By Adrin Fisher
This past winter, my friend Tim sent me a copy of his favorite book—Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Now, this is an unusual selection for me, as a lover of all things fiction, but part of my quest this year has been to broaden my reading, so I gamely read. Turns out, Gladwell offers several fascinating insights into human nature and success, including “The 10,000-Hour Rule.” Basically, Gladwell writes, practice makes perfect, and 10,000 hours of perfecting practice will make you an expert in any area you choose to study.
Which got me thinking.
If a teacher is at school 180 days a year and teaches six hours a day, in ten years, she will have logged 10,800 hours in the classroom. Even accounting for sick days, the few hours a year she shows a movie to reinforce or reteach, assemblies and PBIS rewards, and two-hour delays, she’s still going to be awfully close to the 10,000-hour mark after ten years in the classroom.
Now, of course, this is not to say that an expert teacher is a perfect teacher. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that—no matter how many hours of teaching you’ve logged—you can always get more intentional, more responsive, more knowledgeable.
What’s the best way for you to showcase your teaching expertise, expert teacher?
I want to challenge you today to begin pursuing your National Board Certification. Especially in West Virginia, where “education reform” and teacher salaries have been and continue to be a main focus of our state legislature, teachers can help prove our worth by achieving an additional certification outside normal state requirements.
Elevating our profession is best done by us, not by legislators.
At the risk of turning this post into a non-paid advertisement for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, let me give you a few facts about the process.
West Virginia offers significant financial incentives. The state will reimburse you for most costs you incur. Then, once you achieve certification, your salary will be increased (there is a state minimum increase, and some counties provide additional money) until the certification expires.
West Virginia offers moral and practical support. Your county will provide you with professional leave days to work on your portfolios. Local cohorts have regular meetings run by paid and unofficial coaches. Online groups support each other via social media. Someone will hear your pain, because…
Going through the National Board Certification process is hard. It’s hard because you have to watch yourself teaching (over and over and over), and that age-old fear of hearing your recorded voice and seeing your recorded body never quite goes away. It’s hard because you have to analyze how you gave directions, how you provided feedback, how you ensured that every student got what he or she needed during that lesson. Don’t worry, though—if it were a perfect lesson, you’d have nothing to write about. And you have to demonstrate how your students are growing by providing contextualized work samples from multiple points in time. And show how you’re contributing to the profession…and….
It will test your writing ability. Admittedly, NBC will be an easier process if you already write routinely. I was several years past my Action Research Project in grad school, so I had to re-learn how to write technically, yet reflectively. It took practice.
It will test your time management skills. It’s a big undertaking, and life doesn’t stop while you’re working on this.
You may have to beg, buy, or borrow technology to help you document your teaching. But there are surprising resources around, like even in your school’s Library Media Center or at your local public library. And chances are good that with nearly 1,000 National Board Certified Teachers in West Virginia in 2019, there’s someone nearby who can help you find the resources you need.
The skills you learn become ingrained in your teaching. You begin to automatically analyze (though probably not write about!) students and their work all the time. You think differently about your work and your place in students’ lives.
I encourage you now, if you’ve not already taken this step, to work toward your National Board Certification. It takes a deliberate investment of your time and talent. It takes willpower and dedication. It takes support and encouragement. I achieved certification in 2012, and my husband achieved in 2018, so it can be done.
We are working to elevate the teaching profession here in West Virginia.
West Virginia’s students are worth it! Won’t you join us?
WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation. Interested in beginning your National Board Certification journey? Check out all the hype at National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. Leave us a question or comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!
Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. When she’s not finding video clips for her students to analyze, encouraging and supporting her colleagues, or conferencing with budding writers, you can find her reading with her kids, tree bathing, or taking notes on life in her current composition book. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin