Friday, July 17, 2015

Growing Pains: “Are We There Yet?”

By Vicki Bechard,
LFKS Secretary

This fall it will be the 25th anniversary of when we started to remodel my grandma’s house, the one we were living in then and the one we still live in today.  It was a functional house, made into a home by the love and memories that came to life through those who lived there as well as all that went into its care and upkeep.  But it was time for change.  Our growing family had too much stuff, different needs, and we wanted more room to spread our wings.  The changes we implemented required a lot of thought, dreams of what we wanted, plans to make it happen, and reality checks of what we could afford.  Oh yes, then there was the hard work on top of our “real” jobs, and the mess we lived in for far too long.  But the pride and joy we felt as it took shape more than made up for the sacrifices we made.  We couldn’t wait until it was finished and we could just live in our new home.  But 25 years later, I can tell you we probably will never get “finished,” because we are always finding new and better ways to address the space, color, and functionality of our home.  Change is what we do.  It’s called living.

Parallel to the time frame I referenced with our personal remodeling experience is the life of the organization we now call Learning Forward Kansas.  Originally established as the Kansas Staff Development Council, it served to support and promote staff development for Kansas educators and schools.  We had leaders who were passionate about what we now refer to as professional learning, lots of educators who participated in the conferences we hosted, and many members that bought into the purpose and work of this educational organization.  Over time, schools across the nation began to change and look at different ways to “do school.”  As a result, our parent organization changed their name to reflect the need to look to the future, so we became Learning Forward Kansas, as we are known today. 

But during the changes that were overspreading education in general, we, like many schools and people often do, let the changes happen to us without proactively considering and acting on the change in vision and practice that the organizational name change implied and evolving educator needs required.  We still had good people working with us and we were comfortable in what we were doing.  But soon we found schools were changing because their clientele and the political landscapes were changing.  Money got tighter and staff development, or the preferred term, professional learning, became a casualty of those budget cuts and the lack of understanding of its importance to teaching and learning.  Membership and attendance at our events waned.   What were we to do?   It became clear that Learning Forward Kansas needed to change our way of doing things too.  A remodel or transformation was in order if we were once again to be the professional learning organization that today’s Kansas schools and educators relied on to help them achieve excellent teaching and learning.

In the last few months, Learning Forward Kansas has been under construction.  The transition is much like the remodeling job described of my grandmother’s house.  We have been overhauling a comfortable, familiar organization that served previous generations of Kansas educators with great pride and acceptance.  But in order for us to serve this generation of 21st century educators, we had to identify the needs Kansas educators have today, look for new possibilities, and do that within the financial limitations in which we all find ourselves.  We are blessed with leaders in our organization that have vision, are organizers and doers, and have the desire to sacrifice both time and financially to see these dreams become reality. 

Transition is messy. It’s where kids get in the most trouble at school.  It’s your house as you clean closets and take some of your old stuff to the nearest donation location and rearrange for the new fall arrivals.  It requires vision, management of time and resources, perseverance and patience.  Someone needs to make decisions. Everyone has a job to do and we rely on each other to work in tandem to turn our goals into reality.  We seek fresh perspectives and synthesize the old with the new.  We occasionally stop to catch our breath to celebrate progress and so we can regain some strength as we continue to move forward.  We often are asked (and even ask ourselves), “When will we be done?  Are we there yet?”  The answer might be, “Who knows?” or maybe, “Never” because it will be on-going.

So look for some changes in the coming weeks and months.  A new website will roll out before school starts featuring the beliefs and goals for the transitioning Learning Forward Kansas (LFKS) and filled with resources for all educators seeking excellent teaching and learning.  New learning opportunities will be available for teachers, administrators, and school teams starting in the fall and continuing all year.  Some of the things that you have relied upon LFKS to provide will still be around, but how we deliver them to you might look differently.  Look for LFKS in your email, on social media, at meetings or conferences, and out in the schools.  This kind of transformational change will not happen overnight, nor will it occur without a glitch to two.  But it is happening as we speak. 

Learning Forward Kansas wants to be your professional learning partner.  Let our transformation as an organization become your opportunity to get to know us again.  LFKS wants to help every educator, and all schools achieve excellent teaching and learning every day.  Join us on this journey of change and new beginnings that will benefit the educators and students of Kansas.  Together we will work to implement the many changes facing schools today so that we can determine “are we there yet?”


  1. Are we there yet? The joy is in the journey and the journey begins with that first step of knowing our destination. LFKS is on our way!! Join us!!

  2. EXCELLENT analysis and analogy! I'm so proud of our organization and the ways that we are adjusting to meet the current needs of our members and address the future wants of our profession. Through the focus on supporting one another and challenging both the system and our responses to it....we can only become better. Thanks for the forward thinking!!!!

  3. I appreciate this organization's desire to continually reflect and "do" the hard work to change. It's easy to create a vision, but if there is no one willing to work hard then it doesn't happen. Thank you, thank you to all of you who have committed hours of time and energy to press forward. Great job!