Open Letter to Bay Area NBCTs
Today’s Guest Author:
Sandy Dean, Director of the National Board Resource Center, at Stanford University.
The letter below was sent to National Board Certified Teachers who are, or have been part of the National Board Resource Center (NBRC) community at Stanford University, from its director, Sandy Dean. In particular, it is addressed to the most recently certified teachers. In over a decade of support for National Board candidates, the NBRC has become a model for candidate support programs around the country, and through it support for hundreds of local teachers, it has helped elevate the quality of teaching around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dear Colleagues in the National Board Community,
This announcement and invitation are coming later this year than in years past for several reasons. The biggest one is that I was not sure we would have funding to continue our National Board Support program. Thankfully, we will continue with funding from the Stuart and Hewlett Foundations. Now, the question is are there teachers out there who have the heart and will to pursue National Board certification even when many of the incentives are gone? I hope you who have certified and know what Board certification can do for your teaching will offer encouragement to your colleagues out there who are reluctant, discouraged, or both.
In an ironic way, the reasons to encourage as many of our teaching colleagues to become certified have never been greater. No matter where you teach you have probably felt the sting being inflicted on the teaching profession by those who would have us believe that good teachers arrive fully developed and able to make a difference simply by virtue of will and some subject matter knowledge. If you are one of the NBCTs who has taken issue with such beliefs but does not yet know what else to do, I would suggest that it is time for all of us who love this work to take steps to own our profession because we cannot control what we do not own. We are clearly not in control right now, and I am not truly sure that we have ever owned our profession. Taking ownership and control seems to me to recommend two strategies. The first is to ensure that we have the professional authority from which to speak about good teaching. I know, as do most of you, that National Board certification is an avenue to develop that professional authority. That has always been the most compelling reason to undertake the hard work of candidacy. The second strategy is to add the voices of every Board certified teacher to the work of our newest initiative at the National Board Resource Center. The Accomplished California Teachers network is a group of distinguished teachers who are contributing to education policy discussions in California through reports, outreach to policymakers and invested public, blogs, articles, and whatever other opportunities present themselves. We are looking forward to the release of our first report on the subject of teacher evaluation in the next few weeks. There will be more to come.
I invite you, then, to do two things:
1. Invite a colleague whom you believe has the right stuff to pursue certification. (Subsidies for candidate fees are still available). More information is available at the National Board Resource Center web page.
2. Join Accomplished California Teachers.
It is a tough time to be a teacher. I would share with you the good counsel I once heard from an unsung hero among school leaders, Bob Blackburn, the man who was assistant superintendent in the Oakland Unified School District and who nearly lost his life along with Marcus Foster on the night he was murdered. He offered this advice to a group of aspiring school leaders:
“You cannot build effective schools on the backs of heartsick teachers.”
We have only one choice, and that is to take heart and begin to own our work in ways that we have never before even imagined.
With my best wishes and warm thoughts,
Director, National Board Resource Center