So, why KIDS FIRST and what does it mean?
Let’s talk about “why”. Vision is necessary to create focus for the organization; it’s like an organizational agenda, a commitment to all that purposely and intensely defines the direction we are heading. A vision that is lived daily by leadership is soon owned by all in the organization, empowering them to get things done quickly and decisively, as there is no question about direction because of the clarity of the Vision.
Okay, so what really does KIDS FIRST mean? KIDS FIRST in an acronym which I’ll define by each letter:
K - KIDS FIRST
This means that in FUSD we make our decisions based on what is best for kids first, rather than what is best for the adults in the organization. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about our adults; we do, a lot. But if we’re facing a tough decision, then it must be made on the basis of what is best for our children.
I - I come second as kids come first
Similarly, every adult in the organization knows that we need to treat every child in our schools just as if they were our own child. As parents we always put our kid’s needs first; if we work in schools we must have that same orientation.
D - Doing our best as teachers and staff, everyday, for every child
Certainly we must plan well, work hard, use technique, and exhibit an unconditional level of care for our children daily. Also, we must understand that when we cross the threshold into the school building, we must put our personal difficulties behind us. School must be a haven for children, and also for the adults that work there, and that cannot happen without leaving your personal difficulties at the doorstep.
S - Setting high expectations for all
Simply put, we expect all, kids, faculty, and staff to work to their potential, each and every day. Kids can almost always meet our highest expectations, but we must expect excellence - 99% of our kids can succeed if we believe they can, and they know that we believe they can. Confidence comes from being successful when working at difficult tasks. Kids must earn confidence and we must assist them in doing so.
F - Finding problems to just be opportunities for creative solutions
“I can’t” is not in our vocabulary. There are problems everywhere and we can either make excuses, or find a creative solution to solve the problem. Kids are too important to say “I can’t” when we know we should. We must choose to find creative solutions in those cases.
I - If educationally correct, it must be administratively possible
When we know that there is a more appropriate thing to do for our students, we cannot choose to do less just because it is difficult. When we know it is the educationally correct decision to make, we must make it happen.
R - Respect; modeled, given, received, and praised
When there is mutual respect between teacher and student, educationally wonderful things happen; when there is not, little good happens. Respect is earned by faculty and staff; respect must be modeled for children to observe every day. When respect is shown to us we must receive it with grace, and when we observe it being shared with others, we must praise it for being shown.
S - Sharing an articulated, challenging, real-world, technologically integrated
While that’s a mouthful, it is also really pretty simple. Curriculum is what is learned by your children after being taught by their teachers. We must be organized in what we present, and every student needs to be challenged daily. What is taught can’t be too tough, nor too easy; the level of difficulty must be just right, so that all are challenged. It must be relevant to the real world, based on sound theory, but not esoteric. And, for our children to be successful in today’s society, they must leave school prepared technologically.
T - Trust, earned, granted, forging a true partnership between faculty, staff, administration, students, and community
I noted last month that trust is the glue that holds organizations together. Everyone reading this knows the importance of trust. If you have it, it’s wonderful. If you don’t, you have nothing. We must earn trust daily, and work to keep it. We must not lose it. Kids win when parents and schools can work in partnership; that happens when trust is earned and granted. That’s FUSD’s KIDS FIRST Vision - why we have it and what it means. We strive to live up to that Vision every day. When we don’t, let us know. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. If we haven’t lived up to KIDS FIRST, we’ll admit it, apologize, fix it, and then we move forward, together.