Hey, that’s me (circa 2006) when I first embarked on the National Board journey.
I learned a lot about myself, my students, and my teaching in the rigorous process of certification. You see, National Board Certification holds an honest and unflinching mirror up to your practice. Once you deeply understand the standards and the expectations of the process, it becomes pretty clear where you have room for growth.
So, with all the discussion about how we personalize professional development, becoming an NBCT should certainly be part of the discussion.
When we think about how to personalize professional learning, we often think about offering choices or personal goal setting. Or we sometimes think about assessing the practice of educators and giving them specific trainings or goals. Although all of these are good options, I feel National Board does a little of both.
Investigating the standards objectively helps us see where we are successful — without rose-tinted glasses. Videos, student work, and independent assessments provide evidence of what’s working and what’s not. Feelings are not facts, and this evidence shows us where the real work is – not just where we think it is. Obviously, feelings and facts don’t always correlate.
So for each of us, the National Board process reveals something different about our practice, and that’s why it is a great form of personalized professional development.
Where were my weaknesses in 2006? I couldn’t effectively use groups in my classroom. I didn’t know how to support English Language Learners. I didn’t know how to formatively assess and personalize writing instruction.
So, I went to work learning about these areas. I asked my fellow colleagues for ideas and strategies. I read professional books. I tried out hunches in my classroom and made tweaks — just as any action researcher might do.
And I got better.
My students showed me with their progress, engagement, and feedback.
I would not have made the progress as an educator that I have without holding up a mirror to my practice, so I could objectively see my strengths and weaknesses.
National Board Certification was that mirror.