After attaining my National Board Teaching certification, I have found that teaching will never be the same. “That’s a good thing!” some will think. Yes, it is, but it’s also very challenging as you realize you have three roads to travel: continue the uphill trail of heightened understanding of what makes teaching exemplary, slip back to the paved route of apathy and getting the daily job done, or remember the sacrifices of time and energy that other accomplished teachers put into mentoring your National Board certification and pay it forward on the highway of collaboration.
I honestly think we travel all three roads at different times of our careers, especially after attaining NB certification. I know that I was so mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted from working on my certification in one year while teaching and also supporting my family, that I took a step back and slipped back to the paved route. I needed some time to breathe and digest it all. But luckily the long hours of reading and writing classroom anecdotes, studying developmental theories, and hearing the latest effective trends of education were engrained in me, not to mention the hundreds of hours of videotaping and analyzing lessons and data to determine the pedagogical Fountain of Youth- effective student impact! After a few months of taking it easy, I knew it was time to get back to accomplished teaching. I couldn’t digest apathy at all. I also mentored a friend going through NB certification, and found that it was exciting to read her lesson plans, see them in action, monitor the analysis of student impact, watch videos, and have long conversation about her National Board entries. It inspired me as an educator to give her my time and attention, and the following year I offered to help facilitate National Board Pre-Candidacy classes at my school district.
Spending time with this year’s National Board Pre-Candidacy class participants has richly rewarded me. During our last session, I enjoyed having conversations with them about the difference between teacher actions and student actions, and how each effect the other. We were focusing on how to gain more knowledge about students, which is my all-time favorite element of National Board certification. It’s so much fun to see the “light come on” to veteran teachers when they realize there are more ways to get to know a child, especially what makes their identity, than summative assessment scores. Sounds so simple, but when we get sucked into the mire of test scores, the simple ideas of interviews, surveys, writing samples seem so fresh and new! Then we ended the session with the sentence stem “Because I know… I do… which impacts student learning by…” I find it interesting how this can stump teachers. They so desperately want to create this into a teaching objective, or have “the right answer.” When I go over the elements of how to complete this sentence stem to create an equitable classroom of rigorous lesson goals to meet the needs of multi-faceted learners, it invariably creates a new level of anxiety. “So how do I know what exactly to write?” wonders one Pre-Candidate. “Do I know enough about my students to accurately complete this?” wonders another. And that’s exactly the essential take-away I hope they take back to their campus and classrooms….
Which leads to the point of this article. Teachers are led by the hand, slapped on the wrist, and second-guessed so much that when they actually have the opportunity, the privilege to create a purposeful classroom, they freeze. Teachers are looking over their shoulders to see if there is anyone determining if their actions are “right” or “wrong.” Reminding teachers that they are still the leader of the classroom is quite important in this current educational culture. National Board Certification is one way to facilitate teachers to understand that their voice and leadership DO count in the classroom, to their students. The only way to really be the leader in the classroom is to truly understand your students. I enjoyed having that reminder as well.
As one of my National Board Pre-Candidacy participants left the classroom after the last session, she said to me with a smile, “I just love these meetings. This is a true Professional Development. I am excited about being in the classroom after these conversations about accomplished teaching.”
I hope that all of you who have the honor to pursue and/or attain National Board Teaching Certification are on the Highway of Collaboration and impacting students through these personal professional development experiences.