The National Board certification process is akin to glimpsing into a reflection pool. Looking in, you see the best parts of what is happening in your classroom, your teaching practices and the areas that still need some work. I tell fellow educators that because of this, National Board certification is truly the greatest professional development I can recommend to teachers who want to fine tune their craft and grow to be the best they can be. So upon receiving the news that I officially certified and can put those four coveted letters behind my name – NBCT – I thought it only fitting to sit down at the reflection pool one more time and reflect on my three year adventure with National Board.
Looking back on my journey through the process, I realized that the best parts were the people I met along the way: amazing educators, dedicated to their field, equally if not more so passionate as I about their students and teaching. Over the past three years, I have become part of a teacher army, a group of leaders striving to make education the best it can be for America’s future.
Another great part? The subtle changes that have weaved their way into my teaching thanks to the architecture for accomplished teaching, the National Board standards and the process. I find myself asking questions before, during and after planning and teaching lessons now, such as “How does this impact student learning?” I make reflection an active part of my day in order to identify what went well during my lessons and what I will need to target next, as well as areas I can improve upon to do better for my students.
The most challenging part? For me, the biggest roadblock was time management. Finding and making the time to sit down and plug away at the different components proved to be easier said than done. Even the most thoroughly planned out calendar can be wiped out by life’s busy schedule. I was extremely thankful for the new assessment process and the opportunity to complete the process in my own time versus the previous one year schedule. This format gave me the time and structure to get everything done, and to truly get the most out of each component.
Another learning curve? The National Board writing style. One of my mentors summed it up perfectly after reading one of my first rough drafts. She said, “You need to write more like a scientist and less like a poet. Get out your magnifying glass and find that evidence.” Everything you write about in the different portfolio components needs to be evidence-based. Why do you do what you do each day during your lesson and how does it affect your students’ learning? Perfect sentence structure and fancy words… none of those things matter. It truly is basic, evidence-driven writing. It took time and effort, but by the time I finished up Component 4, I felt like I had gotten a feel for this style of writing. As a result, I can better articulate the decisions I make in my classroom each day.
In the end, I completed this process a stronger, more efficient teacher for my students, families, colleagues, and self. If you are an educator who is looking for a challenge, a way to truly grow and become the best teacher you can be, and/or are looking to find your “people,” I encourage you to take the plunge and pursue National Board certification. Upon posting that I had certified on social media, it was amazing to see comments and likes from NBCTs across the country. It truly is a family!
If you are a current NBCT or a candidate pursuing Board certification, take some time as we start this new year to reflect on your journey. Both positive takeaways and challenges accompany the certification process, and being able to reflect upon these is incredibly thought-provoking.