I hope to post throughout the next few months as I complete the National Board Certification process. I will discuss what I did and suggestions I have for others. The process is long and a bit complicated, and there’s no real check list to follow. Here’s what I suggest to get started:
If at all possible, you should plan to start the summer before you officially apply. I should have started this summer, but my professional development trips made that impossible (you can read about those further down on this blog!). There’s a lot you have to do before you can truly start on the portfolio, and it would be awesome if you entered the school year ready to get started.
First, browse the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards website to become familiar with the process. Most certificates have a four entry portfolio component due on March 31s and a test that you have to take before June 30th of that same year. Decide which certificate is right for you. All of the instructions are posted online, so you can begin the research (and decide if you really want to do it) before you ever pay for it.
Second, research funding options for certification. The process costs $2500 + $65 application fee. If you live in North Carolina, you can get a loan for certification through DPI. The loan does not collect interest until 1 year after you apply for it. The best piece of advice I was given is to apply late (ideally November or December) so you will know whether you actually receive National Board Certification (and the pay increase) before you have to start paying it back. If you are paid with federal funds (such as CTE or Special Education), then you can receive a half scholarship for certification. Teachers who seek certification in math or science have several other scholarship options they can apply for.
Third, once you know you’re doing it (and how you’re paying for it), start to read the instructions. This is what I wish I had done before school started. You need to block off hours at a time to accomplish this successfully. I started and stopped reading the instructions many times because I was trying to do it at night or on the weekends. I think I would be more comfortable with the process if I had more time to consider the instructions.
I would read Part #1: General Portfolio Instructions before doing anything else (or really even before you decide to commit to going through with applying). I’m a big believer in keeping everything electronic, but you really need to print these because the PDFs are difficult to manipulate (beware, it’s several pages long). As you read, write questions you may have in the margins to ask people who are already certified or any district support person you may have.
Then, you should read the Standards for your certificate area (including the Five Core Propositions). This is not something that you will be able to check off your list because you will have to refer to them plenty of times throughout the process. As you read the standards, make notes in the margins of things you already to in your classroom that show mastery of the standards. After each standard, there is a place for reflection. You should determine which standards you need to improve upon. Go ahead and write suggestions for new elements you should incorporate into lessons for the year. I would also write questions you have about any standards to make sure things are clear.
Finally, the last thing I would suggest doing in the summer is read Part #2: Portfolio Entry Directions, Cover Sheets, and Forms. Spend a day on each part of your portfolio entry instructions. Again, you should write in the margins lessons or units that you already do that might satisfy these requirements. Then, you can brainstorm new ideas (while remembering the Standards) that you may want to consider adding to your curriculum plan that would strengthen your entries.
I plan to get more specific with what I did and suggestions I have as these posts go on. I am applying for the AYA/Social Studies-History (Ages 14-18) certificate, but I hope my reflections on the process are helpful to others also. I encourage you to apply! I have already been forced to be more reflective about my teaching practices as I navigate this process. I’d love to hear any suggestions you have for the application in general (or how you started if it’s different than my suggestions)!