Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Teacher Collaboration



Developing Professional Relationships That Work

Summary:  This article shares reflections on the importance of developing positive professional relationships with colleagues and supervisors, offering some “guiding principles” on developing a positive climate.

Source:  Carl Draeger, Education Week, September 27, 2017

Categories:  Positive Relationships, School Culture/Climate, Teacher Collaboration, Emotional Intelligence




From Teacher to Leader: Shift Your Mindset

Summary: This article focuses on the needed shift in mindset when a teacher becomes a leader.  The author shares some thoughts about how to work with others to encourage reflection and as well as the growth mindset.

Source: Starr Sackstein, Education Week, August 1, 2017

Categories:  Leadership Qualities, Mindset, Positive Relationships, Teacher Collaboration, Professional Development



Woman Leader

Great Leadership Starts With Humility

Summary:  This article talks about leadership qualities that foster collaboration and a positive culture.  Honoring the contributions of others and encouraging building relationships are important leadership qualities to emulate.

Source: Starr Sackstein, Education Week, July 27, 2017

Categories:  Leadership Qualities, Positive Relationships, Teacher Leadership, Teacher Collaboration




Improve Your Coaching With One Move: Stop Talking

Summary:  This article describes “transformational coaching”, a model that encourages the teachers being coached to reflect on their teaching practice in order to make decisions on their own that further the learning and success of all children.

Source:  Elena Aguilar, Education Week, July 20, 2017

Categories:  Professional Development, Classroom Practice, Teacher Training, Teacher Collaboration



Working together

Teachers Shouldn’t Work in Isolation. Kids Need a Team.

Summary:  This article speaks to the importance of teamwork to provide teachers with collaboration and support. Every teacher needs a friend, a colleague and an administrator on his/her side; this is the only way to make for a happy and long educational career.

Source:  Starr Sackstein, Education Week, July 25. 2017

Categories: Teacher Collaboration, Teacher Satisfaction, Positive Relationships, Professional Learning Communities



How Should Administrators Empower Teacher Collaboration?

Summary: This article supports the notion of distributed leadership and teacher empowerment, using the model of Professional Learning Communities as an example for ways to honor teacher voice.

Source:  Shalina Chatlani. Education DIVE, July 6. 2017

Categories:  Teacher Leadership, Teacher Voice, Teacher Collaboration, Professional Learning Communities




Happy Teachers Practice Self-Care

Summary:  This article suggests that social emotional competence for teachers is a necessary ingredient for social emotional learning for their students.  The writer talks about a series of activities for teachers that are designed to improve their own SEL while contributing to their happiness.

Source: Madeline Will, Education Week, June 7, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, Teacher Collaboration, Teacher Satisfaction, Mindfulness



Pickeral Graphic

Creating the Conditions in Support of Collective Wisdom

by Terry Pickeral

My colleague, Dr. Maurice Elias authored a recent blog titled The Power of Collective Wisdom (link: He discusses successful strategies to effectively implement education programs in high-risk environments.

According to Elias, “We increase our chances of success by tapping collective wisdom. That refers to the wisdom of our own school community, of other implementers of the same program, and of the wider implementation world.”

“Collective wisdom—referred to by such names as professional learning communities (PLCs), communities of practice, and networked improvement communities—allows each of us to benefit from the experience of many of us. Success is in the ongoing process, in being able to adjust to the inevitable and numerous deviations from the plan that will befall any school-based intervention attempt, even with the best evidence-based program,” continues Elias.

I believe that engaging others in our implementation strategies is a critical element to deepen and broaden an education program and corresponding practices.  However from my experiences there are inherent challenges to creating and sustaining effective collective wisdom communities in schools.

First, schools are not consistently organized to support school wide collaboration often structured on grade level and/or academic subject partnerships.

Second, teachers, staff and administrators are not always aware of the range of attributes of their colleagues and thus less able to maximize their contributions to collaborative strategies.

Third, schools may not create and sustain a safe environment for teachers, staff and administrators to share their experiences, ideas, strategies and resources.

Fourth, as we focus on the wisdom of our school community we do not always consider students, parents and community partners as potential members of our communities of practice.

Overcoming these challenges is not impossible as evidenced by the increasing number of schools committed to and trained for sustaining professional learning communities.  I believe schools can make creating and sustaining collective wisdom networks a priority if they:

  1. Focus on all school constituents;
  2. Ensure each is supported to contribute to the network;
  3. Understand the many attributes of colleagues and constituents and maximize their diverse knowledge, skills and dispositions;
  4. Measure and improve the school’s climate (quality and character) to provide a safe, equitable and engaging environment for each member of the network to effectively contribute; and
  5. Frequently monitor the progress and success of the network to continuously improve each participant’s attributes and the positive impact on students.

Maximizing the collective wisdom in schools can and should become a normal part of engagement, implementation and sustainability strategies ensuring each member of the school community contributes and benefits from these formal networks.


Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.

Link to Terry Pickeral’s Blog…





The Myth of Walkthroughs: 8 Unobserved Practices in Classrooms

Summary:  This article looks at the practice of Classroom Walk-throughs (informal observations) and provides some insight on what might be missed or misconstrued in using this practice.

Source:  Peter DeWitt, Education Week, April 19, 2016

Categories:  Classroom Practice, School Culture/Climate, Teacher Evaluation, Teacher Collaboration




Creating a Culture of Support and Collaboration

“Teamwork makes the dream work” is a common and catchy phrase. It is familiar because it is true. The challenge is in creating a true team (not just a group of people) that is able to:

1. Define what the dream is
2. Clarify what it looks like
3. Respect and incorporate individual strengths and perspectives
4. Encourage one another
5. Provide the ongoing support necessary for individuals to be there best selves and work together for a common purpose.

Successful schools are inspiring, challenging, supportive, safe, healthy, engaging, and respectful communities of learners. Successful schools are places in which all individuals are supported and protected, and the specific needs of vulnerable populations are addressed. It all begins with everyone having an understanding of how his or her contributions add to the life-long impact of the school experience.

Unfortunately, limited budgets, testing, and additional mandates concerning teacher observations and SGOs have added to the pressure of teaching. These mounting pressures can cause teachers and administrators to lose sight of why they chose education in the first place.

In the blink of an eye, valuable amounts of time, energy and effort are placed into actions that do not contribute to the ultimate goal. As a result, the focus is directed on ticking boxes, completing everything I need to do, and withdrawing into silos.  The outcome…valuable opportunities to collaborate and support one another are lost.

Positive culture and climate is not just for students. It is the foundation for the every school that achieves success and prepares students for life. It must be integrated throughout the entire school community and lays the foundation of a shared vision and the contribution of everyone in a positive way.

We know that the sum is greater than its individual parts. So the question becomes, where do we start?

Five Ways to Develop a Culture of Support and Collaboration

1. Create opportunities for teachers, staff, parents and students to get to know each other. Getting to know each other involves more than knowing each other’s name and grade level. When teachers learn more about the person behind the title, they become more connected, engaged and impactful.

2. Clarify the big picture. It is critical to clarify what teachers, administrators and parents do, each person’s role in the big picture and ensure that the values that drive how school leaders work together and support each stakeholder matches their individual and collective actions.

3. Develop and empower school climate teams. Innovation often does not trickle down from the top; it tends to emanate from the bottom up. It is important to provide the tools and resources for school climate teams to meet consistently and collaboratively innovate, problem solve and incorporate student voice.

4. Leverage personality. When teachers better understand their own personality and the strengths and development areas of the personalities with whom they work, they gain insight into how to effectively support each other. We can borrow from one-another’s strengths and join with other to offset our own weaknesses.

5. Recognition and acknowledgment. It doesn’t erase the challenges, however, understanding the impact of your role and being reminded that what you do actually does make a difference is powerful.

Teresa LaSala shared about the importance of encouragement in creating a culture of support and collaboration, drawing from the ideas of Dr. Jane Nelson, author of Positive Discipline:

“When you encourage someone, you are creating a space for him or her to take a step toward being his or her best self.”

Three types of encouragement that strengthen the team are:

1. Descriptive Encouragement: “I notice…(without value judgments like good or nice)

2. Appreciative Encouragement: “I appreciate…” or “Thank you for…”

3. Empowering Encouragement: “I have faith in you” or “I trust you to…”


Patrick Fennell, as well as Teresa La Sala, do workshops based on the above blog. He is Founder/President, Empowerment Solutions, LLC   Phone – 917.642.5882 , You can reach Patrick at