For this part of my series on National Board standards, I've asked Kristin Hamilton, NBCT who now is Director of Standards for NBPTS to talk about her experience as a co-chair the committee that revised the English Language Arts standards.
Guest Blogger, Kristin Hamilton
National Board Certified Teacher: AYA/ELA
NBPTS Director of Standards
I remember sitting at a large U-shaped conference table
looking at the other teachers and professors and wondering how I got so lucky. The
fourteen of us, plus staff from the National Board for Professional Teaching
Standards, were gathered as practitioners and researchers (the majority of whom
were National Board Certified Teachers) to revise the English
Language Arts Standards that a teacher must meet in order to become an
I questioned my right to be at that table, and I even questioned
my right to question the standards by which I had measured my professional
life. I never questioned that writing
these standards ought to be the purview of teachers, but I wasn’t sure I should
be one of them.
Over time the fourteen of us realized that we all felt the
same way. Since that first committee it
has been my honor to continue to work with the National Board and to facilitate
other committees, and I see the same phenomenon at the start of every
Psychologists sometimes call it “impostor syndrome” when
individuals have difficulty accepting that they have earned the honors they
receive. For some reason, the culture of teaching causes us to believe that teachers’
participation in policy is an imposition, that their contributions are an extraneous
addition to predetermined courses of action.
Board standards committees, however, are convened to do the thinking,
writing, and decision making—not to advise, not to make recommendations. To participate is the most startling
paradigm shift I’ve ever experienced as a teacher.
Standards revision committee members sign on for an intense
five-seven months of group writing, editing, debating, consensus-building,
stakeholder outreach, and research.
Their charge is to describe what accomplished
teachers know and do in such a way that teachers in any context or region could
see themselves and their students; write standards that look ahead five-ten years; and uphold the Five Core Propositions that
are the foundation for what accomplished teachers know and do in every content
area. The committees are held to
exacting expectations by professional organizations, stakeholders, researchers,
policymakers, legislators, the National Board itself, and, of course, teachers.
Interestingly, the origin of the word standard is Gothic, a combination of “to stand” and “hard.” To be sure, the standards committee wrote rigorous
and exacting standards, hard measures of teaching. Beyond that outcome, however, the National
Board created a space in which we could take a firm stand and define our own
profession rather than be the recipient of others’ decisions.
One hallmark of a profession is that its members determine
its standards, and they decide when practitioners meet those standards. I truly believe that the National Board has
found a way for teachers to be professionals in the full sense of the
word. Teachers write the National Board
standards, and they score the assessments that teachers submit. To engage with the certification process is
to converse with colleagues and be assessed by peers.
I urge educators (primary,
secondary, and higher education) to participate in writing the standards of
accomplished teaching that guide our profession, and I urge policymakers and
officials to encourage them as well. Apply
to sit on a NBPTS standards committee. Participate
in public comment on the released drafts.
Encourage your colleagues to do the same. Read the standards and engage with them as
you would a colleague across the hall.
As a final note
to K-12 teachers specifically: Never
apologize for your presence in a room where decisions are made about teaching
and learning. Your expertise guides
classrooms and hallways, and so it should also steer board rooms. Imposters
take possession of that which does not—and should not—belong to them; they
impose themselves on others. We are not
imposters. Professionals make a public vow—in word and deed—to uphold and
advance their profession; they profess
their commitment to serve others.