Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spinning Plates

My blogging presence has been much less persistent in the past few months. In March, I completed the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards portfolio entry, and in April, I took the NB examination. When I began the process I kept wondering "what's so difficult?"

Isn't it just a record of the great teaching I'm all ready doing? Yes, but writing that record and gathering and organizing the documentation of what's happening in the classroom in accordance to the myriad and multiple questions that are posed to standardize the response make the process time-consuming.

It's estimated that 300 hours are spent in preparing the entries. That's two month's worth of forty-hour work weeks atop the thirty-five-hour professional day plus the twenty additional hours of homework. Okay, that leaves only sixty-eight hours per week for sleeping and four hours per week for everything else. Hmmm. Something had to give even though I spread the challenge over more than two months. Describing, analyzing, and reflecting on my practice seemed to take all my words. Ultimately, not just my blogging but also my students' needs suffered some from the process, but they are resilient; my future students' needs will be better served from my processing, questioning, rethinking, and affirming my teaching practice. Time-it-takes is frequently the downside of many worthwhile educational endeavors. So start early and get on with it.

If I had not started in by October, I would not have made it. In November I planned my units, then, in December I completed Entry 4, January Entry 3, February Entry 1, and March Entry 2, and general organization.

Another tremendous help is having a support group of NB coaches. I can't thank them enough nor recommend anyone to find a NB coach enough. It will be a long wait of six months till I learn my scores for the scores, but I know I have fared much better having worked with the folks from the Duquesne University cohort. The definitely helped prepare me with a ten-week introductory course on NBPTS, even before I decided to become a candidate. The cohort's facilitation of state and national funding, moral support, and logistical guidance I found essential, but my coaches' review of written commentaries kept me on track. "Have you answered ALL of the questions?" Best get on with it.

Like all standardized products one of the greatest challenges stems from framing authentic practice is in constraints of artifice. It was a constant struggle--"Who writes this way?" National Board candidates do, best get on with it.

Fortunately, with all of the moving parts to this portfolio, its instructions are available on a hyperlinked CDRom, and the testing centers give you downloadable practice to ease the orientation to the test. These helped a lot, as did Jerry Parks book So You Want to Be a National Board Certified Teacher?. It's packed with helpful lists, not bogged down on theory and details--you get those in the incredibly well-written Standards themselves.

All in all, I was amazed at the number of plates I had to spin between five core principles, sixteen standards, six of the English Language Arts strands, multiple videotaping sessions, and documenting student work. Then formatting, organizing, and responding to dozens of questions about descriptions, analysis, and reflection, all made for a Herculean task. It's not for the faint of heart, nor for the thin-skinned, nor for the egotist, nor for those with inferiority complexes--but, then again, what in education is? Best get on with it.

Image credit: Theremina. Detail of "Spinning Plates." 6 Sep. 2007. Flickr. Used by permission granted through Creative Commons License for attribution, non-commercial use.


Jerry Parks said...

Thank you for the kind words regarding my book! Sometimes we wonder if our work helps as much as we hope it does. Kudos on your NBPTS certification! Cool, huh?

Jerry Parks

ceyo said...

Well, not Certified yet, but someday soon....Yes, very cool, and I just got an invitation to an NB Box party. Yippee!

Miss Fletcher said...

I finished mine in March too...the wait to find out if I passed is killing me!!! Stumbled across your blog and really enjoy it-I blog about teaching and various other parts of life too. Check it out if you're interested: www.jesscaf.blogspot.com
Keeping my fingers crossed that you passed!