During apple picking
Last week I began brainstorming possibilities for Entry 4, in which I will list up to eight achievements to show that I’ve met three standards (XIV. Self Reflection; XV. Professional Community; and XVI. Family Outreach). I had combed my resume for what I thought were the most impressive items, but upon receiving feedback from a couple already certified teachers, I think I might be polishing some of the wrong apples. In fact, polishing apples might be the wrong approach entirely.
For example, NBCT Cathy writes about this blog, “you show yourself as a leader, but can you show a link to student learning (as resulting from the blog, not just your thinking)??”. Good question-- does this blog somehow connect to student learning? One way that it might is that I have shared this and other writing of mine with students in class, because I want them to think of me as a member of the community of writers in our classroom.
That is central to my approach to teaching: as a writer, or a reader, I am not the keeper of all truth with a pouch of gold coins to reward to those who learn their tricks. Instead, I am on the journey with my students; we make meaning together, through conversation and writing. I will have to make the case for NBPTS examiners that my own writing not only informs my teaching, but directly helps my students with their writing.
Cathy also asks, about the summer institute for teachers in which I will participate this summer as a co-director, “[this] shows leadership, and you may be able to show learning [but] You have to be careful here, because the learning should be from your class/your community.” Another good insight. Part of the summer institute is that each participant creates a presentation for their peers about some aspect of their teaching, generally featuring examples of student work. Also, each presentation is meant to be user-friendly to working teachers, giving you lessons to take into your room the next day or year.
Both aspects -- culling examples from the work of last year’s kids and bringing new writing project lessons to my classroom next fall -- should make it easy to show a direct connection to student learning. Moreover, these comments help bring into focus what may be the most important single aspect from the three standards: “student learning.” It makes a lot of sense, really. In selecting achievements to show that I’m a good teacher, find examples of good learning.
Mary Beth, another NBCT, suggests that I might want to capture the lightning of student learning in fewer than eight bottles. In other words, include fewer than eight accomplishments, which hadn’t occurred to me before. She sent me to thoughts on Entry 4 by Florida NBCT Richard Wedig, who provides useful pointers in general as well as a good argument for the less is more approach by discussing portfolio scoring.
As I revise my views about what makes an NBPTS-worthy accomplishment, new ideas come to mind, including several that weren’t “important” enough to make it to my resume but which nevertheless show student learning in spades.
One example is a poetry unit I did with ninth graders this year in which I collaborated with a creative writing teacher of twelfth graders. We had some of her seniors come to our class near the beginning of the unit and talk about their poetry writing, and then, once my kids made their own portfolios, we sent them upstairs to get feedback. Each ninth grader eventually received a full-page letter from a senior writer with very specific comments on their work. I gave my kids a chance to revise their original poems based on the feedback for extra credit. This was a strong learning experience for some kids, and left an easy-to-follow paper trail.
I’ll continue to brainstorm, but I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson at the start. Instead of showing off what I can do, I’ve got to show off what my students have learned as a result of what I’ve done.