Make the most of your professional development

by Mollie Smith, CDA Coordinator

Fill in the blank: “I am a professional ________________________.” Say that five times to yourself.  Then, sit back and think, “What have I done to maintain that I know what I am doing in my job, and that I do it well?” That, my friends, is the beginning of professional development.


When I jumped into the education world, I did not have the confidence that I was a professional. I was, however,  surrounded by great people that named me as a professional. I started as a first grade teacher, and my goal was to keep my head above water. Who had time to be professionally developed? I was learning the art of helping a 6-year-old with a bloody nose while the phone is ringing from the front office, in the middle of learning fractions with shaving cream.  Oh yes, and did I mention the fire alarm went off? Perfect. I was not a professional anything at that point. Or was I?

If you would have asked me about professional development, I would have laughed. I do not have the time or money to go away to a conference and listen to someone tell me how to become a better teacher. Here’s the thing. I was developing as a professional each day. Every time I asked a question, took in the answer, and then made the best judgement of application into my classroom for the needs of my students, I was becoming better at what I did.

Go back to the beginning of this and fill in the blank: “I am a professional ________________________.” Sit down and think, “What have I done to maintain that I know what I am doing in my job, and that I do it well?” Does it sound a little different than the first time? I hope so.


I have been blessed to be surrounded by amazing people. I am not speaking about only educators. There were days that my biggest hero was Tom, our building custodian. You can only handle so many spills, overflowing sinks, and sick kids before waving the white flag and asking for help.

As a professional, you learn how to deal with the many situations presented to you, some only learning once that experience knocks on your door. After I got over the hump of ‘knowing what I was supposed to be doing’, I then had more time to seek out items that I was interested in and felt would benefit my students. I attended workshops and conferences with my team, discussed what we learned that was new, and put that plan into action. We would then revisit to see what was working and what presented chaos and confusion. This was professional development – not as hard as I thought it would be. It was work, but it was work that would help me become better.

Go back to the beginning of this and fill in the blank: “I am a professional ________________________.” Sit down and think,”What have I done to maintain that I know what I am doing in my job, and that I do it well?”  Now we can add,”Have I learned something new and applied it?” Growing as a professional, now aren’t we?


As I continued to grow comfortable in my role, I began to feel more confident as a professional. The more workshops and conferences I attended, my knowledge base was growing. I was becoming a better teacher. During my 4th year of teaching, teacher evaluations (completed by my Vice Principal) came, and he challenged me with a new scenario. He said, “Invite me in your room during a time that you find as the hardest part of your day.” Hmm, did I really want my principal to see me failing? What was he thinking? After we discussed more, I began to warm up to the idea. How will I get better in my areas of weakness if I never allow anyone to see it? After agreeing on the idea, I was still quite nervous about the idea. My VP was going to tell me all of the things I’m doing wrong! Fabulous.

Believe it or not, that was the best thing that I have ever done. Of course, he knew I was nervous during post-observation conversation, so he did a great job of talking me off the ledge. He started out with, “Well if you thought that was failure, failure isn’t so bad!” It was great to have feedback with areas that I struggled with. He gave suggestions, compared it back to what I was doing well, and then scheduled another observation (not required) the next month to monitor progress. Wait a minute! I was gathering feedback from another professional to become a better professional, to be more successful.


Drum roll please…at that point. I was a professional. And, I finally:

  • Knew what I was supposed to be doing
  • Was doing it well
  • Learned new ideas
  • Applied those with feedback from colleagues, putting myself in a rather uncomfortable situation to be observed where I wasn’t the best, and,
  • After discussion and feedback, reflected to see how I can make changes and to keep moving forward

I am a professional adult educator who believes ongoing professional development is the key to being successful. So, start your professional development journey and reflect…

What is your profession and how do you make sure you do it well?

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