Monday, October 10, 2011

What Does National Board Certification Mean to You?

I've seen many distressed people posting about the loss of stipends for being a National Board Certified Teacher. Which makes me wonder… why do people go through the rigorous process? Is money the primary motivation?
So I asked NBCT’s on Twitter and Facebook to answer this question and these are the responses I received.

ü  I was looking for a way to increase my salary since I was close to the top of the payroll chart, and was not receiving any salary increases.   I investigated both pursuing my doctorate or NBPTS.  I chose to pursue national boards for 3 reasons.
1.Applicable Professional growth: I felt it would be more directly tied to my work in the classroom.
2.Time commitment: It would not take me as long as a doctoral program.
3.Financial: I would get more money annually than with the step increase with a doctorate, and I was able to receive grant monies to pay for my NBPTS application, while I would have had to pay for my courses.

ü  When I did my student teaching I asked my cooperating teacher what made her decide to get her Ed. S  instead of doing national board.  She said, “Because it’s guaranteed money.”  I always kept that in mind, so when I decided to do it I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t always receive pay for it.  Like most people I don’t know if I fully understood what all I was undertaking when I began this. I had heard people say, “That was the best professional development I’ve even done.” As I was in the middle of it I thought they were crazy!  It just seemed like a lot of work and not professional development.  But, the more deep into the process I went, the more I reflected on my practice and the more I began to grow as an educator.  Now that I’m on the other side of national board certification I can say it truly was the best professional development I’ve ever done.  As a result, I am much more reflective on my teaching.  I completely believe it’s made me a better teacher because the effects of it are long-lasting.

ü   üFor me, it was a professional goal that I wanted to reach.  I knew the biggest benefit would be to my students, and it has been!  I thought I was a pretty reflective teacher beforehand but the process has helped me be even more purposeful and reflective in my teaching.

ü   üTo me it was the greatest PD I’ve ever done! I learned more about myself as a teacher and continued to grow and make changes since I now know how to deeply reflect on my teaching and its effect on my students. I got my masters after NB certification and the NB process definitely changed and improved my teaching more than my master’s degree -Although, my family did depend on the stipend – it may be a “little bit,” but with teaching we don’t have much – so a little means A LOT to many of us!!!!
üWhen I went through the process there was no stipend, or rather we didn’t know there was.  We were given a $5000.00 check at the governor’s mansion with no stipulations as to how to use it.  I guess that was the beginning, but it was a surprise, so it was not the reason I pursued National Board Certification.  I have always had this inner motivation to be the best I can be in whatever I try to do, and this was a means of self-validation.   I am an avid reader, reflective practitioner, and  passionate about my profession, but it feels good to be validated with other professionals in your field.

ü   üI pursued NB certification because I felt like it was the most powerful way to impact students' learning. The stipend was a nice addition, but it was not what motivated me to go through the certification process.

ü   üI'll be honest. I did it for the stipend. I'm a better teacher because of the process.

ü   üI did it because Tammy Dunn is an amazing educator and a NBCT. I wanted to be that kind of teacher.

ü   üI did it so I could get certified to teach Art, and get out of 1st grade :) but I keep working with candidates so I can keep what I learned at the front of what I do every day. End result, I feel terribly guilty when I waste a class period for stupid administrative duties.

ü   üI took a professional development session called Intel: Teach to the Future, and loved it! The instructors commented that the project-based learning the course promoted closely aligned with NBPTS, so my interest was piqued. A few weeks later I heard NB-certified school librarians at a conference sharing how much the process refined their practice, and as a natural lifelong learner, that hooked me. The scholarship and stipend were just the icing on the cake. Don't get me wrong, I think stipends for NBCT's is the best "merit pay" (Did I just open that can of worms?!) concept out there!

ü   üDr. Betsy Rogers was working at my school and talked to me about the process and how it would impact my teaching. She said it would be the best professional development I would ever participate in. She was right! I didn't even know there was a stipend until I went to my first STELLAR session. So that was like the cherry on top of my sundae ;-)

ü   üThe process was the best professional development I have ever been through. I received the state grant to fund my process. Originally, I went through certification for the stipend (which is still disappointing that it has been cut). Afterward, I did it for the impact it had on my teaching. I feel like I become a better teacher each year because I constantly assess my teaching based on the NBCT standards.

 üü  I started looking at National Board Certification as a challenge for myself and as an endorsement/confirmation of my teaching abilities. How do I compare with other teachers across the nation?  This comes across as being self-important, but this is  not my intent.  When we speak of comparison and how we qualify, I think of several veteran teachers who excel in their field, have won numerous awards for their efforts, but had to take a test (PRAXIS) to determine that they were indeed highly qualified.  With National Boards, you demonstrate your abilities in a holistic manner on film and paper and it is reviewed by your peers.  With all of this said, I find it rather ironic that National Boards is highly praised by lawmakers… almost to the point of having bragging rights as to which district or state has the most National Board certified teachers, yet the state is decreasing funding of the program.  The monetary cuts speak volumes as to the true importance of National Boards in the eyes of those who control finances  within the district and the state. 

ü   ü$5,000 IS INDEED A LOT OF MONEY and it WAS PROMISED for the LIFE OF THE CERTIFICATE. I was encouraged to go through the process by a professor at UAB.  I wanted to get certified to be “set apart” from other educators.  The money helped validate that I was “set apart” and had worked hard to be that way.

ü   üThere was no stipend when I first applied.  I think at the time I just wanted to have some way to confirm that I was on the right path to being a good teacher and I wanted something that was not based on the politics of a state department of education.  I don't sign my name NBCT, nor do I think there's anything wrong with that, but I am proud of the accomplishment and sometimes in difficult teaching situations I remind myself of that fact.

ü  I did it for several reasons. I like a challenge. Also several of my cohorts had attempted it and I didn't want to be left behind. I also was counting on the stipend to boost my retirement income. I should add that i am a better teacher and person because of the process.

ü  I went throughout it before we were promised a stipend. I had read it was the "bar exam" for teachers, and I wanted to see if I had what it took. I knew very little about the process and didn't know anyone who had already done it. I was obviously pleased when I was given a stipend plus $5000 for my classroom. I'm very disappointed that it has been reduced the last few years. I renewed a couple years ago, not knowing if I would still receive any stipend at all. I've been leading mentoring sessions in NE Alabama for 11 years, and this year's group is much smaller than any year before, which I'm sure is due to the dwindling stipends.

Many of the responses I received indicated that indeed the stipend was part of their motivation to pursue motivation.  Personally, I did not know about the stipend when I began the process.  I genuinely wanted to be a better teacher and thought this was a great way to improve my practice.  A coworker reminded me today that I have never turned down the stipend.  That is true and I have appreciated getting it and would hate to see it go away.  My friend also reminded me that if it had not been for the stipend, I might not have been able to pay for my renewal. 

Several people mentioned that they were also motivated by a fellow educator and/or mentor. This is huge!  I think it is our responsibility to encourage our fellow colleagues to pursue certification.  What we say about certification and the certification process could determine whether or not a colleague decides to improve their teaching in the most powerful professional development out there. 

Everyone agrees that going through the certification process improved our practice and continues to help us keep student learning at the forefront of everything we do. Research shows that students taught by NBCTs make higher gains on achievement tests. Many of you have had leadership opportunities because of the certification.  Parents are aware whether or not a teacher has been through the process and what it means. I encourage you to remember that you are accomplished teachers and unlike the stipend, this designation can never be taken away from you.

~Ellen Stubblefield
Ellen is the Early Childhood Specialist at Trace Crossings Elementary School in Hoover. You can follow her on Twitter @estubble .