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The Importance of Feedback
by Stephanie Blackburn

This week, we asked our diarists, "Has the national certification process been harder than you expected, easier than you expected, or just what you expected?"

January 5, 2004

"Why are you still working on this?" friends and family members continually ask. They truly don't understand the depth of the process. Explaining it in the most rudimentary terms, I point out that I have four 15- to 20-page papers to write and to provide equivalent forms of documentation for... and that it's all due in six weeks. The response usually is something like, "Oh."

When I decided to take on this project, I knew what it entailed, but I thought it would be manageable. Now, in the midst of the process, it has become much harder than I expected, and I have begun to doubt myself. As I really read the standards, I think, "Who am I kidding? I am not the wonderful teacher I should be."

In addition, two months after I received my box, I discovered that I was pregnant with my first child. Never having been in the situation before, I naively thought that because I wasn't due until May, the pregnancy wouldn't affect me. WRONG! I've been so exhausted lately that often I stare at the computer and write garbage. I constantly struggle to find the energy and time to truly work on it. I write, rewrite, and write some more; think of new ideas (and forget them if I don't write them down); and then begin again.

The writing, however, has begun to be a little more manageable. It's like being in college: you begin to write the way you know they want you to write. Now, as I start to plan units, I ask myself, "Is this going to impact student learning? How?"

Although I do think the process is improving me professionally, it is more difficult than I expected.

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Meet Stephanie Blackburn

Stephanie Blackburn, one of Education World's 2002-2003 teacher diarists, received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Rhode Island in May 1994. For the first two years of her teaching career, Stephanie worked as an enrichment specialist in the talent development program for the Westerly, Rhode Island, school district. For the past seven years, she has taught fourth grade at Bradford Elementary School in Westerly. Stephanie was awarded a 2002 National Educator Award by the Milken Family Foundation, in a program that provides recognizes elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and other education professionals who are furthering excellence in education.

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