Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NBCTs: Opening the World to Our Students

I received certification in Early Childhood in 2005, after 3 years of re-takes, portfolios, assessments, and  reflections. (oh my!)  Of course I wanted to be one of the ones who earned it the first year, but now I realize how much more I grew as an educator by taking 3 years to complete my journey.  It gives me the opportunity to mentor and encourage candidates not to give up as they go through the National Board process.

We have been working on acrostics in my first grade class this week, which led me to think of one for NBCT.  These thoughts I’d like to share with you:

N = Nationwide connection
I was fortunate enough to be selected to represent our state a few years back at the NBPTS Hill Day in Washington D.C.  At that time I was able to see how awesome it is to belong to such an incredible group of educators.  If America was a human body, I feel that National Board teachers are the heart of the body. When we work together as a network – our heartbeat gets stronger to affect and influence the rest of our country’s educational needs.  Join and support your fellow NBCTs!
B = Bragging about what you do in your classroom
If you stay in your classroom and “do your own thing” alone NO ONE knows what incredible learning takes place.  All teachers must let parents, colleagues, and media outlets share in your teaching.  Look for ways to invite others into your class and with all the technology we have today – look for ways to publicize your activities.  Support, both financially and physically, will open your classroom to the world!
C = Connecting to Congress and state law makers – Advocacy is such an important part of what we do.  I know it’s a little intimidating to contact some of these lawmakers at first. I’ve been there!  But once you learn how to reach them and what to say, you find out that they are people doing a job.  Because of you sharing your passion for teaching and what you need and why you need it – you help them do a better job as well.  It’s so exciting to have that lawmaker come to your class, read to your students, and get to know them. It’s well worth a few butterflies!
T = Teacher to Teacher   I have encouraged mentor teaching since working on my graduate degree in1986.  It’s so important to have a buddy. As said earlier on our blog, “ Ask someone to try it with you. Whether this is someone in your school or someone online, collaboration can minimize fear because you are not alone. You can discuss ways to improve ideas and celebrate classroom victories together.” Encourage your colleagues to achieve National Board Certification.  Encourage your NBCT teachers to come to conferences such as our state network conference in January. You will enjoy the journey together.

Because of National Board Certification, I have had articles about my classroom in newspapers, met congressmen and had them read to my class, had the commander of the International Space Station speak to my whole school, taught workshops for Promethean and ATEC, served as a presenter for Space Exploration Education Conferences at NASA, become Teacher of the Year for my school, skyped with classes across the ocean and mentored by  a National Teacher of the Year, Betsy Rogers.  It opens the world to our students through us.  Let’s continue to “extend our reach”!

~By Suzanne Roper Lisenby, NBCT 2005

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Be Prepared to Let Go to Grow

I was recently selected as an “Emerging Leader” with ASCD (formerly the Association for Curriculum and Development), and attended a leadership conference with both new and experienced leaders within the organization. The theme of the conference was “Revolutionizing the Way we Learn”, which includes revolutionizing our relationships, practices and processes, and our innovations and designs (as noted by ASCD Executive Director, Dr. Gene Carter).

One phrase from Dr. Carter’s opening keynote that really stuck with me was that as educators and educational leaders, we must “be prepared to let go to grow.” This phrase caused me to reflect upon the things I have had to let go of over my career as an educator, which I have listed below:

  • I let go of a job I was familiar with to enter the field of education (without ANY experience or educational coursework).
  • I let go of working in solitude to become part of a collaborative science department.
  • I let go of my traditional, teacher-centered practices to implement inquiry-based, student-centered methods.
  • I let go of my comfortable classroom teacher role to move into a leadership role with the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative.

As I reflected about the things I have let go of, I began to realize how much each of them has helped me grow:
  • I entered the field of education and found a career that I truly love.
  • I became part of a collaborative science department and learned how to work with others as a team.
  • I implemented inquiry-based practices and found a better way to help ALL of my students improve their scientific literacy as they gained critical thinking skills.
  • I moved into a leadership role and learned how to help other teachers transform their practices to better meet the needs of their students.

Now that I am serving in a variety of leadership roles, I understand that in order to continue to grow I must continue to let go of things that could hold me back. So how can I help other educators learn to let go so that they too can grow?

I believe that the ability to reflect is an important part of this growing process. I learned how to be more reflective of my practices as an educator while completing my National Board Certification. Proposition 4 of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Core Propositions states that teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.

If you are not ready to jump into the National Board Certification process, but are interested in becoming more reflective, here are a few ideas to help you get started (adapted from http://jasontbedell.com/characteristics-of-a-reflective-educator).

  • Set time aside specifically for thinking about your professional practice, your growth needs, and your students’ needs.
  • Take action upon your focused thoughts about professional practice. Do not continue in a course of action that you realize is not working.
  • Know your strengths and be cognizant of your weaknesses. Take planned steps to improve in those weak areas.
  • Seek feedback from many sources, such as other teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Be open to constructive criticism.
  • Share your experience with the understanding that it can benefit others who may be able to learn from them.
As the new school year begins, I encourage you to take the time to be a reflective educator/ educational leader. What do YOU need to let go of to grow?

~Amy Fowler Murphy, Ed.S., NBCT
Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative

photo credit: Brandon Doran via photo pin cc