* #teamNBCT: mentors

In honor of this week’s celebration of 112,000+ National Board Certified Teachers, I will focus on what NB certification, the gold standard for the teaching profession, has meant to me.

One of the most satisfying aspects of becoming certified has been the opportunity to mentor other teachers through the same process.  I found it interesting that I could mentor folks from general ed to PE to special ed.  In all cases, I was looking for those 5 core propositions and knowledge of the standards unique to their fields.  Sure, I had to keep referring to the standards, but what a privilege to walk alongside those marvelous teachers!

All candidates must videotape at least once for their portfolios, which made for fascinating viewing and analysis.  The cool part was that even those inevitable glitches did not spell doom.  In fact, if teachers can see where and how they “missed” something, it becomes an effective part of the NB process.  I would have been a little worried if someone didn’t catch the kid facing the wrong way throughout a lesson.  And that brings back a memory….

Years before my own certification, I used videotaping routinely to observe my own behavior and that of the kids.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t as eagle-eyed as I became during the National Board experience.  I remember a principal asking me to share a classroom video of my self-contained class with uncertain parents of a prospective student.

I pulled out a video (filmed with parents’ permission!) and we watched a 20 minute segment.  The couple who observed were reassured and entertained, but all I could see was a kiddo with his finger up his nose the ENTIRE lesson!  Yikes!  Somehow, that had escaped me, both during teaching and when I’d observed the video itself.

The bottom line is that all my mentees received NB certification.  And there were no kids with wayward fingers on their videotapes.

* #teamNBCT: professionals

teamnbct-badge2

In honor of this week’s celebration of 112,000+ National Board Certified Teachers, I will focus on what NB certification, the gold standard for the teaching profession, has meant to me.

When I first heard about the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, I was a bit doubtful that it would impact the teaching profession.  I’d been around long enough to know that my salary didn’t reflect my graduate degree and experience, that I had no opportunity for advancement unless I became an administrator (heaven forbid!), and that I would work many more hours than a 9-to-5 profession.  And what did novice teachers face?  Exactly the same, if they actually stayed in the profession.

What could the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offer?   It has helped reshape our profession into a Profession.  I couldn’t have imagined the effect of a certification process that is clearly associated with better student outcomes!  And salary!  And improved resources and support for novice teachers!  But not shorter working hours, at least for me.  That’s why my dearest teaching widower spent so many nights with me at school.  Even NB certification has not fixed that glitch in my approach to preparation.

I am particularly thrilled that NBCTs have impacted the performance of minority and low-income students.  Do we have miles to go before we rest?  Indeed.  I’ve written at length about the racially predictable test scores and low minority achievement which plagues our country.  (As we go brown and gray in the US, it won’t be minority achievement anymore.)  Our failure to teach ALL of our kids is dreadful.  How can we encourage blacks and Hispanics to enter the teaching profession?   The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards could reverse the current trend of fewer minority and male teachers with higher standards, higher salaries, and support for novice teachers.  I hope I am around to see that happen!

 

* #teamNBCT: effort

teamnbct-badge3

In honor of this week’s celebration of 112,000+ National Board Certified Teachers, I will focus on what NB certification, the gold standard for the teaching profession, has meant to me.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the effort required to attain National Board certification.  It was seriously grueling, in part because I started the process in the second half of the school year.  Organized teachers start to prepare before the year even begins.  Even with a full year’s focus on the process, the effort required is daunting.

Is it worth the effort to become National Board Certified?  Oh yes!  The effort, and its consequent reward, comes first as teachers dive into the NBCT 5 core propositions:

Proposition 1: Teachers Are Committed to Students and Their Learning
Proposition 2: Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Teach Those
Subjects to Students
Proposition 3: Teachers Are Responsible for Managing and Monitoring Student Learning
Proposition 4: Teachers Think Systematically About Their Practice and Learn from Experience
Proposition 5: Teachers Are Members of Learning Communities.

Next, teachers explore and apply (and read and reread and analyze and reread) one of 25 unique standards for their certification area.  Here’s a link to the Exceptional Needs Standards.  It’s 79 pages of gold!  The bar is very high but well worth the effort.  It’s been a few years since I read this document, so this is a perfect opportunity for me to appraise my teaching compass.

The National Board certification process is a marathon of alignment, exploration, validation, and presentation.  I lived and breathed that process, discovering that I was solidly on track in many areas and relatively weak in others.  I applied considerable effort to understand the complex questions and develop portfolios to demonstrate my skills.  And there were glitches.  On steroids following a serious poison ivy encounter, I compulsively cleaned my classroom and threw away important documentation of my achievements.  In one portfolio, I realized I’d misunderstood the primary question only a few weeks before the submission deadline.  About that same time, I was waiting in my car when a dump truck plowed into me and the doctor advised me not to sit at a computer for a few weeks!   Crazy suggestion!

What reward was gained from my effort to organize and present my teaching skills, to incorporate new techniques, to analyze, to write, and to videotape?  My teaching advanced to a new level.  Seriously.  I felt both exhausted and exhilarated as I completed the process, like standing on a mountain top and surveying the complex and sometimes rocky path that led me there.

* #team NBCT: reflections

teamnbct-badge2

In honor of this week’s celebration of 112,000+ National Board Certified Teachers, I will focus on what NB certification, the gold standard for the teaching profession, has meant to me.

It’s been 16 years since I was first National Board Certified as an Exceptional Needs Specialist.  I applied for certification in the 2nd year of that category’s availability, with only one other special ed teacher in my district having completed the process.  I had little idea what impact this certification would have upon my practice or how much effort would be required!

Why was it worth becoming National Board Certified?  I had started teaching in 1970 and much of my career had been reactive.  I was desperate for solutions, so I read, took classes, and experimented with approaches.  I participated in many leadership roles related to special education.  My kids made progress but I was always searching for that magic bullet, a perfect set of materials or scope and sequence.

What was missing in my practice?  REFLECTION.  In the busyness of teaching, I was assessing student performance but didn’t spend much time analyzing my teaching practices.  Sure, if I had a terrible-horrible-no good-day day, I would dissect every word and action.  But that wasn’t the daily norm for me.  During and after the NB process, I couldn’t and wouldn’t go back to that “disaster” style of analysis or a fruitless search for the perfect curriculum.  I now spend much more time thinking about where the kids and I are going and how my decisions impact student learning.  I’m processing information on a deeper level and encourage kids to do the same.

Did I enjoy that learning curve on reflection?  Honestly, it was a bit too steep for comfort, but I needed to be shoved out of my “routine” teaching.  The NBCT process changed my trajectory forever.  It’s delightful to reflect on my teaching practice and see how mindfulness is the new normal for me!

* School-wide bulletin boards

A recent “Coaches’ Corner” feature of Teaching Children Mathematics encourages the use of bulletin boards as teaching tools.  Robyn Silbey shares a cool example for grades K-5 by using a single prompt (What is equal to 10?) divided into columns for all classes to respond.  This tool seems appropriate for expanding algebraic instruction and thinking to all elementary grades, so here’s my proposed bulletin board.  Teachers could rotate through small group displays so that all kids get “on the wall” in one year.

bulleting board image.jpg

 

* The Math Diet

In a recent edition of Teaching Children Mathematics, authors Kateri Thunder and Alisha N. Demchak make a strong case for a “Math Diet” to grow healthy mathematical reasoning in kids.  Just as researchers have identified five foundational components of healthy reading reading instruction, the Math Diet is meant to provide students a balanced framework for navigating math through elementary school.

Here are the five components of the Math Diet as described by Thunder and Demchak:

  1. Counting
  2. Subitizing
  3. Conceptual understanding
  4. Strategic Competence
  5. Procedural fluency

I hear someone mumbling that EVERYONE knows counting is a given, and it’s certainly not esoteric.  BUT, there is a lot more to counting than meets the eye.  Many kids are able to process the more abstract features of counting (understanding order irrelevance, for instance), while struggling students never seem to get past using their fingers.  The key to a healthy Math Diet is to start early and start right.

In my experience, it’s hard to “feed” kids this Math Diet once they have acquired a taste for junk food math skills.  And as I’ve noted before, elementary teachers themselves may not have been exposed to healthy Math Diets.  That’s one reason I joined The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:  my personal Math Diet was sketchy.  maths-

* Everything I know, I learned from…

Speech Therapists!  That’s a slight exaggeration, but not far from the truth.  I have been blessed by the advice and mentoring of many excellent speech and language pathologists.  Why has their advice been so crucial?  They understand and work at the deepest levels of understanding, helping kids process information.  Speech therapists demonstrate how systematic and carefully sequenced instruction transforms language, which is at the core of most academic and social learning.

It was a speech therapist who first shared the TOPS 3 Elementary Tests of Problems Solving with me.  This test assesses critical thinking based on students’ language strategies, logic, and experiences.  For students with dyslexia and those on the autism spectrum, these language-based skills are sometimes assumed to exist and therefore receive cursory instruction.  For this reason, I’ve used the Tasks of Problem Solving workbook by Bowers et al. for social skills and reading comprehension instruction (see related post), as well as for specific skill remediation.

Tasks of Problem Solving

This workbook includes a description of the following skills with useful tasks of increasing difficulty.  Many of the lessons include visual cues (or these can be easily created).  It is quite simple to adapt any lesson to student interests and needs:

  • Identifying problems
  • Determining causes
  • Sequencing
  • Negative questions
  • Predicting
  • Making inferences
  • Problem solving
  • Justifying opinions
  • Generalizing skills

One caveat: Years ago, after observing me in the classroom, a speech therapist strongly advised me to speak more s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’m still working on that skill!

* I is for intuition

I recently took a personality inventory conducted by a leadership development team called Professional Dynametrics Programs (PDP).  I was extremely impressed by their workshop and personality tool for measuring and defining strengths.  (Our presenter was a former football pro, Phil Olsen.  I used to watch him play for LA and Denver!)

Phil_Olsen_and_his_horse

Phil Olsen: Wikipediea.org

OK, back to intuition.  My profile was a good fit with who I am, a nice change from previous surveys which came across as a random mixture of Chinese fortune cookies.  The PDP survey indicated that my default is intuition when making decisions.  If you’ve read the book “Blink,” you’ll know that there’s power for good and evil in the blink of an eye.  But when you factor in experience, a teacher’s intuition makes a lot of sense.  It is still possible to come to the wrong conclusions by both reasoning or intuition.  But I would bet that my success as a teacher of kids with behavior and emotional disabilities has a lot to do with sizing up situations so rapidly that my responses were more proactive than reactive.  That’s not to say I didn’t mess up, but that kind of role was a good fit for my personality.  See that looong dip in the graph below?

pro scan

Researchers have attempted to determine if a sense of “with-it-ness” can be taught and learned.  As a longtime mentor, I have seen that teachers can definitely improve that almost intangible quality of intuition with the potential to improve multitasking, guiding large groups of kids, and making good judgments quickly.

* F is for flipped

The flipped classroom and flipped learning have been around for a while now, but those terms continue to generate some confusion.  The flipped classroom has been somewhat controversial in that students watch videos or read online info at home and then participate in classroom activities which require that knowledge.

The rationale for this model of the flipped classroom is that school time can then be spent in creative applications of knowledge instead of its acquisition.  Sadly, the brain doesn’t work that way.  Front loading a stack of information is a sure way to overload the brain.  And for struggling students, attempting to assimilate new information after a LONG day at school is mostly futile.  Many of our at-risk students don’t have access to a computer or tablet.  One variation on flipped classrooms is for students to produce these videos for classmates to watch, a kind of “jigsaw” cooperative learning process.  Again, if the watching and learning process must occur after a long day, it’s usually counterproductive.

On the other hand, the flipped learning model is, to me, another way of describing authentic project-based learning.  Teachers establish content and appropriate materials but create a flexible physical environment for group and individual endeavors.  Students are provided rich opportunities for exploration and self-evaluation.  In this role, teachers are facilitators, not lecturers.  They must allow students to explore content by working with others (which can be noisy), provide continual feedback to guide the progress, and establish suitable evaluation procedures.  This kind of teaching requires skilled and experienced educators who know where their kids must be going and can support unique ways for them to get there.  I’ve seen this flipped learning modeled in classes of National Board certified teachers.  Flipped learning is no small task for teachers or students.

flipped.jpg

* D is for dang

And darn, drat, crud, shoot, rats, and blast.  I don’t typically blab any of those invectives while teaching, but it could happen.  In fact, it did once.  After being doused with at least a pint of brown water from that leaking valve (see post here), I cried out, “DARN!”  The collective gasp of my students sucked all the air from the room.  One bright youngster confronted me.

Student A:  Ooo!  Mrs. Everson said a bad word!

Me:  (Ignoring comment, trying to dry my face)

Student B:  Ooo, a bad word!

Me:  No, that’s not a bad word.

Student A:  You said a bad word!

Me:  I said, ‘Darn,’ which-

Students: (another collective gasp)

My attempts to justify the bad word fell on deaf ears, so I moved on, hoping this episode would not be the topic of everyone’s dinner conversations.  It’s not my fault that I have this guttermouth.  I grew up on “Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang” (apologies to Ross Bagdasarian and his song, The Witch Doctor).

cursing