Detroit Achievement Academy emphasizes the importance of the whole child. This means while we focus strongly on academic content learning we place equally high importance on social and emotional learning. This focus (social and emotional learning) helps nurture students into empathetic, caring, responsible individuals capable of building lasting relationships and becoming civically engaged, successful adults. We teach six habits of character and embed their meaning throughout the day. As students grow and move from grade to grade, they learn another facet and deeper meaning of each specific habit of character. The habits of character DAA teaches include: compassion, cooperation, integrity, curiosity and creativity, responsibility, and perseverance.
Each day when we come together for morning crew we read our habit of character focus, which remains the same throughout the week to help students deepen their understanding. Students participate in discussions and initiatives relating to the habit of character. These initiatives push students to think critically about the specific habit of character and drive discussion and reflection for the day and week.
For example when we focus on cooperation, a learning target might be ‘I can show cooperation by working with others to overcome a challenge.’ The goal is for students to resolve conflict independently and respectfully through cooperative process. Students will act out various scenarios (i.e., someone took a pencil from another student, someone doesn’t want to play with someone else at recess) to practice what it feels like to go through the cooperative process. This role-playing helps students when they need to resolve a conflict with others independently in a cooperative manner.
In addition to morning crew, students reflect on how they show their habits of character during lesson debriefs and closing crew. During lesson debriefs teachers generate questions relating to how students showed any of their habits of character. For example, how did they show perseverance when they faced challenging work or how did they show compassion and cooperation within a small group? In thinking about their answers, students make connections between their interactions throughout the day and their habits of character.
Providing a space to have “teachable moments” relating to habits of character helps students recognize, relate, understand, and practice our habits of character.