Confessions of a National Board Candidate Series: Post One-Getting Started
At the end of my first year teaching I decided to start an online graduate program to get my master's in literacy and language. I LOVED it! I loved how focused the classes were, I loved how much practical information I was learning that would directly improve my teaching. So much so, I decided at the end of my second year to start a second online program at the same time to get a Graduate Autism Certificate. Was doing two graduate programs at once my best idea? Probably not. Actually, definitely not. I was beyond stressed out and frequently questioned my own intelligence and ability to pass both programs. Blake (then still my boyfriend) was my rock. He never made me feel guilty for having to do work all night and on the weekends and was my biggest cheerleader when I needed reassurance that I was capable. I can say confidently that I don't think I would completed both degrees without him. And he was so proud to hang my diplomas on the wall for me. Why I feel the need to include this preface about my experience with graduate school? My plan was to start going for my National Board Certification as soon as I could during my fourth year of teaching. I finished both programs during year three and figured why take time off? I work best when busy and might as well power through. Blake disagreed. He ended up proposing that spring and knew that trying to get my boards while planning a wedding would have been a nightmare (spoiler alert, we also ended up selling our home and buying a new one during wedding plans so he was definitely right).
Now, we are married, in our new home, and I am ready to start on my National Boards this year! I am excited to share this journey with all of you. In this post I will explain what becoming a board certified teacher entails, what makes working on your National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) different, and what you need to do to [successfully] start this process. And believe it or not, all of this is really just step one.
I was expecting graduate school to have prepared me for this and for the process to not seem too hard. #Realteachermoment
I was wrong, and here is why.
What are the National Boards?
Becoming a National Board Certified Teacher is basically a professional development program designed by teachers for teachers. There are five core propositions teachers need to demonstrate through four components. Component One is a test and the other three are portfolio assignments. There are multiple different certification tracks you can choose from, I chose Early and Middle Childhood/Literacy: Reading-Language Arts! There are several reasons to become a Board-Certified teacher, both professional and fiscal. But if you want to learn more about the specifics, you can visit their website below!
What Makes Working on the NBPTS Different
You Need to Research the Components Before You Can Start Them. In grad school, there were readings, discussions, and projects. I would read the assignment directions, then start researching for the actual paper itself. With boards, I read each of the component directions, then had to buy books** on the components to make sure I fully understood EXACTLY what the expectations were for each one. I now have thorough notes on the assignments themselves; not the research or evidence to go into my portfolio writing, but on JUST THE DIRECTIONS.
You Can't Start With Component One and Finish with Four I thought to myself, "okay I will take component one first during the summer while I am off from work, that will give me plenty of time to study". But no. You have to take the test between certain dates in May-June. Testing season, awesome! Then, you need to start preparing for Component Four at the beginning of the school year. I am going to talk more about how I am currently planning to timeline working on my boards below!
Everything You Work on is Centered Around Your Teaching When you are in school, you are typically studying pedagogy, education philosophies, programs, and basically other people's practices in order to improve your teaching. When working on NBPTS, you are 100% focused on what you are doing in your teaching that makes you an accomplished teacher. You are analyzing every choice you make in your classroom, why you've made that choice, and how it makes you an accomplished teacher
You Don't Have a Professor or Classmates to Support You There isn't a NBPTS professor to email questions to or visit during office hours or classmates you can contact via blackboard to use for support. You will need to find your own support group whether that is on social media, within your district, or through statewide programs. Basically, if you want a support system, you need to seek one out or create one yourself.
Step One: Getting More Organized and Prepared Than You've Ever Been Before
I think I am a pretty organized, plan-oriented, individual. Then I started preparing for the boards. This process is so incredibly intricate, even step one has multiple steps within it.
Research and Choose Before you register, you should take the time to research the different certifications and choose which one is best for you.
Print and Organize Everything Depending on your personality you can probably choose if you want to do steps two or three first. But personally, I need to have all of my materials organized before starting. That means printing the scoring guide, each component directions, all of the forms, and rubrics. Right now, my scoring guide and component directions and rubrics are together in a big binder, separated with clips. My forms that I need to have completed by students are in an accordion file folder. Based on my component/NBPTS research (more on this in step 3), I plan on putting all of my student work samples, collected release forms, and any other evidentiary artifacts in this accordion folder. I may end up separating my big binder into four separate binders the further I get in this process, but for right now I like having all of my materials in one place.
Read, Research, and Repeat Read your component directions, take thorough notes about anything that is unclear to you, find outside resources to help you answer these questions, and then basically repeat this process with each component. I bought three books to help me with this process that I will list below because honestly, they were such eye openers for me in this process. I have such a better idea now of what each of the components expectations are and feel a lot better about moving forward. One mantra I am saying to myself constantly is, "work smarter not harder". That means, researching and preparing to complete all of the components now so when I start writing my component portfolios, I won't have to start over or make major revisions because I didn't understand the directions.
Make a Timeline I searched high and low in the depths of the internet to find a timeline for how you should work on your boards, how to get it done in a year, when to start each component, etc. I found nothing. So I made one for myself based on the requirements, directions, and expectations. I will include a picture of my overall timeline and but if you want to download my entire NBPTS organizational guide, you can get it here