Friday, May 23, 2014

The Results From My First Year of National Board Certification

Two years ago, I climbed a mountain.  I knew it would be hard.  I knew it would bring me to tears.  I also knew it would be worth it.

Two years ago, I started my journey towards National Board Certification.  I can honestly say it was the hardest year of my ten-year teaching career.  It was also the most worthwhile.  As I critiqued my practice daily, I grew as a teacher.  I reflected and adjusted constantly.

Even though it was by far the hardest thing I had ever done, I climbed higher and higher.  I knew that I had to reach 275, but I didn't know how high I had actually climbed.  See, I climbed so high, I climbed into the clouds.

When the due date came, I sat along the trail.  Still in the clouds, I didn't know if I had reached the summit.  Until November last year.

The clouds parted last November and I could see the summit.

photo credit: 

I missed it by 14.  Fourteen out of 275.  That is approximately 5%.  So close.  So, so close.  I thought I would be devastated when I found out that I had missed the summit.  But, amazingly, I wasn't.  I know how hard I worked that year.  I know that it was all worth it when I look back on my students and their growth.  I also know that I have two more attempts to achieve National Board Certification.


I just finished my second year of National Board Certification work.  I climbed higher still into the clouds.  Closer and closer to the summit.  I sit again a midst the clouds.  Waiting.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Scores

It all boils down to this.  Scores.

Or does it?  Is the destination the ultimate goal?  Or somehow, was the journey the goal all along?

My scores for National Board Certification will be released soon. I will either be labeled a Nationally Board Certified teacher..........or not.  Scores.  Labels.

I would be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous.  But, it's good.  I think to myself, is this how my students feel every summer, awaiting their high-stakes scores?  Waiting to be labeled?

Is that what it's all about?  Absolutely not!  I tell my students, from the first day of school to the last, that I love them.  That they are smart.  That they are capable.  Scores have never, and will never, change that.

You, my friends, were my support along my journey.  You told me how smart I was, when I didn't believe in myself. You told me that I was capable, especially on the days I didn't feel like it.  You helped me hear the Voice of Truth.

I realize, looking back now, that it was the journey that made me an accomplished teacher.  Every student honed my skills; some more than others.  I am not the same teacher I was when my journey began.  For that, I am thankful.  Not because it has made me a better teacher just for the sake of being better, yet, for my students' sake.  My intense focus on my teaching enabled me to hold on to those students slipping through the cracks.  For that, I am thankful.  I was also able to help my highest achieving student reach even higher than she thought was possible.  For that, I am thankful.

I want you to realize that only about half of the candidates achieve on their first attempt.  Many candidates come from schools and districts with other nationally board certified teachers on staff. Some districts hire consultants whose sole job is to help candidates.  I teach in a small, rural district and did not have that level of support.  I don't want you to be disappointed if I did not achieve on my first try.  We set lofty goals, my friends. 

As I sit along the trail, waiting, I rejoice.  Rejoicing because I have come to realize my weaknesses.  I know where Susan ends.  Anything that comes after is pure God.  It was God to begin with, as this is His talent in me.  His plan and purpose for my life.  But from here on out, it's 100% God.  Amen.  "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Think About Such Things

I have sinned.  I have sinned against some of you.  Please forgive me.  I am happy for you.  I am.  Now.

But I wasn't yesterday.  Yesterday (and to be honest, for about 3 months), I wasn't.

See, many of you have bought new (or new to you) vehicles in the last 2 months.  They all look so nice.  Sporty.  Clean.  Good gas mileage.  Did I mention sporty?

Meanwhile, I am driving my mom van.  Yes, you know the one.  My signature white mom van.  The anti-thesis of sporty.

I started down a dark path of envy.  I was envious of your vehicles.  I started to rationalize reasons why I deserve a newer vehicle.  I started to think of all the reasons why I need a newer vehicle.

And then I came across Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I was convicted immediately.  I knew I had to stop my current way of thinking, which was really just making me more bitter and unhappy, and change to thinking of what is true and noble, right and pure, lovely and admirable.  Excellent or praiseworthy.

I started to think of reasons why I love my mom van.  I instantly came up with a dozen.  Knowing my sinful nature, I knew that I would be prone to revert to thinking of why I deserve a newer vehicle.  So, I printed out the praiseworthy reasons why I love my mom van.  I clipped in the van in a location where I will see it daily.

  1. She's paid off.
  2. I don't worry about spills.
  3. I don't worry about scratches.
  4. I can fit all the boys' friends.
  5. I can fit all the boys' STUFF.
  6. She is comfortable for traveling.
  7. She can drive through ANYTHING!
  8. She's dependable.
  9. She's good on gas.
  10. She's safe.
  11. She has tons of charging stations.
  12. I can change the seating in 12 positions.
Finally, think about such things.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

T+1 Year: The Results

It's hard to believe it's been a year.  It seems like just yesterday that I was waiting for the doctors to come out and tell me the results of the surgery.

This year has been an amazing year of growth for Joe.  He has so much energy that he runs circles around me.  I'm fine with that.  It's like watching a walking running miracle every day.

Mayo Clinic is nothing if not thorough.  Joe went through an entire week of testing before the transplant to see if he was eligible for the surgery.  Since the transplant, he has done routine blood-work and doctor visits.  However, yesterday, marked his one year birthday.  With that, comes more testing from Mayo; biopsy, blood-work, 24 hour blood pressure monitor, bone density, etc.

All the tests boil down to kidney function.  So, what is his expected kidney function?

It's been said that we start to die the minute we are born.  This is true in regards to kidney function.  Although every body is different, there is an easy formula to estimate kidney function.  Start with 100% and subtract 10% for every decade (  For instance, Joe, in his mid-40's, should be at 65%.  Give or take.  When he was diagnosed two years ago, he was 11%; a horrible number.  One year later, right before the transplant, he had slipped to 8%; a fatal number.  Kris, Joe's donor, also in her 40's, should be in the 60% range.  However, her tests came back at 96%; an amazing number!  Mayo, the leader in transplants, said they had NEVER had someone her age with that number!

It seems reasonable to think that when you remove one kidney, you divide the function in half.  However, the kidneys are amazing and they know when they are the only filter.  They start to filter more and can reach filtration rates similar to that of two kidneys.

So, what is Joe's function?

84%!!!!  In fact, Joe is doing so well, the doctor told him that he doesn't have to come back for an entire year AND he doesn't need any more biopsies!!!!!!!!  Praise God.

Our Time

It's not about us.  Well, it's never really been about us.  It's always been HIS story.  We were merely the characters.

But, it's not our time to receive and take.  It's our time to give back.

As we sat in the waiting room, we saw the look of various stages of waiting, wondering, worrying.

We sat near one such waiter.  She started to tell us her story.  She has been a strong caregiver for years.  She has been the rock, taking care of daily functions.  The rock during multiple surgeries.  Multiple days, weeks, months in such hospitals.  And then it happened.

She started to sob.  She let it all out.

Joe and I looked at each other and immediately got up to embrace her.  We showered her with kind words and scriptures.  I told her I love her.  I don't even know her name but I know her pain.

As Joe and I walked out of the hospital, we looked at each other again.  We realized that it's no longer about us.  This is our time to give back.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Purpose

Dear Sweet (not so little anymore) Girl,

You are so precious.  We have been thinking of you and praying for you and God wanted me to tell you something.

God knitted you together in your mother's womb.  He made you, just the way you are, on purpose.  Read that last part again.  On purpose.  Purpose.  There is a purpose in this.  We might not know what it is right now.  We may never know.  And we don't need to.  We can rest knowing that God made you the way you are for a reason.

That reason may be to bring you closer to God.  I can't imagine that, as I see you sitting on the King's lap already.

The reason might be to bring others closer to God.  Others will look at you and marvel at your peace and joy in a time that might seem chaotic and uncertain.

I pray for healing.  I can't imagine what you are going through.

I pray for wisdom for the doctors.

I pray for continued peace for your family.  Your family is a light and a joy to everyone who meets you.

Finally, I pray that all the glory goes to God.  We don't know God's purpose, but we know He has a purpose.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  On purpose.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Voice of Truth

When I embarked on my journey towards national board certification, I thought it would be a journey of professionalism, encased in sound teaching principles.  I had no idea that it would be a spiritual journey, full of battles.  Let me explain.

Twelve years ago, God called me to be a nationally board certified teacher.  How's that?  I was still in college.  I hadn't even started student teaching yet!  He specifically told me "after 10 years, when your children are in school."  Ahem, Joe and I just got engaged.  What children?

I explained how I had to consciously forget about national boards as I carried on with life.  Last year, God awakened the dream once again.  I will never forget it.  Joe and I were in the hotel on the Mayo Clinic campus.  We were there for his initial testing to determine if his body was healthy enough for a transplant.  I prayed.  We talked.  I prayed some more.  This was it.

Only after the transplant (a success!) and the healing process, did I remember God's promise to me all those years ago.  "After ten years of teaching".  Last school year was my 10th year of teaching.  "When your children are in school".  Last year, Joshua started Kindergarten.  If God is "I Am", why am I always amazed when He is proven past, present, and future?

The first day I sat down to work on my certification, I was hit with advice from all angles.  Good advice.  Advice intended to help me succeed.  But, it wasn't what I needed.  I shook it off like David shook off the king's armor.  I was armed with a rock and a promise.

I continued on the journey; a grueling one.  I believe the hardest part of national board certification is that it doesn't happen in a vacuum.  Teachers don't take sabbatical and sit around thinking lofty thoughts.  They are in the trenches of the classroom every. single. day.  They are working their fingers to the bone every day to raise test scores.  They are crying their eyes out every night, praying for their children students.  In case you weren't aware, teaching is NOT a 40 hour per week "job".

I am also a mother.  I promised myself that I would not allow national boards to separate me from my children.  Although I dedicated many Saturdays to working towards certification, I also spent time with my boys.  We went to museums.  We went hiking.  And when they were sick, I comforted them.  National board certification is a piece of paper.  I am Jack and Joshua's MOTHER.  That came first.

Actually, it came second.  I am a wife first.  Now, some of you might get upset that I put my husband before my children, but I believe it to be God's plan for families and He will bless us for that dedication.  In fact, He already has.  This was an amazing, watch-God-work-in-our-lives kind of year.  If my husband wanted me to sit on the couch and watch some car get fixed on TV, guess what.  I watched.

Which led me up to last week.  My documentation (all 90 pages of it) was due last week on Friday.  I worked diligently every day toward my goal.  I was on track.  I was remembering God's promise and reading my devotional every morning.  And then, I listened to other voices.  The voices that told me I was inadequate.  The ones that told me I was being pretentious to even go for national board certification. Voices that reminded me of past failures.  I looked down.  I took my eyes off Jesus.

But, I am surrounded by amazing friends.  Blessings from God on my life.  They prayed for me.  They showered me with scripture.  Perhaps you were one of those friends.  Thank you.  My prayer throughout this entire process has been that God would bless the work of my hands and that it would be all be for God's glory.  Not mine.

This song is the embodiment of my journey toward national board certification.  It begins with Peter stepping out of the boat.  Voices are telling him that he can't do it.  But, he looks to Jesus and can walk on water.

The song continues with the story of David.  Not dressed in armor.  Not listening to all the voices of doubt.  Armed with just a rock and a promise.

The refrain speaks volumes.  "This is for My glory."

I send this message into the blogosphere as I am finishing up my final preps for the board exam.  I leave in a few hours to drive to Tucson.  My board exam is tomorrow morning; early.  I won't know if my documentation (did I mention it was 90 pages?) and exam will be enough to pass muster.  I do know this: this was an amazing journey that kept me by God's side through the entire adventure.  It is NOT for my glory; yet His.  "Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth."

where Glory meets my suffering