The top priority of the Quality Education Council Report is to “Make Progress Toward Ample Funding for Basic Education.” The QEC recognizes many “non—basic education programs to be essential for providing critical services for students” – including funds for professional development. A little further down the list of priorities is support for the recruitment, development, placement, and retention of educators who are culturally competent and possess skills and competencies in language acquisition.
That’s what I do. I am part of a team of six Instructional Mentors who oversee the novice teacher induction program. But funding for our position does not come from the state.
The Wait. It can be stressful. One National Board candidate-in-waiting said a few days ago: "Just rip the band-aid off!" A renewal candidate emailed his thoughts in the week before renewal decision release--here's his exact quote: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggghhhh!"
It's a bit like Christmas Eve, but you don't know what kind of present you will be getting in the morning. All across the country right now, National Board candidates are waiting for score release, the day they find out if they certified, or did not certify yet.
National Board Certification has a cycle. First candidates make the decision to pursue the rigorous certification--it's extraordinary professional development, but also a lot of work! The next phase of the cycle? Completing a portfolio based on a set of national teaching standards. Finally being able to hit "submit" on the ePortfolio is a big moment. Taking the assessment center exercises can be intense, and often happens near the end of the school year. The shared experiences throughout this cycle contribute to National Board teachers having something of a group identity--when meeting for the first time, they know they have a background in common!
We are now in the waiting portion of the cycle. The wait is a unique time. A few years ago, in the last few weeks of waiting to find out if I certified, someone pointed out to me that adults don't always get as many opportunities for anticipation as kids do--and waiting to find out the results of National Board Certification is one, so try to enjoy the period of anticipation! It wasn't bad advice.
Then, of course, the ever-cheerful candidate support providers weigh in with a chirpy, "It's a three year process!" And it is a three year process. And while it may sound trite, simply submitting a complete National Board portfolio is in and of itself a huge accomplishment--it's almost impossible not to develop as a reflective practitioner just by pursuing certification. Candidates who do not certify the first time face disappointment, but often those who decide to continue a second or third time report even greater professional growth. Score release is a time to congratulate those who certify. It's also a time to support those who do not certify in providing more evidence next time if they wish to continue.
So there is a cycle, and with National Board 3.0, that cycle is going to be changing. What will that look like exactly? Well, we should be finding out more this upcoming year. For the moment, however? Let's put our thoughts towards the candidates, the individuals who have worked so hard this past year. Good luck to all those current candidates-in-waiting!
The following is a guest-post from Sarah Applegate, an NBCT teacher librarian at River Ridge High School in Lacey Washington. She is passionate about quality information literacy instruction, working with teachers to provide a wide range of resources for students, and dark, bitter Finnish licorice.
I have a confession.
I am a “Finnophile” (“one who
loves all things from Finland”) and a “ChauvaFinn”
(“one who displays excessive pride in Finland”) yet I hold an American passport.
My friends and colleagues will
tell you that since I returned from a Fulbright study in Finland in 2011, I
have sought out every opportunity to reflect upon and share what I learned and
observed during my research on the Finnish education and library system. Some might say I sought out TOO many
opportunities- during casual dinners, on long runs, and while watching our kids
at the park, to share memories,
insights and observations from my time in Finland. While embracing my Finnish obsession,
I have continued to reflect on what I observed while in Finnish schools and
libraries. I have constantly considered how schools in Washington could learn
from Finnish education practice and translate them into Washington state
On September 21, I was finally able to make connections
between what I had learned and observed in Finland through a Finnish Education
Conference, funded by the US Department of State with support from CSTP and
WEA. We gathered 50 teachers from Washington to hear and think about what makes
Finland’s education system work and how their approaches could be used in
Washington state schools. I brought together four US Finland Fulbright
teachers, as well as two Finnish teachers, to speak on how Finland organizes
their education system, designs and delivers instruction and trains their teachers.
During the morning, participants were able to learn about Finnish education practices
and in the afternoon, teachers a chance to “translate” what they had learned to
their own teaching context and plan for potential implementation of Finnish
practices in their Washington state setting. What we translated has some promising implications for us in our schools - read on to see what we cooked up.
I had an amazing mentor my first year of teaching. Fresh out of my M.A.T. program and almost three hundred miles away from my small-town home, she was exactly what I needed.
A great start makes all the difference.
Any investment we can make in a great beginning is a worthy investment, whether for our pre-K kids, our own new students in September, or for those teachers just starting their careers. Of course, resources are sometimes the stumbling block. However, the Beginning Educator Support Program is a way to provide opportunities for early-service teachers. Grant applications are due October 4th... so get those ducks and row them up. Here is the text of a recent email from CSTP about this work:
Districts or consortia of districts may apply now for grants from the Beginning Educator Support (BEST) Program, administered by OSPI and funded by the legislature. BEST provides competitive grants for districts to create comprehensive support for early-career teachers. Specifically, BEST grants provide $2500 per first year teacher, $2000 per second year teacher and $500 for other provisional-status teachers who change assignments. Districts agree to provide a paid orientation for new teachers, well-trained mentors, professional learning for both new teachers and mentors, and release time for mentors and mentees to observe others.
Applications are due to OSPI by 5 pm on Monday, Oct. 4. You can find the application and more information about BEST here - http://www.k12.wa.us/BEST/.
As exciting is the recent news that the state of Washington has been selected to part of a $15 million, three-year grant program from the U.S. Department of Education via the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and which will be collaboratively administered by the powerful trifecta of WEA, OSPI and CSTP in the coming school years. These grants are in part aimed at cultivating teacher capacity as instructional leaders. The name of the program, SEED (which stands for Supporting Effective Educator Development), says it all.
Some time ago I was struggling to set up procedures during my literacy instruction. I was attempting to meet with a guided reading group while the reminder of my class was engaged independently in a meaningful activity. For some students the “independent” activity was a too challenging and they needed support. For other students it was too easy and they were finishing early. Other students had difficulty remaining on task and caused disruptions. These are the challenges of a novice teacher.
All things considered I was doing pretty well but I knew it could be done better. But I wasn’t sure how. I was building the boat as I was crossing the ocean.
I spoke with some other teachers and we shared the same struggles. After I confided in my principal I found this “struggle” reflected in my evaluation. Prior to that evaluators found little to criticize. I regretted opening up my practice.
Principals are near useless. Near…I would not be so mean as to say totally. I know they serve a purpose. But, hey, let’s be honest. How often is your principal in your classroom? If you are lucky, it is twice a year for the district mandated formal observation. Principals do not teach classes so how could a principal possibly understand life in your classroom? They cannot relate. When seen in the big picture, principals do not do much to impact instruction, and as such, are near useless.
Nearly every training and inservice repeats the same mantra: we must increase student learning. So we get shipped off to learn about a new strategy or a new tool or a new curriculum. We meet about goal setting and analyzing student data and impact on student learning. We are constantly doing extra in an effort to better the service we provide our students.
All that extra work, and it turns out there is something out there which has delivered a measurable impact on student learning, and it doesn't involve a special training or new curriculum.
A recent article printed in the Christian Science Monitor covered the issue of teacher training (http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0327/p01s01-ussc.html?page=1). The key controversy is that ”Some policymakers say the focus needs to be on improving traditional education schools, which produce 4 out of 5 teachers in the United States. Others are strong advocates of so-called alternative models designed to streamline entry into teaching for exceptionally talented students or mid-career professionals.”
As I sit through yet another sound bite for differentiating instruction based on the needs of my students, and as I am being asked to contemplate taking part in an alternative academy for low-performing ninth graders next year, I marvel again that we, as educators, don’t practice what we preach. Why should we expect every prospective teacher to flourish under the exact same training? We certainly don’t expect that from the kids in our classrooms.
I remember when I signed up for NBPTS. I was filled with the excitement of the challenge, the excellence. I remember when I received my NBPTS box. I was filled with sheesh, what have I gotten myself into. Now that I have gone through the certification process, I am a stronger teacher which, ultimately, benefits my students.
When taking down an education system, it is important to know which areas are crucial and will cause the most future distress. Once you have targeted that, you will be able to take down an education system in a few easy steps.
Disclaimer to all administrators past, present, and future: I am sure you are all wonderful people. Work hard, care about students. Just wonderful. Smiley folks. Perhaps even a bit jollier than the average person. Smarter, too, I reckon. However, a colleague of mine just started his administration program and I have to admit, I felt a bit of sadness.
Everything I needed to know about teaching, I learned as a parent.
Okay, not really. It was a reciprocal deal. Being a parent helped me become a good teacher, but being a good teacher helped me become a better parent. Mine was a mid-life career change (“early” mid-life, hopefully). My first year of teaching (9th-grade English) was the year my daughter was a 9th grader. I remember the first time I told a student, “That might work with your other teachers, but it won't work with me. I've got one of you at home, and I know that trick!” She and the rest of the class laughed with me.