When I consider my 30 plus years in education, there is no single professional development program or strategy that addresses my professional training needs. For example, Jim Knight’s text on Mentoring, Coaching, and Collaboration edited by Corwin Press provides ample examples on how mentors and coaches play a vital role with teachers. Whereas, Jane Kiss’s Differentiated Coaching considers how teachers best respond to professional development when considering their personalities, multiple intelligences, and experiential learning models. These individualized considerations ensure that teachers or educational leaders pursue personalized professional development plans for maximum career growth.
My Personal Professional Development Plan
During my early years in college, I wanted to become a teacher but there were very few teaching jobs available. I soon dropped out of college and worked in private industry while raising a family. My dream of becoming a teacher became a reality when I became an advocate for parent education programs. I was then hired as a parent educator in an adult education program. The hiring principal became my first mentor and coached me while I completed my adult education teaching credential, an undergraduate degree, and a master’s degree in educational administration.
My master’s degree department chair became my second mentor as she trained me in how to create innovative grants for parent education. My collaborator was a grant funding organization that hired me to create funding guidelines and financial monitoring forms with program development trainings. I next became an independent consultant and worked with a diverse group of community organizations and business leaders seeking grant management services. This eclectic cast of mentors, coaches, and collaborators fueled my passion to return to college for a doctorate degree in educational administration.
I was fortunate to be accepted into a doctoral cohort for urban leadership where my dissertation included the development of an award-winning VISTA training project for parents at school sites. Parents were trained to become educational mentors and leaders at their school sites. As the project grew, parents, community organizations, and a diverse group of educators became collaborative partners. I learned how to create innovative parent engagement programs in schools. Today, my collaborators and mentors include parent education bloggers and technical/branding blogging experts.
Learnings from My Mentoring, Coaching, and Collaboration Experiences
When I reflect on my previous individualized learning plans and professional development performance reviews, I realize the following:
- There is no proven path to ensure success in an educational career. Many educators have adjusted their career aspirations around their own personal growth needs and family requirements. There is no one size fits all strategy for career growth.
- Maintain balance when pursuing an aggressive career growth plan. When I completed my doctorate degree, I initially compromised my health needs and had to adjust my work load to ensure that I took care of my body as well as my spirit and mind.
- Mentors are your friends and advocates for life. I continue to communicate with my mentors. They are always eager to learn about my new accomplishments. I remember these incredible leaders when writing acknowledgements for my books. I even have mentors who have co-authored with me.
- Mentor others and give back more than you receive. As I became successful in my career, I realized that I had skills and experience to share with others. I have served as a mentor / leader for a county office of education and helped several employees successfully acquire promotions or create new career paths. When I managed the grants departments for various school districts, I taught teachers and collaborators how to successfully write grants, receive funding, and evaluate their programs for expanded funding. When teaching parent education, I mentor parents in their parenting style and expectations as well as their career growth options. As a blogger, I provide support to parents regarding the growth and development of their children.
- It is never too late to expand your career growth, skills, and experience. When I retired from the county office of education, I knew that I still wanted to work in education. I took one year off to explore various hobbies and reflect on how I could contribute to parents’ parent education needs. Eventually, three of my educational colleagues joined me in creating a parenting blog website. As our website readership grows, we are learning many technical strategies and computer applications to manage the website.
Personalized staff development requires that a teacher or educational leader reflect on career successes and be open to considering other career paths or goals in order to continue contributing to the world of education. For example, many teachers love being creative while helping students achieve academic success. When professional development coaches, and collaborators challenge teachers to change, some are reluctant because they are comfortable with their methods of teaching. When teachers are open to learning about different educational programs, professional development mentors, coaches and collaborators can better support teachers in modifying their classroom activities to ensure academic success for all students.