Logical Steps Through Darkness: The Path Toward #NBCT

January 30, 2020

This blog originally appeared online in Stories From School, Arizona

Are you working on National Board Certification or coaching NB candidates? I have this little mantra that’s become a good friend over the years. I want to share it with you and tell you what it means to me:

Logical steps forward through darkness

This mantra got me through National Board Certification. This mantra helped me continue when the directions seemed vague and I did not have the answers yet. This mantra gave me the space to become a reflective practitioner and overcome the fear that I was making missteps. By taking logical steps forward in my moments of darkness, I found my way into beautiful areas of clarity that transformed my practice and informed my work with students.

So you’re rolling your eyes. I totally get that! Don’t think I’ve forgotten the suffocating feeling of being stuck. I coach National Board candidates now, and I have a deep respect for stuck moments. I remember the feeling of having no direction and EVERY direction all at once. It’s mind numbing. But over and over again, I find myself giving the same advice:

Keep taking logical steps forward through the darkness. Your future self has the answers!

And I believe that is the absolute truth. When you feel stuck, find the faith in yourself to make a logical step forward. Reflect as you go to determine if you are on the best path, a side path, or the wrong path. When you take a little diversion and find yourself back where you started, you are not lost. You have learned something. You know to choose a different direction next time. And you know why the last path didn’t work. These are the lessons that transform ordinary teachers into NBCT greatness.

Two years ago, I started a district-level cohort to support colleagues seeking National Board Certification. My own path of supporting and promoting NB has not always been clear, and I have found myself continuing to lean on the advice: Logical steps forward through the darkness. I trust teachers as the experts of their own craft and portfolio, but I still felt major anxiety while our candidates were awaiting scores in December. Had we supported them in the right ways? Had they demonstrated their accomplished teaching with the most clear, concise, and convincing statements? Did they choose the right evidence and artifacts? It was a nail biter for me!

As the scores rolled in, I felt a big sigh of relief. Our candidates were really successful! Once again, I realized the power of this mantra: Logical steps forward in darkness. I wasn’t able to read every word, check every form, or review every artifact. And I didn’t need to. I realized that being a Candidate Support Provider requires having faith in the candidates to keep taking their own logical steps forward. I realized their future selves really did have the answers to the stuck moments we had pondered together. How powerful! Giving candidates that space allowed them to find their own moments of clarity that transformed their own thinking and practices.

So as my candidates work on their NB portfolios this year, I continue to offer the advice: Keep taking steps logical forward through the darkness. Don’t get stuck. Your future self has the answer!

Time and again, I have learned that seemingly vague portfolio directions are an act of kindness and wisdom from the National Board For Professional Teaching Standards. They allow teachers to journey, to ponder, to discover, and most importantly: To highlight their greatest accomplishments in teaching. The vagueness is there so that teachers have space to shine a light on themselves!

So whether you are a National Boards Candidate or a Candidate Support Provider, keep taking those logical steps forward. The darkness does not last forever!

This story was shared with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards from Stories from School AZ

Jess Ledbetter, NBCT

Dr. Jess Ledbetter is a National Board Certified Teacher (ENS-ECYA) with thirteen years teaching experience in Arizona. She teaches Developmental Preschool and supports an afterschool cohort of National Board candidates. Dr. Ledbetter attended Arizona State University, earning a B.A.E. in Special Education, a B.M. in Music Therapy, a Masters in Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation. She blogs on Stories from School AZ and coordinates a blog collaborative for Arizona teacher leaders at Dr. Ledbetter is an Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow Alumni. She was named the Matt O’Hanhila Inspirational Educator in 2011 and Teacher of the Year in 2011 at Melvin E. Sine Elementary in Glendale, Arizona. Connect with her @JLedTeach or