Editor’s Note: Daniela Robles is a Curriculum/Instructional Coach at Griffith Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona. She serves on the Board of Directors for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Arizona K-12 Center. The views expressed in this blog are her own.
One night recently, I found myself filling out the mundane insurance paperwork at Urgent Care. Perhaps it was the mind-numbing act of completing forms requiring information that I have completed fifty times before that prompted me to pause when I encountered the word, Occupation. Maybe it was my daughter’s high fever transferring to me, but I remained fixated on the blank space, puzzled as to what to write. Occupation, profession, what do I do? How do I identify myself? 18 years ago, 10 years ago, I would have automatically written teacher. Now, there are too many voices in my head, questioning, challenging, if I am a teacher.
As a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), when does one lose the right to identify himself or herself as a teacher? Is it when your classroom is no longer 900 square feet and home to 20-35 students? Is it when you no longer write lesson plans? Supervise recess duty? Require a substitute?
Take other professions. Do we ever question when a Board Certified doctor loses the right to identify himself or herself as a doctor? Is the U.S. Attorney General not identified as a lawyer?
If we are to fulfill National Board’s vision for teaching along a continuum from pre-service to accomplished teaching, then a National Board Certified Teacher is, first and foremost, a teacher – one who has amply demonstrated the knowledge base and skills in the Standards of Accomplished Teaching practice. Of course, I want every student to have an accomplished teacher, but I also long for the day when NBCTs are:
- training and preparing future teachers in pre-service programs
- mentoring our newest teachers during their first three years
- supporting colleagues in formal and informal ways that move teaching and learning forward
- serving as principals, district office staff, assistant superintendents, superintendents
- crafting, guiding, and leading educational policy
- governing in school boards, municipalities, state legislatures and Congress
As NBCTs we number more than 100,000 strong across the country. Perhaps we must be the ones to finally settle the argument of who is a teacher and who is not. Perhaps when we expand the construct of teacher, we expand the breadth and depth of the continuum, and the potential of NBCTs throughout the education system.
Fast forward to the next time I must complete a form and see the word “Occupation.” I will strikethrough the term, insert “Profession,” and then write, “Teacher.” Some may question my ability to identify myself as a teacher, considering I have just spent my first year serving my district office in the support of teacher retention and professional development. But I know that as an NBCT, I hold accomplished teaching practice at the core of who I am, what I do, and the culture of excellence I strive to create for the 160 teachers and 2,700 students in my district.
How do you identify yourself?