In my last post, I posed some questions about the NBC program and all that it purports to achieve. I wondered how or if it made folks better teachers, and how we would go about proving such a claim. I figured, why not just go right to the source for answers to these questions?
Below is an interview with a real live Nationally Board Certified teacher, Brett Goble. He has been teaching Humanities for fifteen years, founded a small high school nine years ago, and has chosen to remain in the classroom.
Do you feel that you are a “better” teacher after having achieved
National Board Certification?
question about it, yes. Every teacher has those days in the classroom
that really go well–those good teaching days. Before doing NBC, at the
end of a day, I would think about how I did as a teacher–my performance–and determine if it was a good day or not. After NBC, I know it’s going to be a good teaching and learning
day before class even begins, and at the end of the day I can see the
evidence in my students’ work. More than anything, the NBPTS standards
for my content area, social studies, have helped me become a better
teacher because they affirm those parts of my practice I consistently
do, but the standards also express in the clearest language those
aspects of my practice I need to improve. For example, as a result of
NBC, I am much more in tune with the needs, responses, interests and
performance of my students and I formulate my unit and lesson plans
around them. Prior to NBC, I knew the importance of making my
instruction student-centered and would make occasional use of journal
prompts or pair-share questions in which I ask them to connect
personally to the content. Now I know that a student-centered approach
means building my units and lessons around universal themes I know my
students are not only interested in, but cognitively ready to grapple
with–themes such as fairness, hypocrisy, and free will. I find I listen
to my students more carefully and build in what they like to think
about or do into my plans everyday.
It seems that many folks leave the classroom not long after they achieve NBC. Why do you think this is the case?
not sure. Perhaps it’s because they see NBC as a stepping stone that
gives them the credentials to influence the practice of teaching from
outside the classroom–to share what they’ve learned with their
colleagues and have an impact on more students. Being a NBCT, you
naturally want to take on a leadership role wherever you are. When you
do NBC, you see that the NBPTS standards in practice work. They produce
results in the form of higher student achievement. That confidence is
difficult to keep to yourself. And, I guess if you were in a school
where you didn’t have much of a chance to lead others while staying in
the classroom, you’d be motivated to make a change.
Should school’s start to mandate NBC for their teachers? Why or why not?
initial response is, no. NBC is hard work and it takes time. If you’re
not going into NBC with an honest commitment to it, you might not be
successful and that could lead to cynicism. But the more I think of it,
I guess it would depend on the school. If a school with a committed
and mission-driven faculty wanted to mandate NBC for all teachers and
allowed them to choose the year to do it, it could lead to powerful
results. The school that chooses to mandate NBC would have to be
prepared to support teachers, with time, money, and guidance, as they
work through their candidacy.
Should reflective practice be a choice for teachers? If not, how might
school and district level-leaders move toward making their learning
communities, big or small, more reflective places?
I don’t think reflective
practice should be a choice. Teaching is a practice that you must bring
your whole self into. It’s the most human profession.
Naturally, one needs time and space to reflect on their own practice and
be open to change. Teachers need time, during the school day, to
dialogue with their colleagues, listen carefully, offer skillful
feedback, and ask tough questions. Schools should be organizations that
change and learn, not organizations that perpetuate the same behaviors
because those behaviors are entrenched and are familiar. In order for
people to change and learn, they need time to think, process, and
formulate new ideas.
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