FISH! For Schools is a family of solutions, developed by educators, that help you create a remarkable school culture. It builds a community where the staff is supportive and passionate, students are caring and focused, and everyone is excited about learning.
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Rippling Woods Elementary, located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., is a Title 1 school. Sixty percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
“Many students face big challenges,” says principal Tammy Scott. “There is high poverty. Some are homeless. Helping them with their emotional and social well-being is huge for us.”
To help her staff build a more supportive culture, Tammy turned to the FISH! Philosophy. She attended a Train the Trainer event at the home of The FISH! Philosophy in Minneapolis.
“FISH! summed up everything I believed about being an educator,” she says. “Being there when people need you. Making their day. Having fun and loving what you do. And choosing a positive attitude is the only way to get through life.”
The Power of Relationships She introduced FISH! to her staff, integrating it into everything they do. “We use several approaches such as PBIS, Character Traits and others. But FISH! is our core.”
The FISH! Philosophy has changed how staff responds to students. “When we take alittle extra time to be there for kids, they know they have a voice,” says assistant principal Brad Auld. “It builds trust. And when students see the adults being there and choosing their attitudes, it trickles down to their behavior.
“We really believe in the power of relationships at our school. The FISH! Philosophy helps us build great relationships with our kids.”
Common Language The language of FISH! is key. “Before there were 28 teachers with 28 different ‘vocabularies’,” says behavior specialist Chris Phillips. “The message and approach wasn’t consistent. Our kids need consistency. They may not get it at home.
“As the staff has made FISH! our common language, it has become part of our students’ vocabularies. They talk about choosing your attitude and being there without being reminded by teachers.”
Making Better Choices When students focus on living the FISH! practices, they are more mindful of their choices. “Two years ago, we had 376 major behavior referrals,” Tammy says. “Last year we had just 149, a drop of 61 percent.
“This year with just a few weeks of school left, we’ve had just 77 referrals. We are on track to have just 25 percent of the referrals we had two years ago!”
“We’ve become a school where people love to be,” Brad says. “You walk through the school and there’s no tension. People are happy and friendly.”
“We used to be a high turnover school,” Tammy adds. “Now the main reason staff leave is to pursue growth opportunities. We have so much fun together and support each other.
“The FISH! Philosophy has definitely changed my life, as a principal and as a person. I’m having fun again.”
KICK OFF A GREAT YEAR
WITH THE FISH! PHILOSOPHY
As your staff prepares for this year, here are two ways to re-ignite enthusiasm and build a remarkable learning culture:
Book a FISH! Workshop
Our expert facilitators will inspire your staff and help you develop a plan to infuse The FISH! Philosophy into your environment.
The FISH! For Schools Complete Pack includes everything you need to introduce and sustain The FISH! Philosophy. It comes with the original FISH! video, staff development videos (perfect for staff meetings or study groups) and classroom resources to help students live The FISH! Philosophy.
How has your school year been so far? Challenging? Rewarding? Frustrating? Maybe a bit of all three?
As you begin planning for next year, how can you make next year more successful and enjoyable? We asked longtime teacher and FISH! facilitator Steve Mintz, who has helped hundreds of schools build stronger cultures, for his thoughts:
“When I visit schools preparing for a new year, they’re mostly focused on technology, first aid training and so on—all important but functional tasks.
“But they are not as focused on how to make our school feel great for every student and staff member. That’s the foundation of everything we want to achieve.
Relationships are key
“Educators know they need the human element but so many demands push that aside. People talk about working ‘smarter, not harder.’ What they mean is ‘We have to do more and we don’t much time to do it.’ The danger is if those demands squash people’s spirits.
“As educators, we do what we do because we want to help students become capable, healthy people who take care of themselves and care about others.
“To do that, we need caring relationships with our students and colleagues. The cool thing is these relationships decrease the negative behaviors that happen when students and staff are not excited to be at school. When you get those behaviors out of the way, learning improves and all of our functional tasks are easier.
“The FISH! Philosophy helps us build and stay focused on the relationships that make a school feel welcoming.”
“I’ve observed when educators use a common language, they are more effective than that same group of excellent educators who are doing their own thing without a consistent language.
“Behavior expectations typically vary from teacher to teacher. Students often struggle to adapt to different environments when they don’t receive a positive, unified message about what we expect from each other. When there is a gray area, they don’t know what to do.
“I see great teachers who are doing a wonderful job teaching the subject but because of behavior, they’re miserable. The students are learning, but they could be learning more.”
“Educators know that relationships are primary. The FISH! Philosophy gives us a common language to talk about our relationships. We care for each other. We go out of our way to make each others’s day. We choose how we show up in the world. We’re going to be passionate and have fun with learning.
“If you ask the kids in my classroom what Be There means, they will tell you it’s about paying attention to and caring about the people you’re with. They may answer with different words but they all understand the essence. That makes a big difference in how we treat each other.
“When we have that common language to communicate that to students, our relationships are stronger in the classrooms, the halls, the cafeteria—everywhere in our school. Everything goes better.”
“Toward the end of a FISH! school event, I’ll ask the staff about next steps. I’ll jokingly bring up Einstein’s definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Then I ask: ‘What will you do differently tomorrow than what you’ve been doing till now?’
“A common answer is: ‘I’m moving a thousand miles an hour to get things done, but I’m not listening to students or colleagues. I’m going to work harder to make sure I’m focused on the person who needs me at that moment.’
“Being there is so critical in education. When we aren’t present for people, relationships suffer. Our relationships are the key to keeping kids engaged and knowing that someone cares about them.”
Let it go “Another question I’ve been asking staff is: ‘What do you need to give up?’ One of the top answers is: ‘I need to let go of my fear.’ It might be fear of trying a new idea. Learning is all about trying new approaches. It’s incredibly freeing when we can find the courage to try what might be a better approach.
“Another top answer is: ‘I’m going to let go of what I was angry about—whether it happened a week ago or a year ago.’ Educating kids is tough enough without letting old disagreements get in the way. We need each other to be successful.
“It’s powerful when people can share in a group setting, like a FISH! event. It’s powerful when colleagues can say, ‘I feel the same way’ or ‘I get where you’re coming from. Thank you for sharing.’ That sense of safety and support creates incredible energy the staff can use to create a stronger school.”