To Retake or Not Retake, THAT is the Question

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards released scores in December 2020.

Maybe you saw this:

 

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Maybe you didn’t.

I opened the score report email three times….all before they included fireworks.

The first two started with, “We regret to inform you…..”

I looked like this the first time:

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The second time, I knew it wasn’t going to be enough, but I was pleased with the amount of progress made.

The third email (and final regardless of score) looked different and a bit confusing. I did finally read the word “congratulations.”

Why did I decide to retake?

I decided to retake because my colleague, who was going through the process, explained why I should. She reminded me that in ten years, it would matter whether I chose to quit or continue. So if it was going to matter in ten years, it was essential to not have regrets.

Here are some ways that it has been significant:

  • When I push my children to stick with something even when it’s hard, they know I practice what I preach.
  • I learned how to articulate the learning and teaching that goes on in my classroom in a way that shows how amazing it is to students.
  • I can coach other teachers and help them find that exceptional educator within and let it shine brightly.
  • I have a deeply anchored passion and focus for my profession—a precious tool in our current climate.
  • I sharpened the skill of concentrating on the process of teaching and meeting the needs of students in a way that lets me highlight their strengths so brightly that they have confidence when tackling their growth areas.

How did I decide which components to retake and when?

My colleague, Cathy, and I sat down one day with the score calculator and our score reports. We put in different scores that would help both of us get to the minimum composite score.

We brainstormed different approaches for each component and what it would take to achieve the score. We began coaching each other (not knowing that was what we were doing). We asked questions like: How would that look? How would you make that happen? What if ____? Have you considered….?

We each had an area that we knew we had not given 100% to, so those were definite retake areas.

I had scored lowest in my heaviest weighted portfolio component, so I retook that one the first year. I went in a completely different direction for my video-recorded lessons. I had a colleague that I knew would be brutally honest read and give feedback on my commentary (and she was!). I had more conversations with Cathy. I wrote the commentary, sent it for feedback, edited commentary, started over on some parts. It felt like a never-ending process. For the last month before the submission deadline, I would read my commentary and make small edits. I did this every two to three days. When I finally got to the point that I read through my commentary twice without changing anything, I knew I was ready to upload it.

To me, the most challenging season in the certification process is between submission and score release. How in the world do you NOT think about the one thing that has consumed every waking moment for almost a year? I needed lots of distractions: young adult fiction works well for me! I spent as much time as possible with my kids, who were young adolescents at the time. I did fun things with friends, deep cleaned my house, worked in the yard -anything NOT National Board related. Somehow the days turn into weeks, then months.

When I opened my second score report, it still read, “We regret to inform you….” I skipped that part; I wanted to see the NUMBERS. That one component score had improved enough to give me two-thirds of the points needed to reach certification. I was on fire and ready to get the last part done!

I retook the lightest weighted portfolio component. It was the one I felt I could improve the most. I could clearly articulate a much better understanding of what I needed for that component.

I also retook one assessment center exercise. I certified under the model that required six constructed responses (no multiple choice). When I submitted my last reply, I knew it was nowhere close to what I needed. I also knew that my brain was too fatigued to do anything else on that day at that time. That’s the exercise I retook.

When I finished the second and final retake cycle, I was confident I had finished the process strong. I didn’t know if I would certify, but I had grown tremendously as a person and an educator.

Between that last submission and score release, I had some serious distractions. I resigned from the job I had and moved from Mississippi to Arizona with my 13 and 16-year-old children.

When scores were released, I called Cathy. We had both been through two retake cycles. I didn’t want to be too excited. What if she hadn’t certified? She did….then we both screamed, cried, talked over each other, and celebrated together.

I put NBPTS close to the top of the list of places to notify of my move. The Arizona K12 Center received notification that a teacher they had never heard of was a newly certified NBCT in Arizona. They took me in and have cultivated my leadership as an NBCT coach and an education advocate.

That’s my journey so far.

What will you do?

Ten years from now, the response to that question WILL matter.

Will you have peace or regret?

Follow your deepest instinct. When you find peace, you’ll know you’re doing what is right for you.

 

Susan Collins

I began my teaching career in 1991 in rural Mississippi. I served in 4 different communities in central and north Mississippi as a music educator, mostly elementary general music with one year as a middle school band director. I stepped out of working full time in the classroom for 9 years when my children were very young but never left teaching. I set up an early childhood music studio and taught music for children ages birth to age 5 (with an adult caregiver). I moved to in northwest rural Arizona in 2016 where I teach k-5 general music.

I achieved National Board Certification in the fall of 2016 and began my relationship with the Arizona K12 Center for Professional Development. I have served as a 2017-18 Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow and a Candidate Support Provider for National Board Candidates. I am passionate about advocating for the needs of rural schools and ensuring that every student receives an excellent education provided by passionate and qualified educators.

When I am not teaching, advocating, or writing about education issues, I am outdoors with my teenage children. I love hiking, reading, and going to musical performances. I can usually be found off the grid pondering my next writing piece!

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