No one else has done Entry Four either. At least, none of the people that I talked to on Wednesday night at the first meeting of the NBPTS candidates support course had finished documenting their “Contributions to Student Learning.”
Several dozen of us gathered in the cafeteria at Edison high school after a hump day to “begin” in earnest the process of board certification that will culminate with the submission of a four-entry portfolio in May and a one-day battery of online essays at a testing center in June. Among those dozens were more than a handful who, like me, had taken the county’s introductory course last spring, and who probably had the same high hopes I did then that Entry Four would be complete and in the box by this time.
The main difference between those of us who had taken the intro course and those who hadn’t seemed to be that on the friendly self-assessment worksheet, “How Am I Doing?”, the newbies checked mainly “no’s”, while we seasoned veterans had most of our checks in the “yes” and “sort of” columns:
“I have read the entire standards booklet.” Umm, well, no. I’ve read a few standards though. Can I get away with a “sort of” on that, even if “entire” is in bold?
“I know which standards Entry 4 is assessing.” Yes, definitely. I wrote five blog posts on that one. I just didn’t, technically, do it. Yet. (NBPTS candidates: for a recap of these posts, see "Reuse, Recycle, Reflect" from September 2).
“I know the difference between a score of 2 and 3.” Sort of. It’s in my notes, I’m sure. I mean, I vaguely remember discussing that, around the time of the Winter Olympics. I was stuck on the couch back then and wrote something about twizzles.
Okay, okay. So maybe I’m not as prepared to begin this process as I should be. Nevertheless, I stick by the sigh of relief in my title. At least now, I have structure. A plan. A room full of people who are as anxious as I am.
The way this support seminar will work, from what I can tell, is that we show up every couple weeks for a few hours to meet with other candidates and a few already board-certified “readers” to workshop our entries. And we bring food. Perfect.
Other than that, there’s only a no-nonsense assignment schedule (“October 11: Bring 4 complete accomplishment write-ups... November 8: Bring a video clip of you teaching... March 14: FINISH YOUR PORTFOLIO!”) and a well-designed blackboard site complete with groups based on our certification areas and pictures of our instructors with their contact information, which is a snappy touch that gave me just a tad of blackboard envy.
Oh, and there’s Gail. Every one who goes through this process should have a Gail Ritchie, Fairfax County’s own mother hen when it comes to all things NBPTS. She’s smoothed the road for me several times already-- most recently, last Tuesday, when she helped me enroll late in this class even though I hadn’t, ahem, quite kept track of the details.
As well as concierge, Gail is a liaison with both the state and NBPTS, snipping red tape where she can and drawing clear lines for candidates about ethics and ethos. She emphasized the idea, from the syllabus, that Board Certification is a process and not just an end in itself: “There is no formula for a successful entry, and no one style of teaching or writing that can guarantee a passing score.” No right answers. Phew. For some reason, that makes me feel better.