Getting Real About Professional Development Planning

Mary Mason Boaz

mary mason boaz

Mary-Mason joined EdFuel in June 2015 because she believes that students deserve the most talented, focused leaders working with them toward their educational outcomes. Prior to her work at EdFuel, Mary-Mason led the Teacher Leadership Development team at Teach For America – D.C. Region, managing a team of ten people and leading the training and development of 6 instructional coaches and approximately 250 teachers. Before taking on that role, she served as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development for Teach For America, managing over 100 teachers and working with school leaders across D.C., Prince George’s County, and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

Mary-Mason has also served as a School Director for Teach For America’s Tulsa Institute, leading a summer school program for over 500 students and managing the development of 100 first year teachers and 10 teacher coaches. Mary-Mason began her career as a 7th and 8th grade Social Studies teacher at McClintock Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mary-Mason graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Arts in French and International Affairs.

by Mary Mason Boaz, Director of Growth, EdFuel

Professional development gets a lot of lip service when it comes to education professionals. Here’s how we can make it real – and work.

Growth and development is happening every day across the education sector. But when it’s done right, something special happens. It feels different. People recognize it. Leaders grow. People stay. The question is: how can you get it right?

When I became a manager, I thought I was being incredibly effective. I wrote out a professional development plan for one of my employees and presented it to her. In my mind, I had a grand vision around how every interaction, task, and day would center around the development plan. It would really change the game.

Just a few months later, the plan had completely fallen to the wayside. The skills we both agreed to dedicate ourselves to develop only existed on paper. Instead, we had focused on the day to day – after all, who’s got time for a plan that sits on the shelf? Clearly, my approach was off and I needed help. I asked around, did some research, but ultimately, no one could tell me in a straightforward, simple way how to build and execute strong professional development . In the end, the building didn’t crumble. Life went on. We even picked up some skills and improved along the way when the opportunity came up. But I, along with my employee, certainly missed opportunities along the way that would have helped us become stronger, sooner.

Last year, we reported in our Hidden in Plain Sight study that 85% of systems-level education leaders cited a lack of internal career advancement and opportunities for development as the top drivers of attrition. When asked to specify the most effective development opportunities, the majority of leaders identified on the job learning and coaching/mentoring as critical to their success and desire to stay in their organizations. Not only do managers and organizations want to grow and retain their employees, but employees want it and they want it via strong on the job learning and development. And face it – the bottom line is that we’re losing staff members that we can not afford to lose.

Focusing on professional growth is like taking vitamins or exercise. Some people dedicate time every week to it. For others, it’s not even on the radar, and they simply hope for the best. Nobody’s going to say that the latter is better, but there are probably more people in that camp than most would care to admit. I’ve talked with hundreds of education leaders across the nation. My experience in the past was not unique – over and over again, the need for a simple explanation on how to create effective professional development plans surfaced. The good news is that pockets of excellence are developing across the nation, and those best practices are both easy to implement and highly effective.

Finding a Solution

We’ve taken best practices from thought leaders across the country, including Bridgespan and the Center for Creative Leadership, along with our own learnings from past experiences, and created a thorough, yet simple “How To” tool that will allow you to grow and retain your employees.

Below are Six Must-Haves for implementing Professional Growth

  1.     Define role-specific competencies
  2.     Utilize the 70-20-10 model
  3.     Ensure co-creation/Joint Accountability
  4.     Identify Measures of Success
  5.     Revisit Regularly/Build Habit
  6.     Connect to Year-End Evaluation

In addition, we’ve created easy-to-adapt templates and resources that specifically address individuals who support school and education organization offices. These tools will soon be available for the community to access.

At the end of the day, we know how challenging this can be. As a school leader, there is no shortage of needs pulling you in different directions. But that’s the great thing about professional development. Growing the skills of others on your team and staff has an immediate and lasting pay-off. But don’t take my word for it – check out Hidden in Plain Sight to hear about what people working around the nation in education are saying. And send me an email to schedule a call or demo to kick-start the conversation around development at your organization!

If you have any thoughts or questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out (