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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

An Action Plan for Growth and Success
Theresa London Cooper

“Save some time for reflection each day. Examine what you’re doing and why. Have a plan. You want your teaching to be more than a series of knee-jerk reactions.”
Robert D. Ramsey, Ed.D

“Only by reflecting on our actions can we increase our capacity and the likelihood that we will enhance our decisions and actions in the future.”
Donald Schon

Years ago while perusing a teacher resource book, I noted a section that addressed the importance of teachers having an individual professional development plan to guide their thinking, learning and growth. That motivated me to set goals, reflect on my practice, and monitor my growth.

Sometime later, while attending a leadership seminar, one of the presenters shared some interesting research. She stated the following:

  • 87% of people don’t have goals.
  • 10% of people have goals but don’t write them down.
  • 3% of people have written goals.
  • The 3% accomplish 50 to 100 times more of their goals than others.

Now the hard part: How do you start developing a plan for growth?

Begin by thinking about the professional you are and the professional you would like to become. The plan is likely to evolve with time reflecting your growth, so don’t be afraid to modify it as you progress through your career.

Think about the professional teaching standards and other professional habits that you possess and jot them down. Reflect upon those areas that you would like to strengthen. Just as you assess your students’ growth, determine how you will assess your growth. It helps to start with one practical goal that will facilitate growth in your current role.
Below is a portion of my professional growth plan. Yours will naturally be different, but you can use mine as a guideline.

My Professional Development Growth Plan


Goal #1: Improve effective listening skills


  • Take seminar to acquire strategies ( February 12th, February 13th, March 12th, March 13th)
  • Identify opportunities to practice what I have learned
  • Maintain “professional study buddy” relationships
  • Read relevant materials


  • Get feedback from colleagues

Goal #2: Deepen understanding of teaching strategies that build reading comprehension


  • Join a study group to read about and discuss effective reading comprehension strategies


  • Reflect on increased knowledge through journal writing

Goal # 3: Refine leadership skills and content knowledge related to literacy and leadership


  • Attend leadership seminar ( February 27th)
  • Attend Aligning Curriculum and Standards Conference ( March 16th)
  • Continue writing monthly articles


  • Consult notes and identify and highlight new information acquired
  • Respond to on-line questions by colleagues


Goal #1: Refine skills as an instructor


  • Teach literacy courses
  • Read relevant materials


  • Distribute and read student evaluation forms

Goal #2: Refine leadership skills


  • Join two-year leadership academy to refine and strengthen effective leadership behaviors.
  • Engage in on-going leadership roles
  • Complete research project that documents effective leadership behaviors within the next two years.


  • Meet with “critical friend” for feedback
  • Distribute and read informal surveys

Writing down my specific goals has helped me to focus on what I want to accomplish, how I will proceed, and how I will assess my progress.

The plan has also supported reflective thinking, which allows me to make meaning of my teaching - a conscious and intentional process that provides time for thinking about practice and how to refine it.

Lastly, it serves as a reminder of all my accomplishments and the growth that has taken place. It might lead you to think about how much satisfaction you experience when you review student work and see the progress your students have made. You can experience a similar satisfaction as you review the goals and objectives you have achieved.

You may choose a format that is appropriate for your learning style and convenience. But, as professionals it is essential to have an individual professional growth plan to focus and monitor continual refinement of your practice. Do it for yourself. Do it for the students you teach. Then, share it with critical friends.

Do you have a comment or question about this article? E-mail Theresa.


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