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Hooked on Good Behavior

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.”

Previous SNN articles on Godwin and PBIS

The Four FISH! practices West Godwin Staff follow:

  • Be There: Be emotionally present for people. It’s a powerful message of respect that improves communication and strengthens relationships.
  • Play: Tap into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic and having fun. Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind, as in “Let’s play with that idea!”
  • Make Their Day: Find simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful, memorable way. It’s about contributing to someone else’s life — not because you want something, but because that’s the person you want to be.
  • Choose Your Attitude: Take responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. Your choice affects others. “Is my attitude helping me to be the person I want to be?”

Source: FISH philosophy

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.

The music goes “Now break your legs (break 'em, break 'em)”
The music goes “Now break your legs (break ’em, break ’em)”

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.



FISH Philosophy


SNN article on TrueSuccess

Principal Steve Minard hands out FISH! awards

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


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