Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Redesign – The Courage to Leave the Shore to Make Our Best Better

 February 13, 2018

By Vicki Bechard,
Secretary LFKS

REDESIGN:  We hear this word in every educational conversation around Kansas.  It is at the heart of the state accreditation process (KESA), and the “WHY” behind the Mercury7 and Gemini initiatives involving Kansas Schools.  We also hear, “What is Redesign?”  Even when the Commissioner of Education speaks he is careful to use examples of redesign in the real world, but does not specifically paint a picture of what that might look like in schools.  I believe this is intentional because if he did say "THIS is redesign" (insert your own initiative example) – that’s what many schools will race to duplicate.  So how might we attempt to clarify redesign and the role professional learning plays in the redesign process?

Meriam-Webster defines redesign as “a revision in appearance, function or content.”  Right click on redesign and find synonyms that further clarify what this might look like:  reshape, reform, rewrite, restructure, reformat, remake….in other words, indicating one must do something differently.  But redesign without purpose puts us out to sea, adrift without a destination or map to guide our sails.  That’s probably OK for a relaxing weekend getaway if we had plenty of supplies and a way to get home, but would not serve us well as the primary strategy to lead our schools and districts. 

Redesign possibilities are endless and this is not a blog about what options schools have.  In reality, where we go and what we do is dependent on the needs we uncover and the direction we want to head.  The questions we ask drive the answers we seek:  What is best for OUR students?  How can we be better educators and learners?  What do we need to do differently to give our kids the best opportunities?  What will make our best even better?

The WHY behind our redesign initiatives provides purpose and helps identify what will benefit us most as we set sail on the journey that will lead us to our destination (goal).  It tells us what to pack; what type of crew and skills will be needed; how to anticipate and navigate choppy waters; and what our destination will be.   To determine the WHY we need to examine the data to ensure our destination is sound and doable.  Data also tells us what resources we will need in terms of the vehicle we use, manpower, fuel, food, and supplies.  Surveying our crew with a needs assessment of sorts will indicate the knowledge, skills, and resources we have and what we will want to acquire, develop and utilize throughout our journey.  Studying the long term course we’ve mapped out, both prior to and during our journey, will help us target potential issues so that we are prepared to tackle them, make adjustments, and continue toward our destination.  Finally we must ensure that we know the outcome:  what it will look like when we reach our destination and whether it has been beneficial to our purpose.

Professional learning will be critical to this journey.  The standards that guide our actions can be seen in every aspect of our work.  We will see them as we gather to examine and study the data before, during, and after the trip (Learning Communities & Data).  We will find them in the leadership that plans, supports, and captains this journey (Leadership).  We will see it in action as it pinpoints our focus when designing and determining the type and frequency of the learning we need to acquire the necessary skills and how to apply them successfully in our journey (Learning Designs).  They will take the form of adequate and timely resources to support our journey as we try, revise, and try again to perfect our knowledge and skills for this journey (Resources & Implementation).  And they will be seen in the results as we determine if our goals have been achieved and reflect on how we might improve the process as our journey continues to the next destination (Outcomes).  As you may notice, the aforementioned examples underscore our premise that the Standards for Professional Learning are the framework that shapes our work throughout the redesign process.  LFKS encourages all educators to be intentional about ensuring that our work includes all of the Standards, for if we omit even one, we will more than likely not arrive at our destination as we intended.

Those who attended the recently completed LFKS Annual Conference experienced firsthand the many possibilities of redesign and heard from a wide range of practitioners on what that might look like.  In all cases we also heard how important the role effective professional learning plays into successful implementation of whatever initiative we choose to pursue.  This journey is one of promise, but will also include more than a few adjustments to our sails.  Redesign is scary and exciting at the same time, so first we must prepare for our journey so that we may leave the safety of the harbor and seek new destinations to broaden our horizons.  The reality is that what we have done up until now may have been our best work, but the future requires that we look differently at how and what students learn. 

Simply put, redesign is seeking new ways to make our best even better as we do what’s best for kids.  

As you contemplate redesign, we are eager to learn where you will go and why that journey is what’s best for your school.  Even though the metaphor for change and redesign at the state level is the space program, our sailing metaphor serves the same purpose.  The wisdom of Winston Churchill continues to inspire our redesign efforts whether we are referring to rockets flying into space or boats sailing to new horizons, “If you want to discover new oceans, you must first have the courage to leave the shore.”  

Possibilities await.  How can LFKS support you in your redesign efforts?

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said. We are exploring new waters as we redesign our schools for the success of EACH student.
    Another quote that I've always loved is this one.
    A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. ~John A. Shedd