Back In 2018, I used funds from the New York State Shanker Grant to apply for National Board Certification. It was a demanding, multi-year journey that triggered all sorts of valuable reflection. Fortunately, after spending the good part of three years taking a math content test and writing mounds about my teaching, the powers that be at National Board felt I met their standards. I was granted certification. The cost was around $2000, all of which the Shanker Grant paid for.
I had mixed feelings about the process, which I summarized in a blogpost. One of my biggest takeaways from the National Board application was an improved understanding of how every decision I make in the classroom needs to be matched with clear intentions. I’m often overcome with pie-in-the-sky thoughts, and National Board forced me to get granular and think about the purpose of every little thing I do. It’s simple, but I also enjoyed the platform that certification provided for reflection. I love to write about my teaching and the NBCT structure gave me a new, interesting way of doing it. It’s done for oneself. Achieving certification also came with a more tangible benefit: being awarded my final salary step by the New York City Department of Education.
Despite my takeaways, I expected too much from National Board. Don’t get me wrong, their math standards are comprehensive and, taken collectively, set a high bar for teaching that’s worth striving for. But going in, I thought meeting them was going to be a game-changing experience for my career. This just wasn’t the case. Instead, I found getting certified to be pure introspection and refined self-analysis. In this way, I think the value of being an NBCT is somewhat overrated. It’s a worthwhile process, but not something that should place me in a separate class of teachers. I walked away from certification pretty much the same, with a few added perspectives about my teaching. In itself, this isn’t bad. It has its place.
Anyway, certification is good for five years. In year 3, they give you the option to submit a renewal application (you can also do it in year 4). Renewing is much less work than initial certification, but is still nothing to laugh at. Instead of 40+ pages of written commentary, renewal requires about half that: 18 pages (and far fewer forms!).
Being in year 3 of my certification, I had a decision to make this past school year. Did I want to renew? With no Shanker Grant to pay for it and no salary step to earn, was renewal worth my time? Was it worth the money? (Renewal costs about $500.)
Despite a busy year, I dampened my expectations this past spring and dove in. My desire to move out of New York in the coming years and the continued lure of having an interstate certification was something I couldn’t pass up. I was also excited about using the application as a vehicle to explore two key developments in my teaching these last several years: student writing in mathematics and cogenerative dialogues.
I’ve written about both extensively here on my blog, but doing so through National Board this spring brought me even more clarity on these practices and how they have shaped my teaching. I’ve invested so much time into them that using renewal to continue to unpack their influence on my teaching was helpful. This clarity helped me better understand myself and reveal why I do what I do. In addition, as I move to submit speaking proposals and hold workshops on both student writing and cogens, writing about these practices so plentifully through National Board will be vital to sharing them with other teachers (I hope).
Reflecting on the process, renewal was far less demanding than initial certification. National Board’s goal, I think, was to have candidates showcase two aspects of their teaching that demonstrate continued growth. They called these “Professional Growth Experiences,” or PGEs. Centering two PGEs in the context the NBCT standards simplified the application and made it more meaningful than what I did in 2018. While a couple of their prompts were ambiguous, I found the renewal application to be fair and digestible. Working on and off for several days a week — an hour here and two hours there — it took me about was 8 weeks to complete the application.
That’s what I think. Come December, I’ll find out what National Board thinks. They report that around 90% of renewal candidates meet National Board’s standards and earn renewal status. Well, here’s to not being an outlier!