Activity 6: What Keeps You Up at Night?

Activities for Collaborative Staff Conversations

This activity is designed as a series of collaborative conversations for school leadership team members (administrative, grade level, steering, instructional, etc.) to improve their practice in resolving complex problems by using appropriate and legal actions. In doing so, school leaders/administrators use informed judgment to resolve the issues that affect 21st-century student learning and produce outcomes so as not to “keep administrators up at night.”


“What Keeps You Up” Topics and Resources

“What Keeps You Up” Topic Resources for Presentation and Discussion
LGBT Issues Reading: “Navigating LGBT Issues,” Principal Leadership, December 2015, pp. 32–37.

Position statement: “Transgender Students,” May 2016.

Webinar: What Principals Need to Know about Equitable Treatment of Transgender Youth,” February 10, 2016.

Teacher Evaluations Reading: “Teacher Evaluations Require a Mix of Strategies,” Principal Leadership, March 2016, pp. 30–35.

Policy brief: “Supporting Principals in Implementing Teacher Evaluation Systems: Recommendations from practicing principals to improve instruction and learning” 2014.

Position statement: “Value-Added Measures in Teacher Evaluation,” February 18, 2015.

Position statement: “Teacher Supervision and Evaluation,” February 24, 2011.

Webinar: “Leveraging Teacher Evaluation for a Culture of Growth,” November 20, 2014.

Common Core Tug of War Reading: “Common Core at a Crossroads,Principal Leadership, March 2016, pp. 24–29.

“Common Core Curriculum Resources: A Scavenger Hunt?” Principal Leadership, May 2016, pp. 16–18.

Position statement: “Common Core State Standards and Assessments in K–12 Education,” last modified July 2013.

Position statement: “Promoting Rigorous Courses for all Students,” March 11, 2010.

Webinar: “Rigor in the Classroom,” October 14, 2015.

Bullying and Cyberbullying Readings:

“Why Cyberbullying Ups the Ante,” Principal Leadership, January 2016, pp. 46–49.

“Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities,” Principal Leadership, November 2015, pp.18–20.

Social Networks and
School Employees
Reading: “Social Networking and School Employees,” Principal Leadership, December 2014, pp. 10–13.
To Test or Not to Test … Reading: “Standardized Testing in Flux,” Principal Leadership, November 2015, pp. 34–38.

Position statement: “High Stakes Assessments,” last modified February 18, 2015.

Position statement: “Opt-Out Policies for Student Participation in Standardized Assessments,” last modified February 24, 2016.

Curriculum and Experiential Learning/Project-Based Learning Reading: “Culture and Curriculum Challenges in the Classroom,” Principal Leadership, January 2016, pp. 56–58.

Position statement: “Online Learning,” May 2016.

Reading: “The Evolution and Success of a Colorado High School Through Project-Based Learning,” Principal Leadership, October 2014, pp. 16–21.

Special Education Compliance Reading: “Tips for Working with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students,” Principal Leadership, May 2016.

Reading: “Dealing with ADA Employment Issues,” Principal Leadership, May 2016.

Reading: “Protecting Students with Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities,” U.S. Department of Education, last modified: 10/16/2015.

Video: Young, Gifted & Black With Autism, LaChan Hannon

Process for Presentation Preparations

Each member of the leadership/steering committee team(s) will prepare a staff presentation with resources and discussion prompts on one “What keeps you up?” topic. Time will be allotted to review given resources with a national perspective, identify local and district personnel who are available for support, and research the policies and procedures in effect in the district and the state. Set up at least one viewing station with a computer, screen, and internet connection for resource review and information searches. Each topic will then be presented to the full leadership team. Local research and familiarity with these materials will aid in formulating sound decisions based on knowledge of the policies and appropriate protocols in your district, state, and nation. Practice is crucial. The activities to follow will help.

  • Select the school leadership team(s) whose members will participate in the exploration of district and state policies and direct the staff discussion.
  • Review those “what keeps you up” topics that affect your local school population and/or are appropriate for informed school leaders.
  • Assign each member a “What keeps you up?” topic and corresponding resources from one line of the matrix above. (Note: If the team is large, assign several members to each topic and provide time for them to collaborate on their presentation and discussion.)
  • Each member is to become the “expert” on the materials she or he has read, viewed, or researched. Ask each person (or small group) to summarize the given resources for the rest of the group, provide local and state policies, and identify implications for school practice.
  • Each person or small group should be allotted time for research to familiarize themselves with local board and state policies concerning the topic, to identify key district personnel who can give support, and to locate the state or local regulations that inform policies or procedures.

Process for Planning a Leadership Team Presentation and Discussion

  • Each team leader should plan a rational and productive discussion of the policies, procedures, and outcomes of the policies as related to the school, its administrative team, and each student. (The process used by the leadership team can easily be replicated for a presentation to the full faculty using one or all of the “What keeps you up?” topics.)
  • As each member or small group plans their presentation, prepare a conversation that includes answers to the following Discussion Prompts:
    1. What actions were legally supported in the article?
    2. What are the legal and appropriate practices and policies in the district and/or state regarding this topic?
    3. What are the implications for your school? What additional strategies should our team implement to improve our practices?
    4. What preconceived notions might inhibit sound judgment concerning this topic? What practical examples of cases or litigation can you find from your district or state to clarify the outcomes and how they were resolved?
    5. What local departments and/or support personnel in your district office can provide policies and procedures and answer questions? What protocol should be followed if you have questions or need support? Has that protocol been vetted with your principal?
    6. What previous or current school cases and their resolutions have you identified from your research?
    7. What resources are needed to ensure informed judgments/resolutions for cases at your school?
  • Prepare your “expert” presentation: Summarize your research, identify resources to support school and district personnel, and direct a discussion with your team that should familiarize every member with the topic.
  • Distribute links and/or copies of resources or videos for reference in resolving student outcomes. (Set up a viewing station for online resources.)
  • Ask individuals to suspend their assumptions. Use specific resources and references to support outcomes. Utilize question prompts and add discussion questions to continue the conversation in a way that is most relevant to your school.
  • Direct a leadership team discussion about those strategies and initiatives that are appropriate and legal at your school.

Extend and Apply

  • Select a representative group to familiarize itself with the Discussion Guide Planning Templates for use with initiative planning.
  • Prepare a summary of appropriate actions for each topic and use the tools to document staff members who are a point of contact for each topic, identify school personnel and the location of resources, and complete an algorithm for formulating legal and appropriate school actions based on current district policies and procedures.