This case study is offered as a discussion starter. The incident happened. The names are changed, but the facts are straight from the principal’s mouth. How did it end? I’m holding that, for now. How should it end? What reasons would you offer for that decision? Discuss this case with colleagues in leadership.
The principal was to meet with Abe in a few minutes; she had written some notes the night before on an evaluation form in various categories about Abe’s teaching, the same form on which she hoped Abe would have jotted some about himself. She doubted he would have done more than four or five terse “OKs” and a couple of “Goods.” She knew he hated these “conferences.” Two years ago he had told others on the faculty about how “silly” it was to have gone through an evaluation session with her. Now she wondered what she ought to say to him when he came in.
She had written her notes last night after reading again the two observation reports of Abe’s teaching, observations she had done within the past year. She had also looked back and re-read her written evaluation of Abe two years before. She could also recall a couple of phone calls from parents who complained about Abe’s “laziness.” She remembered his bored look and demeanor in faculty meetings, his complaining in the faculty room about “kids nowadays simply don’t work like they used to,” and his belittling treatment of some women faculty with comments like, “Hey, Trish, the sink in the faculty room is a mess” and “Helen, I see your kids running in the halls again, but it’s tough for a woman to discipline ’em.”
But she remembered and had jotted some notes about other parents who thought: “Abe really prepares kids for the next grade; kids know history when they leave his room.” She recalled seeing his class’s history projects that involved writing epitaphs and biographies of historical figures that led the kids to do good research and writing. She remembered the time she saw him coming out of the public library with five books; she learned that he was a weekly customer who always left with an armload of books. She had heard kids in the hallways saying things like, “Hey, I gotta go; you can’t be late for Mr. Arbuckle’s class” and “He marks so hard, but my brother says you really learn history with him.”
What bothered the principal the most as she looked at her watch was the prospect of just sitting in the room with Abe when he seemed to scorn these conferences so much. He even scorned evaluation; he had told faculty, “It’s a waste of time for her to observe my classes. I know what I need to do and I do it. I respect her, but history is not her strong suit; what can she tell me about teaching?” At the last conference, she had tried to ask him questions about how he brought a Christian perspective to bear on history; he had quickly answered that “all of history is God’s story; that’s what I say a lot.” The whole conference had lasted ten minutes, ending with Abe’s “Is that it? I’ve got to run off some things before class.”
Now she assembled her notes and observation reports on her desk; Abe would be there in minutes. She wanted to be clearer on how she would conduct this conference; she scribbled notes to help her think.
What do you think? What would be the best way for the principal to approach Abe? Use this case as a discussion starter with your team and/or offer your comments in the Comments section below. In my next post, I’ll let you know how the evaluation session went.
– Dan Vander Ark