Success Story

Bancroft Middle School

A Note From “The Sappy One”

By Patricia Dillmore, Bancroft Middle School

Patricia Dillmore, Director of Student Capabilities in Middle School Math and other wonderful things! at Bancroft Middle School, attended a FISH! For Schools workshop in LA. Several weeks later she wrote to tell us what was happening in her classroom:

I wanted to bring you up to date about my classes. I introduced The FISH! philosophy to the guppies before the Winter Break. I didn’t know if it would hold water through the holidays and if they would come back floundering or not. Well, I am happy to tell you they are HOOKED! (Did I get enough FISH! Terminology in there?)

I suggested they go home and practice it during the holidays. I asked one of my classes if they had, and the responses were hilarious. Many of the kids parents asked, “OK, what do you want?” when the kids did things like make their beds, clean up after themselves, voluntarily do the dishes and do other things without asking. One girl helped her elderly neighbors in an effort to “Make Their Day” and they gave her $25 for asking them if she could carry their groceries into their home for them. (She is one of my poor performing students, and this year she has done all her homework—one week at a time!)

Another child, one of my favorite entertainers, said his mother asked him, “OK, who are you and what did you do with my son?” A few days later she told him she liked this new person and it could stay!

When we returned to classes on the 9th, I was concerned if the residual effects would remain and if the classes would go on like they were before or if the learning environment would be better. It’s not perfect, but my rowdy 7th graders seem like people I have never met. They are ALL actually doing their homework (even my tough guys) and they are ALL paying attention in class.

One of the other teachers, who is also doing an auxiliary 7th grade math class was walking with me to my car on Friday and he asked me, “How are your 7th graders doing?” I told him they were doing great AND I expected them all to be able to pass the math quiz on Tuesday. He grumbled, “What the heck did I ask you for? Now I feel bad.”

We talked about this new philosophy I taught the children and he said, “Naa, you just have the ‘new teacher’ syndrome with all your enthusiasm.” I told him it wasn’t just that. I told him these kids WANT to learn because they see the value in what they are learning. I also told him I see the value and I am inspired. Then I said he should see my secret. He asked what it was.

I told him, “FISH! For Schools.”

I believe each and every one of these children has the capability to do well in school. I also believe they have the “ganas” (desire). We as teachers have to help to keep their attitudes in the right place, and this FISH! program is (at the moment) helping me to inspire my children to keep a great attitude. If I can make this work week by week, and I only have 6 months to go, I will have lived an experience I never expected. (I am getting sappy as I type this…) The good part is when I ask the students if they are “being there” suddenly they pay more attention. We talk about being there for each other and making each other’s day by being attentive to the students who are asking the questions. The lights keep going on in their faces when we do the math and I feel like I am 20 again! If nothing else, I have had some really cool teaching moments this year and I directly attribute this to FISH! For Schools.

Patricia Dillmore
“The Sappy One”

“The Fish! Philosophy is a tool I can use in any school. It works.”

– Candace Call, Principal, Loflin Elementary School

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