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This is Kicker, a goldfish given to my soccer coach son by one of his teams.

Kicker is not well, as you can see. In fact, we thought Kicker had kicked the bucket, but then we noticed a little fin and mouth movement.

After watching the tiny creature floating helplessly on its side for a morning, I wondered: Can this be fixed? Can poor Kicker be helped?

An Internet search on “floating goldfish” reveals that goldfish are susceptible to a disease called swim bladder disorder or flipover, frequently caused by overeating. The swim bladder is what gives the fish its buoyancy; it cannot function properly if other organs are swollen and pressing on it. This essentially paralyzes the fish.

Kicker has been flipped like this for three days. My thought now: How much longer can this little fish last?

And, being an educator and a writer, I cannot keep from seeing deeper meanings, metaphors, analogies.

I’ve often said that teachers are becoming paralyzed with regulations – too much, too many, suppressing the natural artistry and creativity that comprise great teaching. Expectations are needed, certainly, but when so many are placed on schools, on teachers – on students – what happens to freedom of movement and growth? How many teachers feel like Kicker, floating helplessly near the surface, unable to do anything about it?

In turn, how many students feel that way?

Is there a remedy?

For Kicker, there may be.

Green peas.

Yes, really. My search tells me that feeding cooked, skinned green peas to a fish affected with swim bladder disorder often alleviates the condition. The experts say not to feed the fish for three days after the onset and then to try the peas.

I gave it a shot. It’s very hard, by the way, to get food in the mouth of a fish that can’t swim. But Kicker fluttered his fins and opened his mouth, clearly trying his best.

Kicker seems to be a little livelier this morning – he’s always greeted us, wagging his whole body just like a dog, whenever we approach the tank. Today he’s twisting a bit more, fluttering his fins and tail excitedly. He even gyrated himself all the way over, a complete 360. He’s still not very mobile or upright yet – but I see better movement, and I am hopeful.

Back to teachers, to students: What’s the remedy to glutted systems?

Certainly not adding more. Green peas won’t cut it here – if only they could! – but perhaps they hold a metaphorical answer. Perhaps the answer lies in boiling away, skinning back, getting to the inside part, the valuable part, the part that matters most. Education is not something to be done to children any more than professional development should be done to teachers; growth and learning come from a place of inspiration, desiring to know more and having authentic opportunities to explore, to ask “How can we make this happen?” or the greatest learning question of all time: “What if …?” It all comes from tapping what’s within, not from exterior layers upon layers, causing figurative flipover.

Goals and standards are necessary. They can be met, exceeded, in fact, with inspiration, creativity, and freedom – these lie at the heart of educational wellness.

Our survival depends on it.


If you’d like to read Part Two of Kicker’s saga: Fintervention



8 thoughts on “Flipover

  1. Such a wise post. You weave the response to your fish so brilliantly with the overwhelming task of being a teacher today. I feel uplifted after reading this and need to as my job has been getting me down. Your fish metaphor reminds me also of Dory – “just keep swimming”. Thanks for helping me ponder more through your wise words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so happy to know that the post lifted your spirits! Yes, dear old Dory … although we grow tired of swimming, new buoyancy will eventually come. Rest your tired teacher self and treat your very inner self to something special; you will strike a better balance before long! Thank you for your words here. 🙂


  2. This is the perfect analogy! (And if it were only that easy to solve all of education’s issues with a few green peas, right??) I hope Kicker keeps fighting the good fight. I’m rooting for him (and teachers everywhere.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you reading, responding, and pulling for poor Kicker. Yes, teachers everywhere so need support. The problems are complex and solutions multifaceted, surely – but simplifying seems a good way to begin. Wish I could come up with the Green Pea Answer to Systemic Education Issues. Lol!


  3. Oh my goodness, sweet Kicker. And sweet you for skinning peas for the dear fish. I love your analogies and connections. An administrator said to me today that her favorite thing about summer is stepping away from the chaos long enough to be creatively inspired again. May summer bring you a figurative flipover!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your admin’s perspective on stepping away to be creatively inspired. It is the fuel that keeps me going, otherwise I’d be floating like poor Kicker! By the way – he’s moving more today, swimming a bit but still topsy turvy. How patient can a fish be??


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