National Board Teaching Certification

This past Saturday I received my scores for my National Board Certification. I achieved! I can now say I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts.

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I am very proud of this achievement, but I do not plan to stop here, however. I plan to continue to grow my practice and strive to become a leader in the field of literacy. The process I went through to achieve will continue to be a process I use daily. Teaching is about continuous reflection, goal setting and growth for your students and yourself. I want to make sure my teaching is always at the highest level and accomplished!

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My principal included this in his morning email today. I know NBCTs challenge themselves daily.

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You have to challenge yourself to grow professionally. The National Board process helped challenge me. It was not overwhelming but was challenging. I had to reflect on myself, my students, my school, my community and all the other factors that I encounter daily teaching in a Title One school. Reflecting on your own teaching and beliefs is not always easy but a must as an effective teacher or educator. You cannot change and grow without reflection and acceptance of your own and your students needed areas of improvement.  I think the National Board process is well worth it because of this challenge!

This is a post from the National Board’s blog site. This teacher summed up some of how I had been feeling waiting for results.

“I got an email this evening reminding me that the scores for the components I submitted for National Board Teacher Certification would be available December 1. It’s not as if I needed this reminder. It’s not as if ANY teacher working toward achieving NBCT status needed that reminder. We’ve all been acutely aware of the date and waiting with bated breath for score release. We’ve been counting the months, the weeks, the days, and now the hours since submitting last May.

So this Saturday I will know if I certified. For that I am grateful. It will be the end of the anxiety. But let me tell you what I am more grateful for: the journey.

No, I don’t mean the Selected Response and Structured Response test that I fretted over or the three written portfolio entries and the weeks of gathering data or the days of poring over it. I don’t mean the hours upon hours of filling up form upon form in single-spaced, bracketed rigidity. Nor do I mean the double-spaced analysis of every choice I made that was always too long before it became an acronym&ampersand-riddled code to save space and fit into the regimented required page limit. And I certainly don’t mean the part about deciphering hundreds of pages of instructions that were paradoxically both meticulously precise and entirely vague. I could have done without that part.

What I mean when I mention the journey is the process all those requirements forced upon me….the poring over student work….the making meaning of all that data….the better effort to communicate with my students and their families….the hours of planning lessons that never were finished without my asking myself why?….why am I teaching this?….why am I approaching my lesson this way?….what are my goals for my students?….where are they now?…how can I best move them toward the mark????? So many whys and hows that have become an integral part of every lesson (even the ones I don’t get all typed up and turned in on time). I am grateful for the discussion board I created in Canvas this week…the one that made students respond to scholarly articles and each other. I’m grateful for the more meaningful approaches to feedback and the guidance I am better able to give. I’m grateful that all this has made me a more thoughtful teacher…and I think a better one, too.

So tonight, when I got that email while reading through student responses on the discussion board, I felt so thankful that I had taken this journey. Whether I make the cut or have to retake some portion, I know I have grown from this experience. I know my students are benefiting from my increased awareness of what it means to teach. For that I am immensely grateful.

Waiting for results was difficult to do at times. It did give me more time to reflect on what I could have done differently to improve upon the work I submitted.

I understand this teachers sentiment and understand the main point they were trying to make and agree with it. It is going through the journey and process itself that will help strengthen you as a teacher, the certification itself and being able to put the letters NBCT by your name are not most important.  I question one thing this teacher says however. The journey this teacher talks about is something all exceptional and successful teachers already do informally. I cringed a little bit when this teacher said “What I mean when I mention the journey is the process all those requirements forced upon me.” I hope most of them were not forced upon this teacher. I hope they were already doing most and refined them through the journey. The requirements for completing my boards that were forced upon me were not those dealing with the pedagogy of teaching but getting the writing style down and formatting my writing and forms correctly. Pouring over student work….the making meaning of all that data….the better effort to communicate with my students and their families….the hours of planning lessons, the teacher mentions, are a constant of successful, accomplished teachers, not something you are forced to do. Those are things I feel I must do. For me they come from within and  are instinctual things I do for my students and myself. Most were things I was already doing, but my National Board work helped me strengthen how I do those things and helped me find better and more effective ways of doing them. It did help me spend more time reflecting and planning for some lessons. I think I have become a more strategic planner and efficient planner through the Boards process. It helped me make sure all my decisions are sound ones, based on student needs and or building, district and state requirements. Based on my own needs as well. I am seeing my teaching in smaller pieces and bigger pieces more if that makes sense. I am able to focus in on small details and see the big picture of where I want my students to go with more clarity now. Practice and accountability are great things! Accomplished teachers hold themselves accountable and the Boards process can help you hold yourself accountable with more vision and clarity. Thinking about and referring back to the National Board standards overall and standards for my certificate area in literacy helps me hold myself accountable. I will not lose site of those standards as I continue to incorporate them into my district and state standards.  I will hold true to the National Board’s 5 Core Propositions!

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The National Board’s journey has helped me grow as a teacher in my educational practices, but also specifically in literacy practices. I am definitely a better teacher after going through the process.

 

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I was able to hone in on some of my instincts and build up new ones through the process. I have changed, strengthened and acquired new teaching skills and processes as a result. National Boards helps good teachers continue to grow their practice. To achieve I feel you have to already have in place a lot of what is required of you through the process and be willing to work on strengthening and improving those. Going through the journey even if you do not achieve your first try can and should be a learning experience to help you grow your practice. Exceptional teachers and successful accomplished National Board teachers already have a good foundation in place for themselves and work continuously to improve it! Boards definitely help you improve it.

There are schools and districts out there that require much of what is required within National Boards. I believe I work in one of them.

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I am lucky to work in an environment where continuous growth and reflection is expected just as it is within the National Boards process. I will continuously strive to meet board standards.

 Teaching is a continuous process and National Boards respects and expects that process!  They teach you to hold yourself accountable when making the many daily decisions we make as teachers. The National Board process is for all teachers who want to grow! All schools and districts should embrace it and encourage it for their teachers.

Troy

Self-Assessment

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I recently completed the National Board Teacher certification process. I do not find out if I achieved until December 2018. Part of that process required me to create and administer a student self-assessment. As I thought about the type of assessment I wanted to create, I thought about strategy instruction. Explicitly teaching strategies is very hot right now in some circles of literacy instruction. Teachers are modeling the heck out of strategies and explicitly teaching them and students are “doing” them. I think a key word here is doing them. Students are going through the steps and doing them. I wondered if they were thinking and reflecting about themselves as a reader and using the strategy as a tool to help and enhance reading for meaning as they completed these strategies however.


I work with striving readers as a Reading Specialist in my building. A strategy I have really started exploring is Cross-Checking. As a reading specialist I know and value the importance of it, but realized my students needed to be doing more than just completing the steps of it after watching me model it. They needed to be authentically attempting cross-checking on their own, in books of their own choosing and reflecting on what they did as a reader and really become metacognitively aware of themselves as readers recognizing what works for them. I wanted to be teaching for transfer, not just for students to do the strategy. I realized that most strategies do not actually have steps we need to follow to be successful with them. They require students to think and process information from multiple sources often simultaneously. I noticed that when trying to stretch out cross- checking into steps, it slowed students down. Some students relied on visual cues more than meaning or semantics and vice-versa. Some students didn’t try to use any other source of information. This told me I was staring in the right place.


Reflecting as a teacher and getting your students to reflect is a big part of the National Board process. I recognized that reflecting required me to do more than go through the steps and my students needed the same. I had recently read an article from Reading Research Quarterly, called “Change over time in first graders’ strategic use of information at point of difficulty in reading” (Mcgee, L., Kim, H. & Fried, M., 2015). The researchers reminded me that beginning readers first rely on meaning to help them read. They used pictures and their own experiences and apply those understandings as they read a text not noticing the visual cues within the words themselves but mostly using pictures. We quickly teach them to notice beginning letters, endings and eventually whole words. Of course we stress applying meaning to what they notice visually about the word so they do not have to try to stretch the word out completely often butchering it up beyond recognition. Point being lots of readers learn to over-emphasize the visual cues without applying meaning or syntax. To me this goes back to simply doing a strategy without thinking.

Cross-Checking requires students to think through the questions of “does it sound right, does it make sense and does it look right.” Students have to apply these simultaneously.

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They are not steps students mindlessly complete. Meaning of the word they are trying to solve at the sentence, paragraph and whole text level is key along with visual cues and thinking about how the word sounds. A combination of thinking through the questions of cross-checking is what makes it work! There is no magic order to think through the questions readers ask themselves as they cross-check. I feel it may vary depending on the word and text.
 With this in mind I designed the following student self-assessment for a group of 2nd graders. The assessment can easily be adapted to fit striving readers of all levels. I usually had students start them on their own, jumping in and giving support as needed. I would often add some notes to the bottom of the assessment to help me clarify information. I found that discussing each self-assessment with the students’ guided reading group, individually or sharing it to the class as an example of what readers do made it more meaningful.
 Talking with readers about what they were doing as they cross-checked and after was effective for the students; moreso than all the modeling in the world was.  As we talked I noticed and put names to what students were doing, so we could refer back to what they did.

Students have to be thinking about what they are choosing to do as readers at the point of difficulty when solving words or monitoring for comprehension. I continue to use this cross-checking self-assessment today and I am developing others to address student needs. I feel self-assessment even in simple forms is key to making sure students transfer what we teach into their own reading. Students have to think to become effective, efficient readers, much like we found students have to do when solving equations in math. Going through the motions of following formulas we found was not enough. We are learning to making sure students have number sense. Making sure they can recognize when an answer or attempt they make doesn’t make sense. Students are learning to keep a meaningful answer in mind when solving equations and can recognizing when something does not make sense. We have to be applying the same thinking to reading instruction. Readers have to be able to do more than go through a set of steps. Any strategy you use has to be used as a tool to help make meaning, not take the place of making meaning and thinking. Self-assessments like the example below can help make sure students are not doing strategies but using strategies to effectively help their meaning making processes as they read. Let me know how you are using self-assessment with your literacy instruction or if you have any questions about what I have done and learning to do as I continue to reflect and grow my practice.
 Here is the Cross-checking self-assessment I created. It is simple, but gets students to think about what they did. On the second example you can see I added a box at the of the form to write notes.

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Next week I am teaching a 2 hour course on using a problem-based approach to teaching reading for my districts Summer Academy professional development program with a colleague Elizabeth Hagan. I hope to reflect on that experience and bring some new insights from other great teachers within my district. This problem-based approach comes from Vicki Vinton and her book Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading. Check out my previous blog post about this book: https://troyafredde.blog/2018/02/06/teaching-reading-skills-in-isolation/

Troy