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Is Getting National Board Certified Really Worth It?

My seventh year of teaching I decided to take the plunge and work towards getting National Board certified. I filled out the application and was accepted for a scholarship from the state of Oklahoma to pay the $3000 fee. Two of my friends, in different buildings, were going to go through the process as well. I attended the two workshops the state provided and I went to almost all of the regional meetings. The whole time, I thought “How can I not pass this? Just answer the questions they are asking. I’ve got this! Right?”

I spent hours searching for amazing lessons. I made great hands-on manipulatives. I typed and I typed and I typed. I read the instructions a million times. I checked over the criteria provided a zillion times. I had others read my entries. All the while, still thinking, “How can I not pass this?” The thing I did not prepare for were the tests on the computer. I thought, “I’m a math teacher. I’ve taught 9th grade Algebra and a Pre-AP Geometry class. I aced my calculus classes in college. How can I not pass some middle school math tests?” Well, I only passed one of those computer tests. Apparently I should have looked at the types of things they were going to ask me, not to mention what they were looking for in the answers. I thought to myself at the time, “That’s ok. The computer tests aren’t worth as much, so as long as I’ve aced the portfolio entries, I’ve still got this in the bag. Right?”

Everyone told us that the day you pack that box, it is one of the most nerve racking thing you’ve ever done. They warn you of invalidated entries if you don’t have things perfect. I also had people tell me that they cried when they shipped off the box. Seriously? Cry? Obviously extremely emotional people. Well, the day came. My husband and kids came with me. Guess what…..I cried. It seriously felt like handing a beloved “pet” to some stranger, forever. It was a long year preparing those entries. Now all I had to do was sit and wait for eight months to see if I passed.

The day came to get scores, I finally accessed the site about two minutes before the bell rang for my first hour class. Yep, you guessed it….I failed. By a lot. I wasn’t one of those that failed it by a couple of points. No, I passed two of the ten parts. I cried, I sucked it up, and I signed up for another year.

With my tail between my legs, I went to the workshop the state provided for the losers. I decided I would try to pass the three portfolio entries that I failed rather than the computer tests. The entries were worth more points. I worked and I worked on those entries. I had the head “math guru” of my husband’s high school read my entries, I had a guy who had scored the math portfolio entries for several years read them. If they approved of them, how could I not pass this time? I sent them off and I waited the eight months. November came. My husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was scheduled for brain surgery the following Friday. The same Friday scores were suppose to come out. The morning of his surgery, I brought my computer so that I could see that beautiful PASSING score. Yep, you guessed it, I failed again. In fact on one of the entries, my score went down.

Because of my husband’s condition, the horrible anxiety the process gives you, the amount of time I had already spent on it, I decided not to try the final time. Do I regret going through the process? Absolutely not!!! I learned so much that it made it all worth it. The only thing I believe is extremely flawed about National Board……that they give you absolutely no feedback on what you did wrong. As educators, we are taught to always give feedback to our students. Why try again when I obviously didn’t understand what they wanted. My interpretation of the assignment was apparently wrong. I also never understood that if it is my interpretation of the questions and I did everything that was asked, how can you fail? Have I learned some things since then? Yes. Do I think I might have a chance if I went through the process again? Probably. Will I ever try again? Possibly. Would I encourage others to try? Absolutely!

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