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My Final Thoughts
by Nicole Chiarello

Our five diarists now have completed both the portfolio and assessment portions of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards teacher certification process. For their final entry of the year, therefore, we asked them to share with the NBPTS and with you their thoughts about the process and how it might be improved to better meet the needs of future candidates.

May 10, 2004

Deciding to go for my National Boards was a major decision. In looking back over this whole year and the entire process, I think it was a very worthwhile endeavor. The toughest part for me was not having it run like a college course. In college, you have a professor who is there to answer questions and offer feedback. With the Boards, you are really on your own.

Fortunately, I had a support group I could go to when I was facing a challenge. For example, the wording of some of the entries' questions was sometimes confusing. I asked other people what they thought the question was asking; often our thoughts were very different. I don't know how many times I picked up the phone and said to one of my support group colleagues, "Can I just read you something? Will you tell me what you think it means?" I got similar calls from them.

Videotaping the lessons was the part I most feared; it was also the part from which I probably learned the most. Being able to watch myself teach and watch how the children responded to me was very informative. It allowed me to step back and look at my class and my teaching from a different perspective. I noticed areas where I could have asked questions and didn't. I also let my students watch the videos so they could see the way they behaved and acted in the classroom.

The assessment situation was difficult for me. There were six questions total, and I had 30 minutes to answer a question with multiple parts. We were videotaped, and warned that if we so much as said "Good luck!" to someone, the test would be thrown out. I was already nervous, but after hearing those instructions, I was afraid to even turn my head. People at the testing site were taking all different types of exams, not just the Boards, and the clicking keyboards made me nervous. We also were given super tight headphones to wear, which gave me a headache. Also, a little clock appeared in the corner of the test warning how much time remained for that question. I quickly picked the "hide clock" option on the computer. With five minutes left, however, the clock reappeared and blinked for the last few minutes. My stomach was in a knot.

I tried sketching out on paper the first few questions, but I quickly realized that I had no time to do that. I needed to type the whole time to answer each part of the question. If you finished a question early, you couldn't go back to a previous question; you could work only on the question that appeared on the screen in front of you. I am the type of person who reads a question and still thinks about it even after I've moved on to the next question, but there was no way to go back and work on the question again.

When the test was over, I realized there was no way a person could study for it. Whatever studying I had done was a total waste of time. Not one thing I studied helped me with the exam. That was very frustrating for me. One of the teachers found a quote that said, "Studying for the test is like putting water in a bucket with holes." That was probably the best analogy for studying for this exam.

I was very glad when everything was over. It was nice to be able to watch TV again, or go out for dinner whenever I wanted. It was nice to not sit in front of a computer and type all night. It will be nice to see what happens in November when all of us get our scores. There is nothing we can do anymore. All our entries are in and our exams are done. Now, we just have to wait!

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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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