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Advice to Applicants

From the 2010 Cohort:

MERIT is great for someone who wants to think bigger than their classroom.  If you have a passion for learning and connecting your content to real world experiences, this is for you.  Be prepared to be humbled.  It is amazing to see how many amazing teachers there are and what kind of things they are putting together.  Be ready to think outside the box.  The best ideas come when you're ready to look at teaching kids in a different way!

When you apply to MERIT, create a collaborative mindset.  Think about how you will not only engage your students with tech, but prepare to go beyond that to train your colleagues.  MERIT will prepare you to be a tech leader and innovator at your site. Prior to applying, make sure you can see yourself in this role and present yourself as someone who can and will share their learning.

It has been a lifesaver having a colleague from my department as part of this cohort.  We have been able to support each other, share ideas, and brainstorm together after we returned to school much more easily because we both understand the specific conditions of our particular school and our department.

When applying for MERIT - answer the questions on the application.  Look up the words and determine what each question is asking.  Write the response to answer that question.  Then write more words than asked for and then edit to the exact amount of words allowed.

The MERIT program is an amazing opportunity for professional development and to work with other motivated teachers. It really boosts the teaching practice. However, you need to know that it is very time consuming. I do not advise taking on other responsibilities during the MERIT year, otherwise you won't have time to realize the wonderful goals you will create during MERIT. In terms of time commitment, it is like a 0.2-0.4 FTE. Apply and make sure to give yourself the time to do the things you will want to do.

If you're planning to apply to be a part of MERIT, here's something you might want to think about... prepare to be inspired, as this program helped me think about my teaching in a different way, i.e. I don't need to be an expert before I teach something, I now treat projects in the computer lab like an experiment (it's okay if it fails!... it's like playing in a sandbox).  I mention this because I felt like it was an attitude that I gained from the MERIT program, even more than the tools or training that I received, which was valuable.

Make sure you are aware of all the follow up requirements. There are at least six full days of classes after the summer institute and many additional responsibilities.

My advice to those who are applying to the program is to apply with a partner.  There is a bump to your application if you have someone else within your school who applies as well.  The reason for this is when the program is over you have someone to work with on implementing what you have learned.

Thirst for knowledge, creative energy, know the time commitment, willingness to learn, student centered.

For your application:
1)  Give specific information - back each thing you say with examples
2)  Use every word you are given - if you are allowed 150 words; don't just write 20 words - get as close to 150 as you can with specific examples
3)  Put time into the application - if you are not willing to put hours into the application, then you won't be a fit for a program that will take a major time and effort commitment (every minute of the time is worth it, but you have to be willing to put it in)

For the program:
1)  Come with an open mind ready to learn and possibly shift paradigms
2)  Keep your evenings clear during the two summer MERIT weeks - you will be tired AND you will want time in the evening to experiment with what you are learning
3)  No matter how inexperienced you feel, please know that there are others in the room with less tech experience and knowledge

I was told about it, but wasn't sure that I should apply... be like NIKE & "JUST DO IT!"  Just share where you are and what you're desiring to do.  The desire to WANT to learn more information, and the desire to SHARE that information. The phrase ""I cannot not share this"" is a phrase you'll be living.  If you're excited and ready for your life to be described as ""pre-MERIT and post-MERIT"" then get excited!!!
***CLEAR & CONCISE explanations
***Use the "WORD COUNT" Requirements
***have a website... share your information

When you complete your application, the most important factor is to demonstrate your personality, enthusiasm and commitment to your students. It is far more important to show what you will DO than what you have DONE.

Is it a good idea to begin a web presence now so photograph your students' work in progress. Post the process documenting and project end results online in some way. Have some assessment components built in. Focus on what the students have achieved, how they are growing and collaborating in your class. If you are applying as a team, make an agreement to mentor each other regardless of who gets in. Review each others' applications before submission.

Being an expert in technology is NOT necessary.  Filling out the application with honesty, a declaration of your desire to learn and share your knowledge, and your willingness to move students toward 21st Century learning skills is imperative.

Share your passion for learning, your openness for trying new things, and your willingness to share what you have learned. It is not all about "look what I can do" but more about how you collaborate, innovate, and help your students' achievement improve.  Also, follow instructions- 150 words means 150 words!

Be sure to let people see that your heart is in this process, that you are willing to participate even if it is not necessarily convenient in terms of time or effort. If you applied before don't feel discouraged by being turned down. Improve your application and try again. It worked for me. Read the entire application document before starting to answer.

*  make sure you'll use this to help a lot of students
*  ecology, paper saving are good objectives
*  people skills more important than computer skills
*  try to apply with a colleague
*  let your personality show
*  follow the directions and put time into your application
*  talk more about helping students achieve rather than about your achievements
*  attend informational meetings, view the intro re MERIT
*  contact MERIT alumni who have samples of things they produced
*  KNOW that this is the greatest opportunity/class I have ever taken and if someone does not get in this year, to continue applying

1.  Apply with another person, it helps you get selected, but more, another person can support you as you are working through the requirements.
2.   It is great commitment of time and energy.  You have to think of it as another prep and another class you teach.  It involves summer classes, Foothill Fast Track classes, and Saturday collaborations with MERIT colleagues, as well.
3.  It requires using technology on a constant basis, so having a reliable laptop is a necessity and you must be willing to learn and extend your use and knowledge of the internet.
4.  You need to be willing to use the computer in your regular classroom, bringing knowledge of the skills and programs you discover to the students in your room. 
5.  Bring an open mind and an open heart and be willing to rediscover how exciting education can be.
6.  Be prepared to learn what REAL "21st Century Skills" are - they are not what is happening in our schools, not even close.

The applicant needs to be genuinely open to new ideas, have tried them and are actually trying them now.  There has to be evidence of this kind of optimistic, idealistic experimentation or risk-taking.  The applicant also needs to be specific about how he envisions the impact on their students related to standards, best practices, and assessment.  It helps to already have experience with projects and collaboration.  Obviously, follow directions and correctly fill out the application; i.e., count your words. Moreover, write your draft responses somewhere else, proofread what you write, give it a rest, then copy-paste your final response. In hindsight, I would have tried to connect with my peers at work better to see with whom I could work on these projects.  Don't show off or sound like you know it all or be cynical.  What is your niche?  How are you unique or different than the herd?  Focus on math and science.  Last question to ask yourself: how have I revised my instruction to make it better?

If you have influenced colleagues to use technology in an innovative way to enhance student learning and outcomes, then share that in your application. Look through your innovative project-and-inquiry-based lesson plans and create a succinct description of what you've done and how it benefited students. Be yourself! If you really WANT to learn how to be innovative, creative and EFFECTIVE using technology with your students to help them learn, let that shine through your words. Collaborate with others in your school/district and help each other form a team to apply for MERIT. Explain how your team will benefit students!