This afternoon I heard something that reminded me yet again why I love teaching. Late in the afternoon on Halloween one of our 5th graders said “I appreciate my classmate because she did a great job leading our table discussion during ELA and keeping us all focused on Esperanza Rising. This shows cooperation!” I was elated to hear that even on a day normally filled with costumes and candy, our kids were appreciating one another, not for candy and sweets, but for the opportunity to learn and grow together.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to build strong relationships with the students at DAA and to see them develop as leaders and scholars over time. One of the ways that DAA creates a space for kids to build relationships, grow as leaders and develop our habits of character is through daily crew. Crew is both a spirit and a structure within our classrooms at DAA. Crew refers to the spirit of togetherness, community and the sense that we are all partners working toward a common goal. Crew also refers to the structure of classroom community meetings that take place each morning in afternoon in every class. During these crew meetings students and staff work together to build and maintain positive school culture. Meetings allow classroom communities the opportunity to greet one another, share out, appreciate one another and participate in activities. Morning and afternoon crew meetings help us ensure that all students are well-known by their peers and the adults in our school community. We are proud to maintain this strong tradition at DAA.
During crew students work with their teacher and at least one other adult from our school community. Students begin each morning crew meeting by greeting one another. Teachers strive to facilitate greetings that ensure that every one of our students starts their day knowing that they belong in our academic community. Afterwards, students share about a common question, allowing them to develop vital speaking and listening skills in a safe environment. Students also participate in an activity that allows them to learn about our habits of characters through adventure and play.
Developing Habits of Character
As a school we promote student development of 6 essential habits of character; Integrity, Curiosity and Creativity, Compassion, Cooperation, Responsibility, and Perseverance. During crew students learn about our habits of character. Teachers also design activities related to specific habits. For example, to work on Cooperation, teachers might have students participate in a team challenge, like untangling a human knot. Teachers also encourage students to reflect on how they have shown habits of character. At the end of the day each day, they also share appreciations for classmates they saw showing specific habits of character throughout the day.
Creating Opportunities for Student Leadership
Crew also provides many opportunities for student leadership. In many classes, students are invited to facilitate different parts of crew meetings and to help teachers determine which habits of character they should focus on as a group. Finally, students who show achievement of one or more habits of character over time, are nominated to serve as light leaders in our larger school community.
At DAA, Crew is a tradition that we are proud to uphold. The spirit of crew pushes us forward as leaders and scholars. It gives us the space to learn about and reflect on character development. Most importantly crew helps us maintain a strong school community, in which all learners feel valued and safe.