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Stormy Monday

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As I drove to work one morning last week, dark clouds began to form. I was discouraged with the feedback I’d been getting about my accomplishment write-ups. Responses to my Entry Four attempts from various quarters, this blog included, have essentially been a no-nonsense chorus of so what’s.

Should I pull the plug on this NBPTS thing, I half wondered? Am I just not the kind of teacher that registers on their scale? Forgotten comments on earlier posts came back to me, those voices of teachers who hadn’t made it. I read those words of warning with a cavalier attitude then—this won’t be me, I thought. Now I wasn’t sure.

Thank goodness I ran into Barb, an already Board-certified colleague whose own no-nonsense advice dispelled the clouds. First, she said, stop worrying so much about “student achievement,” the drumbeat of Entry Four. The NBPTS process, she postulates, is largely geared to a population of kids we don’t have—low- and mid-level achievers whose test scores need to be raised. Not that Barb and I don’t care about making kids better. We’re teachers. Of course we do. But at our school, achievement per se is not an issue. Scores on virtually any scale are incredibly high. Our challenge is how to engage the gifted learner.

To me, for example, making the canoe in this context is a dynamite experience. These bookish kids need to get out there and swing an axe— I know this project is something that they’ll always remember. While the connections this project fosters with parents, community and my colleagues are strong, I can see that I’ll have to struggle to link it to student achievement. Unfortunately, by the NBPTS measure, the character building and hands-on experience that matter to me in this project don’t rate. That’s disheartening.

Being a freelance writer is another accomplishment that’s important to me and central to who I am as a teacher. But, in the words of a recent commenter on the blog (and before that, Miles Davis): So what? Showing the link between my writing and student achievement will be difficult at best, even though I know it’s there.

Accept the fact that you may not fully convince the readers, said Barb, and move on. Or, consider other things you do that are less glamorous but easier to document, like sponsoring a tutoring program at a local elementary school. Get your points on the other entries, Barb concluded, and just assume that for your accomplishments, you won’t get the highest score.

Remember, she adds, that your goal is to get the points. In order to pass. To get the money. This may sound Machiavellian, but, as Alfie Kohn acknowledges even if most educators do not, any point system begs to be gamed. And, as I stated frankly in my first post, while I relish the professional challenge, if this process wasn’t worth $50,000 to me, I wouldn’t be doing it.

(By the way: Wednesday wasn’t as bad. I went to the NBPTS support class and made headway in revising my entries, following the explicit advice of “Marybeth NBCT” commenting on “Phew”: keep the bible open next to you on the desk. That’s a little depressing, too, but it works.)

4 Comments

We are our own worse critic. From all that I have read, you are progressing. I think your portfolio is going to be outstanding.
I am keeping notes for when I venture into this path as I have learned from you while you are.

I am going through national boards too. I was saying the same thing to a friend of mine yesterday....it was encouraging to read someone else who felt the same way. Thanks.

I am only a fourth year teacher ,in Special Education. My 1st year they told me I had spent all that money and I wasn't highly qualified. I wouldn't be able to teach unless I got the Reading Endorsement. Now The people at National Boards think I have to do something over and above what I already do to prove I'm certifiable. How about some extra time to do all the extra paperwork and pay for my cell phone calls till 11:00 at night. Yes I'm sure anyone who does all this and still strives to achieve more is definately certifiable. My question is in what other "Profession" do people have to do extra work ALL the time for not even a thank you to be considered qualified

This is my 3th time ( and last) doing National and I can't pass my entry four. All my teaching entries are fine but how come non of my personal accomplishments are good enough. How can you decided that other people accomplishments are not good?

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