Teaching: it’s one of the most celebrated and most maligned professions around. Some days, we work too hard for far too little. Other days, we are glorified babysitters getting away with highway robbery. Whatever your opinions are on education, I’m not here to sway you. What I thought I’d do instead is give you a little peek inside what it’s like to try to improve your craft–and possibly even make some money–with National Boards.
What It Is
If you follow me on Twitter (if we’re not Twitter friends, let’s connect here), you’ve no doubt heard that pretty much every waking moment outside of teaching has been consumed by this National Boards things. But what is it? In short, it’s a mouthful. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is actually a voluntary process that teachers can undergo to receive a national certification. The process involves a three-hour test and three portfolios that showcase everything from video footage of me teaching and assessments I give to student work samples and evidence of teacher leadership and collaboration in my community. See? A mouthful.
I am doing a terrible job of actually tracking my time–mostly because I don’t want to cry–but I’d estimate that I currently spend about ten hours a week on portfolio work. I passed the assessment last year, and I also passed the video portfolio (either despite or due to the fact that one of my students literally danced around the room during an activity and then winked at the camera). So stop what you’re doing and go eat a piece of cake or chocolate in solidarity, yeah? Now, I just have two more portfolios to submit this May. And then I wait. Gulp.
Why I Want to Be Better
Why get involved in a process like this? That’s an excellent question. I ask myself that very thing at least 17 times a day. The short answer is I want to be the very best teacher I can be.
I realize this flies in the face of a lot of personal finance wisdom–keep your head down, don’t make waves, and for the love of all things work, just say no to committees and other unpaid nonsense–but it fits my personality to a T. In a lot of ways, this is the perfectionist in me that is longing for recognition that hasn’t been sated since someone slapped an essentially worthless (don’t tell my mom!) summa cum laude stamp on my transcript. But beyond that, this is also me caring deeply about my students.
I can’t tell you how traumatic it is to watch fifteen-plus hours of footage of yourself teaching and then analyze it for twenty or so pages. If I was ever good enough at sports, I imagine it’s a lot like sitting in the locker room and watching those reels. Except instead of dialing up special plays, calling audibles, and trying to outsmart your opponents, you’re realizing you’ve exhausted every pedagogical strategy you know in the first fifteen minutes of class, going totally off script, and trying to get your students to focus on learning instead of making googly eyes at the green blinking light. So I guess it’s exactly like sports.
But having an opportunity to scrutinize all of your decisions and really soul search over what you do and why you do it is unlike any other professional experience that I have had. I don’t have to answer to anyone. My job doesn’t depend on this. I can bow out of the process at any time. Yet that thought has never crossed my mind.
The Money Side of It
For all my money peeps, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to the money side of this process. The certification process normally costs about $4,000 plus the yearly registration fees. Because our school is on the “watch” list, though, I was able to qualify for what amounts to a state scholarship that covers the cost of the process. Not too shabby, right? I’m also currently spending $13,000 on another Master’s degree (another blog post for another day), so this less spendy professional development route is much appreciated.
Free is good, but making money is better. Every district does things a little (or a lot) differently when it comes to this process. Some districts don’t–or can’t–pay anything for their National Board teachers. Others actually tie compensation into their salary schedules (A pay bump and a percentage increase every year? Sign me up!). My district falls squarely in the middle. I will receive a stipend for nine out of ten years of my certification to the tune of $1,000 a year. After taxes and the mandated payment into my pension, it will actually shake out to about $700 a year. Still, that’s $6,300 over the life of my certificate that’s easily bankable. A school-year-end bonus of sorts, if you will.
When does the money roll in, you ask? Great question. If I pass these two portfolios on the first try, I’ll see my first stipend in the 2018-2019 school year. Which means two things: I need to brush up on my patience, and it’s time for me to get back to working on those portfolios.
So Tell Me…How do you improve your craft at work? Is it worth it for you?