Push Past the Boundaries

January 29, 2019

I initially became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2009, and the process completely rocked my social studies world.

For so long, I had understood assessment as more or less a regurgitation of facts or the ability to write an essay where everything was correct. During my initial process, I was required to dig deep and really look at how what I was doing in my classroom affected my students. Besides the standards, what did I really want them to know? How was I going to assess that? Would I be comfortable pushing for change in social studies assessments?

The answer did not merely lie in my initial certification, but in my work with candidates. I continued to grow and ask questions. I pushed my professional boundaries and found my voice. The voice of a teacher who knew her content and knew her kids while she listened to others who were finding that they also knew those better than anyone else.

I used my position as department chair to push back against the standard multiple choice final, which only assessed level one facts. I raged against the stereotype that social studies was worksheets and movies. I pushed for new exams at a new school where I was a new department chair. I nudged for more engagement in our classrooms. I started to write about it to share with others outside my school both the lessons we have done in class and professional developments that have helped me grow my content, as well as my toolbox for assessments. I found a new voice that advocates for civic education for all students, not just my own.

Assessing history is all about knowing your students. Every year, I switch it up a bit. We do a moot court and it’s an ever-developing project based on the needs and feedback of my students. The most important part is that it is more challenging and demands more excellence from my students than any multiple choice test. This way of assessing works for my students because they can demonstrate what they know, not just recite dates or facts. Dates and facts have relevance, but only if paired with other information that requires students to engage and think.

At the end of the day, educators are creating engaged, informed citizens. Becoming a National Board Certified Teacher in 2009 and renewing this year has given me a voice. It has elevated me to the leader I have always wanted to be and allowed me to lift others up with me; all for our students, not just the ones in my classroom.

My call to you is to push for your students. Push past the boundaries of "This is how we’ve always done it." No one knows your students as well as you do. Bring joy back to learning!

Push for reform in your district or state to recognize National Board Certification. Our students deserve it, and so do we.

Elizabeth Schley, NBCT

Elizabeth Schley is currently in her 16th year of teaching and has taught most of the social sciences in a public school setting including 8th grade (12 years) and AP Government and Politics (5 years). Schley has also dabbled in APUSH, World History, US History, and College Prep Government and Politics. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Development and a Master’s in Secondary Education, History from Northern Arizona University. Schley currently writes blogs for social studies teachers and and loves to help teachers as they move along their educational journey. Schley has been to many amazing professional developments including a weeklong stay at Mount Vernon, a weekend stay at Montpelier, and attending decisions at the Supreme Court. She is on the Bill of Rights Teacher Council and a part of the iCivics Educator Network. Schley states she is most proud of her National Board Certification in 2009, as well as her renewal within the past year.