Because It's There
Am I nuts? Can I do it? I am a 13-year teacher about to take on one of the toughest challenges the profession has to offer--national-board certification--and this blog will chronicle the effort. So far, I’ve been to a couple meetings of a five-session introductory class offered by Fairfax County to would-be candidates. A few steps into what they warn us may be a 600-hour journey.
From a distance, the requirements look simple, like a snow-capped peak against a clear blue sky: four portfolio entries including a couple videotapes of me teaching, and a day of computer-center tests. But this mountain has claimed more than a few of us.
Less than a third of those who go for board certification nationally achieve it on the first try. And, while over 40,000 teachers have passed the test since its inception in 1993, in my state, Virginia, there are currently fewer than 1000 active board-certified teachers. New York has about half that number.
So why bother? A board-certified colleague of mine who I’ll call the Artful Roger for his ability to get a lot done without appearing to sweat boiled it down to five words: 50 grand over ten years. For me, a teacher-writer whose epitaph may well be, “Read widely, paid little,” that kind of a bump is hard to resist.
But it’s more than the money, of course. It’s a chance to answer that question that gnaws at every one of us who stands in front of kids, day after day, and professes to wisdom: Am I a fraud?
Reading a chapter five minutes before they come in the door or trying to be interested in a stack of third quarter essays that I can almost grade without reading is not teacher of the year stuff. But it’s real.
Fortunately, the other stuff is real, too. Like when pulseless seniors reading Margaret Edson’s Wit come alive when the heroine recites a John Donne sonnet I made them “translate” before reading the play. Or when ninth graders make a poster about The Perfect Storm all covered with blue crepe paper and little fishing rods made out of sticks and pieces of yarn that cleverly underline examples of imagery from the text.
So, am I nuts? Can I do it? I’ll seek answers over the course of the next year in this blog. And as to that last one: Why bother? I can beat Roger by two words. Because it’s there.