11/03/04 — Putting 'Fish' in school

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Putting 'Fish' in school

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 3, 2004 1:57 PM

Something fishy is going on at Meadow Lane Elementary School.

There has been a change in attitude since staff and students got hooked on a new philosophy based on a popular business book.

Principal Celia James said that when she read the book "Fish!" last year, she immediately wanted to ride the wave of its message. She purchased 19 copies of the three different books in the series and began circulating them among her staff.

Enthusiasm spread and the tide at the school began to turn. It soon spilled over to the students.

"I had no idea when we started reading the books that it was going to blossom into such a big thing," Mrs. James says. "I just wanted people to read the books and get the four principles kind of ingrained."

The book's premise is based on the success secrets of a fish market. Its message, introduced to businesses as a way to boost morale and improve results, is also applicable in the school setting, she said. The principles are:

1. Choose your attitude.

2. Find ways to play.

3. Be present.

4. Make someone else's day.

Mrs. James said there has been a big shift in morale throughout the school, all for the better. The principles, she said, do not just pertain to business; they're applicable to life.

"It's a mindset, an attitude," she said. "It's almost like osmosis. It seeps in and becomes part of who you are without realizing that you have changed."

Before the fish philosophy came along, she said her efforts had been based on the Golden Rule. The book, she said, offered a springboard of what it takes to do that.

"It broke it down into parts we can all understand and incorporate into our daily lives," she said.

Marion Roden, a fourth grade teacher at the school, said the concept has helped the staff open up to new ideas and has "made us live what we were preaching.

"I think that it has made the kids more responsible for their own attitudes and their own success," she said.

"As teachers, we have to be so flexible, but then you don't realize how not flexible you have become."

Ms. Roden has been at the school for 23 years. The first thing she noticed about the book, she said, was how it reeled everyone in as a group.

"It brought everybody back together with one thought in mind, whatever was best for Meadow Lane," she said. "We are so large and very diverse, but we still have one common goal: Whatever is best for our children."

At Meadow Lane, where there is a high turnover of students whose parents are in the military, having consistency is a must. And yet the fish philosophy is not so much a lesson plan as a school of thought.

"It's not because it's a program," Ms. Roden said. "You're not trying to follow some set guidelines. It comes to the children through our change of attitudes and they pick up on that.

"I don't even realize that I taught it but I did."

Mrs. James said she had no idea that a change in attitude and thinking would net the results it has.

"I don't think we do anything in isolation," she said. "We integrate all the core learning and character education, all those other life lessons that children need into the structure of a day.

"It's not done with a conscious effort. It's just who we are and how we interact with other people."

She said it has made a difference at the school because the staff saw the value in it, embraced the opportunity to grow, and as a result became better role models for others.

"It is definitely not a concept that can be mandated or regulated, only emulated," she said.

Other schools of fish are also surfacing across the county. Two years ago, Wendy Hooks introduced the concept at Grantham School while she was principal there. She continues to use the ideas at Brogden Primary, where she now serves as principal. School Street, Eastern Wayne, and Carver elementary schools are also among those using it.