Dr. Baros is a dedicated researcher, educator, and LGBTQ advocate. Her areas of expertise are proficiency-based language teaching and creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ students and people.
Now that you've got a good overview of the NBCT process and your personal timeline and game plan, it's time to tart digging in to the individual components. Hopefully, you also know what your specific Standards are and have a glossary of terms you will be able to use when you start writing. We have one more "Kiddie Pool" activity that will help you connect these standards to each component.
What you'll need:
This activity is fairly straightforward. Beginning with C2 (we'll come back to C1 at the end because it's a bit different), place both your Standards Table of Contents and the C2 Overview side by side. Compare your list of standards in the Table of Contents to the standards listed under the heading "...Standards Measured by Component 2" somewhere to the bottom of page 1. For each standard listed, write down "C2" on the dotted lines in your table of contents (I chose to use a specific color for each component so I could quickly find all of the "C2" annotations on this page. Repeat this process with component 3 and 4. When you are done, you should have an idea of which standards are measured in which components at a quick glance.
C1 is a bit different. Instead of having all of the standards listed in one place, you'll have to check a few places. First, in the Overview, you should see a table with the "Standards Measured by Selected Response Items". Locate each of the standards listed in that table and write "C1" next to those standards on your Table of Contents. However, the selected response items are only the first part of the test - you also need to check your constructed responses (essay question). Locate your sample questions - there should be three. Under the heading "Sample Exercise 1", there should be a standard listed. Annotate it on your table of contents if you haven't already.
If you'd like, take out your Standards Statements and copy these annotations to each of the standards listed here along with their descriptions. This may be helpful to get a more concrete idea of what they're looking for in your subject area as you write your Written Commentary and need a quick reminder.
Now, you have a quick-reference list for how the Standards connect to all four components. The last thing you need is a perspective for how heavily each of these items are weighted. At the top of each overview, add these percentages (accurate as of the 2020-2021 certification cycle; can be found in the "Scoring Guide" under "A Note about Scores and Weights"):
These percentages will not only be helpful in strategizing about which components to take/retake (I'm not planning on writing about this), but also keeping things in perspective when you're in the thick of things. From what you just annotated in your Standards Table of Contents and percentages, you should see that:
Remember, you killed a small forest and printed single-sided for a reason! Make sure you write down anything from this blog, other resources, and your own thoughts as you go!
Are you ready or your first "Deep Dive"? Keep in mind that these dives are NOT intended to help you understand the entire component at once - you will come back multiple times to read and re-read. However, this activity will help you start to organize what specifically is expected of you so you can begin to develop your C2, C3, and C4 portfolio pieces. I also recommend that you do this activity with ONE component at a time and take time to really sit with what you learn and process it. Write down ideas and questions, ideally on the blank page opposite the information you're referring to (if you printed everything one-sided).
This is one of the single best activities I learned during my certification process, courtesy of the Jump Start training WEA provided before the school year was underway.
What you'll need: For one component, make pull out the following pages so you can look at them simultaneously (you'll put them back when you're done):
Overview and Submission
On the Overview, find the subheading that has the title of the Component (e.g. "Component 2: Differentiation in Instruction". There should be a one-paragraph summary of the component. Read this and highlight/annotate anything that jumps out to you.
Now, find your Submission at a Glance. This table is a quick summary that you'll come back to over and over again. Each Component has multiple items to submit, and each serves a specific purpose:
The Written Commentary and Rubric
Hopefully you now have an idea of the intent of this component AND the process by which the readers will be scoring you. Let's talk about what they're actually scoring now.
Get out your Composing Written Commentary instructions. Lay it side-by-side with your Level 4 Rubric. Label each rubric item alphabetically so you can quickly identify which item you're talking about. Mark key words so you can quickly descipher the "essence" of each rubric item.
Then, begin reading the questions in the written commentary. Which rubric item(s) match with that question? Label the Written Commentary question with the corresponding letters for the rubric items. Try to be as discriminatory as possible when making these connections so you can speak specifically to what the readers are trying to find out from your written commentary. Repeat this process with all of the Written Commentary questions until you have at least one rubric item connected to each question.
Once you've completed this process, it's time to make sure you've hit EVERY rubric item. Go back to the beginning of your written commentary. Review your labels next to each question and, whenever a particular rubric item is connected, make a tally next to that item on the rubric. Again, repeat for the entire written commentary.
What you should have now is a fairly thorough understanding of what the readers expect from you as an accomplished teacher. However, you may end up with a few rubric items that only got mentioned once or not at all. For each of these, carefully read through the written commentary again to identify a question or two which addresses that rubric item and add the appropriate annotations and tallies..
This process seems straightforward, and it is, but you're bound to have a full brain once you're done. Make sure to utilize the blank space on the opposite page, margins, and anything else to write down your thoughts, ideas, and questions. Don't sell yourself short on this last part - you need to sit with this information and think for a while. Hopefully, you're starting to form ideas of what you might do for this component, the concerns or confusions you may have, and be able to identify your individual next steps to showcase your skills in this area. I would love to hear your impressions and thoughts after you've done this for a component!
Woohoo! We're almost done with Part 1 of this NBCT Series of posts: Getting Familiar with the NBCT process. You have a general idea of what each component entails, a rough timeline for how to complete the components, and all of the information provided by the NBCT website. But... What exactly make someone an accomplished teacher?
Fear not! Your new handy-dandy binder(s) contains all of the questions... Sort of.
What I finally came to realize through this process is that while a traditional evaluation and certification process requires specific tasks to be met, those items are intended to ensure that you're qualified to teach and identify specific areas for improvement. That is not the goal of NBCT, however. Rather, NBCT encourages and reaffirms your accomplished professionalism.
Have you ever paused to think about what defines a "professional"? Is it the fact that they're paid for what they do, such as the difference between being a professional vs. amateur photographer? Is it their behavior, such as in the case of professional vs. un-professional attire and language? Personally, I feel the idea of a true "professional" aspires to more than that.
In my mind, a professional is a person who is not only highly skilled in the concrete requirements outlined in their job requirements, but also has a feel for subtle, nuanced, and usually complex needs and takes necessary and effective steps to address them.
THIS is what NBCT is looking for. And the context is provided by the Architecture of Accomplished Teaching.
I recommend putting this somewhere - ideally multiple somewhere - that you'll see it often. Stick it wherever you tend to plan, think about, and reflect on your teaching. Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I set it as my computer background on both my home and work computers.
Next, get in the habit of using the following sentence frames (or something similar) to talk about your teaching - you'll be laying the groundwork for your written commentary in Components 2-4 and perhaps even your essay questions in Component 1:
What does writing like this do? It exposes your thinking! And that's what NBCT is all about - you are a professional and there is so much going on below the surface. They want to see the rest of the iceberg!
To dive in deeper, here is a great resource about the Architecture from NBCT.
While the Architecture is consistent throughout all teaching, the Standards bring it home to your specific subject. Hopefully, what you read in your own standards isn't all that unfamiliar, though it might be expressed in a new light. Always remember, though, that they are founded upon the Architecture, so read the standards with it in mind.
To get the most out of reading your standards, I recommend having at least two highlighters available. Choose a lighter one (yellow, orange, pink) to highlight big ideas. The second highlighter, though, is the one you're really going to mileage out of: use it to highlight specific words or phrases that you can use in your own written commentary. You'll want to find these words quickly to help you express how you have met these standards in a clear, concise, and convincing (see your "4" Scoring rubrics!) way. They're handing you the language, so use it! You may even wish to take this one step further and create your own glossary/menu with these terms for to keep handy while you're writing, whether it's using the reflection paragraph above or when you're working on your actual written commentary.
On to Part 2: Diving In!
So, now you know what NBCT entails AND what they expect of you. Now comes the real fun: Developing your components and creating your portfolio entries. We'll start with some "Kiddie Pool" activities specific to each component and then talk about strategies for doing "Deep Dives" to really fine-tune your work and submissions. For now, though, I'm going to eat lunch and ride a pony! Why is that relevant?
Because the #1 rule of NBCT is SELF-CARE. And trust me, from this point on, you're going to need it.
Let's talk about how to process all the information given to you to help you become an NBCT. Here's the secret:
It's simply too much. On top of everything you're already doing for to be an amazing teacher worthy of NBCT certification, this is just too much to wrap your head around. Plus, it's intentionally vague at almost every turn (except formatting!). However, that's ok. You just have to approach this with reasonable and practical expectations for yourself, which I categorize as "Kiddie Pools" and "Deep Dives" - in either case, remember, DON'T DROWN IN PANIC!!
You're going to read each part of your components countless times. Expect it. Come to this activity with a specific intention. Most of the time, it'll be a kiddie pool - you're getting a general idea, looking for some insight you might not have had before, and seeking guidance on how to continuously correct course. These activities include:
You'll only do one or two "Deep Dives" in to the Standards and each Component, and that will take place AFTER you've done the first three Kiddie Pool activities listed above. This is where you're getting down to the nitty-gritty of what exactly they are expecting of NBCT candidates to successfully certify. You will only take small, specific chunks at a strategic times (if you're referencing my 4 in 1 timeline, these are the times where I say "drill down") with the goal of identifying fine details and coming up with your specific game plan for completing that component. DO NOT try to do this all at once - you will be reading, processing, and reflecting on your practice simultaneously while parsing the text for specific information that will, inevitably, but unsatisfying vague. That's a lot of work.
Now that you have a reasonable idea of how to use and digest the information NBCT gives you, you're ready to BUILD YOUR BINDER(s)! I recommnd getting a LARGE (3" at the very least) binder to put everything in, especially as it's helpful at times to be able to quickly reference and cross-reference different components and resources. Alternatively, you could put each Component in its own 1" binder and then have a fifth binder for your General Portfolio Guidelines and your specific Standards.
Printing instructions - I HIGHLY recommend that you print these either at work (check with your district to see if they give an NBCT printing allowance as they sometimes use a separate code) or bite the bullet and print it at a print shop. If you print at home like I did, be prepared to go through 2 ink cartridges, at least:
Now, add your tabs to each section:
Standards: Add a tab at the beginning of each standard so you can flip to it quickly
Components: Each component has the same structure. Add tabs to locate what you're looking for quickly:
So now you have a rough idea of what National Boards entails. But where should you get started? There are a few options, and the most sane one would be to attempt two per year. But, I'm not sane and I don't keep sane company, evidently, so we went for/are going for all four in one year. This post is specifically dedicated to that timeline - Remember, this isn't necessarily THE way to do this, but it's the way that I would do it if I had to do it over again. The only mandatory first step is: Find someone who knows you and knows this process so they can help you figure out YOUR specific needs! If you don't have someone like that, reach out on any of the NBCT Facebook pages (there are general ones and discipline-specific ones) and build that relationship with an NBCT teacher, fellow candidate, or ideally both.
Well, it's midnight and I'm starving because I didn't eat dinner and I've been sitting in front of the computer for hours now. Why do I torture myself like this?
Because a good friend of mine let me know she was jumping into the NBCT waters and looking to get certified over the next year!
So, I listened to her thoughts and questions, got excited about them, and sat down to write a "short" email... I ended up copying and pasting the result from my "sent" mail to this blog to share with all of you.
As my friend is certifying in Library Media, the particular details are specific to this certification area based on a quick read of her component descriptions. Please, PLEASE, start off by visiting the Candidate Resources Page and download the standards and component instructions for your specific certification area. Double- and triple-checking the information there is mandatory, even if you're also a Library Specialist, but especially if you're not. There is a lot of overlap (after all, good teaching is good teaching), but particularly for components 2 and 3 there are details specific to each subject area (from my own cohort experience, elementary generalists and counselors have a particular doozy of requirements).
Don't worry about the forms just yet. You’ll come back to those when you're ready to begin writing about each component. Whether you're casually curious in what getting NBCT certified entails or are already committed, the goal of this first post is to give you a snapshot the whole process.
NOTE: I completed all four components and certified in the same year and my friend wants to give that a shot, so this is written with that timeline in mind. Be warned, though, I'm also in regular therapy now and addicted to Monster Energy Drinks. You have plenty of time to complete your certification - it's not worth killing yourself over.... This is a marathon, not a race. Do what I say, not what I do, because I'm not a marathon runner - I sprint... between bases... one at a time... after I bunt.. and then I chill in the outfield hoping nothing else comes my way (true story - my favorite softball position was as a pinch runner and I was glad that our whole team was bad because I didn't have any pressure to be good).
Getting started: Read each of the standards. Choose ONE SPECIAL COLOR for highlighting key words that you want to use when writing your commentary in order to clearly link what you’re doing to the standards. Annotate however else you please, but you won’t regret marking the key words. You’ll come back to this for EVERY component. The more you can plug in these words to describe what you’re doing, the better off you’ll be.
Release forms: GET THESE ASAP FROM EVERYONE IN EVERY CLASS – that way you know who you can and can’t include, especially for your videos. I ended having to scrap a video because I got release forms after I recorded it and I couldn’t get one from 2 students. It SUCKED. I also ended up switching students for component 2 to two I didn’t even expect, but then the Written commentary simply wrote itself for those students. I’m really glad I already had their forms on hand so I didn’t have to try to get them later. The release forms in various languages are here: https://www.nbpts.org/national-board-certification/candidate-center/first-time-and-returning-candidate-resources/
Key items in each component (in my preferred reading order – you will read most items many times over throughout this process):
Component Summaries (What to worry about from February 28 during the previous year through May 1st/Submission of your current year):
Component 1: (40%) Don’t worry about it until after you submit the rest of the stuff. Doing the rest of the stuff will also help you prep for the details in this one. Just put it out of your mind for now, though you should absolutely do it during your first year of working on NBCT.
Component 2: Differentiation (15%)
Component 3: (30%) Teaching Practice and Learning Environment (the videos; this is what’s MOST like a typical evaluation - they want to see how you teach)
Component 4: (15%) Effective and reflective practitioner
OK, that’s it for your “intro to your national boards” lesson 😉 Let me know in the comments or via email (email@example.com) if you have any questions or thoughts. I'd love to hear from you! Until next time!
PS - stay home, stay healthy, and let the creative juices flow
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