What To Do When You Feel Stuck during Your National Board Journey
Wednesday, October 17, 2018 by Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It’s October, and you thought you’d begin your National Board journey this year.  The trouble is, you feel more confused than ever! You’re busy! How is it that your cohort leader thinks you could possibly be video recording your classes right now?  It’s the end of the grading period and all your students are turning in late work! Chances are, you are considering just starting next year instead. If those are the kinds of thoughts in your head, or if you feel stuck in any way, keep reading to find out what to do right now to feel better about this National Board process!

It actually sounds like you’re right on track. Seriously. 

Perhaps the biggest part of the National Board certification process is “getting your mind wrapped around it.” And teachers are typically organized people so they get nervous if they don’t “know” what to do.

The First Thing To Do Is Get Comfortable With Not Knowing

This is a project--project-based-learning for teachers! Something akin to “Genius Hour.”  We’ve used these ideas with our students so we realize that good students without step-by-step instructions can feel… lost. Shall we say, “stomach hurting so much we think we have an ulcer” every time we think about it or “migraine comin’ on” kinda fearful? Maybe more of an overwhelmed, in-a-fog kind of feeling.

If these are your feelings, what you need to know is that your job in this process is to synthesize all the information you are getting into your own expression of what a National Board Certified teacher knows and does in YOUR classroom and in YOUR teaching context.

Synthesis begins with gathering information to synthesize something out of.  If you are gathering information, you are right on track. Perhaps your next step is organizing your information. If you haven’t done anything at all, please read this post.  If you have already printed and read through your instructions and standards, you can skip down to step four.

The Second Step Is To Organize Your Information

Go to the NBPTS website to download your certificate-specific instructions. If you don’t know what to do, I am going to suggest you begin with Component 2.  It’s only 15% of your total score, and a great starter component. Scroll to the bottom of the page and choose your discipline and developmental level.

Go ahead and print the instructions for the component and put them into a binder. Also, print your certificate area “Applicable Standards.”  If you are feeling like being very organized, go ahead an print out all components (1-4.) Put them in separate binders, or in the same binder with binder tabs. Make sure you have sent the permission forms home with your students and gotten them back, signed. (If you need release forms for teacher’s aides or co-teachers, or if you need the forms in Spanish, you can find them here.)

Step Three is to Read Through Your Standards and Component Instructions

Part 1—The Standards. They are nearly 100 pages long, so it will take a little time. Just for now, read through them fairly quickly with a highlighter and a pen in hand. This year you will end up reading these several times.

When you see something you already do, underline it. In the margins, write ideas of lessons you teach or activities you do that meet these standards.  Maybe there is a lesson you’ve heard about or always wanted to try— write that down if you think it could meet your standards. 

When you see buzzwords, highlight them. You may need to research words you aren’t familiar with or that seem to be used a lot. Even words that seem familiar, like “Inquiry Learning” might need more investigation. 

Part 2— Reading the Component Instructions.  Each component has a section near the front called, “What Do I Need to Do.” This is a great place to start.

For now, stop reading at “How to Format and Submit Your Materials.” You will read all of this, but not now.

The Fourth Step Is To Begin Writing

You will get the idea of an entry so much faster if you dive in and practice writing answers to the questions. The reason is that you will truly understand what kind of work is being called for and what kinds of evidence you need to collect.  Go to the section of your instructions called “Composing Written Commentary.”  Scroll down to “What to Include in Your Written Commentary.” Every one of those yellow-gold squares is a question to answer and send in to be certified.

For this practice activity, you are not trying to write well. What you are trying to do is deeply understand what kinds of lessons will allow you to showcase your most accomplished teaching when these are the questions on which you are being assessed.

Yes, these are the actual questions. So begin with the end in mind.  

Go back to the electronic copy of the instructions and copy all the questions from the Instructional Context all the way to Reflection and paste them into a blank Word document. Bold them or underline them.

Now, imagine that what you are teaching right now is what you are going to send in to the NBPTS. Start answering those questions. Find some time and force yourself to write answers to every question AS IF you were going to use the current sequence of instruction you are in. When you get to the analysis of student work, just use two different assignments you’ve had the students do.  Remember, forcing yourself to begin writing as soon as possible has been proven to work. When you feel stuck, go to the next question. You are not trying to be perfect, you are trying to learn more about what is expected of you.

When you don’t know what to write, write down the questions you need answered in order to do a good job on that one. For example, if the question is “What strategies did you use...” and you don’t know the answer, you would write, “I don’t even know what is meant by what strategies!” If I felt like this I would know to do research on teaching strategies for science vocabulary, strategies for helping students with reading comprehension, or strategies for students who can’t read; maybe strategies for working with students in groups.

After you’ve answered all the questions somehow, look at the lessons you want to teach for this component and think about those questions that you will have to answer. 

This exercise is designed to help you move forward when you feel stuck. 

Now Start Planning for Your Instruction.

 If you need mentoring or some kind of help, you can sign up for a Skype, Facetime session or phone call at

Share This Blog:


Misty From Wyoming At 11/3/2019 9:26:37 PM

You have great info! Can you please explain what exactly I need to copy "Go back to the electronic copy of the instructions and copy all the questions from the Instructional Context all the way to Reflection and paste them into a blank Word document. Bold them or underline them."

Reply by: My National Board for Teachers

Hi, Misty! When you go to the instructions for your components, you can go to "What to include in your written commentary" and there are writing instructions that have gold diamonds in front of them. Those are the prompts to copy and paste to get you started. You don't need to leave them in when you are done writing. I'll write more soon!

Previous Posts

Seven Reasons Good Teachers Don’t Achieve Their NBCT
Joetta M. Schneider NBCT

National Board Certification for Teachers--Using Buzzwords
Joetta M Schneider NBCT

Can I Begin My National Board Candidacy Now? (Part I)
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Planning to Fail your National Board Certification
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Six Tips for Writing for the National Board
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Take Heart
My National Board

Four Tips (and a Bonus!) for Improving Your National Board Scores
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

What To Do When You Feel Stuck during Your National Board Journey
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Using Newsela to Differentiate for Instruction
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

If You're Up for NBCT Renewal
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

How We Started an NBCT Candidate Support Program for Teachers
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

How To Get Started on Your National Board Certification This School Year!
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Online Cohort
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Renewing Your Spark
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

National Board Prep Workshop in Raleigh
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

You Can Now Buy the Book in Print!
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

What Should I Do After I Submit My Materials to the NBPTS?
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

The Best Time to Start National Board Certification (Part 2)
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

The Best Time To start National Board Certification for Teachers (Part 1)
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

7 Reasons Teachers Should Try National Board Certification
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Information About NBCT Renewal
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

How to Upload Your Components to NBPTS
Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT