Friday, May 13, 2011

National Board Requirements: Rigorous and Rewarding

by Tara Seale
Recently, I completed my last national board requirement: the ELA Adolescence and Young Adulthood Assessment. What a relief!
The portfolio alone is daunting, and after the stress of mailing it off, I still faced the final assessment at the assessment center.
If you are wondering if you should attempt National Board, as a first year candidate, I would like to provide advice. I am in my sixth year of teaching, and this is the first year in which I feel like I am prepared to tackle the demands of National Board and also have a chance of passing. I realize that you can sign up for National Boards before your sixth year of teaching, and I wish the best to those teachers, but I could not have completed all parts of the portfolio. I do not want to sound too disparaging, but if you have less than five or six years teaching experience, this process is intimidating and stressful. With that said, attempting national boards has not only been one of the most demanding experiences of my teaching career, it has also been one of the most insightful.
Because I had one of the best reviewers possible, Delynne West, an elementary music teacher in my school district, I soon realized, thanks to her commentary, that I was a descriptive writer and not an analytical writer. Describing what I hoped to achieve and how I hoped to achieve it is just part of the National Board process, but not the most important part. National Board focuses on the student, and not what the teacher is doing.
As a frequent blogger, I write out descriptive examples of lesson plans and activities, and National Board assessors are somewhat interested in what I plan to attempt in the classroom, but mostly they are concerned with how it impacts students. I might have the greatest idea ever, but if it lacks rationale and if I cannot explain student impact, then it is irrelevant.
My greatest challenge in completing my National Board Portfolio was overcoming my descriptive writing and delving into the reasons I do what I do in the classroom. It is not enough that I believe that I know what I am doing, I still have to explain my decisions to people who have an interest in the achievements of my students: administrators, other teachers, parents, national board assessors, and of course, myself.
It is that process that has shaped me and forced me to continue to grow, challenge, and expect more from my students as I grow, challenge, and expect more from myself.
If you had asked me in February how I felt about National Boards, I probably would have asked you how I could escape the process without owing money back to my state, but just like my students who at mid-year always act like I am expecting too much out of them, I acquiesced and found a way to continue, believe, and succeed.
Most of us, teachers and students alike, need to be pushed to be the person, the inspiration, and the leader we can be. National Boards is definitely the institution that has pushed me to that next level.
So now that I have completed this process and I have the long wait until November to see if I have attained the standards to become a National Board Certified Teacher, I want to commiserate with the other teachers who are waiting with me, but I also want to celebrate the teachers who have attained National Board. You have achieved an award that affirms you are a hardworking teacher, and most importantly, your students know that you teach with your heart; therefore, you serve as an inspiration to other teachers to work through this rigorous and rewarding process.


kathleen jensen said...

Congrats on completing the portfolio, Tara. I've been thinking of doing this, and your article is prompting me there.

Tara said...

Kathleen, You could definitely complete this process and do it well. I would be willing to help you by reading your entries and providing advice, but you might want to see if I pass first. :)

andri said...

interesting nice to read this...thank you