Last year this time I was in a National Board Certification TUNNEL. I had NO life. Everything I did evolved around evidence of learning, the 5-core propositions, and ...."HOW DOES THIS IMPACT STUDENT LEARNING?" I spent at least 15-20 hours/week at the Panera Bread near my house (free refills and WIFI can't beat that). In the month of March, I was there EVERY SINGLE DAY.... I cannot begin to tell you the journey this certification process has taken me on. And, the weekend the scores were released was not a disappointment if you were craving more anxiety and an emotional rollercoaster ride.
Let me start from the beginning. In the spring of 2010, after attending the Philadelphia's Federation of Teachers Conference, I decided that I was going to pursue the highest level of certification a teacher could obtain...National Board Certification. I heard all of the statisitics. That about 30% of candidates pass on the first try, that some doctors even struggle with the process, that most candidates don't complete their portfolio submissions and fail to submit.......but what stood out for me was: This is the best professional development you will ever experience. This is the most prestigious certification a teacher can obtain. Most teachers who certify can lobby to help change educational policies that hinder student success. It's the hardest thing you will ever have to complete in your profesional career.... That is what made me decide to go for it. I wasn't intimidated, I was inspired. And yes, it was all of those things especially the part about it being the best professional development I would ever receive and that it is the hardest thing I would ever do in my professional career.
What made it most difficult?
1. The reflection. It is very easy to explain what you are doing but how often do we verbalize the WHY we do it. We self-evaluate and adjust our teaching all of the time. But creating a printable that better meets a students needs, or revamping a lesson plan, regrouping our students, even giving a brief summary to the parent and/or administration is nothing compared to the reflective writing you do when going through this process.
2. Talking about yourself. It was very hard for me in the beginning to talk about all the good things I do in the classroom. It was weird because you feel like you are bragging/boasting but in this process it is NECESSARY!
3. Watching myself on video and.....reflecting on what I did and will do in the future. The first time I watched myself on tape all I could focus on was how big my behind was. Then, I hated the sound of my voice. Then, I wanted to reteach the lesson.....After videotaping a series of lessons for entry 2, I ended up using the first video. And that was my highest scoring entry.
4. Managing/organizing/ and Monitoring my time. It was very easy to get absorbed in the whole process of everything (once you got started). And what I found with the people I spoke to during the process who were also working on certification was that either they couldn't get started or they couldnt slow down. Time management was one of the biggest barriers for many people. For me, single and childless, getting started wasn't the struggle. Slowing down was. I became so absorbed that I completely shut my social calendar DOWN. Luckily I had a study partner so it made spending long hours in Panera Bread easier.
It was, however, a great experience and I know that I am an even better teacher because of the process.
I started working on the certification in July 2010. By March 2011 I submitted my portfolio. By June 2011 I completed the written exam. By July it was out of sight, out of mind. By October I was having nightmares about it. I knew that if I didn't pass on the first try it didn't mean that I wasn't an accomplished teacher but I tried not to think about it. In November I started getting butterflies. Then, one night I was checking my email while at a stop sign on my cell phone and saw "THE EMAIL"....I almost crashed because in the heading it said something about "RELEASING SCORES" and I just knew it was the email that was notifying me that the scores had finally been released. They told us in our mentoring group that we were going to get an email when it was time to check our scores. They NEVER mentioned that we were going to get an email telling us when this email would be sent. So this is where the roller coaster ride got bumpy. After this "warning" email was sent, I had to wait a whole week for the scores to be released (the email that I thought was the email was an email warning us about when the real email would be sent)....#torture! So Friday gets here and the scores were SUPPOSED to be released around noon...nope. technical difficulty. Lucky for me I wasn't checking for them yet because I needed to be at home when I read my scores. So I get off of work, head home and meet my sister at my house. She was my support system, she was going to open my scores.....nope. technical difficulty. So she leaves and Friday night passes, no scores....Saturday.....no scores. Sunday morning. THE SCORES WERE FINALLY RELEASED. So by this point I'm over the whole "I'm nervous thing" by now I just want to see my darn scores. So I go to my profile page, log in.....scroll down the page....read....nothing.....read some more.....nothing. Phone rings. Hey, its my study buddy. At this point I am in a fog because it's super early and there are WAY too many numbers on this page. So I say to my study partner....I'm confused. All I see is 274.....It doesn't say pass or fail." She replies, "WHAT....YOU MEAN TO TELL ME YOU FAILED BY A POINT?????" And that is how I found out that yes......I missed National Board Certification by ONE.....stinking......point. So here I am...I found out the weekend before Thanksgiving and I must reapply by the end of January. I said I was going to give myslef until January 1st to let it sink in. Then I must move forward. I am resubmitting an entry. A month ago this was a statement I could say without being close to tears. #progress. I couldn't see myself going through the entire process again. Then it sunk in, I dont have to. All I have to do resubmit one entry and wait for my passing scores to come back (because no doubt about it, this time I'm passing).
The funny thing is, we tell our students all the time not to quit, keep trying until they get it right, believe in yourself......but how often do we really have to take our own advice? Well, I will definitely be taking my own advice this winter...."If at first you don't succeed, try try again."
I am continuing this National Board Process. And next year this time I will be posting about I how (finally) passed!