On August 13, 2016 I began my National Board journey. Little did I know at this time I would also embark on another journey.
Because my school district and teacher’s union supports National Board, I was able to encourage 10 teachers at my school to join me in this work. The local union arranged for educators to provide us with support, meeting regularly, reading our portfolios and doing what they could to help make us successful. It’s also worth noting that our union also provided financial supports.
There is much to learn – the standards and more – and the work started slowly. For example, we all wanted to write lengthy explanations for what we were doing in our classrooms but realized, given the page limits, this was not going to work. We had to be more concise and thoughtful.
The union’s supports provided invaluable guidance and helped us achieve our NB dreams. There is lots of flexibility in the process but I started with components 3 and 4 at first. The writing was going really well until I hit a bump in the road in March of 2017.
Life gets in the way
I found out I had breast cancer just before submitting my first ePortfolio. I had two choices, give up or get it done. I started chemotherapy in May of 2017. That month will forever be burned on my mind. Doctors advised me to start chemotherapy right away. The timing couldn’t be anymore unfortunate, chemotherapy forced me to miss my daughter’s college graduation.
It was hard to take my mind off my National Board work but it was difficult to focus on the writing. Thankfully both of my components were almost complete in a rough draft form. With the help of my colleagues, I was able to push through and complete them. It was a difficult time for me since I was going to the doctor so often. Chemo was every three weeks, but in between treatments, visited the doctor, had weekly blood work and a Neulasta shot every three weeks. I had to take many different medications that made my brain fuzzy. I was happy to have so many people reading over my NB work to make sure I was being clear.
Perseverance with support
I finished up Components 3 and 4 in April of 2017. I made adequate scores on both components which made me very happy. This made me realize and reflect on the National Board process. The first thing I realized was how important it is to have other people around you to bounce ideas off of and also to listen to what they are doing in their classrooms.
You don’t always hear about the amazing things other teachers are doing in their classrooms so this gave me the opportunity to hear what other teachers were doing. Later I applied some of the ideas in my classroom. The other thing I realized was how effective my classroom practice already was. I needed to understand how to be more reflective on what I was doing. I learned to reflect on all the amazing things that were already happening in class!
As teachers, I think we are so hard on ourselves when our lessons don’t go well and we end up focusing on the negatives. When I was able to reflect on the positives I could see the strengths and focus on those while also addressing opportunities to modify lessons.
Although I was finishing up chemo and having a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery towards the end of 2017 and beginning the year in 2018 I decided to continue pursuing Board certification. Since I was taking so much time off, I found it hard to work on component 2 and, instead, studied for component 1, which I completed in June 2018. When I received my results I was not surprised that I didn’t do as well as I hoped. I never fully recovered from “chemo-brain” so things are still fuzzy and I have a hard time focusing. I knew I had to focus more if I wanted to do better – especially on exercise 3.
In 2018 I was feeling better so I went ahead and started component 2 – and I re-did part of Component 1. To make a long story short, this was my favorite component and the one I did the best on.
The rich conversations I was able to have with my colleagues was very beneficial to my teaching. Without going through this process I would not have been able to network with the people I work with. We often think we are alone in our classrooms and feel as if teachers in other disciplines have little crossover with our subjects. Through this process we found out how we could use what we were doing through to make our classes align better. We started using common vocabulary and organizing our units to coincide the best we could.
In December 2019 I found out I became a National Board Certified Teacher. Out of all my accomplishments, I am most proud of this. And beating breast cancer! These two paths helped build me up to become a better person and educator!