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Purposes of Crew

A Teamwork Approach to School Culture and Belonging

Students and staff are counting on school communities to be safe, affirming, and healing places, especially in the wake of a global pandemic. When students and educators can feel a sense of belonging at school, nurtured by supportive relationships, they can achieve their best. Students who experience an authentic community at school thrive socially, emotionally, and academically, and can make meaningful contributions to a better world.

Crew is both a structure and a culture in EL Education schools. As a structure, it can be similar to a regular advisory period. As a culture, it serves as an ethos of inclusion: students strive to reach ambitious goals together as a community. They are responsible for their own well-being and their classmates’ well-being.

"We are Crew, not passengers."

Crew as a Culture

EL Education schools establish and cultivate Habits of Character, such as Respect, Responsibility, Courage, Kindness, and promote and discuss these habits every day, within and beyond classrooms. The school community exemplifies educator Kurt Hahn’s vision that we are all “crew, not passengers,” working together as a team for the common good. This philosophy is the culture of Crew.

Crew as a Structure

Students in EL Education schools come together in Crews for relationship building, academic progress monitoring, and character development.

An EL Education school culture is planned for, developed, and sustained through practices that bring the community together, promote shared understandings, and encourage all community members to become Crew, not passengers. Students in EL schools are known well and supported by adults. In EL schools, each student is known well by at least one adult within the school. One structure for developing this relationship—and supporting students socially, emotionally, and academically—is Crew.

The structure of Crew allows for relationship building, academic progress monitoring, and character development. Crew allows students to build positive connections with their peers and with their crew leader. Crew leaders strategically plan crew to address and assess these multiple goals. Multi-year relationships are also forged in other school structures (e.g., multi-age classrooms, looping) to ensure that students’ needs are met and individual strengths are discovered. Outside of school, mentoring, internships, and apprenticeships foster relationships between students and community members.

In some EL Schools, crew is a required, credit-based class. It meets for a minimum of 2.5 hours per week with opportunities to expand this time within the flexible block schedule as needs arise. Crews are either single grade or multi-grade groups, and many crew advisors stay with the same crew for two to four years. Ideally, crew size does not exceed 16 students. Crew sessions are generally scheduled for maximum attendance, avoiding the beginning and end of each school day. Generally, all faculty members are crew leaders, and sometimes school leaders also guide a Crew.

Implementing Crew

Implementing Crew requires courage, trust, and commitment from staff and students. Explore EL Education’s latest book, We Are Crew: A Teamwork Approach to School Culture for strategies, or check out this Professional Development Pack with step-by-step guidance for adopting the instructional practices. Additional resources include the Crew Not Passengers podcast, online toolkit, and video collection.

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EL Education

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