UGH! Someone tell me what to do!!

Susan Collins Education, Mentoring, National Board Certification, Teacher Leadership

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It’s mid-March and I am working on a National Board entry.
I’m stuck. I need help!
Will someone PLEASE just tell me what the National Board wants from me???
I have a mentoring session this week, so maybe I will get some direction.

I go to the mentoring session looking for direction.
I get questions….that I don’t have answers to!

That was a few years ago, and I did eventually certify. To my tremendous surprise though, no one gave me any answers. They just kept asking me questions, let me sit in my frustration, asked more questions, and eventually, I found the answers…within myself.

I am now on the other side of that scenario. National Board candidates come to me. They are looking for answers. What should I say? What part of the video should I use? Would you read my commentary? And I ask questions. I listen to the answers and ask more questions. The answers are within the candidate, I am simply a firefly along the path adding a pinpoint of light to the journey of discovering the answers.

As a candidate support provider, I am an equal partner with the candidate. I am not the expert imparting my wisdom, I am merely a fellow pilgrim a little further down the path. I am a teacher who has found the accomplished teacher within me. I have learned how to write about that teacher and her students in a way that shows other teachers how she uses the knowledge of her students to provide learning experiences that help them grow and learn. My role as a candidate coach is to help the candidate do the same for the accomplished teacher within him/her.

The truth is that you have come to the process of national board certification because you know that you have sound pedagogical practices and have seen those practices work to increase achievement in your students. Everything you need to navigate this process is within you. Your coaches know that even when you can’t find it or don’t believe it is there. The goal is to draw those details out of you. As an experienced teacher, you know that a student will never take ownership of information he/she is not invested in obtaining. When the student seeks out the answers and determines this is the best answer that light bulb turns on. The student has that FANTASTIC “A-HA” moment that every educator loves! Your national board coach is asking those questions to draw out that light switch within you so that you can have that infamous “A-HA” moment!

So when you are frustrated with your coach because you can’t get a straight answer, remember your coach is on your side. You will get frustrated, you will get mad, there will probably be tears or screams, or words said that you may have to apologize for later. It will be OK. We have all been there, asked for and received forgiveness. Once the submit button is pushed do something to feed your soul. You have worked hard, you have experienced growing pains, and you have changed.

If you have the opportunity, thank your coaches. They have worked hard, worried about and for you, experienced growing pains, and changed through the process of coaching. On score release day, they will wait anxiously to hear from you. Your coach is anxious to find out what your next steps will be and to encourage and support you through them.

So, since it’s mid-March, take a deep breath, grab a beverage of choice, the suitcase that follows you around with all of your materials and dig into that component. There’s an accomplished teacher inside of you bursting to get onto the pages of your commentary!


Susan Collins began her teaching career in 1991 in rural Mississippi. She served in 4 different communities in central and north Mississippi as a music educator, mostly elementary general music with one year as a middle school band director. She stepped out of working full-time in the classroom for 9 years when her children were very young but never left teaching. She set up an early childhood music studio and taught music from birth to age 5 (with an adult caregiver). Susan moved to Kingman in northwest rural Arizona in 2016 where she teaches k-5 general music. Susan achieved National Board Certification in the fall of 2016, just after moving to Arizona. She has served as a 2017-18 Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow and a Candidate Support Provider for National Board Candidates. She is passionate about advocating for the needs of rural schools and ensuring that every student receives an excellent education. When she is not teaching, advocating, or writing about education issues, she is outdoors hiking, reading, and going to musical performances. She can often be found off the grid pondering her next writing piece!

Comments 2

  1. Jess Ledbetter

    I loved this! Favorite line: “I am a teacher who has found the accomplished teacher within me.” All teachers deserve to find that accomplished teacher within them! Initially, I hated the Cognitive Coaching style for National Board support because I wanted people to tell me I was on the right track. Eventually, I came to appreciate how coaches valued my thinking and felt that I should decide if I was on the right track by myself. The world would be a better place if more people treated each other that way. Can’t wait to share this post!


    Susan…thank you for posting this. It is a great reflection and support for my NBCT Candidates. I will be sharing it with them

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