As I am in the midst of my National Board Certification renewal (how has it been 10 years already?!?) and fairly involved in the Northern Virginia Writing Project I've been thinking quite a bit about what made those two events (for lack of a better word) so powerful in my personal, professional development.
Many people I've spoken to about the National Writing Project, and all of its local entities, have mentioned how much more meaningful it was than their master's degree program. The same is often true in discussions about National Boards. I did a master's degree through the Curry School at the University of Virginia. It was a fabulous program, greatly enjoyed, and an amazing learning experience.
That said, it pales in comparison with the National Board process or the National Writing Project. My master's program offered me an amazing amount of flexibility. In spite of that it mostly involved someone else telling me what to learn and how to do so. I believe there are purposes to that and there were wonderful things I gained from it. In the long run however, I don't gain as much from those experiences as I do ones that are more driven by my own needs and interests.
The National Boards and the National Writing Project offer me that opportunity. I am grateful for it.