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It’s true that I said, “It’s all about the money,” and also wondered whether or not the NBPTS process might have a negative impact on my teaching this year, as reported in Michael Alison Chandler’s Washington Post Jan 22 article about the National Board, “Teachers Tackle Their Own Extra Credit.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Chandler failed to mention anything else I said during our recent hour-long phone interview. She took my comments out of context, successfully offering me up as a grumbling cynic in counterpoint to the smiling super teacher in the article and accompanying photo, a Loudon educator shown in front of gaily decorated bulletin boards and an American flag while her students’ achievement practically soars off the page. First: kudos to Ms. Morales, the Loudon teacher, who got certified last year and now has a reason to smile. Please excuse my pique, which is not at all directed at you, as I’m sure you are motivated and excellent at your job.

Shame on Ms. Chandler, who I now realize clearly had me pegged as the bad guy her piece needed before our interview ever took place, and who sacrificed truth and nuance in order to put an edge on her story.

For the record, let me clarify the context in which my comments were made. The interview occurred on a Friday at around 5 in the afternoon. Our school had let out early due to an electrical problem, and so I found myself at 1:00 with an unexpected few hours on my hands. I promptly set to work in my empty trailer on Entry Three, and four hours later… presto! I had written 6 of the required 11 pages. Total cost to me: a lost afternoon that I would otherwise have spent with my sons.

I hopped into my car at that point to drive to the National Board support class at another high school. This is when I called Ms. Chandler for the interview. She had doggedly tracked me down, leaving numerous voice and emails, and even going through Fairfax bureaucracy to get approval to interview me. At the time, I was impressed by her diligence, but now I suspect it was my ambivalence she was after. Having read my highs and lows on the blog, I was her best bet as a source from which to harvest a few anti-NBPTS soundbites.

And harvest she did:
"It's all about the money," said Emmet Rosenfeld, an English teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, explaining why he put himself through what he described as an "excruciating" process.

She left out the question she asked me before this response. I recall it as being something like, “So, it’s all about the money then, would you say that’s true?” I remember agreeing with a laugh.

The next choice bit Ms. Chandler cherry-picked from our rambling conversation was this:
Rosenfeld, who has been blogging about his application experience for Teacher Magazine, said it's still unclear whether the process will make him a stronger teacher in the long run. He added that the application takes so much time that it on occasion diverts his attention from the classroom.

I also added, although she did not, that while it was a tough slog and I felt very much in the middle of it, I was certain that in the future I would look back on the experience and be glad that I did it. I wish I could say the same for the interview with her.

To top it off, during the interview itself I was so engaged that I missed my exit on 395 and, I’m embarrassed to admit as a native driver, got turned around in the rush hour traffic and never even made it to the support class. I told myself at the time that it was okay; after my productive writing session and then an animated discussion, I’d NBPTS’ed enough for one day.

I had covered so much ground with Ms. Chandler while I was busy getting lost, in fact, that I actually asked her at the end of our talk if she’d be willing to send me a copy of her notes, thinking that they might help me write my own National Board piece in the future. She seemed hesitant, and I thought that perhaps I’d overstepped some journalistic line so didn’t press it. Instead, at the top of my block before driving into the maelstrom of dinner time with the boys, I took 10 minutes to jot down notes of my own about our conversation.

So Ms. Chandler, if you feel I’ve misrepresented you, get in touch. I’d be happy to post both my notes and your notes on this blog for all the world to see. Until then, I have only one thing to say to you: No comment.


Thank you for posting your reaction to the article, for anyone who would read it and question your motives. However, I urge you not to take this perceived slight too seriously. Many times I have seen journalists - seemingly w/o any qualms or regrets whatsoever - take things out of context to serve their own purposes.

The important thing is that your students and the certification board don't see you as the bad guy, and from the blogs of yours that I've read, I don't know how anyone could think you have anything but the best motives.

Keep doing your best,

"Teachers who inspire realize there will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how we use them."

~Author Unknown

Emmett, we can choose to learn or be burned from negative experiences. Focus on the real reason why you decided to take the National Board Certification. Good luck to both of us.

- http://teachersol.blogspot.com -

I concur with everyone else's comments. But also, good for you for putting yourself and your frustrations out there! Even if they were taken out of context, you are most definitely not alone in the struggle. And the most important thing is you're still going at it.

- A young teacher who hopes to someday be certifiable too

I read your blog piece with great interest. May I be candid? (You know I will...) I think the reporter's use of your money comment was perfectly justified based on your retelling of the exchange. I do agree that your second comment was taken out of context, but there are no rules that say a reporter has to quote you completely. Yes, you were her balance source, and you come across as a free-wheeling, honest guy. She kept at you until she got what she needed.

I appreciated your candor about the National Board certification. It's great to hear the other side. I'm thinking of doing it next year, and I don't want to hear the syrupy accolades alone. And someone SHOULD speak out about the importance of money. Staying in this profession is TOUGH for a primary bread winner. You work hard and long to stay in this game, and someone should pat you on the back for that.

You also hit upon something teachers rarely talk about. Whenever we decide to enrich our career development or work on committees or take on special above-and-beyond student projects, we have to find the time SOMEWHERE. Inevitably, the time comes from our regular classroom activities and from our personal lives. There aren't enough hours in the day to accommodate everything with equal fervor.

So, know that you are appreciated for trying to do it all.

Jennifer Seavey, CJE
English/Journalism Teacher
Jefferson Science & Tech

I'm perplexed at how you've come off in the article. I feel like sending your blog post to everyone who might know you to say, "See, he's not a slimeball."

I see Jennifer's point; nonetheless, it was sneaky how you were lured into your comment of "I'm only doing it for the money." It's an important lesson about the power of our words (think "Macaca," for example).

I read your blog more to see your writing (I really enjoy your style) than the National Board information. I'm disgusted by the bureaucratic hoops we're put through to demonstrate that we're good teachers. I'm more than happy to go after professional development for the sake of growing (we know each other by having spent a summer together with the Northern Virginia Writing Project) and know many colleagues who follow the same standard.

Most importantly, the story misses one crucial angle. Teachers can and do become better teachers through various professional development experiences. The writer demonstrates a reductionist view of why people would become Board certified. It sounds like almost the only way teachers can develop that true confidence that Ms. Morales describes--or they chase the money. Too bad her vision is so limited. Maybe she should write an article about alternative methods of professional development and try to understand the nuances of why teachers are interested in growing as professionals. She might

Gail Kasun
ESOL Department Chair
West Potomac High School
Fairfax County Public Schools

Hey, Emmett! Well said. You remind me of a truism about public education that I've witnessed all 40 years of slogging in the trenches: There is my class and the wonderfully complex series of interactions that lead to wonderful connections being made within my students, *and* there is the simplifying of this process we call teaching by people with a will to present themselves as "knowing better" than I what should be going on. Sadly, the politicos and the cultural leaders have sold the idea that are schools are in terrible shape. With teachers like you and me, how can that be?

Thanks for all you do.
Vic Kryston

I appreciate your response to the "writer" in question. Don't dwell on it...ya got "hoodooed". Laugh, learn and move on. As a Board Certified teacher in NC, I can honestly say that I entered it (twice-I missed it by four points my first try!) for the prestige and the money; however, I came out with a clearer view on my purpose in the classroom. It made me a better teacher, bottom line. The money and the prestige is nice, but is trivial compared to the confidence and insight I have gained concerning my classroom. Keep writing...You have a gift:)

I learned this lesson the hard way, in 5th grade. The local news interviewed kids in costume about their fears regarding candy and trick or treating. I was selected, but my interview was cut from the story because I said I wasn't afraid. They only played the kids who had specific fears. That was my awakening to the bias of journalism, and I'm thankful that I learned it early. It gives a new perspective on the personal persuasion that can be given, even with "factual" content. Consider it a lesson learned, and don't worry too much about it. :)

I can understand your aggravation with the journalist, however, what is wrong with doing it for the money?? I looked at the requirements, saw that I was doing almost all of it anyway, therefore I documented it. If the journalist could do something to earn a major raise in her career, wouldn't she?? Yes, I love what I do but bottom line - money pays the bills.

So if you are in the business world, and you engage in major reworking of your skills, wouldn't you charge more for your services or product? Doesn't an expert carpenter or potter charge more as the reputation and skills increase?

We need to ditch the idea that teachers are in the business to "make a difference" and head home to a spouse who works in the "real world." Yes, I earn money at what I do. I went into the board certification process for both personal and monetary reasons. Would I do all that work for free? Hey, would any self-respecting capitalist?

Hold your head up and keep in mind that you will be the better professional for it, and at least in my district, I'll have another $120 a month for my efforts. I still drive that '96 Toyota and watch my budget carefully.

I must admit when I started the process in the fall 2002 it was all about the money. Teachers do not get nearly what their hours would command; however, I knew that going into my field. Any thing I can do to provide more money for my family of 7 makes life easier! The National Board process took me three years to complete. Also, by the third time I was $2,000 into the process so I needed to recoup some expenses.

Since the certification was completed, being a NBCT has changed my professional life. I am so much more active in my profession. I have joined a district wide leadership learning community, became the schools grade book software contact, and became an active member of the Collier County Leadership Consortium (A group of NBCTs who work with our district in numerous capacities http://collier.k12.fl.us/staffdev/ctlc/). I have currently mentored many National Board candidates as they go through the process and have put an additional 180 hours into this mentoring process.

My point is my earlier motives were financial in their origins, but I have lived up to the lofty expectations that National Board creates. It is a source of pride and accomplishment; however, it is a position that brings with it added responsibilities. Sharking the new responsibilities would be a crime.

Hang in there on your pursuit of National Board Certification. Remember the standards should drive your instruction and your analysis of your instruction.

Good luck and I hope to see you as a NBCT!

Paul Horne
B.A. History- William and Mary '93
N.B.C.T. '05
M.S. Educational Leadership- Walden University '06
American History
Naples High School
1100 Golden Eagle Circle
Naples, FL 34103

I'm not a teacher (although I do work for a retired school teacher) and I can say from hard personal experience that the way you were treated by that reporter is actually the "standard" by which most (so called) journalism is produced.

I am actually a media consultant by profession, and my first bit of advice would be never talk to a reporter with divided attention, like while driving a car! Not only are you unable to give the reporter the appropriate attention when driving and talking, but you are endangering other motorists by not concentrating fully on the road.

Another thing to remember is, as other’s have already pointed out, that it’s not likely that your comments will be reported in their entirety, so it’s actually quite likely that you’ll be taken out of context. It’s happened to me before, so I am simply speaking from hard experience.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

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  • Paul Horne: Emmet- I must admit when I started the process in read more
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  • WebMommy: I learned this lesson the hard way, in 5th grade. read more




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