National Board Certification for Teachers (NBPTS), why I went through the process and how it changed me
Who I was ..
At the ripe age of 25, I had finished my masters in educational administration and had been teaching for several years. I graduated college shortly before my 22 birthday and promptly found a dream job that I was expecting to be in for another 10 years. Starting out teaching as a math specialist made me change what I thought my goals were and who i wanted to become. For awhile I thought I wanted to be an administrator. I might still want to be one but at this point I haven't decided who I am yet, after all i am only 32. I finished my masters degree and decided I needed another challenge because I didn't feel like anyone was going to hire a fresh faced 25 yr old to be their principal. So with very little thought I applied for Illinois stipend and quickly found myself a NBPTS candidate. I didn't know anyone with this certification and looking back I have no idea what I was getting myself into.
Have you ever heard of National Board Certified Teachers?
The box arrives ....
The very small but very powerful box arrived at my house. I open it and quickly realized, what have I gotten myself into? With very little guidance I began my journey into a world that would not only change me, but my students, my teaching, and my world.
The first 6 months after the box arrived I was completely on my own. I had little support from a school district that knew nothing about the process and less support from others around me that didn't understand why I would do this. I have always been a little too motivated for my own good.
I finally did find a group of teachers that were working on the process and attended several of the cohort meetings, always feeling like an outsider. They were not very welcoming to say the least. It was a group mostly made up of teachers from one school and everyone was at least 10 years older than me. I did get a good read on the direction I was headed and saw I great deal of what I was working on was high caliber material.
Before I became a NBPTS candidate.
I didn't take time to reflect on my lessons and think about what could be done differently depending on the needs of the students. I took the curriculum for what it was cut and dry. I didn't differentiate in the correct way. I didn't analyze and over analyze what my students needed. My students failures only belonged to them, I didn't take responsibility for my students learning. The modifications I made were a guessing game without a true understanding of why I was making the modification or how it affected the child both academically and social/emotionally.
A New Way of Thinking
Teaching is all about the data. I am a math teacher so this made sense to me a long time before it made sense to the people I worked with. Data drives my teaching. Data is about the students. This is not about teaching to the test or making sure the students do well on the standardized tests. This is about assessing informally and formally with in the classroom and actually using that data to learn about the students and to drive the lessons based on that data.
I teach my students only what they didn't know. After I started creating better assessments and seeing what my students needed and what they didn't it changed what I needed to teach. I was surprised by what my students knew and sometimes by what they didn't know. When my students struggled it became a challenge to me to see how I could meet their needs and what I needed to change to reach their learning needs. My perspective on teaching changed and how I wanted to be seen by my students changed.
I became a true partner with the parents. My communication with them became a joy instead of the fear I had once felt about a parents contacting me. I looked forward to parent teacher conferences because by the time November came around I knew the parents, we had a plan, and there were very few lingering issues that needed to be dealt with.
I knew my students better than I ever had before. I was invested in their learning and success in a way I never knew possible.
It was not an easy process. I did not pass the first year, in fact I missed certifying by 2 points. It was a wake up call that I wasn't doing enough and that I needed to do more. When I looked over my scores that year I realized that my teaching was more than NBPTS quality by that youngness got to me. I didn't have the experience and knowledge to articulate my professional development and how it helped my students and created a community. The next year was all about focus on my professional development and using it to directly impact the learning of my students.
When I finally saw the screen that said congratulations after the second year I knew that I still had to continually create myself into a better teacher but now I knew how and had the skills and knowledge to help my students.
It hasn't always been easy because I challenge other teachers to look at their own teaching. I am still younger than most NBCT's and younger than most of the teachers I work with. My certification has taken me to jobs I hadn't dreamed of and lead me to places i never thought I would be. Both good and bad. Being confident in my teaching and knowing that I am always working for what is best for my students doesn't alway align with the plan of others. I have learned that I will continue to be a great teacher and have faith that this is what the process is about. it is about making yourself over into the best possible teacher you can be and than pushing you 10 feet farther.
I did this for my students both past, present, and future. I am the future of teaching. I am NBCT.