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How Many Angels?

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How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? This question of cosmic choreography, long the realm of medieval rabbis and more recently of interest to Madonna, a famous celebrity convert to the strain of Jewish mysticism known as cabbalah, suddenly seems more important to me than it did before I started on the path to National Board enlightenment.

You see, the National Board’s Standards alone run to about 90 pages. (These are sort of like the Ten Commandments, except there are sixteen of them, identified by Roman numerals.) Download and print the instructions for the portfolio, and you add another bible thick three-ring to the pile on your desk.

Granted, I’m not sure the holy Box spoken of by my already ordained colleagues is quite what it used to be. In years before one waited to receive the novitiate’s treasure trove by snail mail. Now all divine guidance comes by a single cd rom.

Numerology in cabbalah assigns values to letters, and so reveals mathematical patterns in scriptural phrases. NBPTS has its own arcana. For instance, the fourth portfolio entry, I found out last class, should be twelve pages long and demonstrate achievement across three standards by discussing eight accomplishments within three distinct categories. (As described in the NBPTS instructions for Entry 4: the standards are: X. Reflective Practice, XI. Linkages with Families, and XII. Professional Leadership; the three “categories” are: as a partner with students’ families and their community, as a learner, and as a leader or collaborator.) When mailed in, I’m pretty sure all this must be submitted under the seventh seal.

“It’s all teacher-written,” our instructors assure us. Composition by committee instead of divine hand may account for the use of words like “Linkages” instead of “Links,” or that “Linkages with Families” is assigned Roman numeral XI in the “English as a New Language” certification area, but is given a different name and Roman numeral in the Adolescence and Young Adulthood category (XVI. Family and Community Involvement).

Hopefully it also means that the standards, awkwardly packaged as they may be, speak to some fundamental truths about our profession. Once I have studied them more deeply I may have some answers. Until then, I and the other experienced teachers starting this quest for self-improvement feel as Madonna probably did at her first session with a bearded Talmudic scholar.

10 Comments

Since I'm only in my second year of teaching I am not eligible to go to board certification yet. I wonder if I'll be so motivated! Good luck to you, I look forward to reading about your epic voyage!

Didn't mean to post anonymously - from one blogger to another, I appreciate that you are writing about your effort. We all need to share what we know, and what we're going through to better ourselves.

Emmet,
I am growing the beard as I write this. My portfolio is due Mar.31. I will shave it then, and maenwhile try not to get any crumbs in it. I teach art at Osbourn High School. Is Don Okasaki still there at TJ? If so, tell him Nancy from his VCU painting class says hi.
If you need anyone to talk you out of this, I'm your woman. Just kidding.
Nancy

When I did my National Boards, I relied heavily on my doctoral experience to crank out those portfoilios. There is little creativity allowed in the actual writing of them. What must be creative is your "content" that supports them. Nonetheless, I had little trouble writing 90 pages, but I think that many teachers without a doctorate or a Master's degree with a rigorous thesis, may find it a struggle. Many teachers do the Boards in groups; that is, they go along as others at their school are as well. Then they meet and read each other's portfolio drafts. The good news: the instructions are really clear and tell you want to write about each step of the way.

Keep it up. I did not pass National Board the first time in EAMATH. After getting it the second time around, I can assure you that you will have an immense sense of satisfaction.
Emilou Butler
Saline, Louisiana

The best part about National Boards is freedom to say it the way you want. Don't let the "experts" in your district load you up with unneccesary formats and "good" approaches. I am certified (certifiable?) and I've assessed for NBPTS several times. The best stuff comes from the experiences and methodologies of individual teachers. I can assure you, there's no template or checklist - just a solid rubric that allows for creativity in candidates' approaches. Good teaching is good teaching, not some standadrdized model of success. Just tell the board why you are good and how you know it. Those page requirements are MAXIMUMS, not minimums - say what you need to, back it up and let the assessors do their jobs. 600 hours? If you know your stuff and are organized, there's no need to even begin to approach that number!

I certified in EA Math this past year on my first try. I think one thing that really helped me was reading the Standards many times. I downloaded them from the internet over a year before my portfolio was due and read them all. I highlighted the key ideas and made notes of the things I did that demonstrated the standards. I also identified weak areas and looked for ways to improve my practice in those areas. As I worked on each entry, I read again (and again) the standards for each entry and included as many phrases from the standards as possible. I then bolded those phrases in my writing to make them easy for assessors to find. Good luck to you!

Brett Helm CONGRATULATIONS. I am glad you got certified first time. I thought about it on September 29th,2005 and filled the form. Unfortunately , I withdrew my application for 2006 year because I am not ready . I am not sure I will get motivated again or not. I am happy for you.
Stranger to you.
Sue

Brett Helm CONGRATULATIONS. I am glad you got certified first time. I thought about it on September 29th,2005 and filled the form. Unfortunately , I withdrew my application for 2006 year because I am not ready . I am not sure I will get motivated again or not. I am happy for you.
Stranger to you.
Sue

I love Jennyfer :*

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