By Erin Albanese
Every other Friday afternoon, the school week ends in a big dance party at West Godwin Elementary School, with students and teachers moving and grooving after Principal Steve Minard cranks up the tunes.
Turns out there are a lot of reasons to celebrate at the kindergarten through fourth-grade school, and students are regularly acknowledged for them. Kindergartner Gabriel Martinez Aguillon, for example, “always shows self-control wherever he is in the school. He is consistently being an example for the class.”
That’s the message teacher Emily Jansen wrote for Gabriel on a yellow paper fish. Ten other students received similar FISH! messages on a recent Friday –announced and read in front of the entire student body – for reasons tied to the themes of gratitude and self control.
Teachers are constantly “fishing” at West Godwin, hoping to hook their students on positive behaviors. Fourth-grader Steve Rios was happy to be lured in with a FISH! award from his teacher Sarah David. “I’m completing my homework every day,” he said.
Third-grader Andrea Serrato also got fished by her teacher, Jessica Surdam. Her secret to self-control: “When other people make a fuss, I don’t make a fuss.”
Lessons From Fishmongers
Minard introduced FISH! assemblies six years ago. The concept is modeled after the FISH! Philosophy, a training solution started by documentary filmmaker John Christensen, who observed the enthusiasm of fishmongers at Pike Place Fish in Seattle and wondered what the secret was. Based on relationship-building, the philosophy creates a culture where people choose to bring their best to work. It has been adapted for K-12 schools.
“These assemblies are a celebration of the great things our students and staff are doing on a consistent basis,” Minard said.
At West Godwin, relationship and culture-building has several components. Staff members tie FISH! into the character value of the month studied through the TrueSuccess program, which focuses on developing positive behavior skills to make wise choices. Students explore topics including respect, wisdom, thankfulness, self-control, perseverance, responsibility, encouragement, caring and integrity.
FISH! assemblies also tie into the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, which sets common language and expectations school-wide concerning behavior. PBIS has led to a decrease in the number of discipline referrals at West Godwin and has created a positive school culture and climate, Minard said.
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