Believe it or not, this episode marks the start of the fifth season of Inspire & Innovate: A Podcast for Educators. This little podcast has seen a lot: from the start of the pandemic when we used video chat to connect us with thought leaders across the country; to a summer set of with stories from educators across the Jackson metro area; to last fall’s conversations that bringing together parents, faculty, and students across a range of issues; to last spring’s theme of bridging the faculty/admin divide. Throughout every episode, we’ve been lucky to feature practicing teachers who could bring in the truth of their lived experiences in classroom settings.
This season is “Reframing Accountability,” and if you’re wondering why we chose such a scary framing topic, look no further than our first episode: “Why is Accountability Such a Dirty Word?” In this episode, Toby Lowe, Rachel Scott, Michelle Portera, Kim Sewell, Julie Rust, and Buck Cooper engage in an honest conversation about our love-hate relationship with the word. The entire episode is worth a listen, but if you only have a few minutes and want to hop to a particular topic, check out our show notes below:
1:02-2:04: Toby, the idea man for this theme of accountability, shares why he wanted to frame up this season with such a baggage-fraught word.
4:12-5:38: Hear Michelle Portera unpack why the word “accountability” can induce eye rolls.
5:39-6:04: Why the word can make Rachel Scott cringe, particularly when it is issued forth by someone you don’t know.
6:05-12:45: How the “accountability movement” in schools has tainted the word. Hosts discuss how ”it sounded beautiful, but felt terrible . . . reduc[ing] your work [with youth] to a number on a spreadsheet.”
14:38-16:16: Reframing accountability as SELF-driven, not OTHER-driven.
16:15-17:28: Why accountability can only take root in community to grow into something good, and the problem with checklists.
17:29-19:49: Buck breaks down the word and discusses why “accountability in its best sense is about relationship being forged through explanation or dialogue.”
19:50-22:08: What Julie’s group text with old professor buddies has to do with accountability.
22:08-22:35: Why what happens when you do make a mistake matters.
23:34-26:00: Can accountability survive hierarchy, and relatedly, how can I be vulnerable to someone who can decide I don’t get to work here anymore?
26:27-28:33: Why is it so easy for us as adults to hold children accountable but so difficult to be held accountable? What falls apart as we grow older?
28:40- 31:00 Julie’s pet peeve and what to do with folks that don’t seem to have that internal drive.
31:45-34:32: The difference between accountability and justice, and a friendly reminder that “some people want to make the world burn.” Also, just because you think someone is slacking doesn’t mean you know the full story.
As great as this conversation was, it is just the beginning, the initial unraveling of the complex knot that composes accountability. Go ahead and do yourself a favor and subscribe so you can make sure not to miss our weekly drop of this season. In future weeks, we focus our lens on student accountability, parent accountability, faculty accountability, and admin accountability. Can accountability be a crucial piece of our commitment to community? Is is possible to reframe accountability as an act of radical love? I’m not sure about the answers, but I’m sure that leaning into these questions will be illuminating for us all. See you next week!