How to Set and Reach Your Professional Development Goals

Emily Coleman
Emily Coleman
ELL academic support specialist; Ph.D. candidate in Strategic Leadership and Administrative Studies with Education concentration
SMART goal drawing surrounded by icons

There are many educators today who decided to become teachers when they started college. They were influenced by their own great instructors and realized that they too had a passion to educate others. So, imagine setting your professional goal when you are just eighteen years old and reaching it when you are twenty-one. Re-evaluating professional goals is a healthy and productive exercise to do throughout anyone’s professional career, especially for an educator.

Determining Your Goals

Self-reflection is a great way to help you determine your professional goals. A teacher can look at their own classes, see where they might be struggling or what might be lacking in their classes. They should also look at their strengths and identify their own best teaching qualities. By making a list of these factors, a teacher can see what new areas they might want to pursue. If they are struggling with reaching their English learners, perhaps they will set a goal to get their ESL certification. If they are great at working with autistic students in their classes, perhaps they will want to pursue a master’s degree in special education. Reflecting on yourself as a teacher is a great way to begin setting your professional development goals.

Another way to set goals is to consistently read and interact with the newest educational research. Become a member of your content area’s national association, for example the AHA (American Historical Association for History Teachers). These associations are great resources that continually send out emails with the newest research, technology, and programs for your area. They also give opportunities to present and participate in national conferences. These are excellent tools to get your mind thinking about new goals that you may want to pursue.

Colleagues within your school are also great assets in setting professional development goals, especially if you are a young teacher. Take the time to talk with your fellow teachers about their goals. Interact with the administrators and find out what they like and dislike about their positions. Identify all the different specialists in your school and have lunch with them one day to learn more about their job. There are so many different types of positions in your own school. Take advantage of this and learn about them. You never know what might intrigue you.

Create a Plan to Reach Your Goals

Once you have decided on professional development goals, it is best to create a plan for how you will reach those goals. Writing out your goals carefully and seeing them on paper will be like a contract in your mind that you are going to work at reaching those goals. Talking about them with a family member or colleague will also help you hammer out the process so that it goes as smoothly as possible.

Creating steps to reach those goals will also make it much less overwhelming. You do not want to set yourself up for failure or become discouraged. Smaller steps will make reaching your goals seem much more attainable.

How to Track Your Progress

Next, track the progress that you making toward your goals. Break down your larger goals into smaller steps. By doing this, you will be able to see that you are making progress, even if the goal still seems very far off. Celebrate each step that you accomplish. If you make attending professional development workshops to learn more about the goal, add it to your list. Check it off when you have attended it. These workshops may help you develop additional steps toward your goal or cross some off.

Once You’ve Reached Your Goals

Once you have reached your goals, celebrate! You have worked hard to set those goals and now you need to be proud of yourself for sticking to it and crossing the finish line. Enjoy the stage that you are at and reflect on how far you have come. Do not worry right away about setting more goals. You want to take the time to get used to whatever new things come your way now that you have accomplished your professional development goals and to implement the new knowledge you’ve gained. Change takes time. Do not get frustrated if you have reached your goals and are not overly enthusiastic with your new position or certification. Remind yourself of the reasons why you set those goals and your reasoning behind them.

How to Continue Growing as an Educator

Finally, as educators, our days are always different. From day to day, year to year, the students in front of us in our classes or those that we interact with throughout the days have different needs and challenges. Therefore, we must always continue to grow as an educator. We encourage our students to be lifelong learners and so must we.

Make time throughout the academic year to collaborate with colleagues. Find commonalities amongst curriculums and try out new activities. Learn about the newest technologies or best practices and implement them in your classes. Utilize the resources and time that administrators give on professional development days to change up activities in your lesson plans. If you are bored with teaching a topic, your students will also be bored. Keep setting goals, no matter how little or big, because not only will it help you professionally, but it will also have a great impact on your students.

*Updated November, 2020
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