As building administrators, we observe staff and work with them to define clear goals for professional development, but how much time do we take to complete our own professional development plans? As building leaders, it can be easy to think of professional development plans as just another piece of check-the-box compliance. But I urge you to take the steps to create a proactive and engaging professional development plan that will be rewarding for you and your staff and students in turn.

In coming up with my professional development plan this year, I’ve employed a few strategies that may be helpful to you.


We’ve all heard the mantra about SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Relevant, and Timely.   While those are great, I challenge you to sweeten it up a notch and make your professional development plan not just SMART, but SMARTIES!

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Aligned

R – Relevant

T – Timely

I – Internet as needed

E— Exciting

S – Share the Success!


  • Specific: Make sure you are zeroing in on a goal and not just a buzzword. How do you know you are getting to the specifics? A goal to “use more technology” is not as specific as a goal centered around developing and creating staff professional development using digital platforms such as Canvas or Google Classroom.
  • Measurable: Make sure your goal is quantitative and not qualitative. I’m not knocking the qualitative—sometimes 99 percent of the admin work feels along those lines. But to keep you from losing or graying the hairs you still have left, creating a goal that can be measured will help you feel some small wins—especially coming off those rough weeks (you know, the ones that feature a full moon).
  • Aligned: If you are reading through your professional development plan and nothing about it can be found in your school’s improvement plan or your district’s mission and focus, I’d challenge you to keep writing or have another swing at it. As leaders, you need to model for all your stakeholders that you are in the game and part of the team. Your professional development plan can’t come from left field—it should be aligned.
  • Relevant: What do relevant goals look like? If it’s my professional development plan, it’s relevant to me! Well yes, but it needs to serve overall goals aligned with school and district mission. Yes, your personal professional goals are at stake, but they do need to speak to the themes of your current career.
  • Timely: Don’t I have all year to finish? The time monster can be a monster! In reaching out to my professional learning network (PLN), I was advised to make shorter-term goals—perhaps in 90-day chunks. That one piece of advice freed up my mind and allowed me to see some larger goals in smaller, less elephant-like bites.
  • Internet as a resource: Professional development plans were not invented yesterday and are not exclusive to education. Use the internet as a source and resource. If you have a favorite Twitter chat or Facebook educational group, tap into that expertise to get feedback on that potential goal. At worst, no one responds; at best, your PLN will blow your socks off with how to take your professional development plan to the next level.
  • Excitement: Even though it’s your personal development goals and plan; it can be helpful to share them with some peers and encourage some excitement for your goals.
  • Success: It’s worth celebrating, so as you achieve steps in your professional development plan and work toward your goals, shout out and share your success. A lot of our work is as humble servants, but we need to take some self-care, and in doing so celebrate the successes as you work on this year’s goals.

This blog post is actually pushing me towards one of my goals—developing professional learning resources for staff and others using various mediums that promote digital learning and support student learning. Now, is that the smartest of SMARTIES goals? Probably not, but I’m sharing in hopes for your feedback—take the time below to share a goal or a comment that can help me or others grow in pursuit of their professional development plan. And think about it—if you are creating a professional development plan that is vibrant and a living document, what do you think that model will do for the staff that work with you?

Kathy Walker has spent the last seven years of her 18-year career in education as an assistant principal. She is the 2019 North Carolina Assistant Principal of the Year and the creator and host of the podcast for aspiring and current assistant principals, The Year of APing Dangerously. Follow her on Twitter at @kathywalkeriss.

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