Winter is a great time not only for pausing and looking back at the school year, but also for taking stock of the tasks that lie ahead. When the school year starts, we often set goals for ourselves in addition to our students. Goal setting might have happened as part of a formal process in conjunction with school administrators or fellow teachers on a grade-level or department team. You might have taken the initiative to jot down a few professional development goals for yourself even if this wasn't a requirement in your school.
The halfway point of a school year is the perfect opportunity to reflect, take stock of what you've accomplished, make an action plan to move forward, and determine how you'll hold yourself accountable for the goals that you've set. Professional development comes in many forms, and although there might be similar needs in a school building, every teacher is likely to need an individualized PD plan. Whether school leaders initiate this goal setting or you do it as part of your own professional practice, the middle of the school year is an ideal time to pause and set goals for your own PD.
Pausing to Look Back
In the middle of the school year, you're able to think about what you have accomplished so far and still have time to address your to-do list. When considering your PD goals, it's important to pause and look back at what's happened in your classroom or professional practice during the first half of the school year. Make a list -- on a post-it, in an online journal, or in your personal blog -- of all of the things that you've accomplished so far this year. Your list might be small at first, with items like:
- Reorganized classroom library
- Used checklists to gather formative assessment data
This helps you see patterns of where you've already dedicated time in your professional growth and which areas received your closest attention in the first few months of school.
When looking back on the school year and reviewing your list of accomplishments, start jotting down areas where you'd like to grow. Pose questions for yourself, such as:
- What am I struggling to accomplish?
- Where do I continue to need help?
It might be useful to review observation feedback or reach out to a colleague or administrator. You may also decide to make a list of areas that you want to master by the end of the year, such as:
- Conferring with students
- Differentiating instruction
- Communicating with parents
This can give you some direction as you reflect on areas where you'd like to focus during the remainder of the school year.
Making an Action Plan
After pausing to look back on the first half of the school year and taking stock on where you'd like to focus your efforts for the remainder of the year, it's time to make an action plan. Prioritize your PD goals by choosing one or two areas where you want to dedicate effort to increasing your professional development. Find a PD buddy with similar professional goals or someone who you can use as a resource to help you grow as an educator. This could be a teacher on your grade-level team or an educator that you met on a Twitter chat. Just as finding a PD buddy could be a local or global endeavor, reach out to other teachers on Twitter or read educational blogs when looking for guidance and support. You may find a recommendation for a professional text or conference that can help you meet your personal PD goals.
Planning for Accountability
Once you identify your professional development goal for the remainder of the school year and locate resources to support this work, it's important to continue holding yourself accountable for your PD plan. You might decide to create a timeline that includes a book you've been meaning to read or a webinar you'd like to watch. Your accountability plan might include steps for trying out a new technology tool or asking a colleague to observe you and provide feedback as you try a new strategy.
The middle of the school year can be a challenging time as students prepare for midterms or the weather gets colder. Use this time to reflect on your accomplishments and struggles so far, and set a PD goal for the remainder of the school year.