My favorite The Master Teacher pamphlet is purple: Volume 37, Number 17, entitled “Five Questioning Techniques to Strengthen Your Teaching.” What’s that? Not familiar with the homespun flyers that change ink color but not layout each week, and are stuffed into teachers’ mailboxes at many schools in lieu of actual face-to-face professional development? They come from Leadership Lane in the heart of Kansas, according to the publisher's address, and what I like about them is that the ideas and strategies are guaranteed to work, as certified by a seal, depicted complete with rivets, on the front cover. Also the “Points...


Alfie Kohn is mad about tests. And I don’t mean he likes them. This Saturday at the 2006 Language and Learning Conference at George Mason University sponsored by the Northern Virginia Writing Project, I had the guilty pleasure of hearing the iconoclastic progressive firebrand assault the paradigm under which all of us who teach today in public schools or who buy into any notion of “accountability” (read pols and the public) are complicit. Equal parts Woody Allen, Clarence Darrow, and John Dewey, Kohn waxed eloquent and often hilarious for four hours without notes or powerpoint on the evil effects ...


What does being a super cool secret agent preventing terrorists from releasing poison gas and being a candidate for National Board Certification have in common? Both involve tense situations with a little timer running on the screen as you make do or die decisions. Except instead of 24 hours, the amount of time super spy Jack Bauer has to save the world on the hit show shot in real time, “24”, the NBPTS candidate only has four hours at the assessment center to answer six essay questions covering content and pedagogy. Candidates are advised to complete their portfolios before going ...


Maybe I’m making this whole thing out to be harder than it is. Let’s begin at the beginning... Although there are nearly 30 different fields of certification over four different age groups, common to all of them are Five Core Propositions. For you, dear reader, as much as for my own sake, let me attempt to set them out. Maybe here, early on in the process, we can decide whether this program’s heart is in the right place. In bold below I will quote directly NBPTS verbiage, and offer my own comments after each. 1. Teachers are ...


My wife thought I was lame for crashing in front of the TV every night for the past few weeks watching the winter Olympics. Little did she know I was gleaning valuable lessons as I set my sights on NBPTS gold. One lesson came while watching the replays of the men’s Super G. Big sweeping turns and the speed of the downhill combine in an event where, despite hitting speeds of 70 mph, the outcome is decided by hundredths of a second. Through the magic of digital editing, the runs of the gold and silver medalists were superimposed over ...


How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? This question of cosmic choreography, long the realm of medieval rabbis and more recently of interest to Madonna, a famous celebrity convert to the strain of Jewish mysticism known as cabbalah, suddenly seems more important to me than it did before I started on the path to National Board enlightenment. You see, the National Board’s Standards alone run to about 90 pages. (These are sort of like the Ten Commandments, except there are sixteen of them, identified by Roman numerals.) Download and print the instructions for the portfolio, ...


Am I nuts? Can I do it? I am a 13-year teacher about to take on one of the toughest challenges the profession has to offer--national-board certification--and this blog will chronicle the effort. So far, I’ve been to a couple meetings of a five-session introductory class offered by Fairfax County to would-be candidates. A few steps into what they warn us may be a 600-hour journey. From a distance, the requirements look simple, like a snow-capped peak against a clear blue sky: four portfolio entries including a couple videotapes of me teaching, and a day of computer-center tests. But ...


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