A few years back, a very good friend of mine won a highly regarded award for teaching. Another educational leader joked with me, “well of course she won, she’s an NBCT and you are all part of that secret handshake club.” Although I was taken aback, I simply smiled politely. However, since then variations of this comment have come up time and time again. There is an underlying assumption that somehow National Board Teachers belong to some elusive club and do not want others to join – that in some way, National Board is just for the elite.
These thoughts about National Board truly are depressing, as they fly in the face of accomplished teaching and go against the very core of what the National Board standards represent. As a National Board Certified Teacher, I believe in the core propositions and that each and every teacher can and should embody them. These propositions are at the heart of my work and are a mantra not just for veteran teachers or for the best teachers, but a mantra for ALL teachers.
- Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
- Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
- Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
- Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
- Teachers are members of learning communities.
That’s it. I’ve just taught you the secret song. And it is no secret. These are the components of quality teaching: plan, teach, reflect, repeat.
So yes, there are also standards specific to one’s content area or specialization. There are directions to follow when working toward certification, but at the core of every NBCT lie these propositions. This is what allows us to speak easily about our practice across grades and subjects. Accomplished teaching practices exist in so many classrooms across the country; the certification is simply the vehicle to show a commitment to those practices.
When I earned my certification over a decade ago, I had no idea that I was committing to a learning journey about who I was as an educator that frankly hasn’t ended. Every day I consider how to better meet the needs of the students and schools I serve. I reflect on what I did and what I need to do better. National Board opened my eyes to reflection. I never knew what a valuable tool this would be.
I work with teachers across all spans of years of service and experience. There are amazing teachers and teacher leaders that I work with who are simply not interested in board certification, and these teachers exemplify accomplished teaching. One of the teachers I respect most in the world started pre-candidacy with me in 2006 and never chose to proceed with certification. Twelve years later, she decided the time was right for her. Was she somehow excluded from the club for the past decade? Not at all. In fact, she taught me so much about how to be a better teacher. Am I thrilled to talk with her now about this process as she reflects about her own practice and growth, even at a stage in her career where she is a master at her craft? You bet I am.
One of the most corrosive things we can do to the profession is attack those who work to improve themselves and develop as teachers and leaders. And sadly, we do it all the time. Collaboration is key to positive school culture and climate and there is no room for secret clubs that aren’t focused on using our own skills to improve our own teaching.
And that is the beauty of National Board. It doesn’t require a doctorate or travel to a convention, it requires a commitment to yourself and your community and your classroom. Accomplished teaching happens every day in classes taught by NBCTs and classes taught by non-NBCTs. It is time to talk quality teaching and growth that raises up all of us, rather than worry about the secret knock that doesn’t exist.