Editor’s note: This is a guest blog from Mike Lee, NBCT and Professional Development Director for the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona. The views expressed are his own.
Recently, I had a conversation with an administrator who was struggling to choose teacher leaders for a long-term initiative at her school. She indicated her school has suffered an epidemic of staff members experiencing dramatic turns in their personal lives, beginning to waver in their commitment to teaching, or even pondering whether they even wanted to stay in the profession. It was particularly disheartening because these had been teachers that she had considered, “all in,” and she had invested significant energy and resources into their development. During our conversation, an interesting and unforeseen concept emerged, leaving us with a question that was much larger than the one with which she had originally posed.
Are principals going to get a more likely return on their investments if they prioritize NBCTs for leadership and training opportunities?
Before any non-NBCTs reading this get too worked up, please remember that:
- I really don’t know the answer, which is why I’m posing the question.
- I’m talking only in terms of probability. As in, “What are the odds?”
- More specifically, we were talking about only increasing the odds, not guaranteeing a high-level of return.
- I don’t like conflict, so please get worked up quietly, if you must.
There are many teachers who either leave the profession temporarily or permanently because their lives demand more attention than the norm. In other words, things happen. Families are built amid financial turbulence. Questions about career direction emerge. Financial or career challenges dictate life changes. Teachers, like everyone else, lead volatile lives, sometimes in and out of the classroom. Others simply begin to realize that they will give a baseline level of effort to their careers, but not too much more. They like teaching, but it turns out they don’t love it, and often wonder why some of their peers are so invested beyond their own classrooms.
In choosing which teachers she should invest a rather large sum of training money, my colleague noted that any teacher who has pursued and achieved National Board Certification has demonstrated an extremely high level of commitment to the profession, as well as their place in it. They often are far enough along in their careers to have many of the challenges associated with being a young adult out of the way, and are deeply entrenched in teaching. So entrenched, they were willing to tackle the highest level of advanced certification available in the field.
In other words, they are typically “all in.”
Of course, there are examples of this not being true; there are always outliers. But remember, we’re only talking probability. Further, I want to reiterate that this is not an indictment of non-NBCTs, just a quasi-clinical, or at least logical, prediction based on current evidence about career commitment. If a principal is moving on a multiyear initiative in which an investment in teacher training and an expectation of engagement is necessary, on whom should they bet?
So, I pose the question to the greater community. Are NBCTs more likely to be “all in?”