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Another Gray Hair


When I got home from work on January 23, there was an open letter on the table near the door. From NBPTS and dated January 9, it said I hadn’t submitted the required forms to confirm my eligibility. If I didn’t do so by January 31, I was out of luck. As in, not a candidate this year.

My first response, of course, was to yell toward the kitchen, in the general direction of my wife: “Didn’t you SEE this? This is serious! (yadda, yadda, yadda).” She calmly explained that she’d only opened it earlier that day, and she knew I’d see it when I got home (yadda, yadda, yadda). Meanwhile, my 6-year old was mocking me from the living room, quoting the catchphrase of the lisping duckling in Wonder Pets, our 2-year old’s current favorite show: “Thith ith THEE-rious.”

I gathered my wits about me and resolved to deal with the situation in a level-headed way. I ran downstairs to my office, logged onto the NBPTS website, and searched for the forms. What forms? Where were the flipping forms on this website? I would have to do this tomorrow. It was time to go teach night school. (Did I mention that I have picked up a freshman comp class at NOVA two nights a week? Now that the GMU course is over, the hardest working teacher in the education business moves on. You know me: It’s All About the Money.)

The next morning I had a free period first block. I called NBPTS, but their help lines were busy. At 9 am, EST? There must be a million teachers out there trying to file this paperwork, I think.

Next I call Gail, the FCPS NBTPS guru. Always accessible, knows the answer or can find it. She doesn’t pick up. I leave a message, my tone one of thinly veiled desperation: I can’t find the forms. I start composing an email to Gail to explain that I can’t find the forms. Multitasking, I log onto the NBPTS website. I find the forms.

I print the 15 page pdf and begin reading desperately. It’s tough to skim legalese. Also, they aren’t numbered and all the instruction pages get mixed up. They look more or less the same, but I’m sure I’m missing crucial differences in prepositions.

The crux of the problem rapidly becomes clear: I’ve been too peripatetic. I’ve taught at TJ in FCPS for 2 yrs; before that, at an independent school for 2 yrs; before that, at another high school in Fairfax County for 10 years. Because I haven’t stayed for the last three years in one school district, I need to fill out various forms to prove that I’ve been teaching at licensed schools. Do I have to get them signed at ACDS? Do I need to go through FCPS HR? Or, worse yet, George Mason’s registrar, to prove I have a diploma? I am sunk.

I take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world. What do I have to lose if I am declared ineligible? There’s the time I’ve sunk into three nearly finished portfolio entries. This blog. My professional reputation. Oh God… the registrar at GMU? Who do I know at GMU? Can I go there on the upcoming teacher work days? They’re sticklers over there. Yadda yadda.

I take a deep breath. I call NBPTS again. I’m number one in the queue. Someone answers the phone! I explain my situation, interrupting myself to ask about the date on the letter: January 9? How could I get a letter this important 2 weeks late? How can I do this in one week?

She interrupts calmly: “We had an ice storm. The mail got held up.” Ice storm? In Texas? An act of God—does that get me an extension? My mind is whirring.

“Sir?... Sir!...” The voice is pulling me back. Don’t go towards the light…

“You only need to fill out one form. You also need to copy your teaching license and send that along. You can fax it to us. Do you have the fax number?”



“Yes,” I mumbled. “One form? Are you sure?”
“Yes, sir. Do you need the fax number?”
“I’ve got the fax. Are you sure I can fax it?”
“Yes, you can fax it. Just get it here by January 31st.”
“Thank you.” I’m not sure how many times I repeat it.


I went home. I filled out the form. I found a bar code label in the blue box and added that to the form. The next day, I took it to school, and the principal’s secretary stamped it and faxed it to Texas.

It was done. All had not been lost. With a sigh of relief, I sat down to this keyboard after lunch to type out my sad story. To purge. To move on with my life.

Near the end of the post, a familiar ding announced the arrival of a new email message. I clicked over. It was the principal’s secretary:

I got a fax report after we faxed your paperwork that says there was no answer on the other end. I’ll try again in a bit. They may have a problem on their end with their fax machine, or it might be out of paper, or who knows what.


Hi Emmett,

Calm down. Whoever told us that this is going to be easy?

I already finished my videos and drafting my commentaries for Entries 2 and 3 and finally showed it to my mentor this afternoon during our class for peer review; she suggested that I redo both videos to get a better score (that means redoing my commentaries too). I better redo them now than redoing the whole process next year, right?

"...When you want to smile but you have to sigh...when care is pressing you down a bit...rest if you must but don't you quit."


I read the Post column, and you certainly did get hijacked by a reporter who probably grew up idolizing Woodward and Bernstein, but ended up owing a greater debt to the many unnamed National Enquirer bottom feeders. And, forgive me, but as a Midwesterner I must ask, why do states with great teachers and working public education systems have so few certificate holders (Wisconsin: 400; Minnesota: less than 300) while that bastion of education (Florida) has 10,000??? Also, why is it so hard to find financial information on the certifying group? $2500 per cert and tons of corporate sponsorship add up to a pretty big number . . .

An addendum from KJ re Maria's post: I had great teachers throughout my elementary and secondary years during the late 1950's and through the mid-1960's. Highly motivated and professional were my impressions. Now I read that Maria's mentor suggests she "redo both videos to get a better score." You know, my great education was due, in part, to the fact that my teachers were interested in my education, not my test scores. And their administrators of that era trusted them to know how best to accomplish that. I think this national certification push is conditioning our current crop of teachers to the worst aspect of No Child Left Behind: teaching to the test. The money for the certification would be put to better use in purchasing classroom materials, and the time, in lesson preparation.

Well it's Feb 1 now. Did you get through to their fax machine?

As for ice storms in Texas, I'm surprised you didn't hear about it. There was ice from Lubbock to Austin and maybe further SE of there. It was supposed to be a snowstorm but somehow rain that froze is what we got.

Hi Emmett,

Yup, I'm with the Writing Project too. I was invited to the Summer Institute on my first year of teaching, my life as a teacher tremendously changed since then. I became an educator leader not just a teacher worker. This is my 4th year as a teacher in the American Educational System, and here I am challenged to pass the National Board Certification. Let's see if a rookie teacher is certifiable too *wink. It would be great to meet you in April during the NWP Spring Meeting.

By the way, I tagged you for a meme.


I stumbled upon your blog while I was looking for help with the assessment center...my form that was missing was the form that gives authorization to test...it had been sent to a neighbor's house; thank goodness it was not thrown away. I hope all goes well with your efforts towards certification. I will be glad this is over- so will my family!

Really nice website, Thank You! Just discovered this interesting quote and want to share - "If you wished to be loved, love." Enjoy your day!

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