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."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Lied....Sort Of

So, remember how I told you that I finished my National Board paperwork?  Well, I did finish the paperwork.  All 90 pages of it.  Seriously.  Ninety pages.  And the two 15-minute videos of my teaching.  But.....I'm not done yet.

To achieve national board certification, a teacher must submit clear, concise, and convincing evidence of their accomplished teaching.  In addition, they must also take a 4 hour assessment.  The questions span the whole age range of their certificate area.  For instance, I am attempting to certify in Early-Middle Childhood Literacy: Reading/Language Arts.  This area spans ages 3-12 years old.  This last school year, I taught 4th grade and my 90 pages of evidence and 2 videos represent only 4th grade.  Now, I must go to the assessment center and take the 4 hour test to prove I know the content for students below and above my current grade level.

I do have experience in the other age ranges.  I taught 2nd grade for two years.  I taught a preschool/kindergarten class for three years.  And, I did my student teaching in a one-room schoolhouse for grades 1st through 6th.  It's just that those assignments were so long ago, since I've been in 4th grade for five years.

I feel calmly confident. Not-over-the-top confident, but I-can-do-this confident.  There is a wonderful group on Yahoo Groups which has resources and practice prompts for the assessment.  I have been reading books non-stop (ok, so I'm using NB as an excuse to sit and read).  And I've been tapping into the great strategies I have learned over the years from amazing teachers/mentors.  I can do this.

So, if you find yourself thinking of me this week, say a little prayer.  My assessment is Friday.  In Tucson.  Which means I'll be leaving Thursday to drive down.  My prayer through the entire process has been:
Bless the work of my hands.
Your servant

Monday, June 3, 2013

Now What?

I submitted my evidence for National Board certification.  Whew!  What an amazing process. I highly suggest it for any teacher passionate about reflecting on and learning from their own teaching process.

Many of you have asked, "now what?"  Well, now, I wait.  The scoring process is quite rigorous and many of the evaluators are teachers themselves (a.k.a., busy people).  I will receive my results on New Year's Eve.  No joke.  In seven months.

Many of you have asked how this will affect my career.  When I achieve, my district will add an extra $2,000 per year to my base pay.  This is very competitive.  Some districts help pay for the certification, including conferences.  In a friend's district, they actually hire a professional to help their teachers achieve.

It will also look VERY nice on a resume.  Being nationally board certified puts you in an elite circle of teachers and that makes you highly marketable.

I will also be able to add a few more letters to my signature.  As of right now, I can sign "Susan Rodriguez, M. Ed." I did it once but it felt pretentious.  After I certify, I will be able to sign "Susan Rodriguez, M. Ed., NBCT".  Please.  I can hardly get through all the letters in "Rodriguez".  I will probably only sign it once in a letter to my mom and then, never again.

Yet, none of those were reasons I pursued national board certification.  I did it for the kids.

Working on national board certification requires a high level of self-analysis.  You realize this the first time when you begin videotaping.  You see things in your room from another perspective; another lens, if you will.  Why did I put that there?  Why did I put those students together?  Why did I wear that outfit?  Just kidding...  Kind of...  Not really.  To be honest, I felt like a high school student on my video days; standing in front of my closet, changing outfits about 6 times.

But that is just the "visual".  There are so many other aspects as well.  Why do I say that?  Is there a better way I could have handled that?

And then the critique of your actual teaching.  You critically analyze every word that came out of your mouth and every message your body conveyed.  You start to look at ways to improve everything.  every. thing.

I'm not saying I'm the best teacher in the world.  Hardly.  In fact, after going through this process, I see areas  where I want to improve.  But, I found myself improving almost daily just going through the process.  I can honestly say this was my best year teaching.  I instituted programs, policies, and routines that increased rigor, student engagement, and student achievement.

So, why did I do it?  To stand on some stage to receive accolades? Not likely.  I did it because every child deserves a better education.  Every child deserves a nationally board certified teacher.

where Glory meets my suffering