The email below made my day. Not because I was tagged on twitter, which almost never happens, or because it was by @TheJLV which is a pretty big deal, but because it was by Jose Vilson, NBCT. My brain smiled.

I have known Jose since 2008 when I became a fan of his work. I later had the privilege of writing with him, one of the greatest professional joys of my career. What really made me happy was seeing those letters. NBCT. (National Board Certified Teacher) I have always known Jose is an excellent teacher. With some people you can just tell. Which is why, of course, there is the NBCT process, for people who can’t just tell. It took Jose a while to get it and I watched as he found the limits of his humanity while his roles as a teacher, father, advocate, and author mutually struggled for center stage of his attention. I am so happy and proud with him.

So I clicked.

It was a link to Lillie Mae Hope’s status who is interested in the National Board process. She posted,

I think @TheJLV is the only #NBCT I follow. Anyone else? Trying to research the pros/cons, but the data I’m finding is dated or one-sided.

I was happy to provide my perspective because I really truly believe in the power of the process and that the strength of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the NBCT process is this.

Teachers, especially teachers who have become competent, need to reexamine their beliefs and to enter into a state of disequilibrium in order to learn. Without disequilibrium there is no learning.

I became an NBCT in 2004 and renewed in 2014. I learned both times. Many people in policy venues or engaged in writing, reporting, and discussing education believe in the credibility of the NBC process. I have leveraged my four little letters into participation in state policy discussions, writing opportunities for PEW Charitable Trusts and the New America Foundation, and a host of national conference opportunities. But it was not the opportunities that made the process worth it.

It was knowing, for myself, that I could walk the talk. Lillie Mae was asking for a balanced perspective. This is what I shared.

While there is and always will be discussion as to the validity and reliability of the process, as there should be, it is the best system we have. It made me a better teacher. Like any system there will always be those who will try to game the system. Some of the teachers I most respect won’t pursue the process because they have seen those they deemed undeserving achieve. So why do it? I suggest to anyone considering the jump that if they want to be a better teacher they should do it, if even just to experience the painful and powerful experience of watching yourself teach. Again and again. And if it takes more than one try, again. To the point where you welcome the opportunity to see yourself because it improves your teaching. Watching yourself teach creates a new lens for teaching that is much closer to the student experience than any student survey, exit slip, or conversation with kids after class. It is a tool for disequilibrium in your practice. It doesn’t make you teach more or faster though. It doesn’t make you more efficient. It might even make you teach slower. But, hopefully it will make your teaching deeper.

John Hattie, in Visible Learning (PDF) and his original study (Smith, Baker, Hattie, & Bond, 2008)  described the difference between achievers and almost achievers in terms of depth as opposed to breadth of learning.

From Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.

I encourage teachers to pursue NBC, not because I believe every teacher should be an NBCT but because I believe any teacher who is willing to experience the disequilibrium necessary to achieve NBC is engaging in necessary self examination and growth. Those letters mean deeper learning for students. National Board Certification is not like a masters degree that you can earn through classes, or a Ph.D. which could be chalked up to stubbornness. Both of which are valuable but, they are also tools of the establishment based on credentials not performance. The NBC process was created with teachers, for teachers, and by teachers. Every time another teacher puts those letters behind their name, our profession gets stronger. When a teacher leader like @theJLV, founder of #Educolor, thought leader, and writer puts those four letters after his name our profession gets a heavy hitter in the batting order. Just watch.


Smith, T., W., Baker, W., Hattie, J., & Bond, L. (2008). A validity study of the certification system of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In L. C. Ingvarson and J. Hattie (Eds.), Assessing teachers for professional certification: The first decade of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (pp. 345–380). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Elsevier Press.

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