Aug 15 / Joel Medley

Teaching for imPACT: Accountability

If you want to teach for imPACT, then understand that an act always has greater influence when it is matched with passion. We are now moving into specific teacher and leader actions, and our focus in this blog will be accountability. It is a way to facilitate both academic and instructional change.

Unfortunately, accountability has become a “buzz word” as well as a “bad word” in education. That last aspect shows just how misguided the understanding of accountability has become.  Why?  Because it is most often associated as a top-down kind of initiative. True accountability – the kind that makes a difference for personal and professional performance – is a bottom-up structure.

Accountability, simply stated, is an individual evaluating their contribution to the overall performance of an organization. How can that definition be a bad thing? Obviously, it’s not!

The problem arises because individuals rarely ask how their work is advancing the mission and vision of the larger organization. We simply work each day and can talk about our inputs; however, we cannot speak to how well those inputs translated into outputs. Because of that gap, someone in a “higher up” position steps in.

Here is a personal example for you. As a former history teacher, I cringed when people said that history was boring; and I wanted my students to love history. We often did fun activities that the students enjoyed year after year, but did they really make a difference for them? One of the most popular was our old document project. We took regular printer paper and “aged” it by using damp tea bags and magnifying glasses to burn the edges. It was experiential and always produced smiles and memories, but how did that help them see the value of our Republic or the historical concepts that could help shape future decisions? The answer is simple – it did not.

To be a teacher or leader with personal and professional accountability that will make a difference for students, answer each question below and do so in an honest manner:

1. How well do I know the goals for my students, team, and whole school?
2. Which of the goals above do I have clear data showing that my inputs are positively influencing progress toward those goals?
3. Are there goals where I have evidence that my inputs are negatively affecting those goals?
4. What should change right now to shift that negative to a positive?
5. When was the last time I asked for and listened to constructive feedback? How did I change?

If you do not like the honest answers you provided, well, an opportunity is resting right before you. As Stephen Covey said, “We can change because we have the power to choose how we will act” (Covey, Primary Greatness, xv). If you model accountability, it will spread to others – that’s a guarantee.

In closing, you can be accountable by (1) knowing  expectations deeply, (2) understanding how your work matches the expectations clearly, and (3) doing the right things to produce results daily.

Those simple steps will bring improvement to schools, and you will be living an important principle because…
Teachers. Deserve. Better.