September is self-improvement month & creating a school counselor professional development plan is a great way to improve yourself. This article has 5 questions to consider as you plan how to develop PD that makes sense.

Let’s get started.

Question 1: What do you want to improve? Take time to identify the areas you want to learn more about. How are your counseling skills? Do you need to learn more about college admissions? Are you working on using more technology?

Be specific. For example, if your goal includes improving your technology skills, ask yourself which ones and why. “I need to get better at technology,” is vague. “I want to learn how to create Google forms so I can save time surveying seniors,” is specific & purposeful.

Question 2: How much time do you want (or need) to spend? Check your calendar. How many professional days does your district allow? How much of your summer do you want to devote? Do you need to take any college courses to maintain your credentials?

Look beyond the current school year. Could you alternate certain conferences every other year or every few years? Which professional events are non-negotiable? Attending update sessions for financial aid was easy to add to my schedule, going to our state conference was something I could do most years, attending the ASCA Annual Conference was something I could do every few years.

Leaving the building is a balancing act. I love learning and connecting with other school counselor colleagues, but there is still the same amount of work to do whether I am in the building or not. You need a minimum amount of getting out of the building, the key is finding the sweet spot for the time you spend on PD.

Keep in mind, bigger and more expensive does not equate to better outcomes.

Question 3: Are there bigger budget conferences I could attend every few years? Talk to your administrator about any conferences or workshops that last a couple days or require more extensive travel. They may be able to make something work in the budget next year or every few years.

Always search for alternative ways to fund workshops. Pay attention to emails from community colleges or your educational service unit, they may offer amazing opportunities. Search online and ask colleagues.

Keep in mind, bigger and more expensive does not equate to better outcomes. I have learned as much (if not more) from cheap & free resources. YouTube videos, webinars and library books are great. Here is a useful post for Free Professional Development by The Extraordinary Counselor.

Question 4: Will this save time or energy? Be honest about the practicality of professional development. Is it necessary? Will it help you be more productive? Does it solve your problems?

Back to my earlier example of learning Google forms, it may take more time initially to learn how to create the form, figure out how to send it to everyone and collect the information. However, over time, it can become a huge time-saver.

Question 5: How do I put this into practice? Moving enlightening ideas into your day takes effort. Again, it goes back to being specific & purposeful. I’ve been moved and inspired by presenters, imagined all the great and wonderful ways I could use their ideas and then returned to my office unable to apply what I learned with what I was actually doing.

I think one way to capture the excitement is to record it in a way that it can extend the momentum of what you’ve learned. In the midst of the moment, write down how you will use the idea, when and where. What is exciting? How will I use this? When & where can I use this?

Worksheet Summary Google Doc   

If you would like a more structured way to record your notes on workshops or webinars, here is a Workshop Summary Form, (Workshop Summary Doc / PDF format). You can record your notes in the Workshop Summary or print it out and put it in a notebook designated for PD. See the FAQs for help with shared Google docs.

Try what you’ve learned right away. If you file it away to use next semester, it will likely not happen. Remember, it might not work immediately (think Growth Mindset), but persist.

Support and extend the learning by watching YouTube videos, reading articles or books. Find a colleague who will help you stay accountable and check in with each other.

In summary:

  1. What do you want to improve?
  2. How much time do you want (or need) to spend?
  3. Are there bigger budget conferences I could attend every few years?
  4. Will this save time or energy?
  5. How do I put this into practice?

Now, get planning some purposeful PD!  

What is the best professional development you’ve ever had? What makes a workshop special and useful? I’m always listening and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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