Photo with the word map of professional development
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Photo with the word map of professional development

The Professional Development Plan (PDP) can be an object of fear and misunderstanding to many teachers out there. Instead of looking at this essential piece of your portfolio as a chore to complete, use the following tips to turn it into a guideline for a successful and productive year.

Team up

First of all, find a colleague who teaches the same level or subject as you do. Make a date to brainstorm ideas about the goals and strategies you want to focus on. Collaboration with colleagues is one of the best ways to showcase your strengths and have an outside view on your challenges and how to address them.

Take a look at the SIP

The SIP or School Improvement Plan is the blueprint of how your school runs. Most principals require that at least one goal on your PDP be tied to the SIP. Check your email for a copy of this important document or ask your department head for a copy, so that you can analyse this document and find connections to your own plan. The SIP generally includes goals set by the school evaluation team, administration, and special needs teachers.

Set SMART goals for yourself

SMART in this instance stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. For example, setting a goal worded: “during the school year 2015-2016, I will complete 30 hours of professional development training in 21st century learning and implement five new strategies into my classroom.” This goal meets all the criteria for SMART. Don’t overshoot and end up missing your goals by the end of the year. On the other hand, make your goals sufficiently challenging, so that they benefit you and your students.

Check the evaluation criteria

Most schools have very specific criteria for their year-end evaluations. Use this as a cheat sheet for your PDP. The different categories, including curriculum, classroom environment, and community, can all inspire you to set innovative goals for yourself that you may never have thought of. Do you have enough parental involvement? Is your classroom as user-friendly as it could be? Do you use technology on a regular, meaningful basis? Tying in evaluation criteria serves a dual purpose – evidence can be collected and used at the year-end evaluation conference with administration.

Step outside your school

The importance of extracurricular activities is something we tend to forget once we leave high school, but it can make your PDP really shine. If you are pursuing a graduate degree or certificate, put that in your professional development goals. If you are writing a teaching blog or are involved with an instructional website, by all means include those in your goals. Every bit of education-related activity helps your classroom and your students, so brag about them!

Don’t stress about your PDP. Use it as an opportunity to plan with the end in mind, just as we do with our curriculum. Your administrator wants to see what you can do and bring to the school to make it the best it can be. As a wise teacher once posted on Facebook, “be the teacher you claimed to be in your interview!” Good luck out there!

By Betina Fuentes

Betina is a Cycle 2 teacher at a girls’ school in Al Ain. She and her family are from Florida, USA and are enjoying their time in the UAE. She is looking forward to travelling, meeting other new teachers, and helping her students learn as much as they can.

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