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The Reflective Teacher: Am I Good Enough? by Stephanie Blackburn

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Stephanie Blackburn, a 2002 Milken Award winner, teaches fourth grade in Westerly, Rhode Island.

Stephanie Blackburn

This month, I begin a journey down a road filled with many possibilities. I have made the decision to begin the National Board Certification process. On one hand, it is a scary thing to even type those words, let alone verbalize them to my peers and family. On the other hand, it is exhilarating. I am anxious to begin scrutinizing my practices and looking further into improving the techniques I utilize in my classroom.

For the past three months, I have been attending a class designed to help me delve into the certification process and determine whether I finally am ready to begin a journey I have been considering for the past two years. My goal in taking the class was to get a deeper understanding of what that journey would involve. Six of my colleagues who are also interested in obtaining national certification attended the class as well.

During one part of the class, we read a book that described many candidates' actions and reactions throughout the certification process. Then the class members pulled together our own professional resources and wrote a mock entry. I was hooked. As I formally reflected on what could be improved or modified in my instruction, I couldn't stop thinking about the wonderful possibilities that lay ahead.

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I realized that I finally had found an avenue that would allow me to determine if I was doing the "right things" in my teaching -- a validation I have been searching for for years. Not only that, I would be doing it with a cohort of colleagues who would provide support for one another. The venue for collaboration was set and I was ready to jump in with both feet.

Along with the enthusiasm, however, I also felt some trepidation. One minute I was filled with excitement; the next I was overtaken with fear. Once again, I began reflecting. "What are you worried about?" I asked myself. Immediately, I faced my internal firing squad: I am afraid of failing; of being humiliated in front of my peers if I don't pass; of finding out I am not as good a teacher as I hope I am; of not being able to write successfully the pieces I will have to write; of not having any free time to spend with friends and family. How can I possibly face my school community and my family, I wondered, if I don't succeed?

Then, I spoke to some of the others who would embark on this journey with me, and discovered they were feeling the same way. It helped to realize I was not alone as, together, we weighed the pros and cons.

Finally, I made the commitment to begin the certification process; the benefits outweigh the apprehension. I have convinced myself that it will be all right if I fail part of the certification the first time around. I will have another chance to rectify my mistake(s). Isn't that why they allow three years to achieve the certification? I will get more out of the process if I fail than if I don't attempt it at all.

My goal, as I travel down this road, is to better myself as an educator. How can this challenge not begin that process? So, as I sit and wait for "the box" to arrive, an array of feelings still engulfs me, and once again I find myself searching for an answer. Will I find it? Who knows? All I know is I won't be sitting around idly waiting for it.

Previous Teacher Diaries

Be sure to see Education World's previous teacher diary features, The First 180 Days: First-Year Teacher Diaries and A First-Year Teacher and Her Mentor.

Article by Stephanie Blackburn
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