How the FISH! Philosophy Can Build Classroom Community

Published On: March 15, 2023Categories: Blog

For decades and decades, the fundamental cultural structure of the classroom has remained fairly steady. Psychologist Carl Rogers described it as a place where “The teachers are the possessors of knowledge, the students the expected recipients; the teachers are the possessors of power, the students the ones who obey.” In essence, teachers are an authority to be listened to without question, and students are passive receptacles of knowledge and understanding.

But how does that fit in with what we’re actually trying to teach our children in a free, democratic society? Sure, facts and figures are important, but part of the schooling process is building an understanding in our youth of how they’re expected to act and behave in the “real world” outside of the school building. Proud parents, informed citizens, and successful teachers are those that embrace problem solving and critical thinking skills, yet the way we structure our classrooms is often entirely the opposite–a culture of total obedience and narrow-minded compliance.

Commitment vs. Control

So how do great teachers help break the chain of rigidity and create a holistic way of teaching that not only imparts important information, but helps students practice the skills and ways of thinking that are deeply critical to their ability to function as adults?

For many teachers, it’s about reframing the way we think about classroom structure from a framework of control to a framework of commitment. Rather than simply laying out rules to be followed without question, education experts recommend working together as a class to discuss desires for how the classroom feels and create mutually agreed-upon expectations for students and teachers. As teacher Jason Pelowski says, “It’s not my control. It’s not their control. It’s our control.”

This can be a scary change for not only teachers, but students as well. Teachers are obviously apprehensive to relinquish a degree of control and authority and may be uncomfortable when students inevitably make decisions opposite of their own wishes, while students are often afraid at the prospect of being given a deeper responsibility for their own actions and the culture they create. But by working together as a community, you build bonds by getting real commitment and buy-in from all involved parties.

The foundations of FISH! And building classroom culture 

These conversations can be complex, and it’s hard to know where to begin. For a lot of classrooms, the four pillars of the FISH! Philosophy can be a great framework for starting these difficult-but-rewarding discussions and leading them in a productive direction. 

  • Be There for each other: Communities are never completely homogenous, and building a culture can mean synthesizing input from people who have lots of big feelings and heavy emotions. But if we respond compassionately and supportively to each other’s emotional needs, and don’t disengage when disagreements arise, we’re far more likely to come out better on the other side.
  • Play with ideas for a better environment: Just like how we all come to the table with our own emotions, we also all bring our own unique ideas and solutions for overcoming challenges. Building commitment means practicing Play, keeping an open mind and an open ear for other people, and ensuring everyone feels their ideas have been heard–because any person’s idea could be the ticket to success!
  • Make Their Day to strengthen bonds: For some teachers, it’s easy to expect commitment from their students, but then revert to the old methods of control and discipline as soon as the going gets tough. But if you can make a conscious effort to engage in random acts that show your students that you share their commitment to the classroom culture, you’ll build more trust and commitment in return.
  • Choose Your (communal) Attitude: What is building a classroom community if not a group of people collectively “choosing the attitude” they want to share together? Authoritative control can use fear to get students to be quiet, but it’s far more effective if everyone has agreed to come into the classroom with an attitude of respect for themselves and each other, and it teaches students how to build the spaces they want to be a part of in the future.

Ideas to Reflect On:

  • What are the current challenges of your classroom? How do you maintain control and project authority, and does that work long-term?
  • What do you want to be teaching your students, beyond the facts and dates from the textbooks? How does your classroom structure lend itself to students practicing life skills, critical thinking, and compassion towards their community?
  • Talk with your students and ask what they would agree to in a classroom contract. What surprised you? Were there ideas you and your students shared, or differed on?

Want to Implement FISH! in your organization?

Are you a leader?  Do you train others?  Do you want others to be leaders?

Charthouse Learning, the creator of the world-famous, award-winning, FISH! film is offering an in-person, 2-day workshop, interactive Train-the-Trainer lead by our Senior Trainer this April in Minneapolis, MN.

During our time together you’ll learn how to:

  • Share the motivation and foundation of FISH!
  • Introduce the FISH! film with the four practices.
  • Present the invitation to apply the practices in everyday interaction with others.
  • Build a sustainability and reinforcement program to transform the culture.
  • Pick up tips from other FISH! Philosophers and develop a strategy to embed the practices into the DNA of your culture.
  • Create an energized organization that is the “first choice” for employees, faculty, staff, leaders, and customers.

Plus, you will learn how to create a workplace where people choose to “be and bring” their best self everywhere, every day.

At the FISH! Train the Trainer you will:

  • Dive Deep: Discover The FISH! Philosophy – full of “A-ha!” takeaways and perspective-shifting realizations.
  • Transform: Make the four FISH! practices – Play, Be There, Make Their Day and Choose Your Attitude – an essential part of your professional and personal skill set.
  • Discover: Learn practical ways to apply the FISH! practices to improve teamwork, service, leadership, retention and performance.
  • Develop: Brainstorm strategies to embed The FISH! Philosophy into the DNA of your culture, strengthening your mission, vision and values.
  • Collaborate: Learn and laugh with like-minded folks from across the globe.

Click Here for More FISH! Train the Trainer Information

FISH! Executive Briefing

You have probably heard about the Culture Shift in the news. Organizations are struggling to find talent, employee morale is low, retention is a common goal and customers are dissatisfied with buying experiences.

These are all symptoms of an underlying challenge leadership is faced with every day, regardless of the industry. You can look for temporary relief or an overall, long-term cure.

Join us for a 60-minute webinar on the world-famous, award-winning FISH! practices.

Click Here for More FISH! Executive Briefing Information

Whether you work in business, education, or healthcare, FISH! offers accessible, intuitive solutions to empower your workers, bring your team together, and introduce Play into your organization. We invite you to contact us today at 800.695.4534 or to speak with our cultural specialists, who will help you find the right FISH! Philosophy solutions that will nurture your organizational culture and motivate your team!

 Join Us on Social Media:

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Subscribe to Our Blog

Dive into the Deep End of Culture Transformation