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Because It's There

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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.

33 Comments

I know exactly how you feel. I was one of those 1/3 who do not pass first time around. I finally passed and received word in November 05. Believe me it was worth the effort. I still have not been compensated but I know it is coming. I'll be interested to watch your progress. Good luck
dianna

Emmet, Hurray for you! I started a NB program in Austin, TX. My experience of supporting our teachers (largest group in TX)go is that the rigor, reflection and reciprocity of working with colleague of the process transforms their work no matter how "good" a teacher they are before. If you need any virtual support, let us know. Austin ISD has incredible teachers who'd love to help. I admire you greatly!

Terry

CONGRATS! You are about to go on a journey that will challenge you...frustrate you...and empower you. I received my NBC in 1999, however, I am from a state where the most I got was a box of donuts in the teachers' lounge...however, I would do it again, and will through renewal in a couple of years...I learned so much about myself as a teacher...and about myself as a person...I found out that after 25 years of teaching, you can feel renewed...and change your teaching after all that time! I'll be looking for your name on the list of new NBCTs!....GO, EMMET, GO!!!!!

Good for you! I teach future teachers at the University of Texas and I plan to share your journey with them.

Deep breaths and lots of chocolate!

Holding oneself to a higher standard, is what drives any profession. You are not working in isolation, you are giving to all of us! You are not nuts, you know inside that there is more to our profession. Working for excellence raises us all! Go Man Go!

Good luck to you and the others who are working toward national
certification! Yes, it IS a very worthwhile project, and I found it to be a lot of work, but with all that I learned about teaching and
learning, it was worth it. I've been a middle school teacher for 28 years now, and I went for NBPTS certification 3 years ago. I felt that my portfolio was well done, but was somewhat worried about the
TEST at the end. Everything I've believed about standardized testing under timed situations then stared me in the face. It was
devastating! I knew the math questions, but the computer did not
give me enough time to think through and type out the responses . I went into the testing center feeling so confident, yet left feeling dejected and discouraged. Thus, my hunch came through as I opened the envelope telling me I didn't make it. It was the test that did it. I truly believe that kind of testing situation doesn't allow teachers to really show the extent of their knowledge. The NBPTS board needs to look at other options for testing content knowledge. Again, good luck! I wish you the best, but I know I won't try for it again.
Can't afford it on my Catholic school teacher's salary!!

I believe you will find my web site of interest. As a blogger you have a great opportunity to use the latest streaming media technology to chronicle your studies via video email, video instant messaging and even live video broadcasting. Call me with any questions. 847-553-4657

Hey Emmet-way to go! Just getting it together to start the process is a big step. It is so very worthwhile and really changed the way I approach teaching. Support/cohort groups at the local/state level really help but it can be done virtually just as easily. Get as many different colleagues as you can to assist you-especially to read your entries and remember auto-hyphenate in Word is your friend! Best of luck, Ann Schuster, NBCT, EYCA Library Media, 2003.

You made the best decision and will not regret doing this! I certified in 2003 in CA and found the process empowering-yes it was frustrating at times but validating more so. Go for it and stay focused. My support group was the best don't be afraid to let otherts critique your writing and vide entries, the feedback is valuable.

I am very interested in how you have come to the decision to do this--and what a decision.

Wishing you the very best and anxious to read the next entry.

Regards,
Bill

Emmet no you are not nuts. Go for it!! I wish you a lot of success in accomplishing your goal to become a NBCT.This is an opportunity to step out on faith. What you believe you can achieve!!! God Bless you

You've made an important decision. The process is a total growth experience. I know that many NBCT's will agree with me that you learn more through this process than in earning a masters degree.
Getting certified in 2001 has opened many doors for me in getting to take on new professional challenges, such as presenting trainings, serving on committees, etc.
Good luck!
Debbie in Florida

Emmet,
I teach 8th grade English and certified the first time in 1997 - renewing (I hope!) next year. The incentives have dwindled in Ohio and there is no incentive for me financially to renew. In fact, it will be expensive. I love your answer "because it's there." As a professional, I want to know if my practice measures up. I want to give school board members and parents proof that it does. NB isn't as widely recognized and understood yet as I hoped it would be, but when it is, I want to have it! Hunker down, surround yourself with people who support you, and be prepared to learn, learn, learn!
Best wishes,
Becky

Emmet,

As a teacher candidate at vtech in in the capital region, I'll be following your journey with interest. I can envision myself where you are a few years from now. Best of luck!

It is worth the journey whether you are in a state that pays or not. It will make you become a reflective teacher and you will automatically become a better one because of that fact alone. The extra pay is indeed very nice. However, feeling so accomplished at what you love to do is an achievement in itself. Good Luck!

That is the best reason for why we take on any challenge....bravo and good luck..

Dear Emmet,

Knowing I've not always understood my own reasons for doing things until after they're long finished, I salute you! and say hello --

Andrea

Go get 'em, Emmet -- I think you'll find the personal reflection this requires is its own greatest reward. The money, of course, does not hurt! Let me know if I can assist. Kudos!
-Bill

You go, Emmet!
I recall you from college as someone who is true to yourself and tuned in to people as unique individuals. That's all you need in your backpack to make this a powerful professional development experience! Keep asking yourself hard questions and be open to answers you don't expect. Enjoy the ride!
By the way, I am a fellow NBCT (although I am due for renewal) currently conducting research on NBCTs career experiences. Check out our project work at: www.gse.harvard.edu/~ngt.

Hey Emmet - Glad to see you are still keeping so active up there. Good luck with boards. They are a beast! It had to have been the most challenging endeavor of my teaching career - even more self-reflective than the Summer Institute - if you can imagine! After the video taping, you will feel so much relief, too. You will never think about your teaching the same way again! Find a mentor!

Chris Woods (-:
NVWP TC '96

Hello Mr. Rosenfeld! Thanks for starting a blog. You'll finally get a chance to connect with all the blogging students, as we will get to connect with you through your chronicles. I look forward to the numerous experiences that our class will have together as you grow ever closer to your goal. Perhaps some camcorder mishaps and candid camera moments are to be expected. Whatever will happen, we'll be there for you, giving what we deem are words of wisdom, our unique brand of humor, and most of all, writing.

All the best,
Angela Tran

Good luck! You can do it. Remember to save one day at the end just to make sure everything gets in the right envelope with the right documentation--or prepare the box and envelopes in advance. I got my certification in 2002 in EAELA-Early Adolescent English Language Arts. The hard part about taking two years was that they sent me a brand new reading list--totally different books for the second year, and it was a challenge to read them all. The other frustration was discussing the texts at the testing center without being able to underline or italicize. The first year they focused on one of two books I had not been able to find, and the second year they allowed us to write on any books, but I didn't know until I got to the test center, which by the way had been moved. It's really fun to juggle all those standards, texts, student samples, and page limitations, but it is rewarding to pass. I am the only NBCT in my district, (and I'm over 50 and was teaching self contained sixth grade with no prep time),but I did get some guidance and lots of encouragement from a Stanford University group. I also was able to purchase a Prius with the help of our state awards. Sincerely, Winnie Doty

I am so happy to hear you are taking on the challenge. I am a NBCT who has 5 children of my own and I was able to meet the challenge head on and pass the first time around. I know you will do well if you put your mind to it. Why do we do it? Many times we reflect upon ourselves and ask are we really a good teacher. Perhaps it is because so seldom are we recognized and shown appreciation. Yet teachers are easily "called upon the carpet" for the times where we must defend our stand. I took the challenge to prove to myself that I AM the kind of teacher who makes a difference. It was simply something I had to prove to myself. Good luck and email me if you need any support.
God Bless.

I am so happy to hear you are taking on the challenge. This is my 13th year teaching and I teach in Florida. I am a NBCT who has 5 children of my own and I was able to meet the challenge head on and pass the first time around. I know you will do well if you put your mind to it. Why do we do it? Many times we reflect upon ourselves and ask are we really a good teacher. Perhaps it is because so seldom are we recognized and shown appreciation. Yet teachers are easily "called upon the carpet" for the times where we must defend our stand. I took the challenge to prove to myself that I AM the kind of teacher who makes a difference. It was simply something I had to prove to myself. Good luck and email me if you need any support.
God Bless.

Congratulations for attempting National Board Certification, and good luck! I'm the only one in my Massachusetts district who is certified. It was a grueling process; I sobbed for 10 minutes when I finally sealed that box! The videotapes are quite enlightening, and something I continue to do periodically to check things out. The best lesson learned from the process is that time for reflection is necessary and valuable, even more so than preparing tomorrow's lesson!

Congratulations for attempting National Board Certification, and good luck! I'm the only one in my Massachusetts district who is certified, and people don't know much about it or appreciate the achievement. Most of the incentives in Massachusetts have been cut from the budget, but I may get a partial bonus this year for the first time. National Board was a grueling process; I sobbed for 10 minutes when I finally sealed that box! The videotapes are quite enlightening, and something I continue to do periodically to check things out. The best lesson learned from the process is that time for reflection is necessary and valuable, even more so than preparing tomorrow's lesson!

Emmet,
I enjoyed your analogy and certainly the comments you have already received. As a founding Board member, deeply entrenched in policy, planning and initial implementation of Board activities, I revel in the progress we have made. Sure, it's not perfect, but you all are living our dream, and we are so proud of you for sticking with it.
Susan

Emmet : WOuld like to interview you for www.educationnews.org regarding your quest for teacher certification...

you can click on my name at www.educationnews.org to see that I am legit

THANKS
Michael F. Shaughnessy

Good to hear that you are motivated to continue on your journey to accomplishing your goal to be a NBC teacher.God is with you because He knows your heart. God Bless you ,and hang in there!!!

Emmet,
"We who pee at 10:23.." Thank you for the laugh this morning. I'm programmed for 8:15 and woe is me if I'm in a meeting!
Reading the 5 core propositions in 1996 were what convinced me to go forward as a candidate. Your reflections encourage me. Thank you, Becky

Emmet,

I enjoyed your postings. I am an English teacher in Loudoun county, VA and hope to begin the NBC process this summer. I am coming at this from a slightly different angle, as I was a teacher for years, got a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, worked in administration for a few years, and then decided to go back to the classroom two years ago. I am a bit jealous of your support program in Fairfax, as it does not seem that Loudoun has any such program and I am trying to find someone to link up with for support and feedback. I will continue to follow your posts for guidance and inspiration!

Thanks,

Chris

I have been a mentor for an NBC support group for 5 years after achieving my certification in 1999. Every year, the candidates feel like they are the only ones who understand the stress and frustration they are going through a you described. Thanks for going public with your own real experience.

It's really not as bad as it seems. I achieved my certification in 1998 as one of the candidates in the very first group in Maryland. I now live in Loudoun County and have mentored teachers here going through the process. Hang in there! I look forward to reading your name on the list of new NBCTs!

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