OTL for School Leaders

We often talk about opportunity to learn for the “students” in our schools, but what about OTL for school leaders? How do school leaders maximize their learning, and in so doing, become leaders of learning?

In last week’s #822chat, we had Chris Chappotin leading the discussion. Let’s look at some of the top answers.

Growth as a Leader

Question 1: What is growing you most as a leader right now?

“This year I have been doing a lot more writing. Taking the risk to put my ideas out there publicly and getting feedback has helped me grow tremendously.” – Andrea D. Chavez-Kopp

Creating and sharing, that’s the essence of the #822chat and Principal Tribe movement.

We believe in:

  • Tribe: People like us are stronger together, create together, and shape culture together.
  • Reverberation: We believe in the idea that voices should be heard, and when so, positive change can result.
  • Innovation: We believe in the power of creative outlier thinking.

It’s more than just beliefs, it’s a mode of learning for leaders. As Andrea stated above, the acts of creating and doing benefits the receiver of the creation and creator herself.

Developing Aspiring Leaders

Question 2: How are you developing aspiring leaders?

“By identifying teachers and students with [the] intangibles and helping them develop leadership skills. Talking to them, offering to be a mentor. Engaging them in critical problem-solving scenarios. Helping them set goals and plans to achieve those goals.” – Cristobal Saldana

What are those “intangibles” of school leaders? It’s been said that the best leaders possess most of the following traits:

  • Social Judgment
  • Presence
  • Self-Insight
  • Executive Maturity
  • Fallibility
  • Will
  • Fortitude
  • Self-Efficacy

“As a principal and superintendent, I led leadership academies with the purpose of building leadership capacity. Over the past year and a half, as a consultant, I’ve worked with 7 teams of teachers building leadership programming and two aspiring leaders programs.” – Aubrey Patterson

Leadership programs and academies can work wonders in schools and school districts. They give options for career growth, provide experience for resumes (of the facilitator and attendee), and broaden the perspectives of more people in your schools.


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Conditions for Learning

Opportunity to learn was originally defined as the alignment between what was taught and what was assessed. It has gradually taken on a more specific meaning where educators and stakeholders are developing taxonomies and defining conditions for learning that allow deeper alignment between actions and outcomes.

This includes concepts related to conditions for learning “by focusing on student and teacher learning, school leaders keep their focus on outcomes rather than inputs. This inevitably leads to working side by side with teachers, supporting and decluttering efforts to improve teachers’ learning and that of their students.”

As we saw in the recent 822chat, opportunity to learn is taking on a meaning of addressing the needs of the whole child.

What are Necessary Conditions for Learning?

“Engagement, basic needs are met to be ready to learn, feeling safe.” – Michelle Smart

“Relationships have to be built first, if a student knows you care about them and why you want to teach them, then you’ll see magic happen.” – Ryan Timm

“Once the students’ basic needs are met then true learning can occur – their mental health, their physical health, their pain is dealt with, then with a safe, encouraging, and stimulating environment, amazing things can happen!” – Kris Felicello

Ensuring the Right Conditions for Learning

What can school leaders do to ensure the conditions for learning are established in schools and classrooms?

“Relationships are the most important part of ensuring conditions for learning. Some take longer to develop. The road can be long and slow for some students to develop connections, but the more we hang in there and stick with our kids, the better the outcome.” – Erika Garcia

“Establishing inspirational relationships with teachers and staff, coaching teachers as designer artists of learner experiences, and coaching teachers in evidence-based best-practice strategies.” – Chris Chappotin

“By keeping learning the focal point and giving teachers the support they need to be flexible and creative to meet the needs of the students.” – Tracy Bratton


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822Chat Questions and Topics – Spring 2019

Home of the #822Chat and PrincipalTribe

We had some amazing chats at the start of 2019! In January, we focused on strong instructional leadership. In February, we explored the importance of a clear and focused mission.

What’s next?

Here are the questions and topics for Spring 2019 at #822Chat.

And, as always, you can join the tribe here: oppurtinity to learn.

Learning can occur virtually anytime and anywhere. Learning can be intended or unintended, in school or out of school, alone or with others. – Lezotte & Snyder, 2011

March 2 & 5 – Conditions for Learning

What are the necessary conditions for learning? What can school leaders do to ensure the conditions for learning are established in schools and classrooms?

March 9 & 12

822Chat is off for spring break.

*Knitzer & Lefkowitz, 2006

March 16 & 19

Guest Host

March 23 & 26

Guest Host

April 2019 – Monitoring Student Progress

What gets monitored gets done. At least, that’s how the saying goes. We use testing to monitor student progress because it’s efficient and scales easily.

However, we’ve learned the many unintended consequences of testing, over-testing, and standardized testing. So how can we monitor student progress in ways that provide the benefits of big data, but without the detriments of a hyper-focus on testing?

“The primary emphasis in the effective school is to use assessment information as the basis for changing the instructional game plan…the more frequently student progress is monitored and instruction is adjusted accordingly, the more quickly the school will achieve its learning-for-all mission.” – Lezotte & Snyder, 2011

March 30 & April 2 – Measuring Progress

What are some meaningful ways to measure student progress? Other than standardized testing, how can we efficiently measure progress in math and reading?

April 6 & 9 – What to Measure?

Other than math and reading, what are some priority areas to monitor student progress? How can school leaders with progress data to measure their own success as a leader?

April 13 & 16

Guest Host

April 20 & 23

Guest Host

April 27 & 30 – Goal-Setting

What are some of the best ideas you’ve seen with using goals with students? What are some best practices for students to monitor their own progress?

May 2019 – Safe and Orderly Environment

There are minimal requirements for the functioning of a school. Safety and order is chief among them. Emotional and physical safety comes first. Then structures to create a sense of order.

“In a chaotic environment, principals can’t lead, teachers can’t teach, and students can’t learn.” – Lezotte & Snyder, 2011

May 4 & 7 – Safe, Orderly, and Positive

What commitments must be first made by the adults in a school to ensure a safe and orderly environment? What are ways to increase positive student behaviors toward the end of the school year?

May 11 & 14 – Emotional Safety

What does the phrase emotional safety mean to you? Where do you draw the line between pressure to succeed and emotional harm?

May 18 & 21

Guest Host

May 25 & 28

Guest Host


If you’d like to join the 822 tribe, we welcome you. You can create with us, chat with us, or learn from our weekly collaborations.

Mission Drift and Focus

Home of the #822Chat and PrincipalTribe

What is mission drift? How does it affect schools and learning? How can you avoid mission drift?

This was the topic of our #822chat on February 23 & 26, 2019, and the top Tweets shed great insight into the importance of having a clear and focused mission.

What is Mission Drift?

“Mission drift = slowly losing sight of our purpose. Getting caught up in initiatives & forgetting to measure them against our deeper philosophy.” – Carla Meyrink

An organization and a school can experience mission drift. Professionals can also experience mission drift in their own sense of purpose.

“Mission drift is losing site of your WHY. I have experienced this and am thankful I was able to reflect and get back on track!” – Colleen Schmit

“Sometimes you get lost in the process and you forget about the purpose and the reason you are doing something. It happens. It’s okay that it happens. But, when it does, it is time to refocus on your why.” – Cristobal T. Saldana

How Can You Avoid Mission Drift?

“Mission focus doesn’t happen by accident. Habits and intentional practice come from making the mission a priority. That means allocating resources, time and energy even when it’s not fun. Eventually, the mission becomes indistinguishable from school culture.” – Andrea D. Chavez-Kopp

“Remember who you are collectively, what you stand for, what you strive for, and how you’ll celebrate milestones along the way. ” – Nick Duffy

Follow the educational thinkers and leaders from this 822Chat: @carlameyrink @fourmonkeypress @saldanact @DuffysClassroom

Priority Purpose of Schooling

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Purpose gives meaning to the work we do. But are we clear on our purposes? Do we have a priority purpose?

The first question was about purpose. What is a priority purpose of schooling?

Some answered with reality. This is the current state. And others answered by envisioning what could be (or should be) the purpose of schooling. Here are the top three responses.

The purpose and priority of school are creating productive, well informed, well educated, problem-solving citizens…with character development thrown in! – Melanie Lee

“I feel like the priority of education should be helping students figure out who they want to be…not what but who. We go to school to become better daily and improve…let’s push for students to grow daily.” – Cathleen Beachboard

Measuring Priority Purpose

Is there an alignment between what we measure and what our priority purposes are? Can there be such alignment?

If schools have a mission, a priority purpose, are we measuring our progress to that purpose?

“One thing I know for sure is that the numbers lie. It is so disheartening to teachers to know how far they have come with students and yet they are judged by one day in the school year on a test that may or may not even be aligned to the standards they teach.” – Tracy Bratton

“In my world of special education none of the “assessments or measurements of achievement” truly reflect the progress my students make. We get so caught up in the assessments and checklists that we forget to educate the child.” – Lauren Maher

“The current accountability measures reflect what is easiest to measure. We know we need to measure more but do not yet have a system to do effectively.” – Kelly Christopherson

One thing I know for sure is that the numbers lie. It is so disheartening to teachers to know how far they have come with students and yet they are judged by one day in the school year on a test. @asbellprincipal #822chat Click To Tweet

An Empowering Mission

This week’s #822chat focused on the empowering mission. A school mission that builds confidence, liberates creativity, and supports the induction of new teachers.

Our special host was Aubrey Patterson former superintendent and CEO.

In this post we share the top Tweets on the two questions:

  1. How does a focused mission build confidence and liberate the creativity of your team or teachers?
  2. How can a focused mission be used to support the induction of new teacher to your school or team?

Focused Mission and Confidence

Several trends emerged from this question. First buy-in is crucial for the mission to be empowering.

Second, a focused mission empowers because it provides safe boundaries within which creativity can flourish.

“Assuming the mission included the input of many stakeholders… Buy-in creates confidence because you are more willing to commit to decisions and goals.” @MrsHigginsAP

“You make a good point. We do need team buy in first and it is important for everyone to understand the “why” and how it benefits our students before they can get behind it.” @PrincipalSmart

“A focused mission allows people to feel confident that the path they are on is the correct one. They feel safe and secure. When your basic needs are met it frees you up to think more creatively because (some) fear is removed.” @Bill_Huber_

A focused mission empowers people because it provides safe boundaries within which creativity can flourish. @822Tribe Click To Tweet

Mission, Support, New Teachers

Supporting new teachers is more than just a manual or a meeting. It is about providing a clear and focused mission.

The benefits are clear. A focused mission for induction of new teachers:

  • Allows teams to work in sync.
  • Encourages immediate integration in the community.
  • Creates a starting place for shared goals.
  • Invites contribution immediately.
  • Fosters a sense of belonging.
  • Implies that status quo is not the goal!

“Winning Olympic rowing teams win because all are in sync—all oars rowing in the same direction at the same time. A clear mission helps teachers new to our team to gain a clear vision of where we are headed and how we will get there.” @marcihouseman

“A focused mission has the potential to take some of the “I’m new! Everyone knows what they’re doing but me! What do I do?” type of pressure off and allows more immediate integration into the community b/c of shared goals.” @KaylaKresowaty

“A focused mission helps everyone maintain focus when times are tough…fatigue and burn out happen. Being focused on the collective commitments and mission help teachers directly and indirectly support one another by giving kids consistency.” @MrsMelanieLee

“New teachers need support & community. A focused mission invites contribution to school culture right away & fosters a sense of belonging. It also helps build bridges between old & new ways of thinking. Mission implies that status quo is not the goal!” @adkopp76

New teachers need support & community.  A focused mission invites contribution to school culture right away & fosters a sense of belonging.  It also helps build bridges between old & new ways of thinking.  Mission implies that status quo is not the goal!
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Moving From Mission to Action

This was the first week of our February chats, and we’re focusing on mission. How do we align our school with a stated purpose? How do will inspire others with a sense of purpose? What is mission?

What Are Some Ways to Create Cohesion Between Mission and Action?

What good is a mission or a mission statement if there’s no action to back it up? On the flip side, what good is action if there’s no common purpose giving it direction?

“I agree with @drjoy77 and @mafost we have to create goals that are larger than us! We have to find something that impacts our colleagues and motivates them to do more.” – AJ Bianco

Bill Huber says, “To match mission and action they must:

  • Involve all stakeholders
  • Have buy-in
  • Take the time to foster and develop
  • Be actually aligned not just in name
  • Understand the strategy
  • Be bold”

“Persistence! Well begun is half done – isn’t that the phrase? Sometimes just taking those baby steps rather than waiting for everything to be perfect gets you from mission to action.” – Julie MacDonald

“You can talk a thing to death, I mean am I right or am I right? But, what steps are you actually taking toward doing the thing. This week, I found myself some PD to make myself better! Stopped my whining and started doing!” – Miss Simon

Mission to Action: You can talk a thing to death…stopped whining and started doing! @HOWareyousmart #822chat Click To Tweet

Barriers to a Common Sense of Purpose

“The biggest one, I think, is “everyone’s understanding of school.” We all operate out of our schemas, and we do what makes sense to us. If change is needed, leaders will have to cast a vision that helps build a new schema that makes sense for all stakeholders.” – Jeffrey Frieden

“I think too often we create obstacles for ourselves and our staff. There are umpteen incredible communication strategies available to build a clear meritocracy that supports a common vision. We too often wing it via natural abilities and don’t get every voice.” – Aubrey Patterson

“Lack of clear and purposeful communication. Staff need to see the why in order to value the purpose.” – Nancy Foster

“Apathy, comfort with status quo, institutional arteriosclerosis, negativity, fear of change, insecurities, and lack of spirited leadership.” – Gary Gruber

Learn More in Previous 822Chats

If you’re interested in reading more about passionate school leaders, Principal Tribe publishes the weekly Principal Perspectives where one principal is nominated and highlighted for their excellent work in school leadership.

School Leadership, Empowerment & Frogs

This week’s #822Chats were hosted by Jason Salhaney and focused on school leadership in two specific areas:

  1. Empower others to find their passions.
  2. Doing the Tough Stuff (Eating that Frog)

In previous chats, we discussed qualities of effective school leaders and why is followership important for school leaders. This chat is about digging deeper in school leadership. Here are the top tweets.

How Do You Empower Others?

Leadership is about how you make other people feel. How do you empower others? In what ways do you help people find their passions?

“Leadership development and purposeful induction should be key measurable pieces in the job description of any school or district leadership position. But we also must to dig deeper, ask what straw stirs each person’s drink and encourage from conversation. – Aubrey Patterson

“You have to embrace people’s passions and support their growth . It may be something small small like leading a book study or starting a new club. As a leader you have to take risk.” – Tracy Bratton

“This year I’ve asked teachers to lead discussions/PD, and I’ve found that they’ve been very serious about their topic choice. My staff seems to be more engaged & intrigued by this new system, and I’m learning a lot about them as instructional leaders.” – Shanee Charles

Eat That Frog

Many times leaders have to “eat that frog,” which means do the tough stuff first. What is one thing you need to “eat that frog”?

“Well if we HAD school tomorrow I would have to have a critical conversation with a member if the executive leadership team who dropped the ⚽️ today a bit.” – Bill Huber

“Tackling it from the other person’s perspective and coming at it with a collaborative approach seems to put the conversation at ease. I truly believe that every day is a new day, fresh with no mistakes in it. No one sets out to make mistakes.” – Sheila Jurke

“I need to have a conversation with a parent about a tough issue. It will not be enjoyable but it may help draw the family closer to our school as far as a connection. Thinking of it as an “opportunity”. – Chris Legleiter


If you’re interested in reading more about passionate school leaders, Principal Tribe publishes the weekly Principal Perspectiveswhere one principal is nominated and highlighted for their excellent work in school leadership.

Why Is Followership Important for Principals?

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Principals know the important role of leadership. Public schools are a function of national and state/regional legislation. Policy drives practice in most school systems. So what place does this leave for the concept of followership? Can there be leadership without followers?

This was the topic of the previous #822Chat. Some solid insights were shared. Here are the top Tweets.

If leadership is a function of followership, what does this mean for school leadership?

In our Saturday morning chat, the top Tweets focused on a central theme: school leadership depends on a collective commitment to students based on a cycle of mutual respect – starting with school leaders.

“A leader does not want followership driven by compliance but from respect. A leader builds the capacity in others allowing them to be followed as well!” –Julie DiGiacomo

“When you have a committed collective of educators that love students, are in the trenches with each other, and are growing in research-based instructional best-practices…stay the course.” –Chris Chappotin

School Leadership in the Context of Mandates and Policy

In our Tuesday night chat, the conversation took on a different context. School leadership that thrives in conjunction with mandates and policy.

It requires school leaders to be creative and flexible.

Here are the top Tweets.

“People won’t follow what they don’t believe in. Period. Policy can’t be the leading factor. Students are.” – Mrs. Higgins

“I remember Roland Barth once saying, “A good principal makes sure to let everyone on staff play some of the marbles.” I didn’t think it all that deep, but it sunk in and stayed now for 16 years.” – Aubrey Patterson

“If the leader has no room or freedom to lead the charge and create (necessary)change, not many will be compelled to follow. Lead with and for your “Why”. People follow those who are passionate about their purpose.” – Julie MacDonald

If you’re interested in reading more about passionate school leaders, Principal Tribe publishes the weekly Principal Perspectives where one principal is nominated and highlighted for their excellent work in school leadership.

What is a Compelling Vision?

A compelling vision is about emotion and action. #822Chat

Vision and mission statements give schools starting points and an overall direction of where they want to be in the future. A vision statement is the public declaration used to point toward goals or future reform.

Few schools move forward without a vision. Or do they?

There is a difference between a vision and a compelling vision.

In the recent #822Chat, we discussed this difference. Among the top Tweets, we heard a compelling vision is:

  • Inspiring and pulls people together.
  • Not created from the top down.
  • A point of change and a call to action.
  • Tied to emotion and action.

Top Tweets on Compelling Vision

“What comes to mind for me is collective vision that people are inspired by and believe in.” – Nicole Biscotti

“A Compelling vision is something that pulls everyone together & people are all on board with. Usually created as a team & not dictated from the district or administration.” – Sarah ML

“Anyone in education or life can have a vision…A compelling vision is something different and awesome. A compelling vision is something you want to be a part of because you believe in it. You believe that this vision could be the change agent that you or your school needs.” – Bill Huber

“I often feel that a vision might be something chosen by someone else and you’ve stumbled into and agreed upon. A compelling vision is one that drives you, challenges you, keeps you awake at night. Something you’ve chosen.” – Jennifer M Barnes

“I think the compelling part is where we find our true purpose. The vast majority of us have a vision that all students will succeed, but what is the compelling piece? – Tracy Bratton

“All schools have a vision. Some of them sit on letterhead and in the footnote of our emails. But a compelling vision is one that jumps off the page into the hearts, minds and soul of all stakeholders. It’s a literal call to action.” – Erika Garcia

When is #822Chat? Saturdays at 8:22am CST and Tuesdays 8:22pm CST. Learn more here.

Now It’s Your Turn

Miss the chat? Have questions or thoughts? Share your thoughts about what is a compelling vision by tweeting with #822chat or by sharing this post with a friend or someone on your team.

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