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A Gold Medal Teacher

“If you don’t try to win you might as well hold the Olympics in somebody’s back yard.”

Jesse Owens, Olympian

The winter olympics have captured our attention for the past couple of weeks.  Competition, success, failure, devestation, perserverance, unexpected conditions, slips and falls, victory.  It made me curious. . . if there were an olympic competition for teachers, what would the events be?  Developing learning objectives?  Linking assessment to learning?  Diversification of activities for all learners?  How would the events be judged?  Would there be points for technical performance?  Creativity?  Degree of difficulty?  Student outcomes?

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) was created in 1987 after the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy’s Task Force on Teaching as a Profession released A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century. Shortly after its release, NBPTS issued its first policy statement:  “What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do.” This policy set forth a vision for accomplished teaching. The Five Core Propositions form the foundation and frame the rich amalgam of knowledge, skills, dispositions and beliefs that characterize National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs).

According to their website ( National Board Certification is part of the growing education reform movement that is advancing student learning, improving teaching and making schools better. Teachers who achieve National Board Certification have met high standards through study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review.  You might say that preparation to become National Board Certified is similar to preparation for the Olympics.

The five propositions of NBCT demonstrate this analogy of expected excellence:


Teachers are committed to students and their learning.

Olympic athletes are committed to their sport and their learning.


Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.

Olympic athletes know their sport and how to convey that to others.


Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.

Olympic athletes are responsible for managing and monitoring their own learning and performance.


Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.

Olympic athletes absolutely think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.


Teachers are members of learning communities.

Olympic athletes are members of the Olympic community.

Vince Lombardi said that “dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”  What is the price for becoming a Gold Medal Teacher? The NBPTS has one definition – become a National Board Certified Teacher.

What is the equivalent to this focus on teaching excellence in instructions of higher education?  I’ve tried to find something comparable, some sort of TEACHING requirements, but it seems a PhD is the ticket.  In contemplating the membership of a new learning community (proposition 5) as the result of the degree I am pursuing, any insight into this question is welcome.

What is the thrill of victory?  What is the price of the agony of defeat?


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