National Board Certification

The Road to National Board Certification: Taking a Detour

Hey y’all–It’s been awhile! Too long. Recently, I’ve had some questions about getting board-certified and how that’s going. Today I want to share my updates on National Board Certification and how it’s going (or not going).

During my last post, I shared my current results and concerns about how this year’s certification process may look for me. There are two more components I need to complete, and I did not feel confident that I could do them well this year. My main goal this year is to enjoy teaching because lately I hadn’t been doing that. In an effort to simplify, I decided to take a hiatus. Finishing National Board Certification, I found out, can be put off a year if I needed. I contacted National Board and asked them if I needed to start a new component this year, and I didn’t need to—as long as I wasn’t already registered for the cycle, which I wasn’t. I’m so glad that they have this option!!

I’m currently reading through Components 3 and 4 again to refresh on what I should plan for next  year. I feel fortunate to get to attempt certification over the course of a few years instead of all in one. Shout out to the NBCT Facebook group created by Jennifer Gonzalez—y’all are inspiring me with all of your posts and questions! I can’t imagine trying to squeeze it all in one year.

Here’s ‘another update: I finally bit the bullet and applied to grad school. Literally hit the “send” button on my application today. More detailed update if, you know, they let me in.

As for school, here’s a couple snapshots of this week from some students (can you tell the end of the year is definitely getting to them??):

1.Me: “You know the best way the look creepy to people is if you wear black latex gloves around, right?” To a student wearing black latex gloves “for fun.”

2. Student trying to convince me to let him leave class early via freestyle and juuuuuust missing the mark, much like Jean Ralphio:

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 4.29.23 PMClick here because wordpress apparently doesn’t let you insert videos for free anymore…smh.


Only a few more weeks left—we’re all doing out best to keep it together.




The Road to National Board Certification: Scores Are In

I received an email a couple months ago from the National Board that I swear said “Your results will be available on Saturday, November 5th.” I swear. And then when I kept refreshing my email as I was on a little vacay with my husband, I never saw any scores. I searched for the email, and it was gone. I wish I was making this up, but I’m not that crazy. Nor did I really care, as I was on the fence about continuing certifying anyway.

Then, a couple days ago, I got another email that said I would be receiving my scores on December 10th. I was expecting this email to disappear too, because at this point with National Board, they have no deadlines for themselves. I opened my email up this morning to see an email from them that redirected me to my account, and saw that I received a 3.4 for Component 1 and a 2.0 for Component 2. To retake, I would need anything 1.75 and under. So, I guess I passed those two components. I was relieved to see a little validation that I didn’t bomb anything, and now I’m thinking “damn. Maybe I should try to finish the other two this year since I actually have a chance to pass.”

Let me air my frustration with this process, and with my current situation. Component 4 was just released in November, so I’m not behind so much with that because they just released it (and released it later than they said they would–see above about deadlines). Also they require me to pay yet another 75.00 “registration fee” when there is no way I could even do the registration in one year because 2/4 parts weren’t available yet. Since I’m getting no financial support from my school district or the almighty State of Colorado for this, I’m not exactly jumping at the opportunity for paid masochism. Frustration 3 is the phantom Component 5, which is: “we make it as hard as possible with our website and online platforms, and zip files of zip files with directions all over the place, and you have to show that you can even find the directions—if we even give them to you.” It is  disorganized and there has just got to be a way to make everything more user-friendly. They are transitioning to a new certification process, but boy are they making everything harder than it needs to be for everyone else.

So you can see why I’m feeling ‘meh’ about the whole thing. I question each day whether I’ll keep teaching, my husband just got a job as an attending doctor which would allow for me to pursue other things in a financially safe way, and I have to say that not worrying about boards has given me time to just enjoy teaching and try to salvage what I started teaching for.


To have the title of NBCT would be propelling my career in a way that nothing else could right now (well, maybe a Master’s program but do you have 15000 lying around that I can have? No?  😦 ) I’ve been validated by the first two components, so there’s a pretty good chance I’d certify this year if I buckle down. And I wouldn’t have basically thrown away 900.00. Also, if I don’t submit the rest of the components, I would have to do the whole thing over again and I do not want to go take that test or write those analyses all over again.

So, I’m eliciting the advice of the internet: NBCTs out there–what would you do?

In other  news, Winter Break is about a week a way and ol’ Michael Scott says it best:




The Road to National Board Certification Part 9: Moving On

Hey there, blogging world. For the tense and placement of time to make sense, I started writing this a month ago.

I just said goodbye to the kids today, and boyyyyy did it feel sweet. Don’t get me wrong—I’ll probably be glad to see them in the fall, but we definitely need some time apart.

This is pretty much how I feel:


This final stretch was so, so rough. Like “I don’t know if I can do this one more day, let alone a year” rough. As you can see, I haven’t blogged. I pretty much did everything in my power to not think about teaching, education, etc. when I wasn’t at work. Each week I had a new plan for my life. I resigned each negative thought to “oh well. I won’t be back next year.” And National Board Certification? Meh. 1000 bucks down the drain, but to hell if I’m spending any more time on it.

It was excruciating—even if I was trying to dull the pain of whatever it was pulling me away from teaching (I’m guessing it’s all the factors that make up burn-out), it still made me feel guilty/bad teacher/deviant. I know you all can relate. Anyone who does something for an extended amount of time can relate.

Unlike most schools where graduation is pretty much confirmed by the beginning of the last quarter as long as seniors sit there catatonically absorbing those classes they put off until the end, our program requires seniors to be wrapping up everything they need to, whether it’s the research paper they have to work on, or extra work they have to do to finish their points, or passing our math proficiency test. As a family teacher (which is like a home-base teacher that advocates for a group of students), it is stressful. Part of getting a student graduated is on me and my colleagues, and it requires time and energy in addition to teaching our classes and going to meetings. I stayed with one of my students until 10 pm one night to try to get her to pass a math test, and while she didn’t get to walk at graduation, she finished her requirements the next week and got her diploma. The hard work paid off, but I was in such a funk that I didn’t even think about what primary role I had in this student’s success (attending a ‘no-nonsense’ charter school before coming to ours, she most likely would have not graduated this year). Another student of mine almost didn’t graduate, then did, primarily because of me. I think this is just sinking in, a month and a half later.

Amidst all of this, the NB puts their portfolio submissions due May 18th, right in the middle of the end of the school year craziness. I could have avoided this by not procrastinating, of course. But I didn’t. I turned my submission in three hours before the cutoff. I used my own personal time to take the school day off to finish it. I waffled between not submitting it, but in the end I didn’t have it in me to quit. Many thanks to my husband for giving me the straight talk via Shia Labeouf:

If you’ve never seen that, you’re welcome.

A few weeks later, I took Component 1. Besides being shuffled around like livestock at the testing center by the Pearson Overlords, it was pretty uneventful. I “studied.” I woke up early and made sure to eat breakfast. I sat in a chair for three hours and clicked what I thought were the best answers. I wrote essays to what I figured the National Board wanted to hear. Then I went home and watched Damages.


(and Broad City)

I’ll know in December if I did well enough to keep my score, and I really hope I don’t have to take it again.

I’m finishing up writing this  mid-summer, unsure of how I feel about taking another year on again. Celebrations: I am done with the TEACH grant, and am hoping for some loan forgiveness after this year for teaching for five years. 

In about a month, I’ll start up again with the blogging thing, unless I hit some inspiration. Until then, I’m relishing every restorative day of summer spent with good friends and family, good food, outdoor things, and of course—my dog. If there’s one gift of teaching, it is summer break and all of the opportunities for rekindling relationships that get doused in the gasoline of the school year (did that sound too melodramatic?) Here’s an artsy dramatic picture of my dog to illustrate:


The Road to National Board Certification Part 8: Using Goals to Refocus

Raise your hand if you find yourself wandering through a chaotic, scattered, metaphysical crisis lately! Haha!

We all are. And if you’re not, you’re missing out.

While National Board updates are slow-moving, (I have to take Component 1 potentially in April, and the National Board email fairies haven’t sent whatever Pearson generated (grrr) code I’m supposed to have #stillhateyoupearson) I thought I’d share one way that this certification process is keeping the ball rolling on my year.

As a recovering perfectionist, I swing from bursts of productivity and motivation to ‘I am doing absolutely nothing tonight, even if it makes me stressed out tomorrow.’ Some may call it procrastination. At this point, I tend to have no proper judgment at all. What should I teach?  Let’s just eat cotton candy outside all week because IT’S SPRINGTIME.*

The solution? Enter: GOALS.

National Board is giving me a mechanism to keep it all in perspective.

I am a huge proponent for teachers to set professional goals because ultimately, they will transfer to the classroom. Not every single piece of work you do has to be directly related to what you’re teaching right now, at this moment. It’s why I write this blog and why I decided to go for certification. My goal is to be fully certified by December 2017. It’s lofty, I know. But it helps me put my day-to-day in perspective. I’m not just working at a job, but I’m building a career that will ultimately make me a more effective teacher. Don’t we all have days where we feel like we’re spinning our wheels? National Board has helped me take my teaching and look at it systematically. If I felt like a lesson went poorly, I need to look at my evidence to see if that is really what happened. Sometimes I surprise myself. Sometimes I don’t.

I am continuing to use the Architecture of Teaching model that I’ve got to show evidence for in my student work as part of the Component 2 that I’m currently writing. In the flurry of a day, I usually try to take some time (a few minutes, even) and look at what we did in class. Collect it, observe it, evaluate it. There is something calming about grounding my head in what is there and not what I think is there. Then, I can make adjustments to my goals for my students and for myself.

If you can identify with feeling stagnant at this time of year and want to take a step to overcome it, I highly suggest you consider starting NB certification. About this time last year I was just contemplating it, and now I’m all in. The requirements are that you’ve been teaching for three years and you’re full-time.


(*update: we didn’t eat cotton candy).


The Road to National Board Certification Part 7: 11 Ways to Talk Yourself Out of the Dark Place

What is it about February that makes us deplore it? Is it the long-haul to spring break? The fact that Valentine’s Day somehow makes teenagers spontaneously reenact Days of Our Lives scenes at all hours of the school day? It may be the shortest month, but to teachers, it is definitely the longest. And it always makes me question my career: I call it, The Dark Place. 

I’ve written about this before and how to prepare for the storm. My February is no exception. I prepare for it like the best of them, but it still doesn’t matter. I will never love February. I am working on my NB Certification and my students and I cannot afford to check out. Therefore, in a quest to make this profession sustainable, I present to you:

11 Ways to Talk Yourself Out of The Dark Place

  1. Come up with the most menial list and feel proud of it 

My to-do list gets ridiculous. “Plan out the rest of the week” is ALWAYS at the top. I never get that far, honestly. I just don’t. Something more urgent always comes up. So, I make a menial list. “Empty the small trash by my desk into the big trash can” is perfect. Really. Get something done and feel good about it.

2. Fight the urge to sit

I have an adjustable desk, so I raised it to a standing desk this week. If I sit down while kids are working I get into a rut of sitting. Being sedentary does no one any good, and it really diminishes the interactions I have with my kids. If you don’t have an adjustable desk, then remove your chair from your desk. (But not like this).

3. Don’t play into people’s negative B.S. 

Negativity is catchy. I am great at catching negativity because of my charming yet cynical personality (so my husband says). One word: EMAILS. Delete those passive aggressive missives like they have the plague.


The Road to National Board Certification Part 6: Teaching While Grieving and Learning More About Formatting Than I Ever Wanted to Know

December was probably one of the worst months of my life. I have lived a privileged one in that I had never, up until this month, lost someone near to me due to tragedy.

It’s 7:30 a.m. A green bubble on my phone says, “Missed Call-Dad.” It’s not like him to call me this early, but he’s a man of idiosyncrasies—maybe he bought a Christmas gift for someone and he can’t contain the secret—so I call back. My mom answers (why would she call me on his phone?) She asks me if I’m driving right now. I’m not. The first thought in my head says dad is gone.

She sobs the news, news that I receive in front of a group of high schoolers.  The juxtaposition of it is too much and I make it to the front office.  I learn that I’ve lost the equivalent of an uncle (my dad’s cousin, but more of an uncle to me). Relief washes over me, horrifyingly bittersweet. Not my dad—but my cousin’s.

Collecting everything–thoughts, tissues, breath, I explain what happened to the first person who sees me in the office and then say, “I’ve got to teach in ten minutes.” I decide that I would teach, by God—especially after being absent a day last week due to a cold.

I’ve never had to try to function at school in the immediate shadow of devastation. One of the first things on my mind was “I have to teach today because I don’t have my National Board evidence yet and time is ticking so I’ll suck it up and get through the day.” I open up my laptop in my office and I can’t do anything. I don’t even remember what my first hour is doing.  I’m convinced when my principal pulls me in and begins the ‘now what?’ process of phone calls, buying plane tickets home, somehow contacting my husband who is at work and unable to talk on the phone, that I need to go home.

I feel guilty and angry that my life’s got to eat into what I do for a living—and often. Sickness, death. In an ongoing quest to overcome perfectionism and embrace the screwed-upness of life, this is a lesson in taking care of myself and picking up the pieces when I return to school. And although I’m at school for the next four days before flying home for the funeral, I let teaching take the back-burner. I had to turn my head to the wall often because the tears kept coming at random. Not much comes to mind when I think, what did we do that week? It was a wash. After I came home from the funeral, it was time to wrap up the semester. I was backed-up on getting feedback to students form their final projects, and honestly did not get to treat everyone equally with thorough feedback. And I feel really, really guilty.

I had spurts of productivity in the past couple of weeks with board stuff. One second I think “I’ve got this!” and the next I think “I don’t got this! No way!” I spent half a day figuring out what formatting I should be using for my component two submission. After reading posts on about candidates failing it because they accidentally submitted one blank page instead of their writing and FREAKING OUT about the horror of that feeling (and paying 300 bucks to resubmit!), I am making sure that I cover it all.

Google Slides–Did you know that if you want to print out Google Slides with comments, you can’t? Now you know. Did you also know that if you print out the “handout” version with 4 slides on a page, it will shrink the slides down way more than they need to be (to the point where you need perfect vision to read it) and there’s nothing you can do about it? Now you know. Did you know you can import Google Slides into Powerpoint, but it will pretty much give you no benefits because it’s Powerpoint and basically worthless? Maybe you already knew that.

Dochub–I discovered this because I needed to get around Microsoft Word’s clunkiness. Upload your .doc/x to Google Drive and it will offer to open it through Dochub. It’s basically a cross between Microsoft Paint and a word processor. You can edit PDFs and all that jazz–cool!

Microsoft Word–Did you know that Google Docs won’t let you print out a doc with comments, but Microsoft Word will? Probably its only redeeming quality.

All in all, I have had an unproductive working week at home but a relationally productive week at home. I saw family and friends I haven’t seen in years. I looked at many, many photographs. I sat and watched tv with my sisters and snuggled my dog. I drive home this week to Colorado to spend time with more friends, and I am planning on getting a couple days in (hopefully) at work before we start back. The balance is hard with unstructured vacation time, but I’m thankful for it.

Amidst that, I started studying for the GRE. I am crazy. Goodnight.






The Road to National Board Certification Part 5: Setbacks,Whining,and Turkey

I took a wonderful break from teaching and blogging for about a week and getting back into the schedule feels good. I was starting to become one with the couch. I am currently trying to recreate that feeling as I sit here right now but alas, the work is looming.

Some say that the period up until Thanksgiving is some of the most difficult of the year, but I disagree–the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is challenging me to the point of where I have to stop myself before I burst into the “What’s the difference between high schoolers and kindergarteners? Nearly nothing” rant and say, soothingly, peace, teacher—this too shall pass.


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.


The Road to National Board Certification Part 3: Reality Check

I once had 35 corks. Then my husband issued the “if you don’t do the crafting you planned on doing 8 months ago then I will destroy them” ultimatum.

I’ll just come out and say it—October is the worst month. But you probably already knew this.

Anyway, I had a whirlwind of a week last week with parent/teacher conferences and a class for NB cert. thrown into the mix. With all the things I should be doing right now, I hit the brakes to write to all you lovelies because I’m trying to do this whole reflective thing and it requires me to not just go home, hit the play button on Netflix, and drink a big ol’ beverage. Good thing I’m taking my own advice. 

As I sat in a classroom with about 10 other educators last week in hopes of preparing for National Board Certification, I had two realizations:

  1. Some of these teachers have been teaching for (almost) as many years as I’ve been alive.
  2. I am most definitely, without a doubt, the least experienced person in the room. (hhahah accidentally typed “most” instead of “least” the first time and almost left it there for the comedy)

As we spoke about the component we should be working on, I’m not the only one who was clueless for sure, but boy did I get intimidated. Some teachers already know exactly which students they will write about; I however, am struggling to even understand the scope of what I’m supposed to do. Heck–I am still figuring out how to do simple things like write good rubrics.

I’m freakin’ out, y’all. Did I jump into something I shouldn’t have even signed up for? I am just now seeing how difficult it will all be and that it’s quite possible I could fail this thing this year. I am realizing I don’t like to follow my own rules on growth mindset and I have fallen into the trap of “not good enough” instead of “not yet.” Last week was humbling; many times I think that I am really good at stuff and then I remember I’m not very good at a lot of stuff–yet.

I can already see the shift in my teaching day by day from using the National Board standards. I’m thinking about how to adjust my planning based on what feedback my students need. I’m always trying to remind myself to teach students “how” to think instead of “what” to think. I’m also realizing that to be good at teaching requires so much more than the “9-5” “this is a job” mentality. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the reactiveness of teaching instead of the intention and the thoughtfulness. Sometimes I forget that this job is deceptively difficult and wonder if I’ll ever feel competent.

With National Board, I can’t say whether or not I will even certify halfway this year. I am welcoming this challenge and am looking to connect with anyone who has done Adolescent Young Adult (9-12) Language Arts certification because I have some questions about component 2.

In addition to this, I have an exciting article that will be published on a teaching website that I’m soooo pumped about! Stay tuned.



The Road to National Board Certification Part Two: Read Everything 32 times

Ignore the part where I freak out about my notebook paper sign being mirror image when it’s not…I have the technological proficiency of a two-year old.

I recorded this a couple weeks ago and forgot about it. Then I checked National Board’s website today and they have delayed Component 3 until November (it should have been out this October).

#wherescomponent3? *

*This might be the nerdiest teacher hashtag ever