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My Final Thoughts
by Stephanie Capalbo

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 24, 2004

During the course of working toward national certification, I found the portfolio part of the process to be both rewarding and frustrating. I felt that each portfolio entry was well designed to analyze the teaching and learning that occurs every day in my kindergarten classroom. The written analysis necessary for each entry helped me focus on the students' learning and misconceptions and allowed me to refine my teaching during future learning experiences.

The videotaped segments, on the other hand, were stress-filled. Finding a clip that highlighted a meaningful portion of my day seemed to be a daunting task. I felt that my videotaped segments had to highlight perfection in teaching and learning. After the initial stress of being taped subsided, however, I remembered that teaching isn't perfect and every lesson is not ideal.

I began to more fully embody the philosophy behind the national certification process as I focused on analyzing what was positive about each taped segment, as well as on missed opportunities and on misconceptions held by students. By focusing on those aspects of my teaching, I became more relaxed about creating the videotaped entries; I was concentrating on my teaching, and not on the taping. Although, I often was dismayed that I had to stop the tape at the designated 15-minute time allotment, I understood the equity in having all candidates submit videotaped footage of equal length. It was then up to us to tell the rest of the story through our written commentary.

The part of the process that caused the most stress and confusion to me was the assessment center. My certification -- Early Childhood Generalist -- encompassed children ages 3-8, essentially preschool through grade 3, and I bought numerous books to read up on curriculum and child development that spanned those ages. Walking into the assessment center, I had these questions: What if I can't answer the curriculum question for a specific grade level? What if I need more time to compose my thoughts? What if a question pertains to a grade level I have never taught?

Teachers educate themselves daily on the topics they must teach their students. The teaching, however, comes not from simply knowing about a topic, but also from finding resources to teach the topic and then creating meaningful lessons and activities to engage all the learners in a classroom. I felt that the assessment center part of the process expected candidates to "know it all" in terms of curriculum. Often, while answering a question, I had to spend a few minutes determining -- without resources -- what the topic I was to teach encompassed. I then had to take that knowledge and focus on the students and their learning. That to me doesn't epitomize what "best teaching" looks like in the classroom.

The added stress of the ticking clock also was a deterrent. Although I do see the point of limiting the time allowed for each response, I wonder about the validity of the assessment center exercises in determining a teacher's quality. Those candidates who had better typing skills also had an advantage in this portion of the process.

I feel strongly that without the support of my colleagues who went through the process with me, I could not have completed all the board requirements. A support system that included a National Board Certified teacher in my building also was key. I wish that a more established support system was available through the NBPTS Web site. I used the Web site to ask a question of the board and had to wait days for a response. Perhaps, links to board certified teachers willing to help new candidates would be useful. The creation of chat rooms for candidates -- where we could learn from other candidates and from board certified teachers while posting questions -- also would have been helpful.

Officially, I have until December 31, 2004 to hear my results. I am content with the portfolio entries I submitted and with my performance at the assessment center and I anxiously await the news.

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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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