I’m Ready to Run!

I’ve been at this school since late September and hate it. It’s completely unprofessional from the intimidating, top-down admin, to the parents and students who think I’m just another form of servant. The director is really just a puppet of the parents and he always sides with the paying customers. There are no consequences here for cheating, copying or anything!

Outside school, the city itself lacks cultural activities or interest, and people with a few dollars in their pocket are rude and pushy, believing their money buys them this right. As a single women, I have come to dread being out on the streets, even with a male colleague,  as men make incredibly crude comments. Being here is like being in hell.

I read the ISR reviews and thought the teachers on your web site were just a bunch of  whining, moaning complainers. As it turns out, they were telling the actual truth. Naturally, the school director represented the school and location to me in an entirely different light.

I’m so torn about what to do. At the forefront of my thinking is the idea to get on a plane this weekend and fly out. This may have a bad effect on my future as an international educator but this place and these kids are are not worth sacrificing any more of my life for.

If you would be so kind as to post my comments on your web site it would really help me to hear what experienced overseas teachers have to say about my situation. I need to keep my present location under wraps at this time. I hope you understand.

104 Responses to I’m Ready to Run!

  1. Janene Louw says:

    Thank you so much for your help! I am in such turmoil. I signed an offer for a teaching position in the desert in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago. I have not sent in any other paperwork yet. Now I have received a head of department offer from a truly international school in Dubai. The package is really a wonderful opportunity. Can I be honest and tell the agent and the first school that I received a much better offer? Or what should I say? I feel very bad but also very scared to go on with the first job offer just because I feel bad. . It is a three year contract in nowhere.


    • educator says:

      I used to teach at Guangdong Country Garden School in Guangdong, Foshan Bgy,China.Plenty of us did run and if you wonder why, please read the reviews on the paid review section on ISR.Save yourself the major headache of working here!


    • John says:

      This school is well known around the world. At least Jeff Shaw was finally fired though.


  2. Sarah says:

    As a teacher who has taught at this school, I would say that you need to leave. The school is so poorly run that your life is actually in danger if you stay. I say this because (as a former teacher there) we were lied to and told that we had medical coverage (as per our contract) when it fact this was not true. So we were being carted to school everyday in a van with not enough seat belts, in a city with a high collision rate, and were not provided with medical coverage! You think this school is going to pay for medical bills once we are in the hospital and cannot teach?

    In many circumstances I would say stick it out, but at the Canadian International School you just need to leave. The working conditions are atrocious, and the fact that this school is accredited by Alberta Education is a joke.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barbara Lam says:

    You’d have to be here to understand- I “teach” (I use the term lightly), grade 10 and 11 girls and yesterday NOTHING was accomplished. The noise and chaos is unbelievable by Western classroom standards and the girls as a whole have NO INTEREST in learning BUT you WILL give them 99s on their report cards. They shriek, leave the room, ignore you, do each others hair, talk and yell over your lessons. Yesterday I was TRYING to read them a chapter of MOBY DICK and the poor 3 who actually WANTED to hear it COULDN’T and say as you will- There was NOTHING I COULD DO to SHUT THEM UP! And call and administrator? You are the problem. NOT the girls. If you are NOT here- you have NO IDEA, so don’t think you do.


    • Trapped in a nightmare says:

      This sounds like one of my classes. Education in this country is just a certificate. Everything is handed to them, but some students still aim for true success. My administration is afraid of the locals. White American women should not be running an all girl Emirati school. If you value education, professionalism, and respect, run.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. the MIss says:

    I have read a great deal about teachers wanting to leave a contract. My story is a bit different. My contract was ended and a severance payment was given. I tried to make it work, and asked for help, but they terminated my contract and I left. I was only in this position for three months. Should I use this on my CV? Should I bother getting a letter of recommendation (which will be bad)? I am not sure what to do! Any advice is greatly appreciated!


    • Keep bad experiences quiet says:

      Leave it off your CV. If you can, say you were studying and are yet to finish. A masters by correspondence is always a good reason. I did a runner from a school in Kuwait and went home and actually did finish my masters. My future employers have never blinked an eye. Mentioning it will only be an unnecessary complication involving awkward explanations. I now work in another ME country and am much happier; that bad experience is now long forgotten. Good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Isla says:

      Please help. I have come home for half-term and do not want to go back to Qatar or my job but I do want to work in another ME country in April or August. I have been told a fine can be imposed. My school never gives NOC even at the end of the contract so I am trapped in that school.
      Can fines be imposed through to the UK where I am now?
      I never received a medical card in the 18 months that I worked there. Nor was I paid an additional allowance for my extra responsibilties. Does this mean THEY are in breach of contract?
      I never want to work in Qatar again so can I just stay away?
      I gave in a resignation at the beginning of January only dated with that days date in case I wanted to leave. Can I say I have given notice?
      Please help!


    • I ran and I'm fine... says:

      You’ll get a travel ban in Qatar. They can’t touch you in the UK. The travel ban in Qatar will be lifted after a maximum of 2 years. You should still be able to visit other ME countries. It sounds like they are in breach of contract BIG TIME. You won’t be able to resolve that – you could take them to court but it’s a lengthy process and at your own expense. I don’t think it’s worth it. I’m a bit confused about your January resignation. Listen, just do what you want to do. If you have no intentions of going back to Qatar ever, then don’t go back. You’ll be OK. Everybody makes doing a runner sound like such a big deal, but it’s not if you don’t ever plan on returning.


    • Barbara says:

      I just left my school in Qatar after a month shy of completing my contract and as weird as it sounds after 2 years I just COULD NOT DO 4 MORE WEEKS… From your description it sounds like we were in the same school. And of course they were in breach of contract, but prove it- I feel for you and hope you fond a new position quickly.


  5. B. Rawlins says:

    The original correspondent should probably try to tough it out until the end of the academic year at least, but I think we would all understand if she felt driven to get out beforehand. What strikes me about virtually all our contributions is that this could have occurred in any so-called “international school”. Conditions of abuse, patronizing, bullying, humiliation and retaliation have practically become the default position, in complete criminal contempt for local employment laws, let alone any international professional and ethical norms.

    I for example acted in a managerial capacity for a time to help keep an international program afloat and was then later dismissed without reason by the permanent appointment and local management. For reporting this, I was sent a threatening e-mail insulting my character as being poor and immature, stating that I “have issues” and (in true criminal argot) my “ass is cruising for a bruising”.

    Given the tendency towards criminalization of international education, when all that matters is getting certificates by any means for the children of local elites, I think we should all question the long-term viability of any “career” in international education. In the meantime, register with your embassy and take legal advice.


  6. Quinn says:

    The hiring fairs are a total rip off. They represent the SCHOOL’S interests and not yours!! They promote corrupt and totally unprofessional schools! All they want is YOUR money!!! ALL OF THEM!! Find a job on the net through TIEs or some of the many other sites for hiring and interview with the director via Skype and look up the reviews on ISR. INSIST on references from previous/current teachers. Find out what their turnover rate is. How long has the longest teacher been there? How many teacher have stayed beyond their first contract? If they won’t give you access to this info.. run like hell. YOU are interviewing them as much, if not more, than they are interviewing you!!


    • riopaddler says:

      Outstanding advice. Definitely consider that the interview is two-way. This will be the approach that my wife and I use. We have three school -aged children, and simply will not get trapped into any such terrible nonsense. We are even budgeting to invest in flights to the actual schools we will consider teaching at so that we can do our own investigating. Money well spent in our book.


    • Barbara says:

      Why didn’t I find this post before I sold my house and moved to Abu Dhabi. I am crumbling.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Shawn Standiford says:

      Barbara, I found this website on my quest to get as much information as possible about teaching in Abu Dhabi. Your post was dated back in November; have you since moved to the UAE?

      This site seems geared towards international schools, which are a different deal than what I, and hopefully you, are aiming for. Feel free to reply if you’d like with your experience over there, if you decided to stick with it. I know from reading many, many posts about teaching there that it is over all a very pleasant experience, even if the school you’re placed in is less than ideal.


  7. Anonymous says:

    One of the tools we’re empowered with to handle a poisonous situation is a set feet, to walk away. I believe integrity and self-respect go with you into interviews and help you weed out the bad situations.It doesn’t sound to me like “staying for the kids” has the same meaning in the culture you’re describing. To those parents and kids it’s what servants are expected to do.

    Here’s what happened to me.
    I was in a bad situation and broke contract.
    In March I told the director I would stay to the end of the year, but would then be leaving. I was calm, non-hostile, my mind was made up, and I was not willing to discuss it. The pressure was greatly relieved as soon as I said I wouldn’t return, and I was even shown a little respect, or maybe it was just distance. It took control away from the administration and empowered me. I didn’t have to threaten, they knew from my determined demeanor that they’d be looking for a mid-year teacher if they harassed me. Needless to say, I was not given a good reference.

    I didn’t put the school on my next applications. After two years at the next very good school, when I was planning to move on, the director told me that he knew I had been at the last school when he hired me, and he had decided to hire me anyway. He said that he knows every situation isn’t a ‘good fit,’ and he decided to take a chance on me because he liked me in the interview. I was a little embarrassed, but he wasn’t blaming me. He was just letting me know there are good guys out there who understand what’s going on.

    I didn’t have to worry about anyone taking my passport, but if I had, I wouldn’t say anything to ANYONE except your country’s consulate. I’d cut my loses and be on a flight out of there, not to the US if I thought anyone would be watching those flights. If asked, I’d tell my next potential employers what you said here, you didn’t feel safe enough to leave your apartment and the school has a history of taking teachers’ passports. You’ll find one of the good guys.


  8. I hope that ISR keeps us posted with what “Ready to Run” does / did.

    Many of us have been in this situation and for many reasons some of us “stuck it out” until the end of the year (or the end of the contract even!) while others left. I am not going to add more advice by saying what I did when I was at a horrific school.

    The only real advice I do want to give is to be very careful to whom you tell what. Unfortunately in these horrific schools, the walls have ears and you cannot always trust everyone.

    Regardless of what you do, do what feels right for you in the circumstances. And be “smart” about it – whatever being “smart” means in that circumstance. You might need the money, you might not have anywhere to go until the end of the school year. You might need to omit that job from your resume (many people take a year off for a number of reasons). I know there is much talk of being black balled by recruiting agencies, but you know with skype, I feel like they are going the way of the Dodo.

    I find it interesting to see the response: so many people having been in that same boat and so many with passionate replies, many of them based on hind sight. I didn’t count, but I feel like the response is split between saying “stick it out!” and “run like the wind!”

    Until you are in that position at that school at that time, you really can’t advise. I guess I wanted to throw in my words to say that no matter what you do, it will be the right choice for you and it will not make or break you either way if you are careful and confidently move on from there.

    Good luck Ready to Run! God speed!


  9. anonymus says:

    if its Kuwait-LEAVE immediately. no one should “teach” there. that sad excuse for a country should be banned completely and no amount of money should tempt anyone into going there for any length of time. its not safe mentally, spiritually, or physically.
    you will get another job and most reputable schools know all too well what its like trying to be an “educator” in the ME. If they dont understand that, then you most likely dont want to work there either.


  10. Bugadafino says:

    oh yes….I forgot about that part….let the world know! Great feelings of satisfaction there. TES is a good place to post as well as here. Let the world know what rotten filthy scoundrels they are. You’ll be amazed at how happy you feel when you have done this!!Thank you John Doe 2…revenge is so sweet against these money grubbers.


  11. Bugadafino says:

    Its awful being in that situation. You cant believe that you have let it happen to you. All your lovely friends and family getting on with their lives and here you are stuck in a nightmare…those of us who have been there fully sympathise with you and honestly if you havent, you really cant judge.
    I waited until my pay was in and fortunately it was a long weekend, and I just walked out with what I could carry, saying I was going away for the weekend.
    I rang my Embassy and told them what I was doing . They said if you get stopped at the airport for any reason, ring us. The First Secretary gave me his mobile number and said call any hour of the day or night. They were extremely supportive and understanding.

    Having said all of that, I went in December not April. The others are right – can you hang on in there for a few more weeks to the end? It will make it easier for you to get a job. I hope you have applied for some? Use friends in other schools as referees. Is there anyone in say a grade leader, that can give you are ” quiet” reference? Just say that you are ” looking”.
    Anyway I went home and did subbing for the rest of the year which was great. You would be surprised at the number of jobs going in June and July. I got my next job in July and have been here 5 years now.
    Some tips now….
    Put yourself first;
    dont be intimidated;
    everytime something happens try to keep centred;
    keep cool;
    constantly think how you can handle something to your benefit;
    do your best in the classroom and for goodness sake keep smiling. You will be amazed at the effect this has not only on you, but those around you. You are not the only one at the school thinking the way you are believe me, but the others are as frightened as you are.
    Whatever you do, dont tell anyone how you are thinking. It is ok to lie to protect yourself – this is the first rule of survival.
    And….keep posting here. We will all help you. We will support you – you have lots of teachers here who know just what you are going through.
    Think of things that you can do when you leave – maybe you might do VSO for a year? Work for a charity for 3 months?
    Head up kiddo – you can do it!!


  12. John Doe 2 says:

    After you do a runner, call the parents and ask them for some money. Then, contact the schools accrediting agencies and lodge a formal complaint. Finally, contact admission officers and colleges and universities and let them know what a scam the school is. Get some payback, you will feel better.


  13. Tricia says:

    wait until the end of the school year which should be coming up soon? June?
    Don’t resign until you are safely back home. This sounds like most of the schools in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, particularly the school I taught in – a nightmare, from which many, many people did a runner during the 2 years I was there.
    Take care,


  14. Name Withheld Due to Certain Reprisal says:

    I understand your plight completely, and as for some people speculating whether or not this occurred in the Middle East, it could easily occur everywhere.

    In my own experience, it occurred in Mexico. I was recently working at a once prestigious Monterrey school and it was in large part a shallow and miserable experience. The community, the parents, and the students were these selfish, self-entitled, and arrogant children who came from families that treated teachers and staff like second class citizens. In addition, the School’s administration and Directors where simply pawns of the parents who technically owned the private school. Ironically, the school admin., who were all (obscenely well-paid)expats who marched gladly along with the political and economic agendas of the parents. The administration was (and still is) nepotistic and incestuous, only hiring their friends and marginalizing more talented teachers from promotion opportunities because they would likely behave too ethically. The teaching staff was conveniently socialized into becoming a “high school” society where staff members were routinely bullied and marginalized socially by teaching cliques who aligned themselves to the administration (this behavior was standard and people were often let isolated from both the school community and the outside community). The experiences were rather consistent among most former staff, whereupon many stated “it was like they were back at highschool again”.

    What is even more distressing was the fact that Monterrey, Mexico (the school’s location) was almost completely devoid of Mexican culture and is in fact a filthy cess pool of sorts, which has been more recently consumed by a drug war and unmentionable violence that compares in large part to a war zone. The administration and directorship of this so-called American School, erroneously purports that the city is a cultural mecca and is safe, nothing could further from the truth, staff and the general populace are forced to stay in at night in fear they will be caught in the cross-fire of a gun fight or some other heinous event and end up on the side of thousands of other innocent citizens as collateral damage. In fact, the American governement has recommended that its citizens stay away from places like Monterrey, Mexico because of the rampant violence, please note to those unaware of the crisis in Mexico, over 40,000 people have been murdered in the past 5 years. Now the Mexican Tourist Board states that they are drug dealers, but really do you honestly think it behoovesthem to tell the truth and frankly, do you really think there are 40,000 drug dealers in Northern Mexico, seriously. A large portion of that number is collateral damage, innocent victims. The school in Monterrey and its admin, makes no mention of this reality and outright lies to the recruits tht its safe and a wonderful city. Only when a teacher is signed under contract does the reality of this situation set in. Its a living nightmare that is exacerbated by a unsupportive school and community.

    Your experiences can be repeated around the globe and even right next door in Latin America. Sadly many of these administrators are unethical and outright lie to teachers, and have little to no interest in anything other than money and you are in fact a dispoable commodity. Please note that I have kept my name anonymous because I am certain the administrators would most certainly exact some kind of revenge and ruin my career for my candor; in additon, in a country as lawless as Mexico right now, I could be easily targeted for a “hit”, because life is cheap in Mexico right now and so are people who will do the dirty work. Scary but true.

    Name Withheld Due to Certain Reprisal (and fear of my life)


  15. john doe says:

    Run if you can. It will be good for you, it will piss off the school, embolden your colleagues there and it won’t necessarily hurt your career. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and have done a few runners in that time but always manage a job so don’t be afraid of that. If you are in a financial position to do a runner then do it.

    Going by the tone of your post, I would under no circumstances return to this school, or this country for that matter, next year.


  16. Anon says:

    This happens a lot in the middle east and from my experience working there, teachers frequently break contracts and easily pick up work elsewhere and as the international circuit is so transient there are usually jobs available all year round. Ask some other senior member of staff for a reference not the principal and get the hell out!! Good luck!


  17. Christina says:

    I was hired as “head of primary” in an “English speaking school” in Qatar. The school ran rough-shod over the principal–who became a puppet of the owners and the “assistant principa” (who was friends with the owners). The students were rude, spoiled and actually “in control” of the school. Most teachers were not qualified and did not know how to teach–classroom management was a nightmare. The owners/administration refused to share the budget with the principal. When I first arrived mid-year (they couldn’t find anyone to take over as “head of Primary–which should have been my first clue!) I asked to see handbooks/policies, etc. I never received anything. There were no handbooks or books of policies and procedures. I suggested they let me develop these necessary documents–and was ignored. I realized that I could not stay 2 years…and, after 3 years, submitted my letter of resignation for July–at the end of the school year. I refused to be a “runner”–besides, you need “permission” to leave the country and I would have been detained at passport control had I tried. In my 34 years of educational contracts, I have never broken a single one. I have glowing letters of reference and a strong reputation. Search Associates blacklisted me. I think they are a shoddy organization and should investigate these schools and the situations that many educators (wanting a new, foreign experience and who are willing to work hard for that reward) find themselves in. Shame on Search Associates. I was easily able to get another position in an International School in Central Europe and it is a wonderful (if not very busy!) place. So, hang in there. End your current job with dignity…and move on to a better position. Good luck!


  18. Marc says:

    I agree with most other comments. Grit your teeth and hang on until the end of school year, should be about 2 or 3 months to go. Focus on preparing for a ‘clean’ break, keep everything under your hat, trust no-one. Be strong in the knowledge you’re handling it, but do it very, very discreetly.


  19. lamb says:

    Sounds just like the school I have just done a runner from.
    I made sure i had a job for next year and just waited for the right time to leave.
    Was upfront with my new school about what I had done and they have been nothing but supportive about it.
    If being at this school/country is effecting your health or mental heath, get out!!


  20. Amy says:

    I was in a miserable placement last year. I posted this on the forum askng how to get through it. Hope this helps…



    • Amy says:

      Do what is best for you. If you can hang in there until June it will be better when you have to explain leaving a post early.

      I broke 2 contracts. For both of them, I left in June and didn’t return the following year.

      One placement was in complete political turmoil and it was dangerous. In fact, when we left we were told that the school was unsure if we would open the following August.

      Another was because I needed a minor surgery and there was an epidemic sweeping the country that just made it scary to undergo any type of surgery at the time.

      Interviewers have rarely asked about this. However, when they do, I have explained the scenarios and they don’t ask too many questions.

      I think a lot of directors understand that “life happens” and don’t hold it against you. However, just being unhappy would be a difficult one to explain. Hence I stayed in my last miserable placement the full 2 years. Also, I will always have the other 2 contracts I broke looming over me.

      I hope you can find ways to endure the last stretch you have left in your contract. I sent the link I posted asking for help on how to deal with getting through my last placement. I am glad it is in my past now.

      I am much happier at my new post. I feel like I endured a lot of misery to get here. I’m glad I stuck it out in my last post otherwise I may not of gotten the job where I am today.

      I hope you get lots of good advice to help you make the best decision for you. If you do indeed decide to leave, do not beat yourself up. As mentioned above, you have to do what is best for you. Nobody is going to take as good care of you as yourself.

      Best of Luck!!


  21. Michele says:

    Dear Ready,

    I would not advise running. Stick it out if you can, and do let your Search Associate Rep know exactly what is going on. I would NOT trust the administration, especially not the director…past experience is this arena is this will be the first person to black ball you or put a knife in your back given the chance. Do not let on how you feel, DO get a letter of reference from a direct supervisor (Dept head, academic dean, principal, etc) “for your file” and get through the year. I have tried the “re-negotiate a new contract” tactic with the director (twice), only to find myself laid off or “asked to resign” in June when it was too late to find a new job (with same incompetent director removed by the Board halfway through the following year, big deal). Your first priority is to protect your reputation and make SURE you get those letters of rec–however you can. And don’t make up a story or lie,it will come back and bite you in the rear. Finish your year, break contract in the summer once you are home with all your stuff (even if you lose a bit of money), and when asked, say (and make sure you have written a letter of resignation) that you resigned because you were not a good fit for the school. This is much less damaging than fleeing in the middle of the night. One school where I worked, the director called the Airline, I shant name it, and they gladly gave out all that teacher’s flight information (against FAA regulations) so said teacher could be met at the destination…the teacher who helped (spotted on camera) was threatened as well. Unscrupulous is unscrupulous, you really do want to think about what is the the best for YOU in the long run, and you do not want to be unfairly badmouthed–and as one earlier post stated, sad but true–a director or principal will always be taken more seriously than a teacher no matter how unethical the school or how bad its reputation is. It is just not worth trying to build up your good rep again. There is my 2 cents worth.


  22. TM says:

    Newbies to the international scene…be afraid…very afraid…even some top tier schools that were wonderful for decades now have admin that treat the school like their fiefdom. You can tell the reviews that were written by admin, someone flashing in frustration, or someone seeking revenge. My spouse and I crack up when we read that teachers do nor believe the reviews…believe me, teachers do not write the worst of what they witness. So contact someone with recent firsthand knowledge and do your homework. Good Luck!


  23. Brian says:

    I’d advise you to “invent” an illness (like cancer) in a family member (sibling or parent) back home and give notice a month before end of the school year. Say that you don’t want to break your contract during the next year on the event of the illness worsening, inconveniencing the students and admin etc etc, and pay your fare home.
    Treat this as a learning experience. I’ve had some great times teaching overseas but have only had two jobs that I really enjoyed. After a few years, the memory of good experiences outweighs that of the bad ones. Even the place I taught at that was the worst teaching experience in my life now holds many good memories.
    Good luck!


    • Don't let anybody compromise your professional integrity says:

      At my school the administration had been getting away with bad behaviour for years. I thought about inventing an illness, but then decided I didn’t want to go back. So I decided to tell the truth from a connecting flight airport via email to the school community.

      I didn’t want to be stopped at the airport, which may have happened.

      That way nothing could be ‘covered up’ and the administration team couldn’t walk around pretending any longer. I have no idea about the ramifications and I don’t want to. The school community knows exactly why I left and where I am, so there’s no confusion there. Meanwhile the administration team has to cover my teaching load as a direct result of their own mis-management and disgraceful behaviour.

      I know this falls back on the school community, but if I hadn’t told my story the administration team would have painted a picture of it being all my doing and nothing to do with them. This is how they manage to behave this way for so long!

      More people should tell the truth, but of course, if you have dependents etc then these schools have you over a barrel…

      …and don’t they know it!

      I’m a trained administrator and what I saw at this school disgusted me. It angered me that there are communities of expats who walk around as though they are God’s gift to education; using the labour laws to keep people stuck and treating their staff badly.


  24. Anonymous says:

    Do what YOU need to do, do not sacrifice your health, physically or mentally, for a school. I did that for almost two years, until I ended up at the bottom of the barrel, with a doctor urging me to leave or approach the idea of anti-depressant pills to get my panic attacks and insomnia under control.

    I thought many of the same things that are being posted, that it’s not professional, that the children needed me, that it was ‘only 2 years’ and I could make it to the end of my contract.

    Those were hard choices to make. However, I was not in a position where I was doing anything to help those children or my own life. It may have made me a stronger person now, but that’s only because I got out before it entirely broke me.

    I left without telling anyone but my close friends, in the middle of the night, and emailed my administrators only when I was safely home.


  25. CeruleanBlue says:

    Dear “I’m Ready to Run”,

    I have been in this same situation in the United States! I have so many wonderful letters of recommendation from past schools, but if the school is rotten, it will try to take you down. One town away, one school is frightening dysfunctional, while the next town’s school is lovely. I stuck it out one year, after being harassed by rude disrespectful students, AND harassed and misrepresented by the Vice-Principal, and then left. I found a great job just one town away and am still there after 6 years.

    As a person who just this year has begun looking for overseas employment, and also who reads the ISR reviews, I am extremely jittery about pledging my life away to the unknown. Especially when the schools present in a positive way but reality is different, according to this site.

    I so wish more people would fill out the school reviews because often there is no review for many of the schools I can apply for. I was about to apply for the position I could fill at a in Switzerland, but thanks to a ISR review, I realized I could not sell my soul for a “foot in the international door.” The reports are awful, including two recent irresponsible teen deaths from alcohol confirmed by news reports that can be read online.

    Thank you to folks who fill out reviews! I so wish more school reviews were available. We need to know what we are getting into. If you are in a school from hell, please let us know how we can avoid the same experience!

    Thanks, and I wish the best to you,


  26. Lee says:

    Keep your chin up….. I am in the same boat, except my director is a woman. There are too many “indians and not any chiefs” running my school. The children have too many rights. Finish the year, then go home and break the contract. I am breaking mine and going home.


  27. Michelle says:

    I have been in this exact same situation and it was NOT in the Middle East, which only points to the fact that there can be lousy schools everywhere.

    Not to get into my story too much, but one thing I did do which I was eternally grateful for was this: Early into the school year I quickly realized I was hatin’ life at this school. While I’m not so good at faking my feelings, I tried hard to keep my discontent under wraps and played my role as a good teacher well (never took sick days, and enjoyed my students as much as possible, volunteered for some activities). Since I knew I could only keep that fake smile on my face for so long, I made a point of keeping to myself and really didn’t confide in anyone about how miserable I was except for the folks back home. And, I read a ton…

    Then, early in the school year, around mid-October I’d say, I flattered the director and mentioned to him at some stupid party (which I forced myself to attend at his house) that I was very interested in getting his feedback about my performance at this school. He seemed pretty willing to invite me into his office for his professional assessment of my teaching skills (mostly I think because he was lonely and he was definitely slimy, you know ladies?) and I pressed him at that time to write me a letter of reference. Lo and behold, a week later when grades were due and everyone was busy, busy, busy I told him that perhaps he could sum up my achievements in this letter of reference, and that since we were both so very busy we could skip the interview (for now). Later that day I gave his secretary the itemized “suggestions” of what I felt were the highlights of my thus-far employment and what I planned on volunteering for in the future at ‘his’ school. I mentioned that since we were so busy I hoped this would make it easy for him to write this letter. And since he had already agreed to write this letter for me I was just (again) making life easier for him.

    Well, it worked! He had his secretary write the damn letter, we both signed it, and it went immediately into my personnel file and recruiting file. And to make matters even better, I also quickly gave the head of the board and the counselor/vice principal a copy of his letter and they wrote letters, too!

    So, when I told everyone two months later that I was breaking contract at the end of the school year (prior to the recruiting conference so they could find my replacement) they really couldn’t say too much or condemn my performance since they had already written me glowing letters of recommendation which were. And, for the record, I did continue to do my very best teaching at this poor school.

    Sounds kinda contrived, I know, but getting these letters of reference BEFORE I expressed how miserable the situation was really, really saved my international teaching career.

    The bottom line? ALWAYS get letters of reference early into a school year! Even if you love the school and plan on staying forever, each and every year get those references! Make it easy for those writing by giving them the info they need to applaud your skills (high test scores by your students, activities you’ve coordinated, etc.) And, get ’em early.


    • MrCee says:

      Excellent advice here. Any teacher is at their best in October, when you’ve figured out the basic ins and outs of the school, and the admin has not yet fingered potential “troublemakers.”


    • Horse with no name says:

      Contacting your country’s embassy is vital. I’ve heard many horror stories, and in the end, your home country is the only entity that can trust to ensure your safe passage. But that’s assuming you MUST leave.

      I certainly know about compromise. After 2 years teaching at home, I set out for my first job in the M.E, which unfortunately became a war zone – both in terms of the national politics and those of the school. Though I was released from contract in December through an amicable agreement with the admin, I still found myself blackballed even back in the US. A partial contract, no matter the reason, never looks good. If you leave before June, it will be much more difficult to rebuild your rep than if you stick it out and finish 1 of the 2 years.

      It took 8 months (during which I subbed and even returned briefly to my glamorous career in food service) and 1 fruitless Search Fair, but I finally got an offer at another school, only to have the director end every teacher’s contract after just one year. A long story. So again, I was stuck with this “patchy CV.”

      These days I’m just about done “paying my dues” at a school in China which is a bit of a joke, but I’m surviving. Both years, we’ve had a staff turnover of 30% before Nov, and 90% of the remaining teachers leave before their second year. Not me though. It’s been hellish most days, but I knew that if I didn’t finish this second year, I could probably kiss my career goodbye.

      Best advice I could give for the next 2 months? Stay close to the smartest people in the room (e.g. experienced, talented, positive colleagues). They might be hard to find, but learn everything you can from them, and put it into practice. This is how you make future recruiters look past those hiccups on your patchy CV.

      So, bottom line, know that by leaving early, be it April or June, burnt bridges or no, you will be using 1 “get out of jail free” card. Most people don’t get a second one, so research the next school like crazy, and don’t sign up unless you’re absolutely in love with it.


  28. Cate says:

    If you are so miserable that it is effecting your health, my advice would be to leave. This bad experience you are having could also make you a stronger person. Perhaps if you made two lists parallel to each other, of why to go and why to stay, this may help you make up your mind. With the current position I have, it was my thought to leave many times but the experience here has been invaluable and will help me in future endeavors. I am Head of School, yet the title means nothing as the owner runs everything as she sees fit. I have, however, made a positive difference in my teachers and students.


  29. Teacher54321 says:

    It sounds like you are in Medellin, Colombia. The Columbus School- don’t go there if you would like to avoid these similar problems!!


  30. Mike Staley says:

    20 years overseas says:Keep it simple, keep your contract till the end of year, and keep your intentions quiet. Locating schools that want you is not a problem…finding a good school…now THAT takes some research. Having spent 20 years overseas, I know many schools that are considered “upper tier” schools. These problems you have are non existent at these locations. They are difficult to get into for a reason but these are the schools where teachers are respected. Meanwhile, I wish you the best in your search. Follow your heart and keep your cards close to your chest.


  31. Bonnie says:

    Just hang in there. It is April now and before you know it the school year will be done and you will have time to relax and think things through. It would be a good idea to tell your director, once you get home for the summer, if you are not going back. The school should at least have time to replace you. Not all is greener on the other side (at any school) so make a list and check it twice before jumping on a weekend plane.


  32. may says:

    Reading your lines, it sounds to me you are at an International School of Amman, Jordan. I was there last year and it is exactly like you say, real hell in every way, the director is abusive in a polite way, so is the secondary director… all teachers always leave, there is nothing to do in the town… real hell!! specially for a woman, like me. I think you should leave and get a job a proper school, there some lovely schools around the world where you can have wonderful experiences. In my opinion avoid anywhere in the middle east!!! Africa is good for teachers.
    Good luck and don’t worry you are not the only one who has had such terrible experience. That school and its directors should be banned and sued!!!


  33. sabis_sux says:

    just leave – but make sure NO ONE knows what your up to until your away


  34. Friday Night says:

    You don’t have to reveal where you are. Anybody who has been around international teaching for a while can tell you are in the Middle East, almost certainly in Kuwait.

    Stick it out until the end of the year. (I presume you have a two-year contract). Don’t give any hint or suggestion you are unhappy or leaving. Get your pay and everything that’s coming to you, but understand that this kind of school may hold some of your compensation hostage as incentive to return next year. Don’t pack up an extraordinary amount of stuff — leave some things behind if you have to. Wait until you are safely out of the country and then write or message the school that you are not coming back.

    If this sounds melodramatic, it’s because many schools in Kuwait and other ME countries have connections to the government and can deny you exit permission for any specious reason. It has happened many times before.

    Once you are out, make contact with the recruiting agencies promptly to explain and document your situation. If your school has a known history of this kind of behavior, you will find sympathy and some degree of help finding a new job. You probably won’t be “black-balled.” But if your experience and claims and behavior don’t have documentation or historical support, breaking contract could go badly for you for a couple of years.

    This may sound harsh, but you have no one to blame for your situation except yourself. It is fairly well known around the international teaching world — at ISR and other networking resources — which schools are good, which are average, and which are terrible. There are many objective ways to discern this, and some due diligence always pays off in avoiding a big mistake.

    A little off-topic…but I’ve sometimes wondered if there shouldn’t be a general teacher boycott of Kuwait schools. The annals of teacher abuse in that country are way out of line with civilized behavior. Sure, there are a very few good schools in Kuwait which would be hurt by such an event, but perhaps they would stop sitting on the sidelines as they do, watching the chaos around them, doing nothing.


    • I ran, and I'm fine. says:

      “This may sound harsh, but you have no one to blame for your situation except yourself. It is fairly well known around the international teaching world — at ISR and other networking resources — which schools are good, which are average, and which are terrible. There are many objective ways to discern this, and some due diligence always pays off in avoiding a big mistake.”

      What a stupid thing to say.

      You never know until you go.


  35. Simon Gauci says:

    Hello Ready to Run,

    I will not add too much as the many other helpful and insightful postings here have covered it.

    We go overseas for many reasons. During our school or recruiting selection process we get all kinds of data, sometimes rumors about schools, and we accept a contract and off we go. We arrive and start our jobs and enter a culture so far off our own radar, that we feel cheated, mistreated and at times abused when things are the the same as home.

    These are real experiences but they are often about why we go overseas. We want to experience something different. I am not suggesting that we allow abuse or tolerate lack of professionalism, but those traits, from our lenses may be that way for the local laws, local population etc. It’s so tricky to see/accept that fact that cultural difference actually means they’re different.

    Despot directors are an unfortunate part of the int’l school community. Not much more to say on that one. They should be fired!

    Fleeing, without notice, has a grave affect on the community. I have seen staff just disappear, not come back from holiday etc. I find that action, very unprofessional. Our profession has struggled, and it is has along history of been seen as glorified child care with summers off, to establish itself. If you want to flee, at least make a phone call, “I am sorry, I cannot do this. I will not return to my post on Monday.”

    Even do it from the transit lounge. But do not just not come back. Your peers have to scramble about covering classes, worrying about where you are, did something happen.I’ve seen it.It’s awful.

    Think of the affect fleeing will have on the student’s. They’re innocent and they may really like you and will always remember that.

    So, despite how you may feel and what your “local cultural” experiences are, think about the affects of a flight.

    Hang in there for a few more weeks and then you can leave with your professionalism and dignity in tact. And, be a role model for our profession.


    • You don't owe anybody anything other than yourself! says:


      Goodness me. Most expats are very selfish…they have to be. Especially in third world countries, people are focused on keeping their own heads above water. When you go, there will be a big drama and then everybody will focus on themselves again and the next big thing.

      To stay and endure bad behaviour for the sake of colleagues??

      What terrible advice.

      It is not unprofessional to leave if you are being treated badly.. This is exactly the attitude that shady principals bank on to make you stay.

      Simon, are you an administrator? LOL.


  36. David says:

    Dont waste your time in that school. You are a free person who does not need to be exposed to such crap. Just exercise your free will and go back to your country and start teaching in the regular school system. Trust me, The Australian, Canadian or British school system do not care about your experience in the international school “system”. I taught internationally for 10 years and compared to Canadian or Australian government schools – they were all a big joke. Do yourself a favour and dump that $30,000 a year job and teach in a regular school for $80,000 to $100,000 with professional benefits.


    • Will Never Go Home says:

      Gosh David, I’ve had almost exactly the opposite experience. I have been fortunate enough, or perhaps merely clever enough, to work at some average and some very good international schools. I have found that even average international schools are generally progressive, effective, rewarding places to teach. A very good international school is a joy forever — financially very rewarding, and a place to learn and grow and realize all your potential as a teacher. Heads and tails better than typical western public schools.

      I’m sorry you’ve had such a contrary experience.


    • No regrets. says:

      David meant the schools he worked at were a joke in the eyes of his employees in Australia and Canada – not that his teaching experience was a big joke.

      I agree with David. The reality is that countries such as Australia do not value your professional experience in developing countries as much as they would on home turf. That’s just common sense – in terms of up-to-date knowledge of curriculum etc.

      I just did a runner from a Middle Eastern school. I’m not planning on going back. I was bullied and manipulated and did what the headmaster never expected: maintained my professional integrity and left. I just finished my Masters and am a highly employable, well-experienced educator with loads of prospects.

      I’m glad I put put myself first.

      I’m all for character-building, but not at the expense of my sanity.


    • Wants to go home, and can't says:

      International experience isn’t valued no matter how much the people in your home country claim it is. They’ll hire a buddy with a weekend seminar’s worth of ESL training over someone with 10 or more years overseas. Experience, and certification be damned, Canadian school system pays well and the jobs (especially in low crime zones) are taken by carefully and slyly committing nepotism.


  37. Mo says:

    I know what you are going through…when I first came to the UAE I felt the same way about my school. It was my first international teaching experience and I felt trapped. I couldn’t go back home to the states because I had invested so much coming overseas and with my little teaching experience I couldnt find any jobs. I would say that you should try and finish the year. I left my school after one year and I was still able to find jobs. Schools will see that you stuck out a year and will still hire you. You can say you wanted to leave for more professional development without having to tell all the problems at the school. I agree with Anonymous…it is time to focus on yourself and do things outside of school that will allow to relax and unwind. If you still want to teach internationally begin looking for jobs….they are still out there. Don’t give up and stay encouraged.


  38. It can happen to you says:

    Bad situations do arise, no matter how hard you try to do the right thing. The worst part is that teachers are always replaceable and even if you are on the right side, you will take the hit if you break contract. I didn’t break contract and still took the hit. I just started a new school, and along with another person, were the only two teachers in the year level. Quickly things began to fall apart as I soon realized that my co-worker was way over their head. They didn’t seem to know how to set up a classroom or manage one, even though they had years of experience. Soon, complaints came in from parents, but not for my class, but for my co-worker’s. But the whole year level was being blamed. The school was using PYP and the administration was doing a horrible job of explaining or even knowing what they really wanted. It wasn’t chaos, but extremely unpleasant as my co-worker fell to pieces and I was stuck trying to keep the year level above water. I was doing all the planning, all the presenting during co-lessons, and organizing year level assemblies. I received absolutely no support or understanding that I had a co-worker that was in real trouble. My co-worker needed help, I pointed this out to the principal, and nothing was done. My reward for all this was to have the principal breathing down my neck and reminding me what a horrible job the year level was doing. At the beginning of February my co-worker quit before being fired. The principal came in, tore all class work they had done off the walls. She threw out everything, including my posters that I had lent them, and received no apology when this was pointed out. I was put on a gag order not to speak to parents about what had happened. When a meeting was called to discuss the situation with parents, the new teacher was allowed to the meeting, but I was not.
    In the end, my kids learned a lot and we ended the school year on a positive note as the replacement teacher was quite capable and we pulled it all together. But by this time, the director told me to no longer speak to the principal because he felt she had lost perspective and had a vendetta, and was told to work through him. Through all of this, I contacted my associate at Search and let them know that my situation was dire and I felt I was getting no support for a situation beyond my control. My associate suggested I changed my contract and get a reference from the Director. So that’s what I did. I didn’t break contract, but asked to have my contract changed from two years to one. The director consented and even offered me another position to stay on. I refused. But when it came time to apply for another job, I contacted Search Associates and basically found myself blackballed. I persevered through an extremely difficult school year, took all the right steps, and Search still wouldn’t sign me up. No matter how bad or wrong a principal is, they will always be given the benefit of doubt over a teacher.
    Luckily, I currently work at a very good school in Asia. But I had to go through a few years wandering and building up my credentials because schools would always ask why I only stayed one year at this school and had no reference from the principal. Even with the Director’s reference, it was an unspoken blight on my record.
    So I advise you to finish the year, but change your contract if possible and get out. You may have some tough times, but it will blow over, and no one can say you cut and ran. Good Luck!


  39. fluufy cheeks says:

    I feel you should weigh up the positives and negatives then decide on a course of action if the negatives outweigh the positives. life is far tooooo short to be putting up with crap.
    I’ve been working in the middle east for a few years and yes there are a lot of puppets in position of power. It is very frustrating but colleagues who are supportive and having a social life compensate.
    I am now leaving this international school to work as a licensed teacher in abu dhabi- has anyone out there had any experiences in these government schools???

    Thanks Fluffy Cheeks


    • FedUp says:

      Fluffy Cheeks – I work in Abu Dhabi and I’m warning you about the local schools. I do not work for them but I have yet to find a teacher happy with their job in the local schools, and some have only been here a few months. Sure the money is fantastic with the local schools (my salary is one of the lowest) but what you are dealing with isn’t. My school has a large percentage of locals and I’m telling you now that they are very, very unmotivated, lazy, and spoiled beyond rotten. It’s a nanny world here.

      As far as the person wanting to run, I have thought of running as well. This year has by far been the worst I have ever experienced. However, school directors receive an sms as soon as we go through customs at the airport and will know. I only have a few months left and will stick it out and will use it as experience under my belt. Good luck to you whatever you choose!


  40. Rein says:

    I have been in an almost identical position and did do a “runner”. In my case it was from a Gulf Arab country. Everything has to be planned carefully, for you basically have no legal rights or recall in such countries. I certainly felt a strong sense of relief after departing the school and country. Play your cards close to your chest until you have departed the airport. Do not feel any sense of guilt – many of these schools grossly exploit their employees, particuarly countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Just leave – life is far to short to be stuck in a situation where you feel helpless and powerless.


    • Wife Led the Way says:

      I totally agreed with your comment. I’ve worked in Kuwait for 2 years and “LEFT”. I broke my contract 4 months before the end of school. I left in the middle of the night by being harassed by an admin for 5 months. The owner and or director did nothing but promoted him to the principal position the next school year. Now, after one year as principal, he was fired. Go figure.



  41. anonymouswoman says:

    I would urge you to reread anonymous sent on April 7. Reclaiming your power will be needed no matter where you go. Search and ISS are in on what is happening at these schools and know exactly what you are experiencing but they make money on each placement. Detaching from work and finding ways to nurture yourself adds to your definition of who you are. You are not only a professional educator. There is one last job fair to sign up for in June but often these have the very schools you want to avoid. And you could get lucky with a good one.What can you enjoy each day? Trust no one with your thoughts on this as they do tell for a potential reward. Maying a deal to not tell what it is like after you are gone is not very professional either…leaving others to the spider web. What can you do for your professional development online that builds your skills for the next job? Then focus on that and let go.


  42. Anonymous says:

    I would get a tape recorder and tape everything for backup. Beyond that, just stay on the down low and let your mind take you somewhere else.
    Got news for ya, even in the states admin will almost always take the side of the student / parent. To easy for a lawsuit.
    Even public schools have their problems. There is no perfect world out there.


    • anonymous says:

      I have sued two U.S. schools for unjust administrative behavior and have won both of them so it makes me laugh that the administration sides with parents instead of their own faculties. Do they think that we don’t have access to lawyers? We actually have a lawyer on retainer if we are a member of the union and I never hesitated to use that benefit when wrong doing occured in my past.
      Fear is the bain of our existence and the Serenity prayer will set you free. If you can change something and make you situation better, do it. If the the circumstances are out of your control, then you need to have the wisdom to know that things will not change and get better. The trick is to know the difference.
      We teachers are treated very badly by administration all over the world sometimes and we deserve respect. I mean where else do you need to obtain a masters degree but are kept at such a low salary cap and worked so hard. You have to love the children and what you do to be in this profession. I did not start teaching until my forties, I still love it, but am appalled at how we are treated much of the time. I accept my chosen profession for what it is but I don’t take any disrespect and I remain a person of principles with my head held high. If my principles are compromised, I make the necessary changes, I always know what to do and I dig down deep and find the courage and take care of matters.


    • may says:

      interesting comment! I would like to sue the school i worked last year in Jordan and its director, how can i do it? can you give me any hints and help? I would much appreciate.


  43. Ms. Grace Schmidt says:

    I did a “runner” after 3 quarters of the year was completed, and quit from my very first overseas job in Colombia, at a school that, at the end of the year, fired 32 teachers, who were not really qualified, and fired the principal who had been there for 18 years. The whole situation was chaotic, but I happily moved on to 2 other schools in Colombia, and a language institute, without recrimination. In fact, it was later reported back to me that one of the incompetent principals remarked they must have treated me badly since I ended up staying in Colombia, for 3 more years, and was very successful at the other schools there. Sometimes teaching at international schools is merely a crap shoot; you never know what may happen; administration quickly changes, or government regulations change, and you suddenly have to pay taxes, as was the case in Colombia; anything can happen, and you must be prepared for whatever may happen. This is life for an international teacher, and it is not for everyone. Never forget, you can likewise be exploited and mistreated in your own culture’s teaching system. No system is perfect, so it is with international teaching; you just have to be ready to see the best in sometimes extremely trying situations. Likewise, I have followed the “proper channels”, and terminated contracts early at other international schools, if I wasn’t being treated in the appropriate manner. Ultimately, every experience teaches you something along the way, and I can say I am now much more astute at assessing a school, and predicting the probability of whether I will stay or not and complete my contract. I have learned with my experiences, that indeed it is the institution that is at a loss when I have left, and I have NEVER second guessed my reasons to leave. Teaching is stressful enough as it is, so be gentle with yourself, and gravitate towards others of like minds, even if that means misery loves company; a little constructive criticism toward what many are experiencing can help you get through it before you leave, and in the end, you are always the winner when you find the right moment to walk away from it, whether you terminate your contract early, or decide, for example, for the sake of the students, to stay until the end of the year. The last institution I left had my college young women students crying uncontrollably, and I knew it was very hard on them, but again I had to leave because of my own personal integrity; even though the girls were distressed about me leaving, I refused to tolerate the capricious, ineffective management at the college. I still keep in touch with many of the students on Facebook, and again, I know in my heart, I did the right thing to leave. Trust your instincts when you are left in an uncompromising school situation. Chances are, you will ultimately make the right decision for yourself, and sometimes parents, and even administrators, can later likewise appreciate where you are coming from. For example, one school I left early, the principal likewise ended up doing the very same thing, so I felt little remorse for being able to complete only 1 year of my 2 year contract. I have said a great deal here, but again, never second guess yourself if you have enough experience, and trust in your ability to teach. Institutions lose you, and you still can take your skills set around the world where ever you want to go! International administrators are not stupid and also know some schools have better reputations than others, so you might be surprised at how little effect your decision to walk may have on future employment.


  44. onmyown says:

    I’ve been a single woman in international schools for a LONG time. You know what I’ve discovered? No one is looking out for *you*. Only you are! So you…take care of you! Ask yourself if you can stick it out a couple more months. If so, finish out the year. If not, just go…quietly in the night. Leave lesson plans for a week so the poor soul replacing you has something to work with. Try to leave your grades and things in good order, and do what you need to do for you. You will get another job–the top tier schools know there are some wack jobs out there and won’t hold it against you. Go to the summer job fairs, and get a new job. Only you can decide if you need to get out now or can finish out the school year. Good luck to you!!


  45. A0 says:

    Just leave. It’s not worth it to stay. I could have written this exact same post about my old school in the Middle East, and I ended up leaving 4 months into my contract due to an illness in the family. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I obtained a MUCH better job back in Canada. I’ve experienced first hand what the stress of a terrible situation what you’re in can do, and in the grand scheme of your life, it’s not worth it. You don’t owe them anything if they’re not treating you with professional courtesy and honouring their end of the contract. Best of luck.


  46. Scott says:

    Honestly, life is too short. Been there and hung in once, been there and left once. I do not at all regret leaving and would do it again. It is not worth sacrificing your happiness and possibly your health. Professionally, these schools are known on the circuit and having left one will not end your career. It may restrict your interviews next time around, but there are plenty of intelligent and understanding Heads out there who will read between the lines and give you another chance. You are in a horrible and lonely position and nobody should be telling you what to do – go with your instinct, but don’t let fear be a deciding factor. Good luck, whatever you decide.


  47. Go! says:

    Leave. The international school scene, with its lack of representation or grievance processes, thrives on fear, and many headmasters are in on the game.

    There are tons of jobs available. Go home, contact schools, do a fair or two, and soon this will be a distant memory. Don’t go back to the Middle East either. It’s too much of a crap shoot, and the search fairs support any school willing to pay


  48. SR says:

    If you were not hired through a search fair (ISS, SEARCH etc) then just leave and don’t list them as a reference. If you were hired through the fairs, contact ISS or SEARCH and see what their policy is. I know TIE no longer “blacklists” teachers unless there is a grave offense. If you fear for your safety, I don’t think I would second guess myself…I would leave.

    I would sit down with the director to “talk things out” only if you have evidence that your director actually responds professionally to claims like this. If they seem pretty understanding, you should offer back any money they spent on you to move you there.


  49. Anonymous says:

    Make sure you tell your Search or ISS agent if you have one.
    Post the name of the school, country, administrators here to warn people (once you’re out that is!)
    That was the selfish part of my comment.

    Now,about you. Is this your first job abroad? How far are you in your career (meaning do you have some work experience to back up the idea that you can hold on to a job)? Do you have a good network? How much would you risk financially (do you have some money on the side to keep you “with a roof on your head” till the next job)

    If it’s really horrible, just go. You have only one life. And it’s precious. It’s a small world for us, but for recruiters too. A bad school, a bad administrator are known, and nobody will turn your application down because you left hell! (and if they do, you wouldn’t want to work for them anyways!) I know singles, couples, you broke their contracts and who found a job very fast.
    Good luck! Send some news!

    If not even the kids are worth the pain, then go!


  50. It happens! says:

    My ex first got demoted at our school and then he and the teacher he was running around with quit in February. They got teaching jobs in Hong Kong for this fall even with all that they did at our school and my ex got an administrator’s job after being demoted from the current one at our school! Don’t worry. You’ll get hired. Keep your chin up. My head of school brags that things happen all the time at international schools and it won’t keep you from your next job. I even had it happen at a previous school. At the interview, the director could have been named salesman of the year and when we arrived at school he was a tyrant, bully, and a complete waste as a director. I had to leave that one after one year and I received a letter releasing me from the contract without penalty. You can do it! If you have faith-keep praying. 🙂


  51. Anna says:

    excellent points Sarah – document EVERYTHING… especially dodgy or threatening emails.
    You need to be careful about leveraging health issues though because it can backfire when you try and look for a new position… ie. you became so sick at your last position you had to be released OR you have some now documented mental-health issue. Not a great idea in my opinion.


  52. Sarah Maurer says:

    I’d say your actions should depend on your future goals.

    If you’d like to continue teaching at international schools, I’d begin planning for the next job.

    Gather letters of recommendation and support from colleagues, parents, supportive admin and anyone else who has a solid sense of your professional capabilities.

    Start now, just in case circumstances leave you with no choice but to terminate early.

    Meanwhile, document your experience with the school and its administration well. Save evidence of shady practices in a special folder (internal e-mails are often a good source of this).

    Weigh the benefits of surviving until the end of your contract. If stress from school is having an impact on your health and sanity (e.g. your blood pressure is rising, you’re suffering from depression or anxiety), you may be able to leverage your health issues to get released from your contract, take a leave of absence, or other sanity-saving measures.

    In cases I’ve seen, a lawyer can help you greatly in this matter. It’s expensive, but so is breaking your employment contract without someone to advocate on your behalf.

    Good luck!


  53. Sam Walker says:

    This is unfortunately a too common occurrence. I have to agree with Domhuaille below about the sociopaths and abuse of the power differential. I could list names of principals and headmasters that should probably be in prison, and would be state-side, for being enablers and incompetents. When I first read the lead, I thought for sure I had written it about my most recent school in Guam. I had taught in the Middle East for 15 years and had never seen anything as dysfunctional and vitriolic. Fortunately, I had options and got out. Best of luck to you and any others in that same situation.


    • Anonymous says:

      Please rethink leaving. I am an older teacher and I have been teaching a long time. I have seen and taught in everything from great schools to horrible schools. You are now faced with one of those times in your life when you get to see what you are really made of. I promise if you flee you will never forgive yourself for not staying until the end of the year which is what?, 9 or so more weeks. This is the time in your life where you get to see what you are made of. Believe me, there is no perfect situation out there and you will deal with administrators, parents, and men who are difficult. I am currently living in the middle east and I lived in the middle east years ago and had the same experience as you. I said I would never come back to the middle east and now look here I am again. Do you know what the difference is? I am more confident, happy, in control, balanced and I now know how to deal with the administrators, other teachers, parents and MEN. Set up something special for yourself after each day or week you get through until June, nails, massage, eating out, a personal trainer, facebooking (for support), go to a mall, or buy a new book (something you would never choose for yourself). Leave school at 3:30 and focus on yourself until you get into bed. If you can get through the next nine weeks you will feel like you have just climbed Mt. Everest and not turned around 1/4 of the way from the top. Not to be religious but we are not given anything we can not handle. It is time for you to built yourself back up and take control of your life. Many times we feel like running but running is most often not the way to handle a situation. Be tough, don’t let anyone make you run. Get courage, plant your feet, change your mind set, and finish with dignity. Finish for yourself not anyone else. Don’t look at it as finishing because they will do something to you but finish because you can overcome all these obstacles and you CAN. Go for it and good luck.


    • Kendra says:

      This is great advice. Thanks for sharing.


    • The Truth! says:

      I know character can be built by sticking it out, but we have laws in developed countries against the kinds of practices one often finds in International Schools. One doesn’t need to suffer injustices to learn lessons.


    • Jake says:

      Amen! I agree wholeheartedly.


    • Anonymous says:

      I totally agree, but unfortunately if you break contract or speak up you risk cutting your nose off in spite of your face.


    • Trav45 says:

      Then stay in developed countries. This is one of the risks we take. Anyone can survive a year at a hell-hole, and she only has a few more weeks. As I said above (if it posted), Directors will understand leaving at the end of the year if a school is bad, they will NOT understand leaving before the year is up, and will worry you’ll do the same to them.

      I gutted out my “hell-hole” school when everybody else left after two weeks. It was agony at times, but it’s now a source of pride that I didn’t let them break me. It also makes for great stories after the fact! : )


    • Out Here says:

      Try applying for a job in the current US teacher labor market with a mid-year resignation on your resume. Every position has a ton of applications for it and most do not have a resignation. Principals and HR people will just put your application in the do not interview pile. Stick it out.


    • Anon says:

      It is also a great challenge to have the courage of your convictions not continue your misery, it’ll also see what your are made of to leave and forge a new life


    • Carolyn Still says:

      Dear Ready to Run,

      As an older teacher and administrator, I would advise you to stay until the end of this academic year…for the sake of the students and yourself.
      One suggestions is that you tell the Director you would like to return to the USA and get more education in an area that you feel would help you. You could take a summer course so you wouldn’t be lying. Get the director to release you from the contract for 2011-12 if you are under one. Once you get home this summer, do not return.
      Keep your passport protected and tell no one of your travel plans except your own family.
      That approach, if it works, saves your professional career. When you are older and look back on 30+ years in education, you will laugh at some of the terrible things you lived through this year and call it “a life experience!”

      Older Educator


    • lal says:

      What FANTASTIC advice. I completely agree. I think there are loads of obstacles thrown at us as international educators and it is a shame but when you find a great school in a great city it will all be worth it.


    • gaiaspaniel says:

      great advice


  54. Anna says:

    I also have worked at a school like that.. I was MISERABLE like you. and I really really wanted to stick it out but I just couldn’t. We werent paid our worth… while the director drove a mercedes coupe. We had to beg for paper or whatever.. the kids had run of the school and my principal actually bumped all my midterm grades up 10 points each (what grade 8 class has a mean of 88 and a lowest grade of 72?!)
    but believe you me… everyone knows you are miserable so maybe you could do what I did. I sat down with the director and asked for an out. I said i will not speak badly of you, I will finish my year, I will do all the right and professional things – but I need my letter of release. I told her that I would be professional about it and I expected the same from her. She respected that.
    Its not too late in the year to do it.
    A runner is bad idea if you want to work overseas again – with ISS anyways.
    You are a professional above all things.. screw the director, the kids the school… you need to take care of you. And taking care of you means making sure you keep your professional career safe.
    If you offer to be professional maybe your director will.
    I felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulder when I spoke to my director and she agreed… I knew I had 3 months left but nothing in the world could make those three months bad.
    good luck. you are not alone – many of us have been there. but no crappy school is worth making yourself miserable for!
    but make sure you get that letter of release!! and your director needs to submit one to iss or search too!


    • Get out with class says:

      I have this before. The way to go is to sit with the director but, first understand and differentiate what is business and what is education.

      Directors in most of these schools are ‘money-minded’ and like most in business or in any professional circle that provides service to community, do not want to deal with public inquiry. You cut and run and there will be that for them which may turn sour to you.

      Another thing, they’re not too honest. You don’t have to be. I reserve my humility, dignity and utmost respect for one, my students and two, those that give and/or return the skill. I am sure you can find a reason, sit with him/her and aim to end a contract but make a lasting friend. Use the experiences in a positive way. I remember telling someone that their school was an excellent training ground for a new teacher. Now, training ground to an educator is very different than it is to an administrator and as it is to a director :).

      Good luck to you.


    • TM says:

      Excellent advice!


    • Lisa says:

      I agree. I think you can ask-saying that you think it may be better if you contract is converted to end at the conclusion of this year. Strive not to make them look bad no matter what you feel and see. Try to be diplomatic and business like. You can be respectful and distant. You need the release and as neutral a parting as possible. I think if you have an exit date you will be able to deal with the local problems short term. Lots of schools are horrible but you can pass one off as “not a good fit” on your resume and interviews. This is especially true if your director is not angry at you when you leave and will support that statement. I never thought about having someone secretly check what is said in a reference. That would be good too.
      Good Luck!
      PS In my opinion SEARCH is no longer a teacher friendly organization. With online recruiting and interviewing taking a huge bit out of business, I think they are now too in league with schools and need thier business to much to fairly represent us.
      I wonder if UNI is different??


    • Rachel T says:

      I went to a horrible school by trusting that the UNI Fair would be screening beforehand. Even with countless letters from two years worth of colleagues who had left the school, they are still allowed to go to the fair.


    • Relieved says:

      I agree with Anna. I am in the same situation and handled it the same way as she did. So far they have been accommodating, but we’ll see if I get my August paycheck. I didn’t know I needed a letter of release. I have an e-mail stating the terms of my release but nothing official. Do I need something else? Does this vary from country to country?


  55. The Truth! says:

    Just leave.

    Any school or hiring body that looks at your CV and refuses to admit there are sometimes valid reasons to walk away from a contract are probably ONE OF THOSE SCHOOLS! If you walk from numerous schools then that’s one thing, but to leave just one is something entirely different.

    Bad schools use fear and intimidation to keep you. If people stay then the schools never need to change. Don’t put up with it! WALK!


    • Trav45 says:

      Bad advice. I was in a lousy school, too. One where I woke up every morning and had to give myself reasons to actually go to school. Everyone I arrived with left after two weeks. At various points, I was leaving at midterm break, leaving at Xmas, etc. Fortunately, I got another job in February, so saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

      Directors will understand leaving a bad school, as long as you wait until the end of the year. What they will NOT understand (and will worry you will do to them), is leaving before the end of the year–especially when you are mere months from the end.

      Believe me, I understand how hard it will be, but just see it as refusing to let the school break you, to force you into being the “bad guy.”

      Of course, this is only if you want to continue teaching overseas. Anyone at home wouldn’t even worry about it, as most of them think we’re nuts for being overseas in the first place, especially if you’re in the Middle East (Kuwait?) which it sounds like you are, and would see doing a runner as a sign of good sense!


  56. ME says:

    This sounds horrible. Best of luck to you. I’d try to stick out the contract then spread the word as far and wide as possible as a form of warning and retribution. Maybe revenge isn’t the way to go, but doesn’t sound like you owe the school any loyalty.

    Best of luck. Gain strength from friends and family, at least online, or maybe arrange for a an old friend or relative to come and visit you as a form of moral support, if financially possible.

    Hang in there!


  57. Shawn says:

    I think a lot of us have been there. About the only way I know of to put pressure on schools is through this website, and also holding Search Associates and other recruiting agencies accountable when they continually put teachers in schools they know are bad. There are quite a few horrible horrible schools in Egypt, for example, that Search continues to allow at their recruitment fairs, despite the number of certified, quality teachers that leave because the experience was so awful.


    • Jay Kay says:

      I totally agree….SEARCH Associates need to not accept school with bad reputaions…we as teachers Trust SEARCH ASSOCIATES and therefore believe that the schools that they represent are good ones but THAT IS NOT the case, so teachers really have to heed the warnings from other teachers about schools they are about to sign a contract with!

      I worked For a School in Abu Dhabi and it was HORRIBLE! The comments that the woman made totally describes it! Even though it is a woman who is the head of the school instead of a man.


  58. Domhuaille says:

    Kelly…she said she couldn’t reveal her present location…I sure for fear of retribution. I was overseas for 11 years and saw the crap some schools put young,single female teachers through. I personally was jerked around by two school in Mexico city and realized that they,like so many other so-called International schools are run and administered by sycophants and todies who value their exaggerated salaries over honest and transparent professionalism. This is often the type of criminal minds that international schools attract. They can be bullies, failures and ass-kissers BUT once they get the job they become willing slaves to the rich,influential parents,kids and owners.
    My advice to the lady above is try and stick it out until the end of term then high tail it outta there asap. even if it means not getting paid some of what they owe you, it isn’t worth the hassle. Make sure you keep your passport in a safe place and away from their hands..if this is a mid-East school they’ll stop you from leaving!


  59. Kelly says:

    What country are you working in?


  60. Been there..... says:

    I had a similar situation, except for the male comments. Every week I would swear was my last. I dealt with it by writing to friends or sharing my experiences-and trolling the internet for flight connections. I was very close to leaving (had a flight picked out, etc.), but I wanted to leave on the weekend after we got paid.

    Of course, the school picked that weekend to delay our pay until the next week. And so I stayed. I crossed the days off my calendar and crunched numbers to see how much I would loose vs. staying.

    If you have a one academic year contract, you should be close to the end (June). At this point, try to stick it out. If you absolutely can’t-get out as quickly as possible. I have a feeling you are somewhere in the Middle East and I know of people who “did a runner” in Kuwait and Oman. They either tipped someone off, or left too much time at the airport. In both cases someone from the school came and got them while they were sitting there and extracted penalties in one case in another took their passport away. A friend at the same school, seeing this went to the airport and took the first flight out of there. Hopefully it’s not that bad for you and you can stick it out until the end of the contract. Make a balance sheet of reasons for staying and reasons for leaving.

    Good luck.


    • Kathy Smith says:

      Dear Anonymous,
      My advice is to stick it out until the end of the year and then once you are home, break contract. I worked in two different schools in the middle east. One was great! and the other was pretty awful. I knew many employees who had put in many hard years only to have their recommendations destroyed by an evil female administrator. Hope this helps, and have someone secretly check your references to see what you are dealing with.


    • mynick says:

      Try to find something positive wherever you are. You have to look around a bit more. Try to find somebody from administration of your school to get a reference letter for your future international teaching career.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.