The Road to Certification

Looks like I’m on the home stretch on the road to certification: the certification officer at my alma mater notified me today that my application has been received, and I went online and finished the next step (including paying $30 to process it – I guess I’m helping to diminish the effects of the state budget crisis on education). I now have a certificate number and should be receiving the print copy in the next few days. All that I should have to do from there is send in official transcripts (which are already on their way to me) and register my certificate in the region I’ll be teaching (which will be another fee…give me a break, ISBE).

So I’m certified now (as opposed to certifiable – ha!), with a 6-12 secondary certificate and endorsements in English language arts (6-12) and, somewhat inexplicably, middle school social science. (I’m fairly sure the social science endorsement is an error and have notified the certification officer so it can be corrected if necessary, but I would be thrilled to find out that I managed to get an extra endorsement without realizing it. [Update, 6/11: The certification officer informed that I did manage to get a sufficient number of credits for a middle school social science endorsement. Whether or not I would ever use it is an entirely separate matter, but now I can put it on my résumé. Huzzah!])

It’s nice to have that whole mess behind me. Now I can look forward to getting re-certified in a few years! (Move on, folks, nothing to see, certainly not any sarcasm.)

I’ve talked here before about what have been called “word moments” (a phrase which I dearly love for its multiple uses and the clarity of the experience it describes). I just had one of those, and I had to share it so that maybe someone else will have the kind of realization I did.

I’ve been sitting in front of this laptop for a while now trying to pound away from of these blasted assignments, and I glanced over at the newest issue of English Journal, which I just received in the past few days (and which I would much prefer to read instead of doing these useless assignments). For some moment, the analytical part of my mind parsed the latter word in that title in a way it never has before: Jour/nal. My first thought, despite the fact that I don’t speak the language at all, was of the French word jour, “day.” Upon thinking it over further, my mind went to journals of the personal sort, the kind that you write in daily. Even the idea of journalism and dailies (newspapers that print daily) popped into my head.

After these kinds of thoughts, I had to pursue the etymology further to confirm or disconfirm my linguistic hypothesis, and to my surprise, it was confirmed but in a slightly different way – journal does in fact appear to come to us through Old/Anglo-French, although the root itself is Latin, from diurnalis, “daily.” (It is curious to me how the introductory Latin “diu-” sound became the French “jou-,” but then again, I don’t claim to be a linguist, just an interested observer.)

Interestingly enough, I consciously re-parsed the word as journ/al, which I immediately associated with the word adjourn. Turns out that the root and etymological connection are the same.

Okay, now the updates:

  • I signed a contract on Thursday for the school that I’ll be working for in the fall and confirmed that I will be teaching four courses: sophomore English, junior English, senior English, and an elective writing/novels course (although the emphasis for the first semester is more creative writing than research; I might try to incorporate research into it, though). I was also able to see my room, which is surprisingly nice given the class sizes I’ll have and the size/income of the district. (I have a pod of 4 computers at the back of my room, and the teacher’s computer is hooked up to a large TV, which is also connected with a DVD/VCR combo. That’s really good, all things considered.)
  • The same day, I brought home a wagonload – literally – of material to begin preparing over the summer. (I say “literally” because the material filled an actual wagon that one of the teachers had brought to school, which the principal and I took out to my car to unload.) This included the teacher’s editions for all three of the new textbooks that were purchased for the main sections, as well as a great deal of supplementary materials for the American lit text (for junior English), including a dozen or so CDs of software, several little books for writing and other areas, and even a book of lesson plans.
  • Thursday night, the board approved me as a teacher for the fall, so I am good to go there.
  • Finally, the unofficial scores came back on Friday evening for my APT test (see here), and I scored 286 out of 300 (scaled). I only needed 240 to pass, and this was the final step that I needed to take care of to be 9-12 certified. (The 6-8 certification, of course, will be in order once I get these middle school courses completed.

Everything’s working well, and I’ve got a lot of work ahead. (The incoming juniors and seniors have already been told that they’re very behind because of this year of English, so the task to get them caught up is a little daunting.) At least, though, everything is moving forward.

Today was my final test that I have to take for Illinois teacher certification, the APT (Assessment of Professional Teaching) test. The day, to put things lightly, could have gone better.

For one, I hate Google Maps for telling me to take a non-existent exit and making me approximately 10-15 minutes late for the test (which I was still able to take, thankfully).

The test itself wasn’t really bad, for the most part, but I was thoroughly annoyed by some of it. The test consists of 120 multiple choice questions dealing with 6 subareas and 2 “constructed-responses” – basically, extended writing – given on prompts that would be specific to one’s content area and age range (e.g. early childhood, elementary, secondary). I took me about 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete it, and my wrist still hurts a little from the writing.


No, not student teaching (not quite yet – 1.5 days left).

I’m referring to my culminating projects of my undergraduate career: two Candidate Assessments that are essentially the capstone of my degree program. I am exhausted and probably not ready to do much more reflection (I did probably 15 pages of it just tonight!), but at least I can rejoice at this fact: it is done!

The only real step between me and certification now is the APT (Assessment of Professional Teaching) test that I’ll be taking in a few weeks, and then graduation…and then two weeks of middle school certification courses. But then I will really be done, and this teaching thing will be mine. (And of course, the job hunt continues in the meantime.)

Now I must go sleep, briefly but (hopefully) blissfully.

…when education students are required to have fingerprint background checks in order to do internships in local school districts.

I say that not so much as an indictment against school districts, who surely have the best interest of their students in mind. Locally, districts are probably worried about incidents like the Jon White molestation scandal in Urbana, IL, among other possibilities.

But of course it trickles down: now I, a relatively impoverished (and definitely heavily indebted) college student, am forced to pay $35 that I can’t really afford in order to prove that I have no criminal background so that I can complete the requirements for my degree. I can’t really expect school districts to pay for it, since 1) they have other things to pay for (although it would be a good investment in the future of education) and 2) which school district should have the responsibility of paying for a student when that student will likely have internships at several different schools over the course of the program? So this is the best of a number of less than ideal outcomes.

Of course, I’ll suck it up and do it, just like I have for the IL state tests, because $35 isn’t enough to stand between me and my vocation of choice (if I can be permitted that somewhat oxymoronic statement).

On the other hand, it is a little disconcerting that the fine print on the authorization form requires me to approve the transmission of this information to the Illinois State Police and the FBI. (Although this could make for an interesting real-life connection when I teach 1984 in the spring…)