One of the projects I am most excited about this year is facilitating a group of National Board candidates. We have never actually had a National Board cohort in my district before (we are a bit small and rural), but this year we have a healthy sized group--Whoo-hoo! Even a teacher from a neighboring district is joining us.
We started our first meeting with a "Hope and Fear" protocol for setting group norms that I got from one of the expert National Board trainers in our state. Participants individually wrote their hopes and fears for the National Board process, shared them, then together came up with norms that would help facilitate the hopes and prevent the fears.
One candidate expressed a fear of sharing writing. Another candidate feared “trying to do too much: Instead of doing what I do well and then reflecting, trying to do something extraordinarily ambitious.” Some fears were expressed as questions: “How will I be able to juggle all my responsibilities as a teacher and also make time for National Board Certification?” or “Will I be able to stick to a reasonable timeline?”
The conversation went on: "I hope this improves my instruction." "I hope this benefits my students." A meek "I hope I will pass" from one candidate generated a round of agreement from the rest.
Another candidate added: "Because so many of us are working on this together, I hope this is good for our district." What this last candidate said resonated with my personal reality: I had two starkly different National Board experiences. The first year, I completed one entry through the Take One! program. I was the only one around working on this, and had no support--it was an isolating experience. Yes, it was intense learning, and overall very positive, but I was on my own.
The next year I joined a cohort in a neighboring district and completed the rest of the portfolio. The experience of going through the process with a group was so much richer than going it alone--reflection on practice no longer meant just thinking about it in my head as I went running after school, but instead sharing with and listening to others--people I remain in close contact with to this day.
So when the candidate said, "Because so many of us are working on this together, I hope this is good for our district." I thought of something another NBCT told me: "When one teacher goes through the National Board process, it is certification. When a group of teachers goes through the process together, it is education reform." Alright then--let's hear it for teachers working together!