Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 LFKS Annual Holiday Letter

By Vicki Bechard,
LFKS Secretary

School is almost over for this semester…winter break is upon us.  As you leave the kiddos, colleagues, bustling halls, and familiar classrooms for homes and celebrations both near and far, we at Learning Forward Kansas wish for you the gift of time so that you may relax and appreciate all that matters, enjoy the closeness of family and friends, and rejuvenate your soul.   But we know that learning never really takes a break, so we imagine that you will also steal a few minutes to reflect on the past year and consider ways to improve instruction, implement new ideas, or spark new interest in the coming year just as we do here in our LFKS Annual Holiday Letter

Learning Forward Kansas has been right there with Kansas educators who are knee deep in navigating and implementing the KESA process, finding ways to examine current practices, and rethinking how we do school.  The State Board has asked schools to prepare students for success in the world after high school.  To accomplish this, the idea of redesign is at the forefront of our conversations.  What does that really mean?  Why is it important?  How will it help students succeed?  How will we know we got there?   LFKS is asking the same questions and uncovering possibilities for educators and schools to consider.

LFKS spent the last few years redesigning our organization from how we support schools, promote effective professional learning, and share information, to how we conduct business.  We didn’t really call it redesign when we started this journey, but we definitely did a lot of rethinking of our purpose and what we wanted to accomplish, and how that might look differently from previous efforts.  We took a hard look at our data, at our impact, and sought feedback and ideas from other educators and organizations.   Feedback was one strategy that provided us with valuable input and helped guide us as we focused our vision and mission and aligned our actions accordingly.  We listened.  We brainstormed.  We tried ideas.  We succeeded and failed, but most importantly, we kept moving forward.  We are working with and for Kansas educators to make professional learning matter as we transform our schools to better prepare our students.  Just as parents are proud of their children’s accomplishments, we are proud of the direction LFKS is headed today.

This past fall LFKS hosted the Fall Institute, a learning opportunity featuring Joellen Killion (Learning Forward) sharing her expertise on Learning Focused Feedback.  By rethinking how we might use feedback for growth, eliminate the mindset of “giving or receiving” feedback, and focus on the idea of feedback as a process for people to construct understanding, it takes on a new meaning, thereby increasing trust and effectiveness.  As schools consider redesign, how might implementing a feedback process that engages learners in conversations designed to change practice help create a culture of growth and change?  

The LFKS Annual Leadership Conference (January 31-February 1, 2018 in Wichita) totally focuses on redesign for student success.  All of the keynote speakers (Ron Berger, EL Education; Commissioner Randy Watson; and KTOY 2015, Shannon Ralph) and breakout session facilitators will focus on elements of redesign in the way we teach, how students learn, how we incorporate technology, how we organize schools, and how we plan and conduct professional learning.   The first day is an immersion in how we teach to engage and empower students through authentic learning. The second day is filled with multiple perspectives, ideas, and experiences coming from all over the state and a variety of school sizes.   We invite you to make plans to attend and join the conversation on redesign

LFKS has been doing our homework too which has resulted in resources that can be found on our website for all educators to use as they work through the process of school improvement and redesign.  Protocol guides, videos, and learning opportunities are just some of the ways LFKS supports individual educators and schools in their professional learning.  We have new opportunities and resources ready to roll out in 2018 as well – so stay tuned!

When you look to 2018 and beyond, consider what results you’ve had and what results you’d like to have.  Once that “why” has been determined, the redesign of current practices, or the creation of new practices can begin to take place.  Change happens one conversation at a timeLFKS would love to see every educator and every student in every school thrive in a responsive learning environment that encourages inquiry and growth.  We wish for each of you the courage to step outside your comfort zone and realize that learning new ways of teaching doesn’t mean what you did before was wrong…. It just reflects that you are growing right along with your students. 

So as we close this latest Holiday Letter, we are thankful for the high quality educators that dedicate their lives to Kansas students.  We hope that you have a wonderful winter break, and before you head back in January, you will set new learning goals for yourself and your students.  What would you like to see in your school or classroom if resources were not an issue?  What’s on your bucket list for teaching and learning?  Who would you like to meet that would inspire your practice?  We want to hear from you as your redesign efforts transform teaching and learning.  Imagine the possibilities!  What a year it will be! 

Happy Holidays from all of us at Learning Forward Kansas!