Opinion
Education Opinion

Final Thoughts

By David B. Cohen — July 20, 2009 3 min read

Ah...back home. I’m unpacked, readjusted to Pacific Daylight Time, and planning what to do with my remaining days before school starts. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards 2009 Conference and Exhibition is now history, but I’ve brought back plenty of information - packets, handouts, lists, web links, business cards. What next?

I face this situation any time I attend a conference, and if you’re reading this blog after having attended NBTPS or any other conference or workshop this summer, maybe you can relate. While I was there, I had so many ideas about how I could apply what I was learning to my own work, but now, the question is where to start.

Experience suggests to me, just start somewhere - anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a large step, but follow up on one possibility. If you attended a particularly memorable session or workshop, review those materials and see what one item you can adapt for your use. If someone told you to keep in touch, start today. Don’t let that momentum go to waste. For my own follow-up, I’ve invited nine of my fellow California National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) to join a project I’m involved with - Accomplished California Teachers. I used NBCT Link to connect with a colleague in Los Angeles, and I’ve been reading up about the Alliance for Excellent Education, an organization led by the Chair of the NBPTS Board of Directors, Bob Wise, former Governor and Congressman from West Virginia.

You might notice that none of these activities seem likely to directly change my curriculum and instruction, at least, not in any obvious or rapid fashion. As for indirect effects, it’s too soon to say. So, why am I doing all of this work during my summer “vacation”?

I’m hoping that these activities will help me to be an effective leader in my school, district, state, and even on the national level, however small the impact might turn out to be at that point. And that’s what distinguished this gathering of educators from most others. While there were sessions with more direct classroom applicability, almost everyone I spoke with had come to Atlanta in an effort to improve teaching and learning at a level beyond their own classrooms. After meeting so many dedicated and motivated educators, I can’t help but leave such an event feeling optimistic about the future; however, if I take a more measured look at the conference, I am left with some concerns, too.

Yes, it is understandable that the economy caused a decline in attendance comparing this conference to the prior one, and perhaps the location did not hold quite the same appeal as Washington D.C. But in the two years since that prior conference, the number of National Board Certified Teachers has grown by almost 20,000. There are many factors involved in people’s decisions to attend or not attend, and I trust that NBPTS is looking carefully at those reasons as they plan ahead and try to make the next conference even better. I hope NBCTs are providing suggestions.

Additional responsibility for involvement belongs to the membership as well. I hope my fellow NBCTs - those who attended and those who did not - will keep in mind that we have some untapped potential to be a leading force in education reform. Let’s capitalize on that potential - not starting at the next conference - but starting now. Reach out to your colleagues, your administration, parents and community members; network with NBCTs in your region or state, and talk to your school board members and legislators. Do your part to grow our numbers and amplify our voices. If you’re already deeply involved in that work, keep it up, and if not, today is a fine day to begin.

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