Build a Strong Team Dynamic

The SEL team serves as a model for positive practices that promote healthy relationships among adults, students, and families. It’s highly beneficial to build a strong team dynamic and positive working relationship by developing group norms and team routines.

Team Norms

Norms are most effective when they are developed collaboratively and updated as needed.

Consider the following questions in developing team norms:

  • What habits will help this team run efficiently and effectively?
  • What habits will help this team achieve its goals?
  • What accommodations can we make to ensure that all stakeholder voices are heard and understood?
  • What will we do if we aren’t in agreement?
  • How will we hold each other accountable?
  • How will we celebrate both small and large successes?

Note common themes and compile a list of three to eight team norms that members agree to uphold. Review these norms at the start of each team meeting (to focus the team on the tasks at hand) and at the end (as a check-in about which norms may need more attention).

Routines

Routines help teams nurture trust and work productively. Beneficial routines include:

  • Building relationships: A brief check-in at the beginning and end of each meeting can promote self-awareness and contribute to team cohesion. Asking a “check-in question” can be enough to help team members feel more comfortable. Sample check-in questions include:
    • Who inspired you today?
    • What’s something you need to set aside to be fully present for our work together today?
    • Describe an SEL skill that you witnessed today.
    • What was the best part of your work day today?
  • Planning and organizing meetings: A successful meeting requires preparation, planning, and follow-up.

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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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  • Celebrating team members: Just like students, adults thrive when they’re recognized for positive contributions. Taking a moment to celebrate team members is a great habit to get into. Consider trying one of these ideas:
    • Select one team member to celebrate at each meeting by writing kind words on slips of paper and placing them in a bag, which the selected team member gets to keep.
    • Have each member draw another team member’s name at the end of the meeting and be on the lookout for something to appreciate about that person at the next meeting.
  • Democratic decision-making: Making democratic decision-making a routine at meetings allows all team members a voice in how the team will move forward. It’s critical to hear and value the voices of all stakeholders to ensure that decisions are made fairly by a diverse group with multiple 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 schoolwide vote on matters that impact the school community.
  • Conducting team self-assessments: 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 set and pursue goals toward improvement.

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SEL Team Checklist

SEL Team Checklist provides a list of key activities to assess and monitor.

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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, and six teachers from each grade level. 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. They 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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