Thinking Systematically and Learning From Experience to Impact Student Learning

January 18, 2017

Recently re-released, What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do articulates the National Board’s Five Core Propositions for teaching. Similar to medicine’s Hippocratic Oath, the Five Core Propositions are held in common by teachers of all grade levels and disciplines and underscore the accomplished teacher’s commitment to advancing student learning and achievement. This blog focuses on core proposition 4 that states, “Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.”

My journey started in 2002, when my superintendent at the time handed me a flyer about National Board Certification. She said, “I think this is something you need to check into.” And so it began.

In the beginning, the Five Core Propositions, and What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do was my study guide. As my journey continued, as a Candidate Support Provider, serving on a standards committee, renewing my certification, and seeking opportunities to be a part of the revised process…the Five Core Propositions became my mantra, and define who I am as an educator.

When I was asked to serve on the committee to revise the Five Core Propositions, my first thought was, WHY? They have stood the test of the time, they have been the guiding force for hundreds of thousands of teachers pursuing certification and most importantly what we do each and every day as we strive to meet the needs of every student and impact their learning, making a difference in their lives.

And I also pondered, why me? It was humbling, an honor to have some small part in impacting the learning lives for educators and students. So the work began and the committee quickly realized that there was no need to revise and dramatically change the Five Core Propositions, but rather, update and refine text, not the message. As the work evolved the validity of the National Board Certification process became apparent to me because it is grounded in what we want for all our children, what we should all strive to do for the students whose lives we impact every day.

In particular, as I reflect on Core Proposition #4, “Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience, it truly is what we do each and every day. I’m known for being organized and thorough in all that I do–it is who I am. But, from the moment my journey toward certification began and as it continues today, I often share that certifying as a National Board Certified Teacher has made me ‘more cost effective’ in all that I do.

Like all teachers, I look to teacher guides and standards to systematically make detailed plans in my mind, and then in my lesson plans. But each day, as I teach and learn with the children in my classroom, as I interact with their families and my colleagues, I pause often to reflect, to consider the impact of my teaching and my lessons. There are days when my reflections result in easy solutions to improve my craft, to have a better, greater impact on my students’ achievement. More often than not, however, I find myself researching and seeking out new ways, new materials and new strategies to improve my methods, my teaching and most importantly meet the needs of my students, not just at the moment at hand, but also the impact on their future learning. Sometimes the choices are conflicting and difficult to make. I know maintaining the status quo or doing things the way they have always been done is not the mindset of an accomplished teacher, nor is it what keeps me energized, passionate and committed to doing what I know I must do to meet the diverse needs of all my students. I know that my passion for learning, for reflecting and improving what I do, transfers to my students’ learning and achievement, even for the youngest children.

As I continue to learn, grow, reflect on my teaching and refine what I do each day, the Five Core Propositions are always a part of what I am thinking and doing. For me, they push me forward, guide me to improve my practice, and keep the spark and my passion alive to make a difference in every child’s learning life who enters my classroom, because it is our students and the impact on their learning that matters most.

Leslee Milch, NBCT

Leslee Milch, M.S., is a National Board Certified Teacher, Early Childhood Generalist and is a Reading Specialist for the Buena Park School District and on the Board of Directors for the BPSD Education Foundation.  She also works with the Orange County Department of Education and California State University Fullerton to recruit and support teachers in their efforts to become a National Board Certified Teacher. Milch is on faculty with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She has presented at the NBPTS conference, served as the NBPTS Boeing Ambassador Scholarship program coordinator, on the standards committee to revise the early Childhood Standards, and has helped coordinate the Hill Day Team for California in Washington DC. Recently she was selected to serve on the Instructional Leadership Corps for California, a joint partnership with Stanford and CTA to develop CCSS professional development for teachers.