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My Top Ten Tips for Surviving the National Certification Process
by Jennifer Sinotte

Last month, our teacher diarists mailed back to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards "the box" containing their completed certification materials. Although still facing written assessment tests, all the diarists have completed their portfolios -- probably the most stressful and least familiar part of the process. So, we asked them to provide you with the benefits of their experience.

April 12, 2004

10. Get organized. Set a long-range schedule and stick to it. If you don't accomplish something on one week's list, carry it over to the next week, and the next... and keep carrying it over until the task is completed. Stay focused or you'll fall behind.

9. Set time aside each day to work on the portfolios. A few times, I just couldn't force myself to work on the same entry again. If I felt as though I wasn't getting anything done, or if I was stuck on a topic, I switched to a different entry and gathered the information I needed to complete that one. The change allowed my brain a chance to refocus.

8. Become more observant. In the classroom, I found myself really thinking about student learning with every lesson I planned. As I developed my units, I constantly asked myself how I could improve student learning. I know I always did that in the past, but the certification process made me even more aware of it.

7. Find time to de-stress on the weekends. Take a few hours to yourself and try not to think about the Boards. Believe me, you're constantly thinking about it; if you don't allow yourself some free time you can go crazy! (I suggest a manicure...)

6. Find a colleague and go through it together. Having colleagues to go through the process with was a godsend. If you don't know anyone in your building, try to hook up with someone in your district, or even in another district. You don't have to be trying for certification in the same field; it helps just to have someone to talk to.

5. Be flexible. Nothing goes the way you think it will. Just because you have a deadline doesn't mean everyone does. If you ask someone to read your work or help you gather information, make sure you have other things to work on in the meantime.

4. Don't second-guess yourself. That advice is very hard to follow. I constantly second guessed myself and it drove me -- and my family -- crazy! Remember, you're a professional. Trust your own judgment.

3. Be confident. Remember that no one is perfect!

2. Use your time wisely. Make a new schedule each week and try your best to stick to it. The final deadline comes more quickly than you think it will!

And the number one tip to surviving the national certification process is...

1. Always keep the end in sight. Remember, eventually, the end will come. On the day you take your portfolio to the post office, you'll have a jump in your step and a smile on your face. It was the best feeling I had had in a long time!

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Meet Jennifer Sinotte

Jennifer Sinotte received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Franklin Pierce College in May 1992, and her master's degree in special education from Providence College in May of 1998. Jennifer has spent her teaching career at Bradford Elementary School in Westerly, Rhode Island. For the first two years of her career, she was a resource teacher for grades four and five. For the past four years, Jennifer taught in a primary self-contained classroom, and recently switched to full-day kindergarten.

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