National Boards, Reflecting and Writing

Ever have a friend that you’ve thought about often, but somehow lost touch?  Things come up, you mean to call, but somehow… you don’t. This continues, then it gets to the point where it seems too awkward to call. And unless someone reaches out to make the first move, the friendship just … fades away.

That is kind of what happened with this blog.  I’d think about it, but somehow never got around to making the first move to write.  It has been a crazy year for me (but aren’t they all?)  My mom passed away on the first day of school and for the first month of school I was just trying to … survive. Writing was not high on my list of priorities. Then as I came out of my fog, I meant to write. But I didn’t.

Then someone reached out. I recently received an email asking why I had stopped blogging. This person didn’t blame. Didn’t accuse. She simply reached out. And somehow, I was ready to hear what she had to say and ready to write here.

Despite not posting here, I have been writing this year – for National Board Certification. It was a  stressful experience for me (but mostly because I procrastinated and didn’t begin writing as early as I should have). It was also an incredible learning experience.  I started “planning” for it last summer. The portfolio requires 4 entries — with very specific requirements and questions to address. These questions were in the back of my mind just about every day in every class.

I did manage to complete the portfolio and am scheduled to take the test on May 20th. I’ll find out late next fall if I “passed” or not. Either way, I am very glad I did it. I chose to try to become a National Board Certified Teacher as I wanted to focus upon exclusively upon my teaching this year. I finished my masters last summer and wasn’t ready to begin the next one, so National Board’s seemed like a good fit.

It was a good fit. I was forced to video tape my classes and critically examine my practice. “Entry 2: Instructional Analysis: Whole-Class Mathematical Discourse” and “Entry 3: Instructional Analysis: Small-Group Mathematical Collaborations” require one to submit two 15 minute video clips of a whole-class discussion and small group discussions respectively. The video were painful to watch. Even more frightening was asking someone else to watch them in order to edit my writing for each entry.

Despite the fear factor, taping myself and my students and then writing about it was a great learning opportunity. It forced me to examine the way I respond to student statements and questions. To examine the way I  foster peer-to-peer communication about mathematics. To examine how I respond to misconceptions. To examine every thing each student says or writes for evidence of mathematical understanding. To examine how my feedback helps to develop and refine each student’s understanding.

I wish I could say that I had begun taping early in the school year as I had planned. But I didn’t. I did however think about each class as if I had. I guess I was taping in my mind. And reflecting upon each class as if I were writing about it for my portfolio. I can’t say that I drastically changed any of my practices for this process. I did however become much, much more aware of each comment I made and how that comment helped (or hindered) student understanding.

The effect this process has had on me this year really hit home for me recently.  A week or so ago, one of the students in my class shared an alternate way of answering a problem involving ratios. In response to his method, another student said, “That was nice evidence of mathematical thinking. Thank you for sharing it with us.”

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1 Response to National Boards, Reflecting and Writing

  1. Jenny says:

    Congratulations on mailing off the box! That alone is a significant accomplishment. Good luck on the essays (although I would guess you will find them to be pretty basic after this whole process). The push to reflect so consistently on one’s practice as a teacher is powerful. It’s even more impressive to see, so clearly, how this impacted your students.

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