The Road to National Board Certification Part 4: “Am I really that bad at assessment?”

As the struggle to make it until Thanksgiving continues, I have a good problem—I’m satisfyingly tired and excitedly hungry to see what happens in my classroom this year. I can’t say I’ve felt like that (ever).

With the push of National Board, I’m being forced to think and do things I’ve never done before. A lot of this hinges on how I incorporate assessment in my classroom. The questions I had to ask myself were difficult because I knew the answer already: Do I know where every student is academically in my class? Nope. Am I more aware of where they are now? Kind of. It’s a work in progress. Do they always know how they will be assessed? Nope. Am I differentiating? Giving accurate feedback? Getting students to self-direct their learning? No, no, and no. These past couple of weeks have allowed me to dig in and figure out how well I’m meeting the architecture of teaching model (see below) the NB requires all teachers to follow. I have fine-tuned rubrics, instructions, and differentiation resources. I’ve been really analyzing how to give students feedback (thanks Mark Barnes and Starr Sackstein) and seen improvement because of it. They are owning their learning, and that’s good too. Now, I have to see the outcomes in student work for it all to be legitimate. I can’t wait to stick some good stuff on here for you all to see.

There is a laundry list of to-dos. My ego is being deflated continuously. Every minute of planning and class time requires me to be perpetually evaluating myself and how I’m teaching. There are late nights. I’ve never spent so much time with student work. But it feels good to feel this way. I feel as if I have direction, a plan to improve, and a goal to meet. I’ve not had that in my short four years, but I imagine if I hadn’t pushed to do this, I would never have it.

Like the masochist I am, I enjoy being stretched to my wit’s end. It wasn’t until lunch time today when I looked in the mirror in the bathroom and realized I forgot to finish putting on mascara. I neglect doing my hair. My wardrobe could look much better right now but honestly, right when I get up I’m thinking about school (and coffee). I’m not trying to glorify how flurried life is right now. It’s not sustainable, and I’ll be more than happy when the holidays come (even if I’ll still be doing a little work here and there).

I like walking away from the tornado that is my 1st-5th hour and feeling like I accomplished something with my students. Yesterday I had my observation after being told the day before that I was getting observed (I could have asked for it to be moved but I would have rather gotten it done asap anyway). I thought that because I didn’t really know it was coming and couldn’t “plan” for it, it’d be a flop. Then I realized that I have been preparing for it because that’s what I’ve been doing the whole year for NB. The observation went almost as well as I could have wanted it to, after two (in my opinion) unsuccessful ones last year. I got great feedback from my principal about how the learning that was happening was visible. I feel as if some of the inadequacy that I began the year with has subsided–for now. I see the difference National Board has made, as tiny as it is.

There is always more to be done; I have no idea what my chances are to pass this component. But I can’t wait to see, either way, how it changes my teaching and my students’ learning.

(also full moon + halloween week = good luck to all y’all teachers out there).




  1. Hah! This is EXACTLY how I felt going for my NBC in 2006-2007!! I’m renewing this year, and it’s not so “deflating,” as once your ego deflates (um… takes a dive bomb!) through the process the first time, it never really goes back up… 😉 You’ll be reflecting like this for years to come, now. Your focus will be solely on what’s best for the kids – and that’s the only way to go! Enjoy the journey, and know there is an end in sight – but not an end to being a better teacher – every year.

    1. Love the growth mind-set! Thanks for the camaraderie. I don’t have any NBs in my cert in my district so it’s good to see another ELA teacher out there!

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