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.
Here I am, about to submit my National Boards portfolio for World Languages. It's been a wild ride. One piece of advice: Don't do all four components of NBCT AND complete your Ph.D. in the same year.
All right, let's assume that none of y'all are gluttons for punishment like I am. Yet, you still want to get your NBCT certification (DO IT!). What advice can I give now that I'm ending this journey for the first (and hopefully last, not including renewal!) time? One of my biggest frustrations with this process is that there are SO FEW World Language candidates - and I'm in the state with the 3rd highest number of NBCT annual certifications in the nation. Not only do we have a state-sponsored bonus of considerable proportions ($5,000 or $10,000 depending on whether your school is high-poverty) and certification benefits (I get a LARGE number of clock hours and will be excepted from certain license renewal requirements), but they also have a 5-day introductory training, annual district-based cohorts, and state-wide Home Stretch days where you meet with like-area candidates and review work. I've taken advantage of all of these, so I've had a TON of support through this process. I know I'm really, really lucky to have access to these. But I also want to help support all of my World Language NBCT candidates wherever they're located.
To do this, I'm going to start a mini-series of blog posts about becoming NBCT certified. I hope to share all the things I learned along the way, but especially the things I wish someone had told me up front. These come from my experiences provided by WEA (Washington Education Association), including my wonderful cohort leaders and members, as well as things I simply picked up from trial and error.
Let's start by asking yourself... Am I ready? Where do I start?
Am I ready? Where do I start?
First things first - you need to get your ACTFL scores for writing and speaking ASAP. This often ends up being one of the hardest parts for World Language candidates, and I don't recommend starting your Boards if you haven't gotten an Advanced-Low score (the minimum). You cannot receive your NBCT scores unless you have this certification cleared - and that means you might do a lot of work and pay a lot of money for nothing. Even if you aren't going to pursue your NBCT certification for a few years, you should work on your ACTFL proficiency (how to do that is an entirely different post). Keep in mind, your scores must have been within the 2 years prior to the closure of the NBCT registration window. That means if you DO have current ACTFL scores, you should make sure they'll still be current or be planning to re-test prior to the year you plan to begin the NBCT process. This is the reason I started my NBCT while still doing my PHD - my ACTFL scores were about to expire!!
So, let's say you're all set for ACTFL. If you're still not going to start your NBCT for a year or two, I recommend at least reviewing Component 1 and brushing up on your content knowledge in the areas listed (look at the NBCT World Language standards for more information on these, but don't expect much). Glance back through your college textbooks on Spanish/French and teaching. Review linguistics, including regional variations. Explore cultures in a variety of context and themes. Stay up-to-date on theory. Attend professional conferences and see what's out there. Experiment with these things and start articulating how you apply what you know to what you do as a teacher and why. You can also find plenty of groups online to ask about what they recommend doing. This test is broad - so should be your preparation for it.
Finally, hone your teaching skills, especially in these areas (you can use these as daily/weekly teaching reflections!):
If you feel confident answering these questions, then you're (probably) ready to jump into National Boards. Note that your answers are going to change through this process and so will you as a person and professional.
I recommend deciding on your first two components as early as possible - that would be NOW if you're thinking at all about pursuing them at any time in the next year or two. So, now, which components should you do, and when?
Doing all 4 in one year
The components really do fit together nicely, but this is a TON of work and a lot to keep straight. I would liken the total amount of work to a Master's program. Also, are you a good test taker? Because C1 is worth 40% of your evaluation (the most of any of the components) and you're not going to have as much time to study as you would like if you do all four in the same time. Pros - an inspiration in one component can lead to improvement in another component, especially in applying writing style and incorporating the Architecture, rubrics, and standards. You also get any associated bonuses sooner assuming you certify. Cons - You'll only really figure out what you're doing in April, right before you have to start finalizing stuff and submitting it. Also, you won't have a life for a year. If the time crunch results in less quality work, you may have to re-do components which has a financial cost to it as well.
Get a grip on Component 3 the year BEFORE the end of the school year prior to the cycle you plan to do your boards and start recording - anything you record after the closure of the registration window (February 28) can be used for the next year's cycle. Get those release forms signed ASAP - you need one for every individual (including adults) who is seen or heard on your video. Figure out exactly what it is you need in your videos, what you should improve on, and start recording. With any luck, you can get at least two great videos before the end of the year and start your writing on Component 3. I highly recommend connecting with someone who is NBCT certified (doesn't have to be in your teaching area or even physical area) to review your writing and give you feedback. Chances are, you'll end up revising and possibly picking a different video, but just getting your feet wet this way will give you a great head start and make the next year much more manageable.
Make a plan for Component 4. This one is a beast and you'll want to have a solid plan in place before you start the school year, especially for how you'll gather information about students.
Once you have C3 and C4 planned, start working on C2 (I recommend no later than October). Your "instructional sequence" has to be between 3 and 12 weeks long, so give yourself time to implement the sequence and possibly have a re-do if needed.
Hopefully, if you do this, you should have all your evidence for C2-C4 by February or March and all you'll have left to do is write and study for C1. Don't wait until then to start writing though! I found that during the writing, my plans changed and it was back to the drawing board to improve on what I'd done and/or gather more evidence for the plan I was implementing.
April/May will feel like a 6-week-long "dead week" before your college finals. Keep these months as open as possible for writing, reading, editing, and revising not only your own work but also others' drafts (again, don't wait until then to start. You'll have enough on your hands just working with anything you've already written up to that point). With that in mind, try to get a June assessment date so you can put C2-4 behind you and clear your head for studying for C1.
2 per year
Take C1 first - It's worth the most of your components and there's very little to go off of. The materials are very vague. Should you need to re-take it, you can do the whole thing or just a particular section. Don't gamble by putting this one off and finding out you just needed .1 more points on a multiple-guess test to certify (did happen to someone my NBCT coach knows).
So, which other component should you do with C1?
Doing C1 and C3 first: This is my recommendation because they're worth the most and you'll want to know if you need to re-take any of them. They are also the most straightforward of the components - C1 is a test and C3 feels most like the evaluations we're usually familiar with.
Doing C1 and C2 first: Not confident in your writing skills? Try out C2 first. It's not as confusing as C4, but it's also only worth half of C3. If you don't pass, you can more easily revise this one and implement it the following year without too much work. If you do pass but don't get a high score, you can decide whether it's worth it to re-take. If you pass and get a great score, awesome! In any of these three cases, you'll get valuable feedback which will impact how you approach C3 and C4, where you really have to be on your game due to the worth of C3 and the complicatedness of C4.
With any luck, I won't need this information. However, it's good to know and it's VERY common to retake the components - aside from the emotional and financial impact of having to redo a component, this is really not something to be ashamed of. There is no such thing as failing a component. You are already a great teacher, and your willingness to engage in this work is evidence of that. This is a learning experience - take it and try again. You have 3 years to re-take any component that you do not pass - and you can work on other components at that time as you see fit. You'll get general feedback about what needs improvement (although this is mostly just a rehash of the rubric you already have). But most importantly, you'll have your reflection and learning from the prior attempt to improve upon in future attempts. Talk it over with other candidates, identify a plan for moving forward, and execute it!
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