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My Top Ten Tips for Surviving the National Certification Process
by Nicole Chiarello

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.

March 29, 2004

10. Check with your State Department of Education about funding. In Rhode Island, grants are available to help pay for the costs of seeking certification.

9. Learn to trust your local post office. You'll have to hand over all your hard work to a postal worker, based simply on a promise that the package will arrive in New Jersey the next day.

8. Take a pre-candidate class. Those classes will help you become familiar with "National Board lingo," and introduce you to other people who are going for the same certification you are.

7. Find readers. Line up several colleagues, friends, and/or relatives who are willing to check your entries for grammar and content. I used several different people, so I didn't have to bother the same people all the time.

6. Have patience. What can I saywithout patience, you're in a lot of trouble! Murphy's Law holds true. Things seem to happen the entire time you are working on the Boards.

5. Get a mentor. Find someone who has been through the process before and can answer questions as they arise. Having a mentor in my school building was wonderful.

4. Incorporate stress relievers into your schedule. Reward yourself for getting work done by going out to eat or seeing a movie. I designated Friday as my night to go to my favorite restaurant. When I got home, I would work on my entries a little and get organized for what needed to be completed over the weekend. I got most of my work done on the weekend.

3. Look into support offered by your school district. Our district is very supportive of National Board candidates. We were given staff development hours as well as professional days to work on our entries. Those who achieve certification also receive a yearly stipend.

2. Find a support group. Form alliances with people who are going through the process with you. You can read one another's entries, as well as keep one another on schedule. I phoned friends in my support group whenever I had questions or needed an opinion. Some of the wording in the entries was confusing, for example, and I was able to ask members of my support group what they thought.

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

1. Have the support of your family. Achieving national board certification is a very stressful and time-consuming process. Having people at home who are supportive and understanding of what you are trying to do is very important. I had a couple of meltdowns along the way, and having my fianc around to keep me going was key. He also did all the cooking and cleaning the last couple of weeks, and he never complained. I also e-mailed my papers to my parents in Buffalo; my mom checks the grammar on my papers to this day!

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Meet Nicole Chiarello

Nicole Chiarello received her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University at Buffalo, of the State University of New York, in May 1994 and her master's degree in special education, learning and behavior disorders from Buffalo State College in December 1996. For the remainder of the 1996-1997 academic year, Nicole worked as an inclusion teacher at Niagara-Wheatfield Senior High School in Sanborn, N.Y. For the past six years, she has taught a district-wide special education program for three-to-five students with emotional and behavioral concerns at Bradford Elementary School in Westerly, Rhode Island. Nicole was named Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year in 2000. She is currently serving on a district team focusing on social, emotional, and behavioral concerns in the classroom.

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