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.