4 Ways Board Certification Prepared Me For Motherhood

June 28, 2017

My journey to Board certification was the second hardest and most humbling thing I have ever completed. The first? Committing to and seeing through the international adoption process.

Both took multiple years. Both required lots of steps, checklists, standards, guidelines, late night, and early morning reflection. Both involved healthy amounts of self-doubt and discernment. Both taught me that human beings are hardwired for community.

I (eventually) certified in 2014, one year after deciding to commit to a local adoption agency’s Ethiopia program. In early 2017 (more than three years after starting the process) we finally became the legal parents of our now five-year-old son.

Muddling through these early days of motherhood, I find myself reflecting on lessons learned from my journey as a candidate.  Here are four ways Board certification shapes my parenting and personal outlook:

Lesson 1: It really does takes a village.

After starting the Board certification process in isolation, borrowing colleagues’ classrooms and students as a then full time literacy coach, I shared my questions, doubts, artifacts and drafts with no one. Not surprisingly, I fell two points shy of certification and landed in advanced candidate territory.

Now, I am passionately committed to candidate support. It was this very support, encouragement, and the community of NBCT’s who came before me, that made the difference between my initial attempt and eventual certification.

I have learned that in professionally worthwhile journeys and significant personal endeavors, community, collaboration and a trusted network of support are critical. We can go it alone, but the journey is lonely, isolating, and far more challenging if we do.

Lesson 2: Reflect. Rinse. Repeat.

Margaret Wheatley once said, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences and failing to achieve anything useful.” The Board certification process is a powerful exercise in deep reflection and analysis. It is impossible to complete the process without ongoing, ritualistic reflection of every teaching and learning decision and the accompanying student learning results.

This commitment to reflection not only improved my practice, but also became a deeply ingrained habit of mind in my daily life. While I am no longer teaching in a classroom setting, it is impossible not to approach parenting from an educator’s lens. From language acquisition to gross and fine motor development, I am constantly analyzing what my son is doing and saying, my own responses and questions, and the learning results. I’ve started a reflection journal to capture the moments, phrases, and wonder of each day.

Lesson 3: Waiting is the hardest part.

I wish I could say that the Board certification process helped me become a more patient person. While I still have lots of growth to make in this area, it did help me practice waiting. As I support and encourage current candidates who are furiously working on various components and booking assessment dates, I can’t help but remember the long wait between clicking submit and score release day.

Deciding to pursue Board certification and deciding that international adoption was the right path for our family was the easy part. The work that followed those decisions was intense and energizing. But the waiting was the hardest part. For candidates playing the waiting game, celebrate now, celebrate on score release day (regardless of the outcome), and celebrate in between.

Lesson 4: Going public.

If I could re-do one thing from my first years of teaching it would be this: I would open the door of my classroom to feedback, visitors, and video cameras from day one. I would ask more questions and share more student work in professional learning settings. Going public with my practice made me a better teacher and positively impacted student learning. So I wish I had gone public long before I committed to the Board certification process.

Adoptive parenting, especially in a transracial family, is a visible and public process. There are regular visits from social workers, annual documentation sent to the birth country, lots of medical catch-up, and entire virtual (and physical) communities devoted to supporting and encouraging families. The Board certification process helps me see these public parenting requirements and expectations as invitations and opportunities for meaningful feedback, problem-solving, support, and encouragement.

Like teaching, parenting is a complex art and science. It’s a lot of trial and error, analysis and reflection, hoping and waiting. I’m grateful to have a network of NBCT’s, (and mothers) to support me in the journey.

Jessica Cuthbertson, NBCT

Jessica Cuthbertson currently serves as the creator and lead facilitator of the Teacher Leadership Academy for Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, Colo. As a National Board Certified Teacher and former CTQ teacherpreneur, she “geeks out” on adolescent literature, edu-blogging, teacher leadership initiatives, and issues of policy and practice. Connect with her on Twitter @JJCuthy.