A Fire in the Belly

Recently I was speaking with the Consul General of India, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, regarding a wide range of issues and he commented that an impressive aspect of FIS is that it has a “fire in its belly.” The comment resonated with me, given that a great school or organization never feels like it can rest on its past accomplishments but must constantly work toward higher levels of achievement. There is a “fire” within FIS that drives us “from good to great” and inspires us to strive beyond what might be deemed acceptable at other schools.

Reading with students in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa

This constant state of improvement is not always easy. It demands that our faculty keep abreast of new advances in their field and adapt to new methods of delivery so that bridging technology with topics like Shakespeare will provide students with a more meaningful experience than ever before.

When our graduating seniors began their schooling, a dedicated FIS Primary School campus didn’t exist and our students had recess and PE on a rough clay playground. The Arts and Science Wing hadn’t been imagined and of course the idea of teaching with SMART Boards, wireless technology and online-homework submissions was non-existent. Parents struggled to see or hear their children in a sub-par performance space and I am told the food served in the cafeteria at that time was not unlike the uninspired food I was served as a schoolboy. Achieving what we have today required patience and sacrifice, but I think we would all agree the rewards we now enjoy far outweigh the costs.

These changes in our school environment are inextricably linked to the learning that takes place in our school. Our willingness to embrace change is not for the sake of change itself, but because it provides our faculty with the resources that leverages their time with students. As author Jim Collins notes in his book “From Good to Great,” making positive incremental changes in a variety of areas within an organization can have an exponential impact. In effect, these changes interact and act much like “compound interest” for the healthy growth of the organization.

Collins also makes clear that the greatest investment an organization can make is hiring the right people, or as he phrases it, “Getting the right people on the bus.” I could not agree more and that is why we recruit on three continents each year to find the best teachers to work with FIS children. Of our current goals set by the Board of Trustees, none may be greater than the charge to attract, develop, retain and evaluate the highest quality FIS professionals.

The map for growth in our school is the FIS Strategic Plan that has been developed by our parents, students, faculty and administration. They have all had the faith and vision that our school could become ever-better, moving from good to great in so many ways. I must offer a special word of thanks to our faculty who have never ceased to accept new challenges that will benefit our students, and to our Board of Trustees who have had the courage to set the highest standards for our school, even when it may not have been popular at the time.

Yes, there is a “fire in the belly” of FIS. If we are to faithfully pursue our mission to be the leading international school – not only in Germany, but on the world stage – this fire must continue to burn with a growing intensity in the years ahead.