Starting the process to earn your National Board Certification can be a daunting, but exciting prospect. In a way, it is a lot like completing several semesters of graduate credit in a year. However, with thoughtful planning you can make the process a little less stressful, and a lot more manageable.
Tips for Applying for Your National Board Certification
National Board Certification offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is a huge milestone to many teachers. In some states, it extends to your teacher's license and makes it easier to transfer your teaching certificate from one state to another. In most cases, teachers seek this level of certification because of a variety of financial incentives offered in their state or school district. Whatever your motivation may be, the process of applying for your National Board Certification is a monumental task that requires careful thought and planning. However, once the process is complete, you will discover that you may have become a more reflective teacher, and hopefully, have a few more dollars in your pocket at the end of each month.
Where to Begin with National Board Certification
Before you start down the path to National Board certification, you first want to locate any resources that may be available in your school district for information. Depending on the interests of your school district, they may have a person who works as their National Board coordinator who offers information seminars and other information via email throughout the year. Using district resources such as these will be invaluable because it will give you a chance to connect with teachers who are currently, or have already, been through the process of National Board Certification.
If this is not an option in your school district, then you want to visit the official NBPTS website and study their state resources page. It will give you an overview of the incentives in your state, as well as give you contact information for your state for support through the process. Even if your district does not offer any support, there will be seminars and other materials available to help you through the local support resources on the NBPTS website.
The other area of the NBPTS website you want to spend some time studying is the getting started tab. This tab is critical because it will give you an overview of the process, and link you to the materials specific to the certificate you are trying to attain whether it is a math or special education. This information will include all of the deadlines that pertain the process in the current year, which is critical. It will give you deadlines for initial registration, paying the fees, submitting your portfolio, and finally completing the assessment. Missing any deadline in the year can sabotage your efforts to obtain National Board Certification that year.
Understanding your Certification Requirements
Once you have the application completed online via the NBPTS website, it is time to start to create a plan of attack for the year. The first step is not to procrastinate because that is the number one enemy of success in the process. You will have a lot to do to complete the portfolio and assessment requirements, and the sooner you start, the more time you will have to put forth your best effort.
Start by locating the instructions for your certificate area on the NBPTS website, and familiarize yourself with what each component entails. Even though the requirements may change from year to year, you could review this the spring before you are considering applying for certification to have to study over the summer. The reason you want to do this early is that gives you the summer to sit back, reflect, and plan your timeline for the year. Though the directions and deadlines may vary slightly from year to year, they are consistent enough that you can form a solid plan.
Once you have the directions in front of you, study all the components required for your certificate. Take the time to read them, and take notes on what each component entails especially regarding student work samples. Though you can simply start with Component 1 and work all the way through, that may not be the most time-efficient strategy. For example, you may know in the fall term you do a project that will work well for your students work samples or that your first unit of the year will give you many chances to collect work samples for Component 1. So starting over the summer will allow you to reflect on what you want to do and when to collect all your artifacts with the least amount of stress.
Once you have that done, create a calendar that shows your units of study through the year and the timeframes you are blocking off to work on each component. Blocking timeframes helps you plan your National Board entries and helps make sure that the lessons you design for the unit produce the work samples or video opportunities you need. It also allows you chances for 'backup' artifacts or videos if things don't work out the way you planned them.
Writing Your Components
Once you have all of your artifacts or videos ready for the component of your National Board Certification you are working on, it is time to start writing. If writing isn't your forte, this can be a daunting process. Writing your component responses is a very specific, almost scientific, type of writing. You have a limited amount of space, a laundry list of questions to answers, and it all needs to be what would be considered by NBPTS scorable material. They don't want to see fluff, or the lingo we as teachers may use in parent conferences called 'educationese'. Rather, they want to see that you know how to plan and teach, and probably most importantly that you are a reflective educator.
A reflective educator embodies a lot of characteristics that need to come across in your component responses. One aspect of this articulating as a teacher when a lesson did or did not work, and why. Once you have articulated this, as a reflective educator you need to have a plan for what comes next. In your writing for National Board, they are not looking for a perfect lesson where every student mastered the content because this is a rare occurrence in a typical classroom. Rather, they want teachers who can identify which students the lesson did work for, possible reasons why the lesson didn't work, and a solid plan of action to get these students who fell through the gap in the lesson to master the content.
Finally, when you write each component, you want to apply strategies to give yourself more pages for substance and write less fluff. For example, since you are given a list of questions, your habit may be to include all those questions verbatim in your component writing. That is not necessary, and not scored by the evaluators. The reality is that you don't need need to paraphrase the questions. Rather, once you are done editing, go through your writing and make sure you answered each question somewhere in your component. It may be hard for some of us, but you want to write to the bones of your teaching so to speak. You don't need to worry about transitions or some of the other techniques we use to make our writing eloquent. Rather, you want to show them the 'meat' of what you were asked to demonstrate in the component, without the reader having to go through and remove all the hair, skin, and bones for you. That is your job, strip away everything else so that your analysis of the lesson and student learning takes up most of your allowed pages.
Ready, Set, Write
With a plan of attack in place, you are ready to tackle your year of working on your National Board Certification for teaching. Be sure to set out deadlines for yourself in terms of when you will collect the work samples or video your lessons. Then set aside windows of time to write your actual components, with time built into the schedule in case you get sick or have any emergencies. It will not be easy with the extra time required for planning and writing each component, but you will emerge on the other side a more reflective teacher.