Ep. 5: Reframing Faculty Accountability as Clarity of Expectations

Are we sick of the word “accountability” yet? Once you get into this fresh conversation facilitated by Buck Cooper and joined by Meriwether Truckner, Margaret Mains, and Blake Ware, you won’t be. They explore a gamut of tensions raised by the notion of faculty accountability, but they keep circling back to the most central of tenants: the need for a foundation of clear expectations. After making show notes from the conversation I left with a strong sense that this episode needs to be required listening for anyone who teaches, anyone who is in admin, and anyone who believes that “no one is out to be the weak link”; it’s simply we have a shortage of time and an overage of tasks. Hopefully that covers all of us, and hopefully this is just the beginning of the dialogue.  I recommend listening to the whole thing, but here’s a breakdown to help you find what you are most interested in hearing:

2:45-3:32: What does accountability mean within the St. Andrew’s community?

3:46-4:53: Where, according to Blake Ware, it gets “hairy”: the “reek that comes with wanting to hold others accountable and not maintain the same standards themselves” when we all have different workflows and responsibilities.

4:56-8:05 :Why we can’t hold teachers accountable unless there is first a clear articulation of expectations for all the things (recess duty, dealing with parents, number of grades, communication on MySA, and on and on).

8:06-11:20:  Why the variety of roles teachers play in the life of the school community makes holding teachers accountable complex; and why a good rationale for the “why” behind an expectation is really key, particularly in relation to stressful times in the rhythm of the school year.

11:23-13:22: Why we tend to hold teachers accountable for the wrong things (e.g. did she enter grades in a gradebook) when often the most important aspects of teaching are more difficult to “measure,” such as how you handled a day educating 81 students in-the-moment. 

13:40-16:38: Trust as autonomy in curricular choices, and why sometimes trust could work in tandem with more structure for faculty at a school like ours; Margaret Mains terrifying-inspiring (?) sink-or-swim-first-year-teaching story: “Teach them how to write; see you in May!”

16:39-18:00: When hidden expectations and judgements lurk behind “we trust you; do what you want!” . . . is there a middle ground?

18:01- 19:02: Expectations must be paired with a solid rationale lest they be perceived as a hoop to jump through. 

19:03-23:12: SA’s approach to onboarding new faculty: you were hired for a reason, independent school culture, and our attempts to provide more just-in-time information. 

23:14-26:12:  The tightrope walk between perceived faculty trust v. accountability and where this needs to be recalibrated

27:43-29:43: Blake’s starting point: trust that adults are the adults of the school, and complications of equity that can result when different aspects of the job are held as higher priorities to some than others.

29:40- 31:04: How the middle school committee structure that started this year helped define these needed expectations in a tangible way and even out labor in the community. 

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