By Joshua Ramirez, MA, LPC
When discussing personal and professional growth, a frequently-drawn comparison is to that of plants. Some examine establishing a work culture that is like good soil, fostering individuals’ growth. Others emphasize having strong foundational roots, from which the person’s experiences can expand and branch out. However, these similes and metaphors all presuppose that, given the right surroundings, growth is inevitable.
Unfortunately, as many a gardener will tell you, sometimes having just the right seed in just the right plot actually isn’t enough to tap the full potential of a plant. Sometimes, that poor plant might be unable to withstand a heavy rain. Other times, that plant may be uprooted by an unpredictable gust. Even its own success, the plant’s fruitfulness, can be too much stress for its growth to continue. In these circumstances, to no fault of the plant itself, more support is needed. Thus, gardeners turn to staking a plant, or fastening the plant to upright stakes to help it maintain a healthy, upward trajectory.
Professional development is a lot like staking a plant. Just as the gardener directly targets the potential challenges the growing plant will face, so too does professional development foster growth by preparing staff for the challenges and unpredictable scenarios they may encounter. In this way, specific concerns staff have may be targeted for increased education and support in development sessions. Further, development provides a support upon which staff can return to for continued learning, beyond their initial orientation and trainings. From there, just as the plant grows around the stake to keep it secured as it prospers, staff can address the immediate and ongoing concerns of their work from a place of support and structure, enhancing their successes.
At this point, you might be wondering what exactly professional development looks like in practice. Simply put, professional development consists of ongoing educational and vocational opportunities for staff through workshops, presentations, discussions, and many other methods. It differs, however, from basic trainings in that professional development also consists of ongoing examination and reevaluation of the successes and obstacles being faced by staff. Presentation of new information is enhanced by hands-on practice and conversation.
Thus, in this series we will continue to take a closer look at professional development through Laurel Life. Utilizing specific examples of past implementation from a variety of settings, we will examine how development in the areas of mental health, communication, collaboration, and behavioral problem solving are invaluable in fostering the growth of the individuals with whom we work. As you will see, through our trauma-informed focus and foundation, we continue to strive to be a stake upon which many plants can find growth.