[NBCT] Student and Professional Needs

So, you did it. You’ve gathered information about your kids from a lot of people. And then you used that knowledge to assess the class formatively and analyzed those results. Then you had kids self-assess and used a summative assessment to show that they actually learned something from this unit.

Congrats! You’re two-thirds of the way done with Component 4 of National Board Certification.

The final third has been hard for me to make sense of. It’s called “participation in learning communities,” and apparently proving that you participate in learning communities requires filling out a bunch of forms.

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(Successfully pursuing NBCT may or may not show that you’re a better teacher, but it definitely does show that you’re willing to fill out a lot of forms.)

Cynicism aside, one thing that was driving me nuts was trying to figure out what the difference between a professional and a student need is for NBCT. Especially since you’re supposed to provide evidence that addressing your professional need impacted the students. Doesn’t that mean that every professional need is also a student need?

I’ve broken the code, though. The key is this passage:

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This distinction aligns perfectly with the differing requirements of the professional and student need submissions. For the professional need you are supposed to describe something you needed to learn and show how you used colleagues/others to learn it. For the student need you don’t need to learn anything — you just need to recognize and identify something that would make a difference to kids in your school, and then you’re supposed to impact your colleagues/others.

Which is why you don’t necessarily need to provide evidence that the student need impacted your kids. This is teacher as advocate and leader, affecting your colleagues. When you’re a learner you need to be affected by your colleagues, and show an impact on your kids.

(There are parts of this process that I don’t enjoy, but I won’t pretend I don’t love the exegesis. Sue me.)

So, yay, I understand what I’m supposed to do. How can I do this? I’m usually pretty deferential around the office, and “teacher as advocate” doesn’t sit well with me. That said, why not share ideas with my colleagues? It would be good for me to do more of that, especially in, oh, the next month or so.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

Teacher as Advocate: Better Middle School Geometry Experiences

I’ve taught high school Geometry at my school for the last four years. It’s the course I’ve taught the most. And while kids do alright in my classes, I think our school could be better preparing kids for their high school geometry work.

First, they often come in to geometry without having thought much about angles as rotations, or as angles being greater than 180 degrees.

Second, they have inconsistent experiences with the Pythagorean Theorem.

Third, they have had inconsistent experiences with the relationship between shared angles and similarity.

In the next month I’ll try to share some of the things I know about middle school geometry with my colleagues. There are three things I’ll do to advocate for geometry in Grades 3-8 (which is what we cover):

  • Create and share resources for various geometric topics, and ask some of my colleagues to share them with their students and tell me what they find out about their geometric knowledge.
  • We have a shared curricular space in our department. I’ll make a page to share some geometric resources that are appropriate for various grade levels, and try to better organize some of the things our department is already doing.
  • I’ll share some of this work at one of our math department meetings.

Collecting evidence is always really tricky with these portfolios, and is most of the reason why I end up submitting at the last minute. (I find that things never really work out when I try to collect evidence after the fact. I need to know what I’m doing so I can collect evidence during the process.)

What could evidence be for this? It’s tricky, but I could collect student work from any assessments I make from my 4th, 8th and Geometry classes, and I could also try to collect the student work of any colleagues who try out my assessments. I’m also thinking that maybe, if I share a collected activity page via email, I could take snippets of any emails people write back to me about the resources I’ve shared.

This plan is a B+ plan.

Teacher as Learner: Learning Disabilities and Proofs

I’ve got a few kids in my geometry classes who have learning disabilities. I don’t know how to support them with understanding and creating complex proofs. These kids have attentional issues that are related to low working memory. This makes it hard for them to e.g. keep in mind the premise of an argument, or e.g. an earlier diagram after it’s been transformed into some new one.

I might as well focus on the next thing that I’m trying to teach — proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. Is there any way that I can help my kids with learning disabilities make sense of these sorts of arguments?

I’ll ask the learning specialists in my school, but I’ll also ask smart people that I’m connected to online. As evidence of my learning I’ll excerpt our conversations. And as evidence of the student impact, well, hopefully I’ll help more of my kids learn these sorts of proofs.

And then if I can do that, then I just have to write the 12-page written commentary and I’m set.

And then, with the permission of an anonymous Pearson grader, I’ll be NBCT.

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