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We Are Crew: Chapter 3: Creating a Structure of Crew

We want to do Crew, but how do we start?

The structure of Crew gives students a safe and reliable home base—the same small group of people who circle up every day or almost every day at the same time and place. The basic ingredients of Crew meetings are:

  • Coming together in a circle that gives every member equal voice, value, and visibility
  • Building relationships through brave, honest, and respectful communication
  • Focusing on social and emotional skills, character, and academic mindsets as interwoven strands
  • Creating opportunities for students to become leaders of their learning and their lives

Creating a structure where these ingredients are consistent and effective across the school takes time, often years. To begin, teachers and leaders must make many logistical, pedagogical, and curricular decisions including how Crew will be scheduled, staffed, and supported throughout the school year.

“For me, Crew means to be part of a team, that we’re all in the same boat, all on the same page, and if someone falls behind, it’s our responsibility.” Grace, sixth-grade student, XP School, Doncaster, England

Learning Targets

  • I can identify key schoolwide decisions that support a high quality Crew structure
  • I can describe the basic elements of a Crew meeting 

Watch: Crew—A Structure for Support

Crew should be a place where all students feel they belong and can succeed. Because Crew is intentionally inclusive, it is an engine for equity across the school that supports all students to lead their own learning. At The Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield, Massachusetts, all staff members who are leading Crew have a shared understanding of the purposes of Crew and agree on a few consistent practices for leading Crew. Watch the video and consider the following questions:

  1. How does the Crew structure provide equity of voice, value, and visibility for all students?
  2. How are social and emotional skills developed alongside academic mindsets?
  3. What opportunities does this structure provide for students to become leaders of their learning and their lives?

Read: Key Schoolwide Decisions

School leaders and teachers must collaborate to make a number of key decisions about scheduling and staffing Crew. These decisions are the foundation of a successful Crew structure and also, often, the root of a struggling Crew structure. If you’re just getting started or if your current Crew program is simply not working, revisit these key decisions. Read pages 61-70 from Chapter 3 and study the examples in Table 3.1. Reflect on these key questions:

  1. How can you organize the Crew schedule so that it best meets the needs of your students and staff ?
  2. How can you match Crew leaders and Crew members so that Crews are balanced, bonded, and sustainable?
  3. What resources and capacity do your staff have for the work of being Crew leaders? What are the implications for determining how you will staff Crew?
  4. Who needs to be at the table in order to make sound decisions that work for your students?

Review: Elements of a Crew Meeting

A lesson flow for Crew that is predictable and that includes rituals for connecting, time for learning, and attention to reflection supports students to develop a sense of belonging, purpose, and agency. Our basic lesson plan template includes a greeting, a reading, a meeting, and a debrief. We encourage you to start with these basic elements and to use the questions in our planning template to anticipate and think through lesson strategies that best support your school’s Crew purposes. Once you feel comfortable with this basic flow, give yourself permission to adapt or vary the template to match the needs of your students and your setting.

Watch: Crew Curriculum

EL Education does not provide a one-size-fits-all Crew curriculum. Instead, we believe the curriculum for Crew is best created by teachers and leaders at each school to fit the needs of a particular students, schedule, and structure. Crew curricula can be organized as a bank of individual lessons, a scope and sequence of themes or habits of character, as thematic units, or series of case studies.  Watch this video, which shows how two high schools have built meaningful Crew curricula, and reflect on the following questions:

  1. How does the design of Crew curriculum at these two schools exemplify a coherent scope and sequence that meets the schools’ purposes for Crew?
  2. How does the Crew curriculum at MELS make Crew an engine for equity?

Dig Deeper

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers…

  1. What have you seen or read so far that you can apply immediately to jumpstart a culture of Crew in your classroom?
  2. What would it look like and sound like for you to do Crew in your school?

For School Leaders…

  1. How do EL Education’s goals for character (effective learners, ethical people, contributors to a better world) align with your school vision or mission?
  2. How can you begin to foster a culture of Crew among your staff?
  3. What would it look like and sound like for you to do Crew in your school?