September, the smell of sharpened Ticonderoga #2 pencils, piles of notebook paper, and eager teachers and students. September is the spring of the education cycle.
This year about 1850 teachers are doing something different than they did last year. Something special in addition to their teaching assignment. These teachers are pursuing National Board Certification. Currently, 3.5% of Washington State teachers hold a NBCT (National Board Certified Teacher) license.
The Nature of the Certification: National Board Certification is the highest certification that a teacher can achieve. It represents strength in the art of teaching as well as knowledge in the content area in which the teacher certifies. National Board Certification is not a required process, but one taken on by teachers who, for a variety of reasons, wish to take the next step in their teaching. Most candidates state that the process of National Board certification takes between 250 and 400 hours of work outside of their teaching assignment. The portfolio requirements for each certification may differ slightly, but most have two video entries with written commentary; a student analysis entry; and a professionalism entry (4 entries total). In addition, each candidate takes 6, 30 minute, content knowledge assessments at an assessment center.
Why NBPTS Certification is Significant: Ask any certified teacher and he/she will tell you that the process of National Board changes the way he/she teaches. Additionally, it changes the way the teacher approaches the art of teaching (after all, teaching is a skill like welding, race car driving, or surgery). National Board certification is significant because it brings professionalism back to the profession of teaching. National Board certification is significant because it improves the learning environment for our students in Washington.
How NBPTS Certification Impacts Student Learning: Students who have teachers versed in the art of teaching, who can teach a skill in a variety of ways, to a multitude of learners, have an educational advantage. National Board teachers are those teachers. National Board teachers are the embodiment of the certification's 5 Core Propositions:
Proposition 1: Teachers are Committed to Students and Their Learning
Proposition 2: Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Teach Those Subjects to Students.
Proposition 3: Teachers are Responsible for Managing and Monitoring Student Learning.
Proposition 4: Teachers Think Systematically about Their Practice and Learn from Experience.
Proposition 5: Teachers are Members of Learning Communities.
To you 1850 teachers, I present the NBPTS Survival Knife. May it treat you well.
THE BOX: This is the NBPTS box in which all the materials arrive. Most candidates look through the box and start to wonder if they made a mistake by taking on such a huge project (Ps. there is no mistake there).
IBUPROFEN: Well, your muscles will get stretched. Your mind muscles from all of the thinking. Your fingers from the endless hours of writing. Your back from teaching all day and then writing all night.
COFFEE (or some treat): You will need to remember to stop and treat yourself every now and again. This helps to keep you smiling through the process. And frankly, you deserve it. National Boards is a monumental undertaking. I am impressed every year when I show up to my cohort where I facilitate candidates going through the process. It is energizing to work with so many dedicated, capable teachers.
STICKIES: You will use a case of these as you tab your directions which weigh about 9 pounds. There are other uses--providing feedback to candidates; jotting down questions for your facilitator or partners; keeping lists; keeping track of projects; or drawing a big smiley-face to place on your computer to be there when you need it.
COLLEAGUES: National Board certification is a grueling process in time, energy, and emotion. Having a support group is helpful in your success. Your support can come from a number of places from your cohort, your school, teaching partner, your principal, spouse, friend, barista, and if you are lucky, your district.
TISSUE: Well, not to be the harbinger of doom, but the process will not be without stumbling blocks. Be prepared. Take them in stride. Realize that they will pass.
For more information (like how to become an NBPTS certified teacher or how to support a candidate in your school) go to the official NBPTS web site.
Other NBPTS statistics about Washington state.
OSPI information on National Board.
WEA support for National Board.
CSTP has a poster celebrating the excellence in teaching about which NBPTS brings. You can find me, nestled at the bottom of the left-leg of the [X] in "EXCELLENCE". Even more stunning is that one of my school board members was part of that first cohort. In fact, she is the first name on the list: Edri Geiger (1994). To have a teacher on the school board is good. To have a National Board Certified teacher on the board is wonderful.