The times, they are achangin'

So many things have evolved in my 15 years of being an educator in Alabama. When I started my first position in this field, which was serving as a 5th grade reading teacher, corporate email for teachers wasn't even a thing, y'all. I mean, seriously. That alone makes me feel like a fossil. 

And, of course, there is much that hasn't changed at all. In many ways teachers are still disrespected, ignored, and undermined in all the ways that matter when it comes to legislative issues that impact our profession. Our elected representatives talk about us, over us, around us, and under us, but they rarely talk to us. This is ineffective and inefficient at best when it comes to effecting real and positive change for our teachers, students, and communities. 

There was a thing that happened this weekend that gave me hope. A very diverse group of impassioned, extraordinary teachers came together to discuss issues impacting education in Alabama. We discussed everything from Alabama's College and Career Ready Standards to measures impacting teacher quality to National Board Teacher Certification. It was a robust discussion, and my only regret was that we had to cut it off after an hour. This was teachers talking shop, and it was so refreshing to hear the different viewpoints on these issues. 

What made this different from any other teacher roundtable discussion was that, for the first time to my knowledge, a prominent person pursuing an elected office asked for a seat at our table. (*See my friend Julie's blog post explaining just why it is OUR table!)

The times, they are achangin' friends, and in all the ways that will be the wind in our sails to make a tangible difference for our teachers and students in this state. 

My National Board Experience: Was It Worth It?

From June of 2008-June of 2009, I underwent the most strenuous, rigorous, arduous task of my professional life: National Board Teacher Certification.

“National Board Certification is part of the growing education reform movement that is advancing student learning, improving teaching and making schools better. Teachers who achieve National Board Certification have met high standards through study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review.” ( )

That is what National Board Certification means to some.

This is what going through National Boards meant to me.

While going through the National Board process, I:

-Missed bath time, blowing bubbles, reading, holding, feeding, playing, singing with, teaching, and playing outside with my child.
-Had acne breakouts so bad they were reminiscent of my high school days.
-Saw the sun rise…many times.
-Skipped Bible study, Bunko, parties, and dinners with friends.
-Declined requests to help at church, and with church get-togethers.
-Neglected my family’s scrapbook for an entire year. That is scandalous for someone who normally has the beach page completed before we leave the beach.
-Learned more about my students, about teaching, and about myself than I ever dreamed possible.
-Missed all my favorite shows…repeatedly.
-Skipped grocery shopping and cleaning house for several months.
-Had never been more thankful for my husband and his supportive nature.
-Felt like I didn’t have a real conversation with friends or family from September to June.
-Gained and lost the same 10 pounds at least 3 times.
-2 words: CARPAL TUNNEL.
-Longed to have my guest room back (sweet hubby had converted it to my personal National Board workspace)!
-Completely wore out a rolling crate. Wheels hanging off, bottom busted out, sides falling apart. By mid-March, it was out by the curb.
-Felt truly, madly, deeply VIOLENT towards my printer; how dare that thing print crazy when it knew I had a deadline to meet!
-Skipped more than one bath in favor of a few more minutes’ worth of sleep.
-Had collective emotional breakdowns with other candidates.
-Wondered if I’d have any friends at all once I emerged from the National Board cave because I never talked with them and if I did, the conversation was always about National Boards.
-Was in such a frantic state one day that I backed into the garage door as it was going up, then in my haste to throw it in Drive and prevent further damage to the garage door I almost slammed into the side of the house; the next day I was in such a hurry to get to school early that I ran into a garbage can on the side of the road and knocked off my side-view mirror. Even our cars paid for my stress this year!
-Almost could not pry my fingers off my box to hand it over to FedEx, and threatened them if they lost it.
-Told a friend at McAlister’s that I needed to see the pictures on the wall menu because “I’m a visual learner.”
-Felt so isolated, because no one else in the world knew my exact teaching circumstances, my certification area, my standards, my style, or my writing; this was ME vs. ME.
-Woke up in the middle of the night reflecting on a lesson, thinking of an idea to help with a lesson, thinking of my students, thinking of an idea to help them learn, etc.

In March 2009, I submitted THE BOX filled with my portfolio entries (also known as hundreds of hours’ worth of my blood, sweat, and tears). In June I took a 3 hour assessment at a testing center (also known as a crazy room filled with cameras and sound monitors and fingerprint scanners at the one point of entry/exit for security purposes). Since then I have waited for scores to be released, and have just received notice that all current candidates will find out the fate of our National Board journey this Friday.

So was it all worth it? Absolutely. This process refined me as an educator and specifically as a library media specialist in a way that not even a doctorate level degree could have accomplished. I learned the incredible power of reflection, and of the importance of spending my time on the extra-curricular events, activities, and committees that CLEARLY impact student achievement. I’m naturally a tech person, and have always enjoyed teaching technology with students. During my National Board work, however, I fell in love (maybe for the first time) with the library media portion of my job. This year I learned that my next degree will be an EdS in Library Media, rather than the Instructional Technology program I had in mind before.

I have re-read the standards for Library Media numerous times…too many to count. I still feel the same way I did the first time I read them: inadequate. Regardless of the score I see on the screen Friday morning, I have a lot of growing room as a library media specialist. I simply have the National Board Teacher Certification process to thank for providing me with a measure of how to get where I need to be. Pass or fail this year, the National Board standards, rubrics, and methodology are permanently a part of my educational philosophy, which I hope will continually increase in impacting students in my learning community throughout the remainder of my time serving children.