Build a Strong Team Dynamic

To run effectively, your team will need positive working relationships and productive meetings that keep team members motivated, build a sense of shared purpose, and drive high-quality SEL implementation.

The following practices will help your team build a strong dynamic:

Follow a Regular Meeting Schedule: Dedicating time to come together as a team will help keep the momentum to sustain schoolwide SEL. We recommend meeting at least monthly and scheduling all of your team meetings for the school year ahead of time. This will help ensure that when the school year gets busy, your team continues to prioritize, review, and refine your SEL plan.

Develop Team Working Agreements: One of the first decisions your team will make is how to work effectively together toward your vision of schoolwide SEL. We recommend collaboratively developing a set of team working agreements to guide meetings, then regularly reviewing and updating to reflect the needs of all team members. Agreements can help the team define how they will run productive meetings, ensure everyone’s perspective is heard and resolve disagreements constructively.

Create Relationship-Building Routines: The SEL team serves as a model for positive practices that promote healthy relationships among adults, students, and families. Foster positive working relationships among team members by building in regular routines that help you form a strong group bond. This might include a brief check-in at the beginning of each meeting and celebrations of team members for their achievements or contributions. See the Three Signature Practices Playbook for practices that can help foster positive relationships and effective meetings.

Relational Trust in an SEL Team

The degree of trust within a school is an important part of its culture and climate. In fact, relational trust has been shown to predict whether collaborative practices such as PLCs can significantly improve student outcomes (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Forsyth, Barnes, & Adams, 2006). It becomes even more important when teams are reflecting on data together, since conversations may arise about inequities and their root causes. School leaders play a critical role in allowing for spaces where inquiry and non-judgement are the norm, which in turn empowers staff to dig into these types of conversations safely and without repercussions.

Team members can develop relational trust with one another in many ways, including by establishing and following group agreements, taking time to get to know one another, focusing on problem-solving rather than blaming, sharing appreciations, treating one another respectfully and acknowledging upset feelings, and regularly reflecting on the team’s effectiveness.

Plan and Organize Productive Meetings: A successful meeting requires preparation, planning, and follow-up. You’ll want to plan clear, purposeful meeting agendas that help you advance and monitor your schoolwide SEL implementation plan (which you’ll develop in Focus Area 1B). Team meetings should also be a time to regularly review data, reflect on your progress toward goals, and plan any adjustments that need to be made. Use the tools below to help plan productive team meeting agendas.

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Sample Meeting Checklist

This tool provides an outline of things that need to be done before, during, and after a meeting.

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Preparing SEL Team Meeting Agendas

This tool provides recommendations, samples, and a template for preparing agendas for SEL team meetings in advance for the school year.

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Engage in Democratic Decision-Making: Before making any major decisions, you’ll want to agree on how your team will determine how to move forward. Using a democratic decision-making process allows all team members to have a voice so that decisions are made fairly and take into account diverse perspectives. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Hold a team vote on small matters, such as when to hold the next team meeting.
  • Call for a full staff vote on matters that will ask teachers, support staff, and others to engage in new practices.
  • Seek input from a wider group of stakeholders (such as students, families, staff from partner organizations) when setting major goals or designing an overarching strategy and implementation timeline.

Regularly Assess Team Functioning and Effectiveness: It’s a good practice to have the team conduct a self-assessment at the beginning of each school year and throughout the year as a way to reflect on how the team is working together and to continuously improve team effectiveness.

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SEL Team Self-Assessment

The SEL Team Self-Assessment  provides a list of key activities to assess and monitor your team effectiveness.

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Johnson Elementary School’s SEL Leadership Team

At Johnson Elementary School, open communication, teacher leadership, and structured collaboration are highly valued. These values enable Johnson to have a powerful, effective SEL team. It includes the principal, a counselor, a special education teacher, six teachers from each grade level, and the point person for the out-of-school time program. A team meeting schedule is calendered for the entire school year, enabling them to meet monthly during a designated time.

After attending a district SEL implementation training, the SEL team led a half-day “SEL Institute” for staff before the school year started. Through strong principal support, goal-oriented meetings, and shared leadership, the team has built schoolwide SEL ownership and engagement. The team organized a peer SEL walkthrough and a weekly “Tuesday SEL Assembly” with rotating presentations from all classrooms related to the lesson of the week from their evidence-based SEL program.

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