from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

National Board Certification 

As is obvious from the name of this blog, I am a school teacher. In that capacity, I am currently participating in the process to become a National Board Certified teacher, that is, I am participating in the certification process sponsored by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This is an extensive and potentially costly [although my $2,300 fee is being paid by the State of Maryland and my school district] process that requires crfating several video tapes, during a fair amount of writing, submitting samples of student work, and a lot of material documenting our accomplishments in improving student learning, communicating with parents, providing service and leadership to the educational community, and one's role as a teacher as learner. Further, one has to sit for a number of tests wherein one writes in a controlled environment [on a computer, while timed].

There are currently three natioal Board Certified teachers at my school, and there are three of us doing the process now. It can be more than a bit intimidating. The way the material must be submitted is very precise, and when one's portfolio is grade one gets a score, but no comments as to what might need improvement. I won't describe the entire process of creating the portfolio or how it is scored, but since this will over the next few months consume an increasing portion of my time and energy, I thought a few comments might be in order.

The process does require one to think quite a bit, and in great depth, about one's teaching practice. On the one hand this is not particularly difficult for me -- I have been a journal keeper for much of my life, and my prior educational training -- my MAT at Hopkins and my doctoral work at Catholic - required me to maintain a reflective practice. And yet to do such reflection knowing it will be examined by others can be quite sobering. I tend to be highly critical of my own teaching. I always worry about the kids I do not reach, or the lessons that do not go as well as I would like. On the other hand the feedback I get from students and parents is overwhelmingly positive. I have tuaght primarily freshmen in high school, and every year a handful come back and ask me to write their college recommendations because of how much being in my class made a difference in their high school experiences. Yet the positive feelings that come from such encounters do not wash away the doubts about what I might have been able to do better, about the kids I did not reach in that way.

I have resumed posting to this blog. I am still an active participant in www.dailykos.com -- yet I worry about the time and mental energy these actions take, and whether they could be better used thinking about my teaching, preparing for my classes. Ultimately I think my blogging -- like much of my reading -- is an essential underpinning of my teaching, even though I sincerely doubt I would get any credit fro it were I to submit it as evidence to the National Board process.

Blogging requires me to think, to express, to ponder the ideas of others, to participate [expecially at dailykos] in interchanges with those with whom I ight well be in disagreement. All of these are skills that I am attempting to impart -- or should i say inculcate - in my students. By partipating in online exchanges, or even in thinking how I express myself on this one-way blog, I am working on the very things I want my students to be able to do. And in the struggles I encounter I am provoked in new and often quite interesting ways to think about my teaching practice.

Normally I teach government, in the past to 9th graders, next year I will teach it in 10th graders. This year only I am teaching US History since Reconstruction. In any case blogging has required me to think even fruther about the nature of evidence and documentation, certainly a key issue in history. It has required me confront how to disagree while maintaining the dialog, that is, to disagree without being disagreeable. That is also something I wish more of my students could learn, so that perhaps their generation will not be so prone to flaming and attacking as is mine [and I am 58+]. Blogging has also made me think more clearly about the difference of writing to a specific individual or group and expressing to a larger and perhaps more varied audience.

The last point ties in directly with the certification process. My portfolio will be read by other teachers, not by professors, or educational experts, unless in holding one of those titles they remain in a relevant classrom, in my case in high school social studies. How I justify and explain what I do is very different to that audience than it would be were I writing to parents who know something of me from their children or to teachers who already know something about my idiosyncracies. Those who read my portfolio will do so anonymously. Only those who see the videotape will know my name [because it is used by the children] and how I appear and sound.

I expect that I will from time to time post here about the work I do for my portfolio. I cannot post complete essays for reasons too complicated to explain here, but I can post snippets, as well as reflections on the process of reflection [does that qualify as meta-reflection?]. I will note that my wife has informed me that any time I start to get depressed about my teaching, she will pull out the videotapes I made in this process to remind me what a good teacher I am. I have told her that the tapes shows me at close to my best, and I am all too aware of those occasions which don't measure up. Still, her comments are somewhat illustrative of the value of the certification process. Even knowing that not all lessons go so well, I can use the tapes to help me rethink what I have done that works and use the knowledge and understanding so gained to fix those lessons that don't work.

And now I think I will go and reflect the old-fashion way, in a handwritten journal, somethings that has been a part of my life at least since I was 12.

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.
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