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My Journey Towards National Board Certification...

*Elizabeth B. teaches 8th grade math and is currently pursuing her NBTC in Early Adolescent Math.

August, 2011
As I sat through a week long leadership training at my district at the beginning of August, I realized that I was ready for a professional challenge that would push me as a teacher in a way that I had not been pushed before.  I had thought about pursuing National Board Teaching Certification for a couple years
but felt intimidated by the amount of work I kept hearing it would take in addition to the hours needed to just do my job on a regular basis.  I had also gave birth to two children in the last four years (totalling 4 children now) so my extra time has been very limited.  Well, for some reason, it just clicked while I was sitting there that I was going to do it this year and I was going to try to pass all four entries this school year.  And so it began...  

I happened to be in the training with our district NBTC facilitator and was quickly introduced to her.  We exchanged information and the plan became a reality for me.  I went home after the week long training and printed out every document from the NBTC website that I could get my hands on.  I then organized all of the directions and rubrics into binders so that I could find everything easily.  I read all of the portfolio directions over the rest of the summer whenever I had a free hour to read, highlight and process. I knew that I was going to pursue the Early Adolescent Math Certification because I have been teaching middle school math for almost 10 years and feel that it will be my home for a long time to come. 
September, 2011
As school got underway, I could not keep myself from thinking about all of the entries I needed to complete.  I spoke with as many teachers as I could find that completed their NBTC to pick their brains and find out what I should be doing.  It seemed that Entry 4 was a logical place to start because I could start gathering evidence and brainstorming what I have done as a teacher to support learning.  I had one meeting with my NBTC cohort and solidified what I should be focusing on for entry 4.  I spent at least 4 hours every Saturday reading, organizing, writing, and thinking about entry 4.  I had a rough draft by the end of September but knew that I would probably end up changing a couple of the accomplishments that I was going to include. 
October 7, 2011
I decided to start videotaping my classes to get ready for entries 2 and 3.  I felt that having the videotaping done might ease my stress about how I was going to get everything done.  I handed out the video release forms at the beginning of the year and had most of them back. I also have a student teacher this year who has been great about helping with the video taping.  After several failed attempts (one that I could have used except the camera shut off 2 minutes short of the 15 minute requirement and one with muffled audio) I was feeling a little discouraged.
I skipped a couple weekends of work this month too with all of my kids' birthdays and activities so I started to wonder how I was going to pull this off by the end of March.  My husband was great at encouraging me to just keep going and it would all come together.  So... I kept planning lessons that I could videotape.
I finally captured a group lesson that seems to meet all of the entry 3 requirements (groups of 3-5, using some type of manipulative, 15 minutes long). While playing it back and analyzing my teaching, I could have screamed with joy when I found 15 minutes of great math discourse with my students working in groups.  Yayyyyyy!! This feels like a major accomplishment and I am actually excited to start the writing process.  I plan to work on this over the next two weeks and then focus on capturing a video for entry 2. 
October 30, 2011
Starting to write...
I met with my cohort group yesterday and looked at some examples.  This really helped me understand what my writing should include for the first page at least.  I sit here today in Starbucks before my son's football game trying to write anything I can get out of my head on to paper.  I think I am off to an ok start. Wrote about 3 pages of it and plan to work on it some more tomorrow.
October 31, 2011
Ok, I am on roll now - two days in a row of writing!  I took a day off from teaching to work on writing so that I can move on to another entry.  My goal is to have a rough draft for all four entries by the end of December.  I spent all day finishing up a draft of entry 3.  I plan to look at it again in a couple of days and edit myself first before finding people to read it for me.  
I am hoping to tape a whole group lesson on this coming Monday or the following one.  I am not sure why this entry seems harder to me.  I feel like whole group discussions usually go well in my classes but sometimes it is hard to plan and write about all of the components that I have been naturally incorporating for the last several years.  I know it is going to take me a month to plan, videotape, process and write so I am anxious to get this next entry started.
November 6, 2011
I have plans to videotape for entry 2 tomorrow.  Wish me luck!
Later November, 2001
I lost track of time so I am not sure when I actually started writing entry 2.  The videotaping went ok.  A few glitches but useable.  I also sent my entry 3 to some friends to start reading so I could gather feedback on if I answered all of the questions.   Plunging ahead...
December 11, 2011
Oh boy!  It feels like it is getting closer and closer to the March deadline. I am feeling good about my small group video and writing.  I have had two very knowledgable NBCT certified friends give me feedback and I was able to make some changes to make my writing stronger.  I am going to put this aside until I have my other drafts done and then fine tune everything.  So now I try to finish up my whole group lesson video write up.  I have somewhat of a draft as of today but it is very rough and missing parts.  I planned on working on it more tonight but I'm not sure my brain is going to cooperate.  I will probably take some time in the middle of the week to look at it again so I can send it out for friends to read over the break.  My entry 4 (accomplishments) needs a lot of fine tuning - I plan to spend several days over winter break to look at that one again.  Entry 1 is waiting in the wings.  I plan to focus on that one in January.  I have been creating activities but I'm not sure they fit the entry requirements.  I have found that trying to juggle too many entries doesn't work well for me.  One thing at a time...
January 12, 2012
January came way too fast!  I had to rewrite my whole group entry several times - it took me 12 hours to write the 2nd draft.  It is off to be read by some friends and then I will work on it some more.  Entry 4 is still a work-in-progress but I am pretty close to being done with everything but the reflection.  Entry 1?  Oh, haven't started that yet.  Creating the materials over the 3 day weekend and hoping to use the work from next week for it.  I also signed up for the assessment center for the end of May.  I am feeling hopeful that everything is going to come together.  It is such a different experience writing so analytically about teaching.  So much of what I do is a natural response to what my kids need - it is hard to put everything into words. I am pretty sure that I have about four pages to shave off of each entry.  That should be fun (sarcasm).  
January 22, 2012
Well, I am still waiting to use the instructional materials I created for entry 1.  We missed a week of school due to snow so I am planning to use them this week in class and then start writing this weekend.  I am actually looking forward to writing this one because I enjoy analyzing student work.  I have solid drafts of entry 2 and 3 and am still feeling a little overwhelmed about entry 4.  I am going to put it aside until I have a good draft of entry 1 and then really focus on it.  I know there are a lot of bits and pieces that I need to put in place with the entries so I am hoping to get to that stuff by mid-February.  I am not good at procrastinating so the more in advance I have a handle on things - the better my nerves will be.  I had no idea how many details there are with this process.  I wonder how teachers that struggle with writing can accomplish this certificate.  A lot of it is making sure that the writing is addressing the questions correctly.  It isn't enough just to be a good teacher, you have to be able to put every detail of your teaching in clear writing.  Hopefully one week from now I am writing about how I have a draft of entry 1 or at least some of it written...
February, 2012
As I began attempting the writing part of Entry 1, I realized that I didn't like the materials I had created and decided to use student work from a completely different class and used a poster activity that I had tucked away "just incase".  It was just a better unit to write about and gave me a lot more insight into my student's learning.  I worked on this all month and sent it off to have my NBTC friends read for me.  After a lot of tweaking, I felt like it was in pretty good shape and I could go back to Entry 4.

One of my accomplishments for Entry 4 was a family night in February so I was finally able to finish that up by the end of the month.  I ended up with 5 accomplishments and basically rewrote the whole thing from what I had started with in September.  It took all year for me to figure out what I was really supposed to be writing. 

I was able to attend a state preparation conference where 5 other math teachers read one of my entries. It was a great way to get feedback and also see other teacher's writing to give more insight to the entries.  I was a little discouraged because all of the other teachers there did not pass the NBTC on their first try and were either rewriting entries or re-doing part of an assessment.  They were all very positive though and tried to reassure me that it didn't mean anything.

March, 2012
The beginning of March sent a little panic through me as my whole portfolio had to be shipped out by the end of the month.  My cohort had a "pack day" where we bought someone to help us go through all of the directions.  This was very helpful because there are an insane amount of details to consider.  Everything is in printed form and has to be labeled and paperclipped a certain way.  I found myself also editing Entry 4 some more while I was packing which made it a very long day.  I think it took me 6 hours to "pack" the box which was a district record - yay me!

I shipped my box March 22nd and so far I think everything is in and ready for scoring.

Next stop... my assessment on May 29th!

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