One of our teachers, Paul France, just became National Board Certified! This is a prestigious honor: just under 3% of the nation’s teachers receive this certification. National Board Certification is an elective process created in the late 1980s. It’s intended to restructure the landscape on which teachers are trained to be in the classroom, helping to elevate the status and quality of the teaching profession long-term. We sat down with Paul to find out more about why he chose to begin this process just a year and a half ago.
Why did you choose to pursue National Board Certification?
I think teachers are always looking to better their practice, whether they do so formally or through being teacher-researchers each and every day. In order to be an effective educator, one must be reflective, intentional, and focused on student-centered learning. The National Board Certification process instills these sorts of values in their teachers. I wanted to push myself to become a teacher who went beyond the constraints of a traditional system, in order to explore how I could best serve my students and families in an engaging and empathic way.
I spoke to a few National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) who recently gained certification, and they noted that the process was some of the best professional development they had ever received. It caused them to be critical of their own practice. I saw the type of interactive, exploratory, and emergent teaching they were doing in their classroom, and I wanted to benefit my students in that way, too.
How does becoming a National Board Certified Teacher benefit students?
The National Board Professional Teaching Standards are built off of the Five Core Propositions, the first of which being “Teachers are committed to their students and their learning.” I really like that this standard emphasizes the importance of a knowledge of students. Understanding the whole-child means taking student interest, social emotional needs, assessment data, family dynamics, and other qualities of learners, to create rigorous and engaging learning experiences. It also emphasizes the importance of including parents in a child’s learning.
The process pushed me to think differently about what rigor and engagement actually mean. One of the best products that came out of the process was a unit I created on human values. The goal of the unit was to help students understand human values, human motivation, and conflict. Our guiding question for the unit was, “Why does someone decide to make a change?” and through this unit, we examined human values and conflict in the context of the American Revolution. The idea of values became a unifying concept for the remainder of our school year, allowing each and every student to connect to the curriculum by identifying and discussing their own values, as well as share the values of their families.
Would you recommend this process to another teacher? Why or why not?
I would certainly recommend the process to other teachers. National Board has well-researched and well-supported sets of standards for almost any teaching discipline, and emphasizes the importance of being an intentional, reflective, and well-rounded teacher. At the core of this, however, is the emphasis on the relationship with and knowledge of the student and how that colors any learning experience. National Board values both the artistry and intentional scientific research that creates the foundation of good teaching. As teachers, every day we walk into our classrooms as both artists and scientists, and the National Board process helps to nurture the whole-teacher, so that teachers can then nurture the whole-child.
How do the Five Core Propositions translate to your experience at AltSchool?
Teachers at AltSchool value the child above all else. Every teacher within this organization invests a great deal of time and energy into listening to and knowing the students that walk through our doors each day. Once we lay this foundation, we use our knowledge of pedagogy to build the best learning experiences possible for children. It is through these experiences that AltSchool encourages us to be teacher-researchers and teacher-leaders, and to use our fellow colleagues to help us think pragmatically about the curriculum we build with our students. In fact, AltSchool is one of the only schools I’ve seen that truly embodies these Five Core Propositions in a manner that allows students and parents alike to truly partner in the process, and the result is a community committed to high-quality, personalized learning.
Please join everyone at AltSchool to congratulate Paul on this outstanding achievement.