I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As teachers, we have much to be thankful for. We have a wonderful profession that allows us to interact with caring and competent colleagues every day. We are also constantly surrounded with the idealism of youth. We can see things in a fresh, new way through our students' eyes. And, as I have mentioned before, we can help shape the future by what we do each day with our students. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to share my thoughts on teaching with you for the month of November.
The last thought that I want to leave with you is to consider becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. Briefly, it is an in-depth process where you apply the National Standards for Accomplished Teachers, which have been developed by teachers and other interested persons. The process consists of four portfolios and a written examination. Three of the portfolios focus on your planning, teaching, and reflecting on specific subjects (pertinent to your field). Two of the portfolios require 15-20 minute videos of you, your students, and your classroom. The fourth portfolio is a collection of documented accomplishments where you have served as a learner/leader, worked with parents, and involved your community in the education process. For more information, please go to www.nbpts.org.
As a special educator, you may have different choices as to the type of certificate to pursue. There are certificates for Exceptional Needs, Early Childhood to Young Adulthood. That is a very broad range of ages and abilities/disabilities. Another area is Early/Middle Childhood Generalist, which limits content to two subjects and a shorter age range. Again, more information is available at the above-mentioned Web site.
I certified in 2002 in the Exceptional Children/Youth area. It was the most intense professional development that I have ever encountered, but it was also the most beneficial. I thought that I was a reflective teacher, always willing to try a different method until we could get through to the student’s needs. But by becoming certified, I learned to become even more so and I became a better teacher. It is a time-consuming process and the prompts (or directions) are purposely vague to allow all teachers’ styles to show accomplished teaching. There is no right or wrong "way" to teach. It is all about assessing prior knowledge/ability, planning to meet needs, analyzing what happened, and then reflecting on how to make it better. The process can take from one to three years.
There are costs involved but there are also monetary rewards in various forms in various states. Some states place high importance on the value of the certificate and reward very well. For example, my state of Kentucky repays three-fourths of the assessment fee upon successful completion. They also provide a step up in rank, which is roughly a $2,500 increase in salary per year, plus a $2,000 bonus yearly for ten years. Just check your state to see what kinds of funds are available to pursue the certificate and what rewards will follow.
You can also review the names of National Board Certified Teachers from your state on the NBPTS Web site. You may recognize someone with whom you could talk and obtain more information from. Some states also provide mentors to work with candidates. I myself served as a mentor for four years. It is very rewarding to me to work with good teachers – to motivate and inspire them – but also to learn from them. I highly recommend that you look into this avenue for enhancing your professional expertise after you have completed a minimum of three years classroom teaching (a requirement).
As usual, I welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. I want to encourage you to continue to read the Reality 101 Blog as a source for new information and support. Questions are welcomed and I am sure that someone out there has the experience and knowledge to help you. My best wishes for a good year for both you and your students.
Jane H. Humphrey, NBCT