A number of years ago, our District adopted the Fish! Philosophy: a technique to make happy individuals alert and active in the workplace. We were inspired by a documentary from a fish market in Seattle, Washington. This market included entertainment from employees throwing fish – sort of like the Harlem Globe Trotters with fish! The positive energy was electric. The fishmongers seemed to relish their work throwing themselves into it with energy, passion and enthusiasm. They made us laugh out loud!
The philosophy included 4 fundamental ideals:
This is all about being emotionally present for people and being in the moment – not always easy in such a busy reactive world with so many distractions. By being there we demonstrate respect as well as improving communication and strengthening relationships.
Allowing people to tap into their natural creativity, enthusiasm and having fun. Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind as in “Let’s play with that idea!” You can bring this mind-set to everything you do.
Make Their Day
Finding simple ways to serve and delight people in meaningful and memorable ways. It’s about contributing to someone else’s life – not because you want something, but because that’s the type of person you want to be like.
Choose Your Attitude
Taking responsibility for what life throws at you and recognizing that you have a choice of how you are each day and that the choice you make impacts others.
The Fish! Philosophy empowers employees to be more effective in any job. When a team lives the philosophy, they improve their culture and create better results. It improves teamwork, employee engagement, retention, recognition and leadership.
Over time, Professional Development with a focus on Standards & Proficiency Based reporting has become the priority and we have lost opportunities to discuss “minutia”, thus losing the opportunity to strengthen our community. Even grade level team time has strict guidelines, which has left staff feeling lonely.
I’ve been thinking about the evolution of education at over the past 28 years, and I feel strongly that returning to TEAMING and making PLAY a priority would strengthen relationships and create a working environment that encourages 2-way communication and togetherness.
In 1997, staff were encouraged to pair up. We had multi-age classrooms, looping, as well as teaming within grade levels and across grade levels. Teams were designed to help with planning, behavior challenges, and brainstorming- many chose their teammates and some were assigned.
I would like to suggest that schools return to the team philosophy. I would also like to suggest voluntary and involuntary transfers that include placing staff members together that would bring out the best in one another.
There was a time when one Wednesday Staff meeting a month was for 2-person teams to have common planning time. The second was for grade level teams, the third was for building meetings, and the fourth was for everyone.
I would like to recommend PLAY and relationship building to truly utilize the natural talents of all staff members, including support staff. We need an opportunity to get to know one another personally- to laugh and to “let our hair down”. I’d like to suggest game nights, and the type of team building that camps do for trust building. In order for us to BE THERE for one another, we need to get to know one another in an informal setting. Many of us didn’t grow up in “the hood”, and are not part of local gatherings in town. I wonder if a night of play that may or may not include families and spouses would initiate a wonderful bonding experience that would make happier staff. We could watch a movie and have popcorn, play spoons, run obstacle courses, and even go to a local camp to use the mud pits or zip-line.
A happier staff creates trust with one another. That, in conjunction with the encouragement and time dedicated to working with each other would indeed impact the school climate and spill down into our classrooms.
But what if the Fish! Philosophy isn’t enough?
I would suggest that schools return to a clear behavioral support system that takes the control away from the students and places it back into the hands of classroom teachers. We need to focus on holding children to high behavioral standards and have clear guidelines within a behavioral protocol. We worked really hard on that a few years ago, but we haven’t used it for years. We need a system in which staff are not feeling bullied and harassed by students. My sister’s school is using a “Quiet Room” run by a qualified staff member, where children who are having a tricky time can go and quiet down and/or complete unfinished work. They use soft light and soft music, with sensory opportunities and comfortable chairs to de-escalate children, allowing classroom teachers to continue teaching. We know that children do better with clear guidelines regarding behavior expectations with clear consequences. My daughter’s school uses demerits, office referrals, in-school suspensions, and an alternative school placement for extreme behaviors. At the alternate school, they use a “boot camp” mentality with the goal to remediate and return children to the regular education system. In our district, we rarely keep children in for recess, send children to the Process Room, or keep them after school for Detention.
Social/Emotional support with the Fish! Philosophy, Teaming, and clear Behavior Protocol would go a long way to improving moral and communication. I for one want to return to teaming, get to know my fellow coworkers personally, and bring FUN back into the school, while holding children behaviorally accountable.
Fun + Accountability = Happy Productive Staff & Students. Let’s do it!