By Bev Bricker, Palm Springs Teachers Association
When I first heard of National Board Certification, I had been teaching 10 years and had just left the classroom to become a Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) support provider. I incorrectly assumed that I needed my own classroom filled with students in order to attempt this certification. I was association president when I became certified. I borrowed a class of fourth-graders in which I analyzed student work samples, created avenues of communication with parents and the community, and filmed myself teaching lessons.
I knew this process would be difficult, and I wanted a challenge. What I did not fully understand until I completed the process was the knowledge I would gain about my own practice. Very rarely do we get the chance to stop and deeply reflect on our teaching. That is what this process required I do, stop and reflect. I was drawn to this very rigorous certification because to me, certification meant I was a part of a community of educators who were recognized for their professionalism, and I wanted to be a part of elevating the teaching profession.
In the early days of National Board Certification, teachers across the country reached out to other candidates to form online support groups. Yahoo Groups was a favorite back then in 1993, when the first National Board teachers were certified.
Now those groups have become sessions led by a trained Candidate Support Provider, many of them trained through CTA-sanctioned events. Joining a community of educators seeking a higher certification, working together to analyze our practice and supporting each other through the process was one of the many positive unintended consequences for me. The level of trust developed by critiquing each other’s videos was powerful. This was not a mandated professional development I was required to attend, but rather a process I chose for myself.
I was drawn to National Board Certification because it is teachers setting the bar high for teachers. It is one of the steps educators are making in the process of taking back our profession from the politicians. National Board’s five core propositions speak to what I believe and want for my chosen profession:
Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
Teachers are members of learning communities.
Now, for the first time in 14 years, the National Board is revising the certification process. As in the past, candidates must have three years of teaching experience to apply and can take up to three years to complete the process. The revised process is based on the latest research, is more flexible, and has a reduced cost ($1,900).
This revision will roll out over a three-year period with the first two components available for new candidates in the 2014-15 cycle. These first two components offer the opportunity to demonstrate content knowledge though a computer assessment and how instruction is differentiated through an analysis of student work.
In recent years, public school educators have endured the mandates from our policymakers in Washington and Sacramento and from our districts and site administrators. Somewhere along the way, far too many of us chose to close our doors and do what we knew our students needed in isolation. In our separated classrooms, we secluded ourselves and relinquished our voices. What an opportunity was lost as a result of those actions.
Working with peers to improve our practice is where our strength lies. Being a part of a professional peer group that offers meaningful feedback, asks the probing questions and is an encouragement when things get overwhelming can make all the difference for our fellow teachers and all our students.
The beauty of this program is that even if you do not certify, the process provides the opportunity to grow and refine your teaching skills. I encourage others to attempt it. If nothing else, there are times when having an additional certification helps those outside the educational community take notice and understand that teachers are the experts.
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