In our experience, the more teaching is embedded in a relational awareness, the more teaching is carried out with relational accountability. Walking the path of TI leads to an increased understanding of the profound responsibility we hold to each other, to the four-legged, slithering, crawling, swimming and flying creatures, and to the plants and organisms on planet Earth.
Relational accountability is enacted through practicing the for Rs: respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 1991). These concepts are vital to a meaningful TI process: we strive to be respectful of where information comes from and the views of others; we attend to how our actions are meaningful and significant within community; we look for what we can give back to others; and we acknowledge and take ownership of our accountability towards changing schools for the better.
Within the TI course, you are invited to delve into ideas and questions that are deeply personal and connected to your inner passions and beliefs. You are invited to look at your inquiry through a new lens, a lens in which relationality becomes a key to setting your inquires in motion. Reciprocity and respect are useful in the conversations we need to engage in if we truly want to change our practice for the betterment of schools. Context and developing good relations are essential to the process of gathering information.
Let’s return for a moment, to unbounded questions. Sometimes, unbounded questions unsettle us. They can lead us down rather circuitous and unexpected paths, altering our sense of what we thought might be true and who we think we are as educators. Occasionally, people who carefully follow their TI journey even wonder aloud if are well suited to be teachers. We think this may be because unbounded questions foster relational accountability. For example, children who live in poverty have overlapping and interconnected issues they deal with (e.g. housing, nutrition, and stigma). As teachers, our beliefs around nutrition and stigma affect our students, perhaps obviously, but sometimes only on a more hidden level. If we let our questions guide us, we gradually are led to developing relational accountability. How do my actions affect this child? How do my deeply held (often hidden) beliefs, values and attitudes influence the situation? In this way, TI often reveals that in order to be relationally accountable, we must be the ones who change. In this realization our beliefs around what it means to teach can be challenged and we may take time to consider other career choices.
TI is an indigenist approach that resonates with relationality and is carried out with relational accountability. Indigenous epistemology and ontology can feel foreign to to those of us who were educated in the mainstream and this type of formidable relational accountability can sometimes bring up resistance. Often becoming more relationally accountable requires us to confront the norms with which we have lived. As Carr & Kemmis (1986) state, "...in order to think relationally, we must leave behind old habits and ways of being in our international community, local communities, and schools.”
We also have relational accountability to the knowledge we co-create together. Manulani Aluli Meyer (2008) says that the actual nature of knowledge is that which is sustainable.
Knowledge that endures is spirit driven. It is a life force connected to all other life forces. It is more an extension than it is a thing to accumulate. (p. 218)
So when we talk about knowledge, the stuff that much of schooling is based upon, we need to consider that knowledge might be that which withstands time and situations. We are called to be sustainable within all our relations, to consider generations beyond our own.