Zorro Writes a Grant

What are the primary elements of grant writing? [[[[preparation, self-reflection, bragging]]]]]

It has always seemed to me that “grant writing” is something of a misnomer (like football here in the States). Quid pro quo, Clarice: “What is the first and foremost quality of a successful grant request?” I’ll give you a hint — it’s not magnificent prose that the grant reader mulls over like a nice chianti.

It’s preparation. What are your figures? How can you quantify your success? How can you account for every dollar you’ve spent? How you can show that you’re meeting a need — and how can you show the existence of that need in the first place? So grant writing should probably be called grant request preparation, it being the primary element.

Other elements? Bragging! (I’m sure there’s a better word for it, one without negative connotations, but the coffee is failing my internal lexicon at the moment!) It’s just like what we’re told about resumes — don’t be afraid to talk  yourself up!

What questions are raised for you as you review these samples?

I’m answering the questions out of order (what a rebel!!) simply because I think the first question lends itself to these thoughts, and reading the information requested on the samples gave me these thoughts.

So, bragging is considering one’s strengths and talking them up. This means, of course, that one will have to be reflective about one’s strengths. Naturally, this will also force the consideration of weaknesses; thus, a question brought by the samples is “What [am I/is my organization] doing to show effectiveness? Are the results worth the effort?” When I tell someone what we’re doing — offering troubled/underserved individuals a chance to improve their own personal efficacy via increased literacy, specifically writing — it sounds incredibly worthwhile. But the issue is with aligning our mission with the funders’ missions, and many of these grants ask “What is the benefit to the community” (or some similar question). Well, frankly, as I see it the benefit to the community at large is indirect and secondary: we’re serving individuals, in the hopes of integrating them into the community, thus bettering the community. (I’d be happy to hear dissent on this.) Of course, these people are community members, so the counter-argument is that we are bettering the community by extension, and I can see things that way, too.

[This is of course in no way a belittling, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I’m trying to approach a difficult topic raised by the foundations in their grant applications — why, among so many projects, should this project be funded? I hope the honesty is appreciated.]

What formats/terminology seems unfamiliar?

Nothing sticks out, but this is because I have tangential experience with grant writing. (Tangential, mind you.)

What kinds of funding could help your own site? Spend some time thinking about the role that grant writing might play in supporting your community literacy work.

Resources, resources, resources. Resources in the form of materials and snacks for the guys. Resources in the form of media — computers with internet access, hardware/software for making raps (they have some access to this, depending on whether the machine works), audio equipment for listening to and comparing canonical works with modern hip hop. Resources in the form of special guests.


Sponsoring Literacies

Tobi asks:

Consider the issue of “sponsoring” discussed by Deborah Brandt in light of your upcoming community literacy work.  What might it mean to sponsor the literacy of a writer/learner at your site?  What implications can you anticipate?  How might your own literacy be sponsored by the writers/learners you’ll work with?

Elliott and I have talked about this (more broadly, anyway) the last two times we’ve discussed the goings-on at Turning Point. “What might it mean?” He has cultivated an open and honest atmosphere where the boys can come and express themselves freely. He works consciously to avoid being a “teacher” and instead to be a “facilitator.” This is precisely the kind of attitude I’m going to be taking in — I want to make it clear that I’m a resource for the boys to use if they want to get into form and into professional writing expectations and what not. But it’s more important for me to perpetuate that environment that Elliott has cultivated, to first and foremost let them know that this is a safe place for them to use their voices, and that I will be a support system for their work, and that ultimately they will have the choice to share this work with their friends, their family and with the world.

So getting more specifically to the first question, “what will it mean to sponsor a learner,” it will mean reaching out and ensuring that they each are adequately provided with the means and the external motivation for self-expression. Individuals, then, will find in me individual encouragement and acceptance for their work.

“What implications can you anticipate?” (Anticipation of a new environment has never been a strength of mine.) One thing that is certainly sitting with me is the idea that I’m there to help them with their writing, not to be their therapist. I’m neither trained nor authorized for that kind of thing. At best, by sponsoring their writing I’m acting as a proxy for their therapist in the sense that they are working with their ideas, they are challenging and exercising their minds, they are releasing tensions and most importantly they are using their voices.

“How might your own literacy be sponsored…?” In two ways, at least. First, this is one hour a week spent in a writing workshop (with boys whose language is significantly different from mine) that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise spent writing. (Not to mention the preparation time, in which I will at least be passively addressing the prompts in my head… or however much time it will take me to process their writing and give them supportive feedback.) The second way comes with a broader definition of literacy — I’ll have an understanding of these boys and in what it means to lead a workshop (which experience I hope, eventually, to take into my future classrooms).


Ok, so maybe I chose the title for this post because I’m hours past lunch and hours away from dinner… or, maybe it stands on its own. I found a couple of things related to the CLC’s interests, although they may have no other links to themselves.

#1 — What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Writing

Some of us here are Creative Writing types — you probably already know these tips. Some of us are English Ed types — you probably can appreciate modeling in a workshop. But how many of us really think we’re experts in both fields? (Don’t answer that, Tobi!)

“What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Writing” is a great blog post that does just that — it uses the recent film Star Trek to illustrate some points about effective story telling. Using movies and TV shows is a great way to model the art of writing, and it’s a great way to connect with people that might be totally different from you. Rather than advising them, “Don’t tell me about your character, show me,” talk about a movie that you both have seen and how we learn about characters through actions.

Anyway… it’s really cool even if you aren’t a sci-fi nerd like me.

#2 — (on the more serious side) Incarceration in the United States

Perhaps the information isn’t new to you, but its presentation is compelling.

#3 — (how’s this for on the mark?) Communicating from Prison

Does it require an explanation?


Musings on Community Literacy

I came into this initiative defining community literacy rather narrowly — I thought of it as, quite simply, the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills employed by the members of our city and county. I thought of it as being generally a service to the disenfranchised. I also was thinking of it as something that “I” would be doing. Something that “we the CLC” would be doing.

Since reading the articles, I’ve come to a broader definition. (And I’m sure that at the end of this semester, after working with the boys of Turning Point, I’ll redefine it once more.) I’m thinking of community literacy — at least, in the terms of how it’s implemented in the CLC — less in terms of what “I” and “we” will be doing, as if we are the important actors, and more about what we will at most be facilitating for others to do. And those others will be broadening their possibilities and their voices — maybe we’re the ones bringing the pencils and paper, and even lesson plans, but they’re the ones who are writing, who are getting their ideas out of their heads, who are strengthening their minds and who are making their own voices legitimate. Not just making them legitimate, but realizing the already existant legitimacy — making it unavoidable to others and to themselves.

Flower-Higgins-Long brought up one particular challenge in community literacy — that is half-effected attempts. This is when the community members are given the chance to have their voice(s) heard, but no one is really listening. The problem with a half-effected attempt is that most people look at it and think the idea was fleshed out fully: they see the failure, and write the idea itself off as a failure. (It’s a “good is the enemy of perfect” situation, if you will.)

I’m expecting the biggest challenge for me at Turning Point to be the same as my biggest expected challenge in my teaching career. This is for me to fully break away from the idea that I’m in charge. I’m not. I’m neither the person who is benefitting from the service, nor the person who has any kind of authority. My voice is not more valued than theirs, and theirs are the reason that mine is being heard in the first place. But we tend to fall into the trap of teaching our students the way that we taught — and so I will face the challenge of falling into a teacher-directed stance, rather than what I want to be. I want to be a learner-centered facilitator — the idea of “teacher” doesn’t even come into play.

The biggest reward for me I think will be the relationships. It’s so easy to slowly cut yourself off from people who are different from you — at least, from any kind of meaningful relationship, something beyond “Morning, how are ya?” Ultimately I love working with people, and I love meeting and learning from people who are different from me. I’m expecting these boys, generally speaking, to be very different from me — and I’m expecting the differences to be their own rewards.

Linda Christensen

When I studied how to teach writing and composition with Cindy O’Donnell-Allen at CSU, she introduced us to Linda Christensen’s Teaching for Joy and Justice, a remarkable book that combines philosophy with practice. (Most books on teaching that I’ve come across give either one or the other.) It’s highly recommended for anyone who wants to work within community literacy. I’ve embedded a link in the image above (as well as here) to a page at the National Writing Project website where they talk more about Christensen’s philosophy, offer a brief video with her, and most importantly where they have posted a free chapter from her book, Chapter 5: Language and Power.

Starting Up… :)

Hello and welcome! I’m Doug Jones-Graham, a new intern with the Community Literacy Center. I’m glad you’re here!

So, how did I get here? Well, a few months back I did a half-day observation at Centennial, an alternative school in Ft. Collins. What I saw there was deeply moving to me: people who’d been on a path to trouble were taking themselves on a path back out of it, and they were doing it with the help of teachers. The teachers cared more about the students in their intimate classrooms than the lesson plans — they were able to make time during the day to listen when their students needed it.

Well, for me, having come from a few places where people who make a few mistakes are cast aside and ignored, that was truly moving to me, and it made me wonder if I was cut out for that kind of teaching. That same week, I heard about the CLC, and thought, “That’s exactly where I want to be!”

I’m coming at this from the perspective of a hopeful future teacher. I want to better understand people who are different from me, who have different lives and make different choices from me, and I want to be a resource for them if they need it.

A bio…

I grew up in southeastern Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachians. Music and English were my best and favorite subjects, so that’s what I studied when I went to college at Muskingum University (also in Ohio). I had the opportunity when I was 22 to spend a semester in Greece, which was amazing for me. I’d never lived more than 90 miles from my family before, so to be across an ocean from them really helped me to put myself, life, family, friends, culture and country into perspective. It also tested and strengthened my relationship with my then-girlfriend, and we got married a little over a year later.

After graduating, I worked a few odd jobs — warehouses, flooring, hospitals, and as a traveling steak salesman (for one day) — and soon found a job as a preschool teacher in Columbus. It was the most fun I’ve ever had while working, and incredibly rewarding, but I don’t think I was ready for the emotional responsibilities. Anybody who’s a parent can tell you that young children need you so very, very much… and I spent 8 hours a day with 30 of them all around me!

So, I needed a break for a while, but I wanted to stay with education. I landed a job as an editor with SRA/McGraw-Hill, where I worked on their phenomenally successful reading programs for elementary aged children. Being an education editor was good, but while everyone else was passionate about editing, I was passionate about education. I also had a hard time not working with people — most of my day was spent typing and thinking and sitting. I need people!

So, since my wife and I had talked about leaving Ohio, we came out to Colorado, where I enrolled at CSU in the English Education Master’s program. I’m hoping to graduate in Spring 2012 and become a teacher of English or ESL (English as a Second Language).

As I think you can guess, as much as I love English, it’s more important to me to be able to teach and work with people!!

So… that’s me!