Back to the Future: Reflections on NBPTS Renewal

January 9, 2018

As a child of the ‘80s, I hold a particular fondness for the classic film series Back to the Future. You know the one: Doc Brown and Marty McFly cruising through time in that sweet plutonium-powered DeLorean. They hop back and forth from the past to the future in an effort to repair the present. When I started my renewal for my National Board certification, it felt a bit like Doc Brown and Marty McFly’s experience. There I was, about eight years later, returning to a process similar to when I first obtained my NBCT: carefully examining my content standards, reflecting deeply about the work I do in the classroom, thinking critically about the impact I have on students’ learning, and devising a plan moving forward. As much as this all felt incredibly familiar to me, it also felt very different and even a bit surreal at times. Eight years. Eight years in a time when education was, and still is, moving at a rapid and exhilarating pace powered by forces much stronger than Doc Brown’s plutonium.

No longer was my instruction dependent on a one-size-fits-all approach full of lectures and PowerPoints and worksheets. I could fill my students’ minds with wonder about places around the world by whisking them away on a virtual reality tour using Google Expeditions; I could bring the world into our classroom through visits with authors and experts and entrepreneurs using Skype or Google Hangouts; and I could even personalize their learning experiences through the support of flipped instruction, instructional coaches, and student voice.

No longer was my students’ learning demonstrated solely through multiple-choice quizzes or typed essays. Students could work collaboratively through Breakout EDU, applying their content knowledge, thinking critically and creatively, and communicating with group members; they could post their ideas on a class blog, sharing their learning and thoughts with an authentic audience–the world at large; they could even channel their inner Robert Zemeckis, famed director of Back to the Future, by producing films that employ green screen technology, special effects, or stop-motion.

No longer was my own learning limited to face-to-face university courses or professional development workshops offered by my school district. I could attend online webinars to learn concepts from experts in the comfort of my own home or school; I could attend EdCamps where learning is determined by attendees and not some predetermined schedule of events; and I could even hop onto Twitter at my convenience and participate in various chats to connect with and learn from educators not just in my area but all around the world.

The National Board renewal process provided me with an invaluable opportunity to hop into my own DeLorean and travel back to different times in my educational career and examine the impact they had on my present. Now that I’ve renewed my certificate, I can’t help but wonder and dream about what awaits me in the time until my next renewal. So much has changed in these last eight years. Therefore, what will the
next eight years bring?  With technology at my fingertips, enthusiasm for my future, and my National Board renewal fueling my journey, I’m ready for my next adventure. As Doc Brown so eloquently stated, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

Andrea Trudeau, NBCT

Andrea Trudeau (@Andrea_Trudeau) is a National Board Certified Teacher, Google Educator, Future Ready Librarian, and 20-year veteran in education who has held a variety of teaching roles at Alan B. Shepard Middle School in Deerfield District 109. Most recently, she became the school's library information specialist and hit the ground running in order to create an active learning commons that breaks free of the stereotype of a traditional library and embraces creativity, collaboration, and risk-taking. Andrea is passionate about project-based learning, literacy, innovative digital tools and resources, as well as the Maker Movement. She was fortunate to be invited to a roundtable discussion at the White House in June 2015 to discuss the potential of the Maker Movement in schools with educational leaders across the nation and has been a contributor to books about digital citizenship and educational leadership. She continues to be a strong advocate for hands-on, meaningful, and fun learning experiences for students.