National Board Certification for teachers is pretty much the end of the teacher recognition road, except maybe having the staff lounge refrigerator named in our honor. A teaching degree these days is just the beginning. In places like Shorewood, a master‘s degree is pretty much expected. With hundreds of applicants for any one available job, a master‘s is the least you can show up to the interview with. That and a new outfit. National Board Certification is a process that licensed and experienced teachers can put themselves through to get up to that last rung just a bit short of the ceiling. With it, one can get a job teaching just about anywhere nepotism or cronyism doesn’t thrive. They are the national honor society scholars, valedictorians, student council presidents, drum majors, prom queens, and line leaders, depending on how far back into your memories you want to go to define the metaphorical best.
National Boards provide definition to what makes a quality teacher, in fairly sharp contrast to that created via the No Child Left Behind act. What makes a good teacher to NCLB proponents is one whose students score high on standardized tests. What isn’t always understood is that the children we test have been in our classrooms less than three months at the time of testing. They may have come from a school on the other side of the city or from across the country. They may not even speak English. Politicians don’t acknowledge that these children succeed in amazing ways, overcoming odds that wouldn’t necessarily suggest success. Children gain a year in a matter of months, but when children are percentiled based solely on grade level, it doesn’t mean spit.
So how are National Board Certified teachers selected? Any degreed teachers with at least three grand, and three years experience can begin the rather rigorous process of providing two dimensional proof that we are quality teachers. If after all of this, our students don‘t test particularly well it must be their fault.
When children are tested the way they are in public schools, we are all tempted to buy in to the whole smoky picture that follows. If our children don’t do well, we change what we do. If they do well, we rest assured that what we’ve been doing for the past twenty years must be working.
Board Certification assessments are done by looking at what we teachers have accomplished in the past five, three and one years. Documentation accompanies each declaration of good teaching. Video taped lessons of us teaching children gives assessors opportunities to give or deny points based on what we really do. We’re not judged on the ovals we fill in or miss, the questions we get right or wrong or the incorrect choice we made out of three others that could make sense if thought of in just the right way. We are judged on what we do and how we do it. We ought to give kids the same chance.
I am board certified but hold no delusions about being the answer to every or any child’s challenge. I did it in some part for street cred, a badge to whip out when my otherwise untraditional way of teaching was called into question or decisions impugned. I do appreciate the way I was evaluated, though. I learned through that process not to judge kids by their ovals. If quality teachers can be defined by what and how they operate, wouldn’t it make sense to seek out quality thinkers in our classrooms using similar methods? Standardized tests have their place- a display in the Smithsonian. Why aren’t we using what is used to certify the quality of teachers? Judge students by what they do, how they do it, and their explanations why. That’s how you tell if you have what could eventually be a nationally board certified student.
I know. All that would take way too long.