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:





We need books!

My class is reading Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers, next session. It’s a fabulous story, controversial, and connects well to what’s been going on with racist comments about Muslim Americans from certain politicians.

I have a Donors Choose page where you can donate and help us out! If you donate by March 2nd with the code EMPOWER, your donation will be doubled!

Click here to see the Donors Choose Page. 

**UPDATE: The Project is FUNDED!! Less than a day. You guys rock.


Flash Fiction

I’m in the middle of teaching a multi-genre unit with my students. Here’s my first draft of a flash fiction piece I wrote to add to the multi-genre research paper I’m writing alongside them. The topic is teaching–how I got there and how it has impacted me (and vice-versa). This particular piece connects to a poem that precedes it (maybe I’ll share it next time :P)

My teeth hurt. Cold but warm sweat under my clothes, I don’t notice it until later. Like a fledgling bird, I gasp for air. I don’t know the answer, I don’t know the answer is the monologue like ticker tape across my brain. Parallel moments in time hit me hard: Me in Biology class in high-school, scanning through my head to remember what an action potential is/standing in front of students of my own locked into place after they asked me a question, a flurry of but it doesn’t matter overwriting the old code and students still watching me, silent but hungry. Like wolves, they can rip into you, teeth hidden but yellow-sharp. Letting this teachable moment pass feels like throwing away an unscratched lottery ticket.

“What do answers serve us?” I ask them. I am asking them for an answer not needing answers, and I realize that, but I slowly start to feel the sweat cool as their wolfish mouths begin to chatter, alive and wondering.


America’s Grimmest Past-time: School Shootings

Students will be in my room tomorrow come eight a.m. Some will be groggy, dragging backpacks as if they weighed hundreds of pounds, while others will be zooming from one desk to another, relaying only the most sensational tales of what happened over break. I’ll probably have to learn ‘who’s dating whom’ all over again.

I’m at school for the afternoon, racking my brain for first-day-back procedures and how to introduce this session’s classes. I’m teaching multi-genre writing, primarily—my favorite. I really, really want to think about multi-genre writing right now, but I can’t. Not because I’m tired, or uninspired, or even distracted, but because of America’s grimmest past-time: mass shootings (particularly of the school variety).

I never imagined it until I moved to Colorado, home of Columbine, the Aurora Theatre, Planned Parenthood, (and many others that weren’t as news-worthy I guess), but it could happen to me, to my students, to my school. A student, a parent, a random psychotic person, armed with whatever-the-hell-gun/explosives and doing god-knows-what to god-knows-whom.

My school is located about 15 minutes away from Columbine High School. It is 12 minutes away from Arapahoe High School, where in 2012 a student was shot and killed by another student. The proximity makes the tension tangible; the “what ifs” swirl about like an unactivated poison. I have students who went to that high school and transferred to ours for reasons maybe or maybe not due to the shooting. They have panic attacks, PTSD, and fear. I’d like to think that our community helps them feel safe–we try to. But for the past year almost every day that I walk into our building–our beautiful, shiny, welcoming, loved building–my head drifts to, what would I really do? Would I run? Would I be so brave and courageous to shield students with my body like that teacher at Sandy Hook? Am I really going to lock myself and my students in a room, like sitting ducks? Am I treating every student the way they need to be treated so that they wouldn’t dream of inflicting harm on us?  I don’t know. How can you?

For me and for many others, this topic is so difficult to talk about because there is not an easy rationale for all the things that go wrong and why they do. A lot of times I think What have we learned since Columbine? and the answer sometimes feels like not a damn thing. But from what I learned today during our 3.5 hour long training involving Standard Response  Protocol (SRP), maybe we have learned how to prepare and react, since it looks like we’re going to have to just keep dealing with this s***. I won’t go on about what it is or why our district has adopted it, but today at our training I had the opportunity to hear from Frank DeAngelis, Columbine’s principal at the time of the shooting and up until last year. Columbine had no system or protocol in place for events like mass shootings. I don’t think many schools did back in 1999.

As DeAngelis relayed what happened on April 20th without breaking down (I am assuming he’s told the story so many times by now) I couldn’t help but still feel disbelief. I remember seeing Columbine on the news. I remember reading a book about one of the victims a few years later. But I still can’t believe it happened, and so close to my new home. With passion, he explained that fear and self-pity cannot replace the fact that as educators, those are not the actions we stand for. In everything we do—teaching students, fighting for them, challenging the public’s sometimes overblown attitudes about our jobs, it is always about the upside. Hope, futures, good things. It is not about getting terrorized when we walk into our buildings, and we have to learn how to fight back in every way possible (and no, I don’t think it involves hiding guns around the school for teachers to use). It takes systems, protocols, transparency. Kids knowing exactly what to do and when. Teachers and staff knowing exactly what to do and when.

We even talked about how to prepare for bathroom use if on lockdown for multiple hours (the solution is buckets, by the way–not a conversation I intended to have today). I hate that this is what we have to spend a day talking about, but it is our reality.

Teachers or anyone else, does your place of work use SRP? I’m interested to hear about it.





100th post!

WordPress went all crazy and automatically published an early version of another post I was working on about organizing my classroom, so I took it down. That’ll come later. I’m excited to share my new classroom with you all; I’ve moved classrooms three times in the last year, and I think I’m here to stay in one room for (at least) one school year. Huzzah!

This post is dedicated to all of the people who have helped me stay motivated through my first few years of teaching. I started this blog to share what goes on in my early years, specifically student teaching in Belize, then my first job in a charter school, now to Colorado to an alternative high school, and now that I’ve finally reached my fourth, I have realized that without being to get feedback, support, and encouragement, I would have felt incredibly isolated and unreflective. It’s different to write in a journal and put it away; when I write for others to see and get feedback from them, it validates what I’m doing. I wish I could say that I’m always confident and don’t need help or ideas or emotional validation from other teachers/people, but I can’t.

So many times I have questioned my place in this profession—my husband can attest to that (one time I asked him, “What if I went to med school?” (more…)

Why We Are Losing So Many Dedicated, Experienced Teachers

Diane Ravitch's blog

Teachers have been the “collateral damage ” of the so-called reform movement. The reformers’ false claims and teacher-bashing is taking a predictable roll of some of the most talented teachers while discouraging young people from entering the profession.

This article explains why so many teachers are discouraged and how reformers disguise their nefarious intentions with lies.

Dora Taylor, parent activist in Seattle, writes:

“The self-designation of “reformer” by people who have never been in the classroom and have no actual training or experience in education is a smokescreen. What they are really after is profitability for their investor-owned charter school corporations that will deliver as little education for the buck as they think they can get by with.

“The public schools are losing well-qualified and experienced teachers who have made a commitment to our communities and dedicated themselves to teaching our children and and yet we are losing them in…

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Three things I learned from parent/teacher conferences

So that challenge I started trailed off quickly, didn’t it?

I blame my my own stubbornness. I think the next post had something to do with a “bucket list” and I frankly thought it was stupid, so I didn’t do it.

Then of course I started coming up with excuses like “I’d rather be climbing/hiking/dog running than blogging” or “I need to be lesson planning”…you know how it goes.

Im back, energized by a three day weekend thanks to parent teacher conferences. And I’m writing this on an iPad and it is excruciating. Luckily our one to one iPad initiative has been repealed for reasons, so at least I won’t have to deal with the whining in the classroom about typing on tablets!

Three things I learned from parent/teacher conferences:

1. Parents will try to make you think they are hard***** about their children’s education, but I am not sure why they are trying to impress me—it’s not like I can report a parent for not caring about their child’s education until the second they have to speak with me. This makes me wonder how to engage parents in a more authentic way than meetings or phone calls…

2. I see so much more potential for the students whose parents are in their lives than from the ones whose parents are not, even if they are at the same household income level. I intuitively knew this already, but for this being the first time I have done PT conferences, it was striking.

3. When a parent goes off on a tangent about how Ebola is going to bring about an apocalypse, you SHUT IT DOWN.

October is rough, teachers, but thanksgiving is around the corner! Hang in there, and please feel free to post any tried and true ideas for engaging parents in an authentic way classroom-wide and school-wide.


Day 9: What is your biggest accomplishment in teaching?

As I left my previous position in June of this year, I received a card during a surprise going away party from my colleagues in our little windowless cafeteria in the basement of our school. The card had many heartfelt and touching words from people I had built a professional livelihood with for two years. One singular note from a friend and colleague permeated my mind, and will continue to drive my teaching for the rest of my life: “The kids are better people because of you.”

I did not expect that. I hadn’t evaluated myself that way before.

I do not think about how my actions, the energy lying beneath the words I say, and the way teaching has a unique impact on my students could make them better people. But it does. I don’t think I could accomplish anything more important than that.

Here’s to another year of pushing, inspiring, and changing.


Day 8: What’s in your desk drawer; what can you infer from its contents?

My desk drawer is too organized. You should see the top of my desk, though…yikes.


Sharpies: They are gold to me. I use them for our blackout poetry, which you actually see in my classroom pictures. (I’m proud of the kids with those poems, they really took some risks). They’re also quite expensive, so they are off-limits unless I hand them out.

White-out: I wondered why there were boxes and boxes of white-out when I took over the classroom. Now I know. The cards that the students keep track of their points on have mistakes on them daily by teachers like me who are still getting a hold of the point/card system (I find myself apologizing at least once a class for signing in the wrong area…one day I will know what I’m doing, but today is not that day!). You can also see where the white-out tape went wrong…it is not as trusty as the liquid stuff.

Timer: I’ve been meaning to use this, but I usually just pull out my phone when I need to time the kids for things.

Binder clips/Paper clips: This one’s pretty obvious. Hopefully one day my room will be paperless. I hate having to clip/re clip…

Post-it notes: Proof I will never be totally paperless while these are around. I love them too much. I think it’s in the genes of every teacher to have an affinity for sticky notes.

Calculator: Clearly at the bottom of my desk because I don’t have to calculate grades because of our point system!

Rubber bands: These are terrible quality and this reminds me—I need to toss them.