in the inner city and for the most part always upper grade students. I have two children and I have been married for twenty years.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Spring vacation ended too soon as usual. Thought it might be of interest to learn why a grant does not get funded. Please join with me as we learn from my mistakes.

When my principal asked me to write this grant, I knew she did not do all of her research. The narrative was not the problem (except in one important place). Other things were. I have marked the problems with the grant in boldface.

Did your school attend a REAL Informational Session?

Yes, the principal represented the school. In order to get the grant, the funder wanted more representation than one individual.

Have you held a preliminary vote with your staff on whether to implement the REAL Program and the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP)?

The administration has held informal conversations with a number of the professional staff. The feedback has been very positive, but, no, we did not hold a formal vote. The funder required a vote, though they did make a few exceptions.

What percentage of staff in your school voted to proceed based on this preliminary vote?

We did not take a preliminary vote. Because there was no vote taken, we lost major points.

Please explain why REAL and the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) will fit into the school’s current strategy for improving student outcomes.

The culture of the Mollison Elementary School is very important to the learning and social environment of the school. Both of these programs will bring increased cohesion to our professional staff and added conversation thereby implementing more positive change agent programming into our school. Teaching is not a job, though many see it just that way. Teaching is a passion, and almost every teacher at Mollison is passionate about teaching. With the additional resources and incentives REAL and TAP will bring to the school, we will be able to more fully implement our vision and mission statements—Mollison, a community of lifetime learners.

Furthermore, this program will offer the professional staff more opportunities for professional development, cognitive engaging activities and additional time to observe through successful modeling a variety of positive social and academic learning strategies. In addition, the school will be able to pilot—when Mollison receives this grant—a number of character education projects due to the fact that the teachers will be empowered to raise their own personal professional bar. Research shows whenever one segment of a community explodes in a positive direction (in this case the professional staff through new learning, professional development, etc.), other segments of that community (students, parents and guardians, community members, other stakeholders, etc.) also become enthusiastic advocates thereby transforming learning and social behavior into an even higher realm of excellence.

Which aspect or element(s) of the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) will be most challenging for the school?

Time constraints are always the most challenging issue in a successful school. Presently we meet in grade level meetings once a week before school. The Least Restricted Environment committee is developing plans for full inclusion. This would mean more meeting time. (The general education teacher would be mandated to meet with the special needs staff on a weekly basis and in one on one consultation throughout the week.) This paragraph makes it sound as if the school rejects extra meeting time. Key words not to use next time: This would mean more meeting time. The general education teachers would be mandated (in this case mandated has negative connotations)with the special education staff.

A second issue is the placement of chronic discipline problem students. Once again, plans are in development to work with these individual students on a number of levels—with assistance from their family and from professional staff within the Mollison greater learning community. We are in the planning phase to discover why one teacher’s discipline problem is another teacher’s prize student. Once again time constraints may impede this process because of limited time during the course of the school day for teachers to meet to discuss students who are chronic discipline problems.

The third problem we presently have is time for teachers to access our excellent professional library. This problem, though, will be solved through the use of a teacher aide who can staff the resource classroom after school from 2:45 to 3:30 giving professional staff adequate time to browse and take out resources for their classrooms



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Words are really important. Mandate might be too harsh. I'm trying to think of alternates that mean the samething, but I'm not having much success.

Thanks for the lesson in grant writing.

5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't think of a word either, but thanks for the lesson.

6:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about require? Perhaps you should have said there is concensus in the school even though a vote wasn't taken. Is it OK to fudge a bit on a grant?

6:47 AM  
Blogger Smithie said...

The TAP program was the worst thing to ever happen to my school. After 2 years, almost all experienced teachers left, including half of the TAP Leadership team. The program is designed for elementary programming. It cannot be successful in secondary schools in its current format.

11:52 PM  
Blogger A Teacher's Log said...


6:48 PM  
Blogger Smithie said...

It caused a rift in an otherwise strong, close faculty. We are losing more than 1/3 of our faculty this year. That includes TAP Master Teachers and TAP Mentor Teachers. Most of those are the most experienced teachers. The way the merit payouts were handled was public and embarrassing for those with low bonuses. Morale is at an all-time low. Yes, our students have made progress, but at the same rate as all other schools in our district.

The reason that it cannot be successful in secondary programming is because you cannot get highly content specific teachers (think Pre-Calculus, Physical Education, Drawing and Painting, etc) to buy-in to teaching a school-wide reading strategy for “Author’s Purpose”, let’s say. There are two main issues. The first is that these teachers are not trained in teaching Reading. (TAP would argue that they are being trained “on the job”, so to speak, at weekly cluster meetings during their planning time. However, they still lack the expertise that they are used to having when teaching their own content). The second is that their precious, limited classtime has to be adjusted to teach “Author’s Purpose”, as well as their content. Most resent the fact that their content will not be as thoroughly covered. These teachers are getting pressured from TAP administration to devote more of their classtime to the TAP strategy, and, at the same time, pressured from their curriculum directors to stay on course and cover ALL of the content well.

The reason it works better in elementary programming is that all elementary teachers are trained to teach all subject areas. Most have students all day long and can therefore adjust their classroom schedule to cover the school-wide strategy.

8:00 PM  

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