While discussing a parental concern with a teacher over an assignment that had been made by a substitute during the teacher's absence, the principal questioned the teacher on her inconsistent attendance. After having admitted that she had failed to properly prepare for the assignments that she had left for her students while absent, the teacher's defense for the situation during her absence placed blame for the substitute. Implying that the substitute had not followed her directions, the principal interjected that the teacher's poor attendance had also been a factor in the problem, including the inconsistent quality of instruction and the resultant opportunity for miscommunication. When the principal noted that she had been absent one fourth of the time over the last six weeks, the teacher immediately broke in to tears and offered to resign.
After resigning, the teacher citied one reason for the decision as that of betrayal on the principal's behalf. She stated that he principal had approved personal leave for her to travel and visit with her son and that this approved leave accounted for the majority of the time she had been absent.
Approaching the discussion from a perspective of positional leadership rather than one of emotional leadership, the principal failed to recognize the emotions from both sides of the desk as they existed at the time. The combination of the principal's anger over the teacher's failure to provide a quality program for her students, and the teacher's feelings of failure and vulnerability contributed to the breakdown in this situation. It is obvious that this confrontation represented only a minute piece of the relationship that existed between the principal and the teacher. While the teacher's attendance was a contributing factor to the parental concern, the administrator does have ownership in the attendance pattern of the teacher, given the fact that approval had been secured prior to the absence. The discussion should have centered on ways to assist the teacher in performing her job in a more professional manner and not on the administrator's anger with the teacher.