Excerpt from the book: Schools of FISH!
For Amy Amsden, a kindergarten teacher at Gage, The FISH! Philosophy matched her own philosophies. “FISH! is about better relationships,” she says. “I’m the first adult my students deal with regularly in school. That’s why it’s so important for the class to spend the first few weeks establishing a family. Once that’s set, everything falls into place.”
Still, several months into the school year, Amy felt she didn’t have time for “one more thing.” Besides, having set her class routine already, Amy wasn’t sure how well her students would really understand The FISH! Philosophy. “I told Chris Streiff, ‘They’re not going to get it. They’re only in kindergarten.’ Chris said, ‘You might be surprised.’”
Amy thought about it: If her kids did understand it, maybe FISH! could help with other demands too. “They have to be reading by the end of the year and it really forces me to pick up the pace,” Amy says. “These children need academics, but they also need the social component, and we’re taking away the time needed for that. FISH! helped us.”
The external changes were minimal (Amy made only two changes to her room: she bought a stuffed fish and put up a poster). Internally, however, the classroom transformed.
Amy says, “Before, the children had hung around with the same friends. But once we started practicing The FISH! Philosophy, they made more of an effort to make sure everyone was included. One day, I asked the class what it means to Be There for somebody. A little girl raised her hand and said, ‘It means we don’t ever want anybody to be alone.’”
These sentiments blossomed into major Make Their Day moments. “On the morning of Valentine’s Day, as everyone was arriving at school,” Amy explains, “two students wanted to talk to me privately in the hall. Their parents were with them. The students had brought valentines and candy for their classmates who never had money for snacks. Their parents said the kids thought of doing this on their own, and they didn’t want anyone to know they were doing this. They just wanted to make sure everyone felt a part of the day.”