Be an NBCT to a T (as in Traveler, not Tourist)

November 16, 2021



By: Carol Hofer, NBCT

If you bet that seeing themselves on video is what most terrifies candidates pursuing National Board Certification, pay up. It’s the editing. But it’s a double whammy- trimming both the video AND the writing!  First, it’s “How am I going to fill up all those pages?” then it becomes, “but I’ve run out of space! I can’t fit this in!” 

Yes, the requirements and constraints of the NBCT process can lead you to reach for the ibuprofen and acetaminophen enough times that you learn how to spell those words correctly – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Becoming an NBCT is a journey, and just like any other trip, you have to master the art of packing, planning an alternate itinerary in case you hit roadblocks, and learning as you go. Most importantly, you have to allow yourself to embrace this journey wholeheartedly – -be a traveler, not a tourist. 

  • Learn the local lingo. Ever have those moments when you don’t know the word for something, and you use multiple sentences and exaggerated body language to get your point across? Yeah, well, you can avoid all that. You will have a smoother and a more advantageous National Board adventure with solid communication. That means immersing yourself in the materials, learning the terms and using them. This will allow you to more densely pack your information into your page allotment. You can start by reading  the 5 Core Propositions and the General Portfolio Instructions (definitions on pgs. 13-17)
  • Pick your Personal Pace: Your National Board journey can range from full-on now-or-never to let-me-get-my feet-wet-first. And just because the components are listed 1,2, 3 and 4 doesn’t mean you have to complete them in that order.  There are resources to help you plan your customised component combo. 
  • Pack Productively: Just like you have luggage limits on flights, the National Board caps what you can submit. Start with the standards for your certificate area – how can you most efficiently and effectively demonstrate these in your videos and written submissions? Each component has focus standards. Think back to packing – if you don’t have room for 5 pairs of shoes, what is the one pair that is the most versatile and will allow you to go farther?  
  • Don’t be afraid to unpack and repack: With experience, you get better. Once you are in the middle of a component, you might sense that your first choice won’t work in the long run. Maybe you have to shift or change out a few things. Sometimes you might have to hit a hard reset and recalculate everything. That’s okay. Your work hasn’t left home yet, you haven’t hit the “send” button, so now is the time to eagle eye everything and revisit your directions and checklist. 
  • Pick practical over pretty – sometimes you want something in your component just because you really, really like it – please, no. Just share that teaching technique you adore with the teacher next door. Like a clothing item that wears well at home, but wrinkles horribly or doesn’t mesh with your destination, some activities don’t travel well, plus the reviewers won’t be able to ask you clarifying questions. Have someone you don’t work with review your materials to catch anything that might not make sense to someone outside your school.
  • Talk to the tried and true travelers. Everyone has a different experience, but you may gain some insights of what works, what doesn’t, and what pitfalls to avoid by talking to veteran NBCTs. But just like airport security asks, “Did you pack your bags yourself?”  remember that National Board guidelines require that your responses to each portfolio component be yours and yours alone.
  • Impart your essence – The guidelines are uniform, but just like you put a bright ribbon to identify your nondescript luggage, you want to be sure your components showcase your unique abilities and perspectives as an educator. This is your time to shine!

In the end, becoming Board Certified is more about the process than the product. Yes, there is satisfaction in being able to add  “NBCT” after your name on your signature line, or in framing your NBCT certificate, but it’s the steps you take along the way that should have the staying power. Journeys are meant to transform and enrich us. To paraphrase a Spanish saying, “Don’t  just go through Board certification make sure Board certification goes through you.”

Carol Hofer, NBCT

Carol Pierobon Hofer (NBCT - English as a New Language, Early and Middle Childhood) teaches ENL at Fox Hill Elementary in Indianapolis. Carol, who came to the United States at age 18, helps her school community as interpreter, translator and family liaison. In her 28-year career she’s taught all age groups from preschoolers to senior citizens, but don’t ask her to choose a favorite. She is a member of the National Board Network of Accomplished Minoritized Educators (NAME) and mentors NBCT candidates. Carol is also a 2020-22 WIDA Fellow, chosen for her exemplary service to bilingual and multilingual students, as well as a workshop leader and site visitor for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program. A Fulbright Educator Exchange in Uruguay 11 years ago built lasting ties, making Carol the proud madrina (godmother) of a rural school where she remotely and joyously connects with students learning English. A world traveler and polyglot, Carol says she feels at home in any part of our planet because, as Maya Angelou’s poem Human Family says, “We are more alike my friends, than we are unlike.”