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Friday Fun with the Phoenix Fish (yes, it is fish and not fishes)

Posted by: Anita Procter on 27-03-2020

Part of the point of the Phoenix Provision, along with enabling students with speech, language and communication needs thrive at Hollyfield, is to help with emotional regulation.  We do this employing various strategies, empowering students to acknowledge and respond positively to their emotions and by having a fish tank.  This is situated in our Sensory Room, along with cushions, fidget toys and a life-size cutout of Hugh Jackman (long story, including intial disappointment that there don't appear to be any life-size cutouts of Sean Bean and that the cutout is during his P T Barnum phase and not his Logan phase, but I digress).

We procured a fish tank, through the generosity of Mrs Savage, and two bus journeys later saw the appearance of five fish.  This is both recommended and alliteratively pleasing.  On the insistence of Mr Best, they were given names - Casanova (the male) and Tess Derbyfield, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary and, finally Becky Sharp.  I am nothing if not literary obssessed.  Students marvelled at how fishy they were, swimming, eating, doing other fish things.  It gave people a chance to slow down and focus on something.  A kind of mindfulness, without sitting in a room of strangers, holding a raisin.  

The fish flourished for a while and then, as fish in my charge usually do, they started to die.  It's the same with mint; I have been informed that mint is the hardiest of herbs, but I still manage to kill it.  Not that I was actively trying to kill the fish - I am vegetarian.  Ish.  Anyway, we were left with two fish - Casanova and Becky Sharp.  And then it happened.

I am not fat-shaming the female fish, but Becky Sharp got a bit bigger, and bigger and then one day, she gave birth.  Several times, lots of times, at least twenty two times.  With a maternal instinct I envied, she proceeded to eat two of them before we separated the proud parents from their offspring.  Students were fascinated by Becky Sharp's ability to produce this many fry without exploding.  Casanova, bowled over by his beau's ability to breed, passed onto that big fish bowl in the sky.  Becky Sharp remained, watching her babies.  We can't speculate on what she thought; maybe it was pride in her eyes as she regarded her huge offspring, a Von Trapp-esque brood.  Or maybe it was hunger.  We just don't know.  She joined her beloved Casanova, shortly after that, leaving her children orphaned.  It's like Finding Nemo.  Except without the dad.  And they are guppies, not clown fish.  And no Ellen.

The fifteen fish (for some made the treacherous journey home with me. In a jam jar on the bus, seeing as you're asking. They are fine.) have grown and are exceptionally happy.  I think.  They don't seem depressed, they swim about and eat and stuff.  They are content.  They tolerate each other and just do their own thing.  They are happy to be.

I'm not suggesting we are fish in a fish tank, but perhaps we can take a lesson from the fifteen Phoenix fish.  Things aren't the way we probably want them to be at the moment, but we can make the best of what we have.  We have Google Classroom, with lessons teachers have prepared to help you learn, we have family (even if they drive us mad on occasions) to talk to and interact with and we have the wider Hollyfield community.  Social Distancing is necessary, but we can still communicate. And this will end.

In the words of Dory:

"I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy."

Or, indeed:

"When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do - Just keep swimming."

 

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