Working Under a School Owner’s Thumb

August 25, 2011

More than one international educator has found themselves working for a greedy business owner whose only focus is to extract maximum profits from his or her school. Some school owners know literally nothing about education, yet see it as a lucrative business scheme while at the same time elevating their supposed philanthropic and social profile in the community.

Directors, like teachers, have good reason to stay on the right side of their bosses. But, at what point is a school director simply the minion of a greedy owner or board of directors, or in the worst-case scenario, complicit in the money-oriented venture called a “school”?

I’ve worked at both for-profit and non-profit schools. Neither designation guaranteed the type of experience I would have. At one school, the director supported his teachers against powerful parents and a board focused on what could kindly be termed a ‘minimalist’ agenda. He had the fortitude to stand up for what he believed in and refused to be reduced to puppet status. In the end, this director’s allegiance to students, staff and high educational standards cost him his job.

Another school was a different story. This director was the proverbial mouthpiece and bearer of bad news concerning pay reductions, health insurance cuts, non-existent supplies, and non-reimbursed shipping allowances. He went so far as to insist teachers bend to powerful parents (aka: paying customers) who were demanding their lazy kids get the grades they were “paying” for. The staff lost respect for him, and many of us jumped ship. Here was a PhD in Education who had sold out for a buck and was reduced to being a referee merely wielding the ax of the owner’s expectations, demands and threats.

The international teaching arena is rife with business people selling a high-priced, third-class education cleverly disguised behind the aura of credentialed Anglo faces from the US and UK. It appears there are some school directors ready and willing to do their unconscious bidding. I’m sure others are not so willing, yet succumb to the need to make a living.

Have you worked for a greedy school owner? What did you learn from the experience? Any advice for your colleagues on how to deal with a director who is loyal only to a ruthless board or owner?


Laid-Off Public School Teachers May Flood the Fairs

August 11, 2011

It’s no secret the world is in an economic downturn. But did you know as result the US, UK and Canada have been laying off public school teachers at an alarming rate? These cuts even include science and math teachers. A Chicago-based educator reports his school opened up a position (due to increased enrollment) and had 170 applicants in two hours.

An option for unemployed public school teachers may be to turn to international education in search of employment. If this happens, will the job market become saturated? Will recruiting fairs become flooded with available educators? More importantly, will schools feeling the effects of countless poor reviews suddenly have their pick of previously “out of reach” educators now in dire need of a paycheck?

Not many years ago organizations such as the American Academy of School Heads expressed concern over the dwindling pool of international teaching candidates. At a New York recruiting fair it was noted that there were 3 to 4 available jobs per each applicant. In response, a task force was formed to solve the problem. It appears the problem may have solved itself but, through no one’s fault, to the detriment of current international educators.

What is your take on the situation? Will fired public school teachers go international or will they stay home to gut it out? If they go international, will schools scoop them up at a reduced rate? Or will schools continue to give priority to seasoned overseas educators? We invite you to weigh in on this topic.


WARNING!! Signs that Tell You Not to Take the Job

August 3, 2011

“Looking back on my interview, there were definite warning signs I should have heeded, not the least of which was the director dozing off intermittently. Okay…he was tired from the flight. Beyond that, the fact that the contract was not ready should have been a clear-cut indication to decline the job. Why hadn’t he taken 10 minutes to jot down everything he just offered me verbally? Was he making it up as he went along? Was there any validity to what he was promising?

I recall that during the interview the director said, ‘Our kids are great, just a bit chatty.’  Translation? The kids turned out to be completely in control and they knew it. But, I really should have been suspicious when the interview became a sales pitch, focusing on the beauty of the country and the wonderfully supportive school community. In reality, the school was a hot bed of gossip with powerful parents, an inept principal and a director shaking in his boots.

I broke contract at the end of the first year and was soon thereafter blackballed everywhere by the vindictive director and principal. Hindsight is 20/20 — I should have heeded the warning signs flashing in my head, but I needed the job and took it against my better judgment.”

Have YOU had a similar experience? Or were you astute enough to turn down the job? ISR invites you to contribute to  our Interview Warning Signs Blog and share insights and experiences. Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is All About!