16 September 2013

So you want to be a WLOE NBCT

Image source: Matt Haskell on SourceLink

The honey badger is a creature that has gained internet notoriety for its lack of ...cares...to give. In my experience, the powers that be in charge of World Languages Other than English National Boards are a lot like the honey badger. As both an English teacher and a world language teacher, I have to say that I think the expectations for world language teachers are significantly more stringent and difficult to accomplish than at least some other subjects.

Let it never be said that I do not admire and esteem my compatriots who are English NBCT's (being a Spanglish teacher, that's who most of the NBCT's I know are), but I think their task was a lot more possible than mine was. This discrepancy could be the result of decades of textbooks and lazy language teaching strategies in world language classes that have left a lot of us relatively uninitiated in sound instructional habits. It could simply be the inherently global and, well, foreign nature of our subject. But whatever the cause, I feel world language teachers are expected to make water out of wine to earn our National Board stripes.

Not to bite the proverbial hand that feeds me (until North Carolina takes away the NBCT raise, at least), but the process itself did not make it much easier. I found the generic feedback and expectations to marry all 5 C's set out by the ACTFL into a single lesson not once, but twice (in a whole group and small group setting for two different videos) positively Herculean. The expectation to "advocate" for our subject is not exactly a standard an English teacher has to meet either. Our activities have to extend beyond the academic and typical classroom activities, so we have to wear more hats to be considered worthy.

I have a handful of friends who are taking on the World Languages Other than English challenge this year, and I want to help them avoid the years of self-doubt and anguish that wrestling with National Boards honey badgers caused me.

For entry 1, forget conjugation and accents, spelling and sentence structure. You can throw them in as sort of icing and way of establishing patterns of issues you'll address, but overall, if it ain't cultural insight plus interpretive, interpersonal, or presentational mode, National Boards is as the honey badger of internet fame: it don't care.

For entries 2 and 3, choose a topic that oozes kid/teen appeal and incorporates intercultural comparisons. If it does not connect with their individual adolescent consciousnesses while connecting them with everyday life in the target culture, National Boards don't care.

For video lessons, be sure, too, to avoid any lesson not tied to a greater authentic purpose. If the students won't do it in real life, National Boards  is, once again, a honey badger.

Also, do not--DO NOT--let the camera catch you speaking English. If you can't do it in the target language, National Boards don't care.

For whole class engagement, if you don't have a specific activity that each individual can and will participate in the whole time--or at least a backup plan for how you could get that to happen in the future--guess what.

For Entry 4 (this one's universal), don't even mention an accomplishment that did not directly alter your day-to-day classroom functions. Fancy awards and recognition? Say it with me.

As I think of more ways to appease the honey badgers to whom supplicants must hand over months work of hard work and worry, I will add to the list. If anyone else has any ideas, even if you are more forgiving of the rigor expected of us as WLOE NBCT's, please add your input to help make some good teachers' lives easier and their classes even better.

Because for all of my bluster, at the end of the day, I am a better teacher for having been through the National Board process, and isn't that what even the honey badgers are working toward?


  1. Mil gracias por sus consejos. Yo enseno espanol para estudiantes de herencia. Mi ceriticacion es en espanol como segunda lengua, k-12. Estaria solicitando NBC para segunda lenguga, verdad? Alguien me ha dicho que tal vez tendria que hacer los requisitos que les piden a los maestros de ingles.
    Cual es su opinion sobre esto?

    1. Creo que vas a querer WLOE de todos modos. Yo tengo WLOE EAYA porque enseño en los grados 9-12, pero hay otro WLOE para los que enseñan a los más jóvenes. No creo que vas a tener que hacer lo mismo que los de inglés.