I'm not saying there are no teachers out their who are using growth plans. What I am saying is that the stigma around growth plans and their purpose in education needs to be changed. Here is how the dictionary and thesaurus define growth in the context I’m referring to:
Growth (noun): The process of developing or maturing physically, mentally, or spiritually: keeping a journal can be a vital step in our personal growth. SYNONYMS: expansion, extension, development, progress, advance, advancement, headway, spread; rise, success, boom, upturn, upswing. ANTONYMS failure, decline.
What stands out to me in this context of growth are the antonyms—failure, decline. The first stigma of growth plans in education that needs to be changed is timing. It seems to me that it is only when the decline of the teacher is trending to failure that growth plans are employed.
Every teacher should begin each school year by developing their individual growth plan. A growth plan that is specific to their strengths, teaching style, management style, and personal goals. For a teacher to create a growth plan that is tailored to their needs they must take an honest look at themselves. I get it. No teacher wants to believe they aren’t a good teacher, but why do so many teachers assume the worst about their skills and the best about the skills of their peers? Why do we undervalue ourselves and overvalue others?
Take a look at the synonyms for growth above and pick the one that is most motivating to you. Do you have one?! Now take a minute to think about how you would ensure that you advanced, expanded, made headway, got on the upswing, or just BOOM! Did any parts of your plan make you feel negative? Or did your plan get you fired up to become better?!
Growth doesn’t have to be scary. Will it be hard? Absolutely, but without a growth mindset (CHECK OUT MINDSET BY CAROL DWECK FOR MORE ON THE GROWTH MINDSET) how can we foster a growth mindset in our students. There is a great book written by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page called One Word That Will Change Your Life. In the book they tell stories of entire schools pick out one word to focus on for the entire year. Each student, teacher, and administrator picked out their own word to focus on for that school year. When you simplify a goal down to one word or action you increase your chance of success exponentially. My word for 2016 is VOICE because that is what I want to develop and share through the vocal and written word.
The most important thing in a growth plan is how you view yourself. A growth plan cannot by forced on us by someone else. For significant growth to occur the motivation must be intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Another phenomenal tool I use is The Desire Map Planner created by Danielle LaPorte from her book The Desire Map. Her book is based around creating goals focused on how you want to feel. It’s not about rewards, but rather how create a life focused on how you want to feel at all times. The planner provides prompts to acknowledge how you want to feel along with simple to use daily and monthly planners.
One benefit of growth plans that is overlooked by teachers is the freedom to teach on their own terms. Every fall new strategies for instruction and classroom management are introduced to teachers leaving them thinking, “I was getting the hang of it at the end of last year. Now I have to start again from square one.” The freedom in a growth plan comes from choice and the ability to define ourselves as teachers! Most of us aren’t involved school wide plans, but we can each take control of who we are within the four walls of our classroom.
I encourage you to take control of your growth as a teacher. Make the choice to invest in yourself and develop plan for your personal growth. Find an accountability group to track your progress (students are an awesome accountability group and it is a powerful way to model growth to your students). Most importantly be your biggest fan and celebrate the small victories along the way. When we model how to use a growth plan to administrators, colleagues, and students we model positive change and have the power to change a school's culture.