Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash
Let’s say you are ready to begin your National Board certification process—or let’s say you aren’t sure, but you are thinking about it. In truth, you can begin your process right now and then not make the monetary commitment until February.
In fact, that’s a great way to begin. Go ahead and hit the ground running this school year, but realize you can change your mind if you need to… all the way until February. You don’t have to commit to the process with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards until February 28th, 2020 (check out page 9 of this document.)
The NBPTS requires that you have permission from parents and guardians to collect student work and to video record them working in your classes. You can find the form here. It’s pretty dry reading, however, and parents might find it confusing, overwhelming, or just plain intimidating. Many candidates send out a cover letter with the permission form that says something like this:
This is just an idea of what to write, but make it applicable to your own students, families, and teaching context. Then, go ahead and send the letter with all of your students. This way, if you get a good video accidentally with a class you didn’t intend to feature, you’re covered. There are forms for adults who are in your classroom as well as forms in Spanish that you can find on the nbpts.org website in the resource section titled, “First Time and Returning Candidates.”
The reason this is the first step is because you might want to send home the letter when you send home all the other papers that need signed at the beginning of the year. In reality you could switch the order of these first two steps.
It’s essential that you consult the guide from the NBPTS to determine which certificate you will be trying for. You may qualify for more than one area. Our candidates have said they make the decision by examining the example questions found in the Component 1 instructions for any certificate areas they are considering. To do this, you will need to scroll to the bottom of the page and choose the discipline you’d like to examine.
We discuss this in depth in our new book, Mapping Your Journey. In general, the Standards document from the nbpts.org website, which is nearly 100 pages long, describes everything an accomplished teacher of your certification area should “know and be able to do.” These standards were written BY teachers FOR teachers. Far from finding them to be heavy conditions pressed on your already loaded shoulders, you may find it exciting that you already do many of these things. Therefore, as you read through them, be sure to make notes about the lessons you do that could provide evidence of this to the National Board. Since I’ve mentioned one of our books here, I will also mention the other, the FastTrack Workbook—“Gaining a Big-Picture View of the National Board Certification Process for Teachers.” This workbook contains access codes to short teaching videos you can watch and go with each chapter. When I first certified in 2006, I joined a cohort and bought three books to help me in my journey! The most important advice to know when choosing books, materials, and mentors is that this process was revised from 2013-2017, so make sure you have up to date information. The NBPTS has information about support available in your state.
You have flexibility in the order that you approach the four components, and I discuss some possibilities for that in a previous blogpost. You can also find discussion of this topic and others in our Facebook group, @My National Board for Teachers. Consider starting with Component 2, which only counts for 15% of your total score. In this component, you describe how you choose goals for your students’ learning, how you plan for that learning, including differentiation for instruction, and how you implement instruction. You also collect and analyze student work from the sequence of instruction that you’re showcasing and then reflect on your work. If you’d like activities and information to help with Component 2, you can find free information here, and a short instruction module for $7.99 here. Here’s some interesting trivia… when you are on Facebook groups or other chatboards, you may hear Component 2 referred to as “C2.”
In the old days, we always suggested candidates complete Component 1 last. This is your assessment center test on your content. However, candidates in the new system often advise that you don’t leave the test for last if you are in a multi-year process. This is because back in the day, we had to complete in one year. Now, candidates have up to three years to attempt all components. If you wait until your second or third year, you may end up wasting the months of August through April waiting to take your test since you can’t take your test until the testing window opens in April. Then, if you need to re-take a part of the test, you will have nothing to do all year long while you wait. If you take it and pass it the year before, however, you will maximize your time in the process. Talk to other candidates, because you may still have reasons for taking C1 last. (For example if you’d like additional time to study.)
Some candidates even participate in a cohort to gain background information on the Standards and the Five Core Propositions (uh-oh, we haven’t even talked about those yet!) and then take their C1 test as their first component in the process. The essential idea is that before taking the constructed response questions of your C1 test, you need to be very well versed in the Standards for your certificate area and have read and internalized the core ideas and central philosophy of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which are the Five Core Propositions. The Five Core Propositions are the ideas the Standards for your certificate area are based upon.
Far from “jumping through hoops,” this process is what is known as a developmental process. You will be undergoing a growth process rather than just proving you are a perfect teacher.
A true story. The first year I certified, there were two State Teachers of the Year that did not make it. Of course they were good teachers! They just had not gotten their “a-ha moment.” They certified after they re-did one of their components.
This means you will need to be patient and trusting with yourself as you learn new ideas and synthesize them into your teaching. The National Board certification process is very similar to Project-Based learning. You are given four tasks, the criteria for success, and some scaffolding information. Nothing is a secret during the process… the only variable is the time it takes for you to understand and synthesize the ideas to produce a product that demonstrates accomplished teaching as it looks in your classroom. I also find it helpful to think you probably won’t achieve your NBCT on the first try. That will help protect you from some disappointment, but it will be great if you do! The truth is, you have up to three years to do the work and then another two years to re-do it if needed. One candidate I know, when asked when she would know if she passed laughingly said, “Do you mean when will I know which parts I’ll have to re-do?”
Don’t forget that we are here to help. There are whole communities of teachers who have undergone the process who will be eager to help you as well as places where candidates support each other.
What do you think of these suggestions? What other suggestions do you have for teachers who want to get started?
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