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We Are Crew: Chapter 5: Helping Students Become Ethical People through Crew

How can Crew support students to become ethical people?

One of the most important functions of the structure of Crew is to be a place where each day students can check in on the extent to which everyone is feeling respected and valued, and is respecting and valuing others. Crew is not a magic fix. In every school, on a regular basis, people feel badly about themselves and make unkind choices in how they treat others. The difference is that when there is a school culture of Crew and a daily structure of Crew meetings, these issues can be discussed and worked on continually. It doesn’t make problems disappear, but it makes a fundamental difference in how students feel about school and about themselves.

“By listening carefully to one another in Crew and practicing taking care of one another, being inclusive, and being upstanders, students can develop positive mindsets and habits that extend beyond Crew, even when no one is looking.” –page 160

Learning Targets

  • I can explain how Crew supports students to feel safe, seen, and valued.
  • I can explain how Crew supports students to see, value, and support others.

Watch: “Crew: A Structure for Support”

Circles, greetings, readings, and checking in are common elements of daily Crew meetings. These routines welcome students into the Crew community and prepare them to engage with each other as friends and Crewmates who support each other’s growth and success. Students learn to trust one another, speak respectfully and compassionately, and value diverse perspectives. As you watch the video, consider the following questions.

  1. How do the routines of circling up, greetings, readings, and checking in foster a sense of belonging in students?
  2. How does daily practice interacting respectfully and cordially with peers help students to become ethical people?

Read: Crew Culture for Reopening: Trauma- and Culturally Responsive Practices

Crew is not about inculcating students with specific character traits and judging whether they embody them. It’s about helping students understand the relationship among one’s values, beliefs, and actions, and how they impact others. With that understanding, students become more aware of who they are as ethical actors in the world and can make informed choices about how they act within their community and how they treat others. During a time of crisis, when many students are coming to school with a greater burden of stress and trauma, it is especially important for students to connect with each other and receive empathy and acceptance from their peers and teachers. Read this guidance about how to create a Crew culture that is trauma informed and culturally responsive. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What habits and routines currently exist in your classroom to support social-emotional wellness?
  2. How can you shift your perspective to convey respect for cultural differences and to acknowledge how trauma may be impacting students’ behaviors? 

Watch: “Brave and Honest Communication”

In Crew students have respectful and compassionate conversations about topics that sometimes make people uncomfortable. While these topics can be difficult, norms, protocols, and practice can support students to be honest, courageous, and inclusive. Apologies, appreciations, and vulnerability are common elements in these conversations. Watch this video and reflect on the following questions:

  1. How do the teachers in this video teach and model compassionate listening and questioning skills?
  2. What do you notice students doing that demonstrates honesty, empathy, and courage?

Watch: “Restorative Practices in Crew at Brooklyn Collaborative”

Restorative Practices affirm students’ relationships to each other and create opportunities for them to repair harm done to those relationships. Crew is a place for all students to learn about how restorative practices operate in the school (e.g., as an approach to discipline infractions) and to practice the social and emotional skills that will enable all students to solve conflicts and engage as responsible and accountable citizens of the school community. As you watch, consider the following questions:

  1. How do daily Crew meetings prepare all students to participate productively in restorative practices across the school. 
  2. What do you hear the students in this video say that demonstrate their commitment to more individual accountability and to being upstanders for others?

Dig Deeper

  • Affirming Gender Identities in Crew   In this video students in a single-gender middle school Crew at Amana Academy in Alpharetta, Georgia discuss the importance of affirming gender identities and how Crew supports them to be allies.
  • Crew Reflection Form, The Greene School, West Greenwich, Rhode Island  High school students use this reflection form to assess and articulate their own participation in Crew and its impact on how they treat others.
  • Walking in Solidarity  This video shows how structures like Crew and a curriculum that focuses on social justice prepared students and teachers to respond productively and collectively when students experienced a hate crime.
  • Knowing Every Child Through Index Card Rosters  This video, filmed at King Middle School in Portland, Maine, shows how one teaching team ensures that every student on their team is seen and valued.

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers…

  1. What routines can you adapt in your classroom or your Crew to help students feel a sense of belonging and connection to their Crewmates?
  2. What lessons, protocols, or experiences will help students practice listening, questioning, and solving conflicts productively?
  3. What specific actions can you take to help students discuss and affirm personal and social identities related to gender, race, religion, and other affinities?

For School Leaders…

  1. How can you facilitate courageous conversations about race and gender identity among your staff?
  2. How do your staff norms and school character traits lay the groundwork for ethical behavior across the school? How do you model these behaviors for others?