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My Top Ten Tips for Surviving the National Certification Process
by Stephanie Capalbo

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 22, 2004

Well, I've officially survived the first part of the national certification processcompleting the portfolio entries and documentation. The process isn't over yet -- I still have six and a half hours of testing at the end of the month -- but this is what I've learned so far about surviving the process:

10. Get organized. As soon as you get "the box," examine the contents and become accustomed to each piece. I looked through the materials several times before I fully understood all that was involved.

9. Read ahead and take notes. Read -- and reread -- the instructions provided with the certification entries. Take notes and discuss the instructions with a colleague. I needed several readings to really digest what the instructions said and meant.

8. Make a plan. Start at the beginning of the year with a solid plan of which activities and units each portfolio entry will capture. That will avoid the scramble to teach a unit just to complete the Boards. A timeline is key!

7. Read and reread the standards. After reading the standards, paraphrasing each one helped me insert standards language into my portfolio entries.

6. Give up your social life. Yup, it's true. These entries become your life. Be prepared to be glued to your computer. I gave up many social occasions to revise my entries. Hopefully, your friends and family still will be around when the process is completed and you return to the land of the living.

5. Create a support group. Find colleagues in and near your district who can go through the process with you. My support group stressed out together, reassured one another, and supported one another throughout the entire process.

4. Tape several lessons for each videotape requirement. Trust me, the kids love to act for the camera. When your stress level rises they act even more!

3. Line up a proofreader or two. I routinely gave my papers to a colleague who had recently become board certified in another certification area. Friends who had little knowledge of the process also read through my papers. Each reader was able to highlight questions I had not fully answered and point out grammatical errors I had made.

2. Take advantage of professional days. Our state and district offered support courses and professional days to help complete this arduous task. If you aren't sure whether they are offered in your district... ask. If they are, take advantage of them!

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

1. Don't procrastinate. Take it from me -- a true procrastinator; plan far enough in advance that you have a few days between typing an entry, proofreading it, and revising it. Then revisit the entry a few days later to determine whether it is done to your satisfaction. Sometimes, a little distance is all you need to clearly see what's missing.

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Meet Stephanie Capalbo

Stephanie Capalbo received a bachelor's degree in psychology with a concentration in elementary education from Rhode Island College in May 1995. She became certified in early childhood education in August 1997. For the past six years, Stephanie has been teaching kindergarten at Bradford Elementary School in Westerly, Rhode Island. In the fall of 2000, the kindergarten at Bradford became the first and only kindergarten in the district to receive accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In 2003, Stephanie was named Westerly's Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year.

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