This article originally ran in Maine Educator Magazine.
Everything Oxford Elementary School 5th grade teacher Melissa Guerrette does is intentional in her classroom. There isn’t a word spoken or task completed that isn’t in some way being used to help her students learn. Guerrette surrounds her students with books, her classroom library is carefully labelled. On this day, Guerrette intentionally stacked preselected nonfiction books on each table so students would find high-interest books for practicing the day’s lesson. The reflective practice Guerrette uses stems from her time preparing and applying for National Board Certification. The National Board Certified teacher says she has changed for the better as an educator, and it is in turn helping her students succeed while also engaging their families more in the learning process. Maine Educator observed Guerrette’s reading and writing lessons, and then asked her questions about her process, and the value of National Board Certification.
Q: How does being a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) help your students? For me, being certified has strengthened my sense that I have a responsibility to contribute to the profession as a lifelong learner, a leader, and a collaborator. This directly impacts my students and my school community because I’m seeking out what is current in education, sharing that knowledge, and partnering with others to provide students the best learning experiences I can. One of my current goals is to help students grow as more reflective learners themselves. Their investment increases with more awareness of the goals and objectives and as they self-assess and reflect on their progress.
Q: How has the National Board process helped you as a teacher? Working toward certification is by far the most rewarding professional development I’ve ever had. NBCT is the influence I credit with me being the teacher I am today. The process required me to really examine my practice, thinking critically about what impact I have in my classroom and how I can be more effective. A lot of the National Board process is about reflection— it’s caused me to be reflective about my practice on a regular basis. I’m reflecting not only when a lesson is finished or when I score a summative assessment, I’m reflecting upon every conversation with my students and what changes I can make immediately, the next day, and when I teach the lesson again. Achieving National Board Certification affirmed my strengths in designing instructional opportunities for students that meet their needs and interests, and the evidence that my practice meets the national standards for accomplished teaching gives me added confidence each day in the classroom.
Q: What practices do you use in your classroom work or work with students that have been strengthened or resulted from pursuing National Board Certification?
Goals and Expectations – I think my National Board work is evident in the goals I set for students and the way I communicate high expectations for their learning. I’m pretty transparent with my students with what it looks like to achieve, what it looks like to meet the standard, and what some of the obstacles may be in the process. The goal of incorporating more student self-assessment and student reflection is a direct extension of the work I did to certify. I didn’t involve students in self-assessment enough. I think the learning is more meaningful when students are aware of the goals.
Parental Engagement – During the process, I realized I could improve at communicating with parents and enlisting parents as partners. Core Proposition 1 in certification focuses on knowledge or students, includes students’ specific needs, which requires learning about each student from multiple angles. I’ve always focused on creating strong relationships with my students, and now I use various informants to understand my students. I survey parents several times a year to look for information and feedback. I survey parents at the beginning of the year to learn about their families, to ask them what their concerns are for their kids, and how to best communicate with each student. I’m always looking for ways to keep the chain of communication open.