Education Opinion

Base camp is within range

By Emmet Rosenfeld — June 11, 2006 2 min read
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My approach to the foot of the NBPTS mountain has been more arduous than anticipated, and both blog ideas and morale are on the wane (things should perk up once we make it to summer vacation). The mountain itself, you may recall, takes a year to scale, including as it does the traversing of four crevasse-ridden portfolio entries and then, to attain the summit, the dreadfully exposed final pitch, a day of assessment behind a computer keyboard at a testing center.

I began my approach blithely enough last February, setting off with a bulging pack from a colorful town in the foothills that afforded a blissful view of the peak on a clear day. I now realize that the sense of proximity was an illusion: I have trudged through an introductory course and several months of a relentless school year, and only now is the rolling landscape beginning to give way to the steady incline which will take me above treeline to the jumping off point for the actual ascent. The well-worn trail has given way to a fainter path; discarded oxygen bottles and weathered gradebooks dot the way.

I’ll take a few weeks to acclimate once I reach the camp, and then the push begins in earnest. I have laid the groundwork for the first leg of the climb, Entry Four (“Documented Accomplishments”), by delineating the three standards which apply. I’ll kill a few more lonely hours on the trail soon by listing things I’ve done that might qualify: eight accomplishments with documentation and analysis will ultimately comprise this entry. Of course, after that, there are still thirteen more standards to address over three entries. Two entries require video-taping, and one the in-depth analysis of several students’ assignments.

I have attempted, along the way, to create a video record of my journey. I left the camera running on a tripod in the corner three times, but none of the footage was usable. I could hear me, but none of the kids. After that, I plucked a student from the class to get behind the lens, but that presented problems because she wanted to do the activities at the same time she was supposed to be filming. I think I’ve recently solved the problem. I recruited one of my seniors, an unblinking girl named Iris with experience in the school’s video tech lab. She shot the class once but the group work bouncing around in my low-ceilinged trailer distorted the audio. She came again last Friday when I was interviewing individual groups, one by one, while the rest of the class rehearsed Romeo and Juliet projects in the cafeteria under the supervision of a colleague. Hauling this clunky IMAX equipment may pay off yet.

Also along the way, I have negotiated the sloughs of bureaucracy. I admit my passage through the swamp has been eased considerably by the gift of a pack horse from my district. That would have set me back $2500 or so at one of the small village markets I passed through on the way. Just between you and me though, it’s sway-backed and I think a couple of its back teeth are rotten. I have to pay $500 up front that doesn’t come back to me until a ways further down the paper trail. Seems like my horse has to make two or three switch backs every time there’s a little hill, instead of going straight up it. Still, every time I pass one of those poor teachers whose district doesn’t shell out the fees, I feel lucky. Right now, though, I just feel tired. Ho there, boy. Let’s call it a day. That mountain’ll still be there in the morning.

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