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

“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!

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

  1. k says:

    What do you mean that you were blackballed everywhere?
    Are you saying that you are still unable to procure a teaching position?


  2. Anonymous says:

    I was more referring to the orginal post. Being somewhere one year and then bailing sends a pretty bad message about yourself. I have had many problems in the 1st year at my school (leaking ceiling onto my child’s crib that they refused to fix for a month, etc), but I would never consider breaking contract. Instead, if I decide to leave, I can go to the head cheese and say, “Hey, I put up with this and this and this when most people would have left. I hope you’ll give me a good recommendation.”


  3. Anonymous says:

    yes, breaking your contract is a huge no no. However, my previous school changed my contract three times and I had no choice but to sign the amendment or leave. Even at a ‘good’ school you have no rights and the director and principal know this and will take advantage. Leaving staff are threatened that if they communicate on ISR there will be repercussions. They will pone up your current principal and cause trouble. I am retired now and enjoyed my time abroad, but I hear now that the market is flooded with young unemployed teachers so it’s harder to get work and easier for directors to take advantage. My advice, trust no one!


  4. Anonymous says:

    maybe you shouldn’t have broken your contract. I would never hire someone who has broken a contract. Why risk it? You should have done your homework. Since you didn’t, you should have toughed it out for the 2nd year and then left in good standing. I’m starting to think nobody takes responsibility for their actions anymore.


  5. Mr. C says:

    Two red flag words to recognize in an interview:

    “Flexible,” as in, “Our school is going through some changes, so we need teachers who are willing to be flexible.” As educators, given the nature of our work, we’re expected to be flexible at any school, just as we’re expected to be honest, caring, etc. Recruiters who state the obvious are most likely whitewashing a far worse situation.

    “Family,” as in, “Our faculty is like one big family.” Have you ever worked a job in ANY profession where everyone is “besties?” Neither have I. At an ideal school, people work well together on the clock, and from time to time you might get together with a few folks outside of school hours for a laugh. But family? I already have one of those, and they take up plenty of my time as it is, thankyouverymuch.

    Run, don’t walk, far, far away.


  6. lal says:

    Hi Loretta,
    I completely agree with your comment and it got me thinking. One of the most common things that I hear teachers in International schools talk about is how karma is going to come down upon their administrators. I REALLY can’t believe how many times I have heard this and I really do hope it happens because there are a lot of terribly awful administrators out there (who have treated students parents and teachers with complete disregard) . I firmly believe that many of them are principals who sometimes slip under the radar of sites like this when much of the blame truly does lie with them rather than the Head who cops it all (not that they are innocent). In an interview, they are easy to spot as the laughing, joking, nice guys/gals who know absolutely nothing when asked even the most basic questions about THEIR school.
    I recall recently that ISR was going to have a questionaire to rate principals in a similar way as Heads/Directors. Is this still planned to go ahead?
    I would be very interested in the thoughts of others about how important a role a principal takes in making a school one to be avoided (at interview AND after working with them for a year). I think this is an important point since most interviewing is done by Principals rather than Heads but most reviews are based upon Heads or lay the responsibilty at the feet of the Head of School.


  7. Loretta says:

    God is big. They’ll get theirs one day. I don’t understand why people believe they can escape their misdeeds in life. Be patient and watch. I am so sorry this happened to you, but it has happened to the best of us. Many of these people are borderliine socio-psychopaths and should NEVER be allowed around children or in institutions of learning.


  8. Cindy Rawlins says:

    I had a terrible experience at one of the best schools in the Middle East. The secondary school is excellent, but the primary section is awful.

    It is run by a very peculiar Yorkshire woman, who rules by demeaning, bullying and bludgeoning staff. She regularly calls them into her office to humiliate them. She is also inconsistent, and tells blatant lies, i.e. Johnnie hates your lessons and his parents have made various complaints about you. Then I realised that Johnny was not in my class, so I asked to see the complaints in writing. This was dismissed by her rolling her eyes. She is always making scathing remarks about teachers.

    None of the Primary school staff dare to make friends at school- there are spies who report on your every move.Even the children are asked behind your back about the quality of your teaching. The deputy is a Barbie doll and is completely overwhelmed by this other person. She instructs you to do one thing, and then turns around screaming: Did I not make myself clear to you? Many parents told me that their child’s worst year ever was spent in this person’s class.

    I made discreet enquiries and found out that these ladies are well known in their city , and most teachers try to avoid them.

    I should have known though- the interview was like a physical assault. I felt battered and bruised, but when they phoned me to tell me that I was by far the best candidate and that they were so excited to have me on board, I accepted. It was the worst time of my life.

    And then I was blackballed, because every position I applied for, the interviewer called them. One headteacher actually called me back to let me know what was said about me– it was shocking. And the person who said this, only ever spoke to me twice! And I didn’t go AWOL.

    There were many other lies and dishonest dealings, but I don’t want to go into details.


  9. proactive333 says:

    This is a very useful blog. Thank you for all your insight. I am a fairly new teacher looking to go overseas. The school that I work at now is a public school that is just like some of you described as your experiences overseas: no curriculum, teachers create curriculum, no resources, no union, medical insurance not 100% paid, behavior problems with no admin help. I’ve always wanted to go back overseas so I still plan to give it a shot. I’ve experienced my first two years in HORRIBLE school (the kids, despite their issues are really sweet and not the problem).


  10. isrlover says:

    Countries, lol


  11. isrlover says:

    No, I am not an administrator, just an ordinary teacher with 6 years experience in the Middle East (21 years teaching in various contries) – enough to know what’s happening.
    I already told you about the NOC but have you ever heard of BSME (British Schools in the Middle East)? Principals of schools belonging to BSME meet often, abide by a code of conduct, or so they say, and obviously discuss certain teachers. If you move from one BSME school to another, you can be 90% certain that consultation between principals will take place. I might have some literature on the code of conduct for BSME principals and will post it here when I have more time.

    Be vigilant when you sign a contract. My first contract in Kuwait was bluntly changed without my consent. Accomodation arrangement as per contract was not met, salary 100 dinars less than what I signed for, flight tickets not reimbursed, medicals not reimbursed. I could not wait for the year to finish so I could change schools. There I was, stranded after giving up a permanent job in my home country for what seemed a much more lucrative contract. Your best bet is to stay on this forum, be a member of ISR and hear/read the truth.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Intuition and meticulous research up my sleeve keep me away from terrible schools. Here are some warning signals I picked up along the way:

    1) ” We’re hiring because we are expanding ” really means ” HIgh Teacher Turnover ”
    Everytime a school tells me this, I usually ask them a few questions that are particular to expansion and enrolment increase such as :
    a) ” Does your school have any new programs this year and the last year to have attracted a great number of students this year? ”
    b) ” Do you have any plans to accommodate this enrolment hike with new building plans? Where would the new location be? ”

    2) ” We have great, bright, eager to learn kids…but just a bit chatty ” really means ” We have discipline problems ”
    I’m surprised that heads and directors haven’t convened together and agree to use other words other than ” chatty ” because it has become so overused that teachers are starting to catch on in what “chatty” really means. If this is the case, I always ask a few questions that deal with discipline or protocol in behaviour management within the school such as :
    a) ” Does the school have anything in place to ensure that the student receives the proper measures for being too chatty? ”
    b) ” Do you have any piece of literature on hand in regards to code of behaviour in the school? ”

    3) The head / director / interviewer is starting to sound like a desperate travel sales agent.
    This could usually mean one of the two things :
    a) The pay and benefits package is so pitiful that they will have to highlight the location / country instead.
    b) The school is in shambles ( academically, administratively, student body is suffering )
    Although location is a HUGE factor in many of the decisions to accept or reject an offer, one needs to take a step back and really think about the reality. If you are stuck in a horrible school with long hours, dealing with administrative crap, then the location will not thoroughly be enjoyed.

    4) The head/director/interviewer does not have a set of questions that target your teaching skills.
    I actually am disappointed when I walk into an interview at a job fair that I paid for, with my portfolio that I built up over the years and copies of my resume on good paper to give out…..only to be asked ONE generic question such as ” So, can you tell me something about yourself? “. I would like to believe that the interviewer deems me to be a worthy professional that must be scrutinized because after all, I am being hired by the person ( i.e. director, principal, head ) who is IN CHARGE of over hundreds of well-paying students. If I was the head, I would make sure that I am hiring a professional and not a goon or a criminal of sorts.

    5) Quick to hire
    I often wonder about heads and directors who are so quick to hire on the spot. It shows me that they are not picky with their choices.

    6) No prepared package to present to you ( i.e. no contract, no brochures, no salary tables, no new teacher induction information )
    Any reputable school would have this ready to present to people who they have deemed worthy enough at an interview. Reputable schools also know their worth and the fact that there is a huge line up of people waiting to get in the door. Hence, salary tables are usually transparent and presented openly. ( e.g. One of the best schools in the world, American School in Japan, actually publishes their starting salary on their website ). Most non-profit, reputable schools provide the information on their website or available upon request by HR department. Also avoid schools who state that they will have a “secondary” contract for you to sign which is essentially the same but might just be in the host country’s language. Take the contracts to a lawyer ( preferably someone who speaks the language fluently as well so that any disparities can be noted ).

    7) Head / director / interviewer is overly charming, friendly…almost on the casual side.
    I like to believe that I am a professional. Although it helps for the head to be friendly and courteous during the interview, I don’t want to be treated like I am ” one of the boys where we can shoot crap and drink “. In one interview, I was asked what I liked to do on the weekends bc the head knew of a place where ” the women are smoking hot ” in Costa Rica. Although many would exploit this opportunity to be ” friends ” with the head, I often wonder about integrity.


    • LM says:

      Sorry! My “Amen” response was to Loretta, not anonymous!
      I am back teaching in the States after many years overseas (and I belong to a Union). I love it! I loved it overseas as well. I miss the exotic but have a much more manageable schedule now. I do not sit on numerous committees and am not designing curriculum and developing standards that should have been in place twenty years ago. I am not facilitating after school activities and supervising recess. I am not working week-ends researching and downloading classroom materials because I do not have materials to support the curriculum. I can take a day off now when I feel ill because there are actually substitute teachers! I have more than 8 weeks summer vacation (12, in fact). I have excellent medical, dental, vision, retirement, and the district credited me with all my years of teaching experience.
      I have felt powerless overseas when I saw flatterers gain favors and perks others did not, and others let go for speaking about needed changes. I plan to go overseas again because I miss the lifestyle, but I feel I am fairly realistic about what to expect.
      ISR posts are often written in frustration and disappointment, but are not far off the mark, in my opinion. A teacher needs to know what he/she is going overseas for, and know their own personal tolerance level for many things done differently.


      • Evelyn Brown says:

        @LM – Just out of curiosity, where are you teaching (what state)? I am a public school teacher in TX, and your internat’l experience sounds a lot like my current experience. I am on so many committees it makes my head spin! We are expected to run at least one extracurricular activity (club or organization), and to attend after-school events. I work weekends regularly, not looking for curriculum or materials, but to grade work for over 120 students. I have about 10 weeks of summer “vacation,” some of which is spent planning for the upcoming year, some learning whatever the new & improved professional development program will be that year. My benefits are just okay (my husband has a much better plan through his company, with the same carrier) but at least they were free, until this year… Now I pay over $100 a month for those “okay” benefits. When you factor in that we did not get our “standard of living” raise this year, I am actually earning less than I was before… I am honestly not complaining! I love my school, I am proud of my district and I am thrilled I have a job. This world is all I have ever known… In fact, that is why I am exploring internat’l teaching. But your current situation sounds great, so I was just wondering…


  13. Loretta says:

    It seems to me that entirely too much is expected of teachers, but as a group of professionals, they are amongst the world’s most POWERLESS professionals, seemingly incapable of fostering any real sustainable improvements in the profession. Indeed, it is distressing that so many in the teaching profession are REPEATEDLY experiencing the same problems. Many are against unions, but I have concluded that nothing positive and sustainable will happen for teachers unless they find a way to mobilize on an international scale. If not, they will continue to be traded, chased, blackballed, kicked around the globe and maltreated. Education is the only saving grace for most of humanity and it’s a pity that educators have not taught themselves (figured out) ways to collectively protect themselves from these atrocities, except for ISR.


    • anonymous says:

      When I worked in California and had to join the union it was frustrating after years of teaching overseas. Classroom had to be locked at 4:00–no informal after school time spent with kids in activities getting to know them outside of the school day–I found it utterly suffocating. There has to be a balanced alternative that would protect basic rights and still not dictate what can or can not be done in my own classroom. I would argue that I NEVER felt powerless overseas. Frustrated, angry, betrayed sometimes, but I had far more choices and options available to me then working in a public district, or a private school in the U.S.


  14. lal says:

    OMG! That Principal sounds very familiar. Not only does my Principal make derogatory comments about parents relating to their nationality, company they work for, hormonal status (of the mothers!!!), he also makes comments about the sexuality of teachers and asked openly in the staff room “if any of you girls kissed anyone on the weekend”. He gets so drunk at school functions that he can barely stand let alone speak. The only conversations that I have ever had with him have been about holidays or social activities.
    It is such a shame that this is so common on the International circuit.
    International Administrators must lift their game!


    • VG says:

      Hey! I worked for him in South America! Or…it could be the principal I had in Saudi Arabia!
      Thankfully, those types are not often in the classroom…however, good schools can become the pits quickly, and little known schools can be gems…anymore it is hard to judge a school unless they have been top rated for years…


  15. justtried says:

    You know what is a shame. When the principal is still working on his master’s degree and trying to give you pointers. He has never had experience in teaching (only a business degree). At the school I taught at the principal never did a formal review of my class. Really, people from your department are better observing your work. He knew nothing about the subject. He often made fun of the parents & students (openly) during their parent meetings. A blacklist, I believe there is one. The school I was at seemed more interested if you were blonde hair, blue-eyed and the parents paid for their kids to past the year.


  16. Anonymous says:

    I am a veteran at this game but still got caught out like you. As the school hired us from a Search job fair, we thought they would be screened. How wrong can you be? Initially we turned down the offer as gut instinct told us this was going to be a host nation school and not international as they claimed. Hired as a PE teacher, my husband ended up running the English department and I did the same on the female side of the school although at least it was in my field. Almost all the other Western hires were fired after the first year. We stuck out the contract, learnt a lot, made some money and put it all behind us. Since then, we have been extra careful checking the schools before accepting any offers. Cheers Taiga


    • Beentheredonethat says:

      Good call. That seems to be the theme in many of these emails from those of us who have been doing this for a while; do your homework, make the best call you possibly can, and if you get caught in one of the bad schools, see it through as best you can. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. Thanks for sharing. It is good to let others know that even the veterans get hood-winked in this profession from time to time.


  17. Beentheredonethat says:

    Point taken. Like the Boy Scouts say, “be prepared”. Got overwhelmed by pessimism for a moment.


  18. weedonald says:

    Sorry txr and Beentheredone that but you’ve missed the point. It is not a question of jurisdiction but having your contract reviewed for loopholes, small print, etc. While it is true that one is pretty much on their own in the Middle East legally speaking, it is still very important to have a professional evaluation of the contract since you can then raise issues with the admin. BEFORE you go overseas. Doing this will help you negotiate any changes needed, all the while knowing that even a written contract in the ME is only worth the ethical value of the school.It can also tell you what type of people you are dealing with. A heavily biased contract in the school’s favour is another warning sign.
    Before I went overseas, I had all contracts verified by a lawyer here and saved myself some difficult moments when negotiating with the school.The fact that they knew I had done my homework helped me draw a line, which I never had to cross.


  19. Beentheredonethat says:

    Yep, I agree. No jurisdiction. Doesn’t take a lawyer to tell one he or she is a guest worker that can become persona non grata faster than you can say I’m sorry boss. Teachers don’t seem to realize that we are imported workers. Some dig ditches, others perform open-heart surgery, but we are all “guests” who serve at the pleasure of our masters. Indentured servants really.


  20. txr says:

    someone mentioned it would be smart to let your lawyer check the contract you´ve been offered to. This is a waste of time if you are talking about Middle east schools where you have no rights at all….


  21. lal says:

    Totally Agree! What a shame for educators, parents and the students. International Education needs a good clean out. Unfortunately it all starts at the recruitment fair which, I feel is becoming more and more of a money spinning joke and a “Big Boys Weekend (couple of months!!!!) Away. I can’t wait to meet an International school administrator that takes his educational and professional responsibility seriously…I am sure they are out there! I would say that my number one warning sign during an interview is the administrator who can’t talk knowledgeably, extensively and with passion about the curriculum, professional development plan of the school, new learning initiatives and the learning and community environment at the school in general. I expect them to go on and on about their school. Too often, administrators, when asked a question during interview defer to teachers at their school by saying they will “put you in contact with this person or that person”. O.K. That is all well and good. I do want to speak to teachers at the school BUT…if I was recruiting for X amount of positions, I would know the job descriptions, curriculum, possible issues faced by the current teacher, future direction of the dept/job off by heart. Frankly, I have only met one principal during my 15 years of International teaching where I felt this was true.
    It is time for the same expectations and workloads faced by teachers in international schools to be experienced by administrators. I know that many teachers would put in double the amount of work if they were working for inspirational and passionate leaders….but they seem to be as rare as hen’s teeth on the circuit at the moment.


  22. Beentheredonethat says:

    Lots of schools allow teachers to operate on the “suitcase curriculum”…i.e; whatever you bring in your suitcase is more or less fine as long as you update it and put the proper school logos and such on the material. This is okay if you have an up-to-date suitcase full of stuff, but very bad when teachers take the same tired materials around the circuit for years re-using old lesson plans and so forth that they know by heart and may or may not have any relevancy anymore.
    A tip that the suitcase stuff is good enough is when you ask the director if they will allow extra-shipping for your own teaching materials you’d like to bring. Slackers jump at that without questions as they know they have nothing on hand and hope to get some freebies. Some of the most hated people I have met are the poor curriculum coordinators given the task of organizing something coherent in mediocre schools. They have little support from the administrators who dump this work on them and are resented by marginal teachers who accuse them of power-tripping or making them do busy work.
    Perhaps the only individuals more hated and abused are the poor souls brought into bad international schools that are coming up for accreditation renewal. Directors feed them the line of bull they have memorized about “engaging all stakeholders in a spirit of school improvement” etc. That person becomes the lightening rod for every disgruntled member of the school community for the year or two leading up to re-accreditation and then generally gets tossed aside once the inevitable accreditation is issued.
    Most of this CIS, WASC, SACS, NESA, clap trap is all about the Benjamins $$$ in end, no matter how sincere some of the people involved at various levels may be. How many of these awful schools written about on this website are re-issued the credentials to charge outrageous fees, issue diplomas and transcripts accepted world-wide even though everyone knows it is a farce year after year after year? I have been hearing about the same nonsense in some of these so-called international schools for over 20 years.

    The text book sellers, accreditation agencies, business managers, insurance salespersons, school suppliers, foreign governments, colleges, universities, head hunters and a whole host of other people know that what is written on this website is, for the most part true,…but turn a blind eye as money makes the international schools go around. Having said that there are a lot of good folks out there, but the majority of these outfits are practicing educational racketeering and malpractice out of reach of any real jurisdiction. And a heck of a lot of good people know it and keep quiet too, thus enabling the bad eggs to carry on with impunity.

    It is still a great way to make a living, travel and do some good in the world when done properly, however “let the buyer beware” when it comes to choosing these jobs. Choose well!


  23. Overseas 2 says:

    A real tip-off that an interview is not right is when the focus is on chit-chat and topics not related to teaching. I’ve found that the friendly, kicked back, conversation sort of interview means the director does not have the slightest idea about academics at his school or what is happening in the classrooms. This type of interview is a strong signal that no curriculum is in place and everyone just does their own thing. Of course you’ll be creating a curriculum and recording it just in case a local agency or parent asks to see it. At such schools the wheel is reinvented every year!!!

    I worked at a school that had been in operation for over 20 years and there was nothing in place…just teachers in classrooms teaching what ever they felt like teaching at the time. When I received last year’s 4th graders into my 5th grade classroom I had no idea what they had covered the year before. To make matters worse when I approached the 4th grade teacher for a look at her curriculum she was offended and thought I was checking up on her. She went straight to the director and complained


  24. isrlover says:

    In the middle eastern countries, the sponsor (owner) of the school must issue an NOC (no objection certificate if you are going to take up employment again in that country and/or at a rival school once you have left their employment.

    If you are a very popular/ well-known teacher, esp.for your hard work, getting great result for instance in Maths, Music, Drama, Science (the hard-to-find), you might find that your sponsor will object to you being employed in that country for up to 2 years as your students (their clients (money)) might follow you to your next school. If you are one of those teachers who are lazy, not pulling yor weight in a team, constantly gossiping, going around from school to school, thinking that because you can speak English with a British or American accent and gloating on the fact that you are “superior” to other nationalities, think again. You can be easily replaced by very hardworking, multi-skilled and talented Eastern Block or African teachers who will cost the school much less. Directors will gladly see that you are employed at a rival school as you will continue in the same fashion there.

    The idea for success on the international school circuit, is to work as a team member, acknowledge that other teachers working with you, also have something good to bring to the school and stop complaining.

    Yes, there are schools who treat teachers badly, but…. How much did “I” as a teacher contribute to that situation. I am fondly reminded of a colleague who goes yearly from school to school in Kuwait with the attitude of “I can do it better than them” but find herself looking for a job ev’ry year!


    • This person is obviously an international school administrator/ HR person. His or her comments are so inappropriate.


      • Overseasvet says:

        I think it’s a bit of a stretch to assume it’s an administrator. I’ve worked with many teachers who make life more difficult for themselves by not being team players. I don’t understand our tolerance for those in our field who should really be doing something else. In our to raise the standard at all schools, we need to ask our colleagues to meet high professional standards – if not, we all look bad.


        • shipt says:

          I agree – some teachers constantly talk negatively about how backward the host country nationals are, and it does not take an administrator to mention this.


      • Anonymous says:

        Every comment is appropriate – but there is only one, real reason why a school is classified as bad – Leadership.


        • anonymous says:

          I would not agree. Some schools have been entrenched in a culture and negative patterns for years. The most talented administrator with the best intentions may or may not have an impact, and certainly not a very lasting one. Luckily, some schools are the opposite, and even the most incompetent leadership can not bring it to its knees. Eventually they all move on, but the school culture, remains–for better or worse.


  25. Anonymous says:

    Very good article and insightful comments. I had a very familiar experience. I was offered a job in an ‘expanding’ school. Managed to stick it out for a while, but the verbal abuse got too much. The Head definitely tried his best to blacklist as well. He contacted just about anyone he could think of. Not only did he say I made a runner (which, fair enough, was true), he also told people I had stolen money from the school (when it was the SCHOOL that owed me money) and that I was a criminal on the run!

    In the end all his pathetic efforts were in vain. I quickly found another job which I love. Not only that, but I was also contacted by other schools I had applied to previously for job offers. When my previous references heard about what happened, they spontaneously contacted me to tell me that they’d be happy to give me another reference and they knew me well enough to say that the accusations against me could not be true.


  26. dancingbear says:

    I have read all the above comments and just want to say thank you to you all.
    I needed to be reminded that there are wonderful caring sane teachers out there. I recently escaped from the School from Hell after 4 months. I was bullied and verbally abused and thought it was all my fault, that I was a bad teacher etc., etc. (Yes, my life was in danger.) Then I went to a job interview and was told that my former school had a terrible reputation all over that continent for mistreating its teachers. So it wasn’t me.

    I have worked for 5 international schools and of those, 4 seems to have been run by power-crazed vicious administrators. Perhaps something happens to expats who live abroad for too long, who become out of touch with reality.

    If you find yourself in a place that is so bad, take the next plane out and find a safe place to stay until you can move on to the next (hopefully sane) school.


  27. David Freeman says:

    NEVER break a contract unless your life is in danger. Stick it out, get your letters, move on, and never look back. There are many bad schools out there. Do your homework, but if you make a bad decision, stick it out.


    • Yes, unfortunately this is true. No matter how bad the school is, you have no rights and forfeit your future if you don’t comply.


    • Karen says:

      Disagree. Teachers are not masochists. If you level-headedly tell your boss you have to break a contract because the school is not a good fit, and you tell them that you will stay until they find someone to take your position, you have done the right thing for your career and your integrity. Get out with your rep intact and take the school off your CV. I regret not having done this twice now.


  28. Anonymous says:

    All very good advice. I just returned from the UAE and your basic school from hell. It claims to be an American school but once I left no actual Americans are there.


  29. Anonymous says:

    A lot of focus has been put on the school. I think we need to keep in mind that it is the director/principal, not necessarily the school, which can be the source of the problem. I have seen good schools run into the ground because of poor/incompetent leadership. Teachers need to keep in mind the reputation of the admin, not just the school. I do know that there are some very poor schools out there that should have been avoided.


  30. Michelle says:

    Oh, you’re SO right, 2xAround. I forgot about the “we’re expanding” excuse, used to cover the large number of exiting teachers you mention, and also lack of supplies, lack of organization/textbooks/sports equipment/monies for teacher development/teacher aides/lack of appropriate salaries….you name it.

    A good reminder of another falsehood by a potentially poor school!


  31. 2xAround says:

    “WE’RE EXPANDING” – A signal that you may be being lied to during an interview is when a director tells you his/her school is expanding and enrolling many new students and that’s why we are hiring teachers for a large number of positions. Often this line is simply intended to cover up the fact that teachers are exiting in mass.

    Reading ISR reviews will sometimes make the situation clear. Searching the web CAN also reveal information from parents that will give you insight into what’s happening at the school.

    Something else to consider is that for profit schools are often happy to pack in as many students as possible, completely disregarding optimal class sizes and the resources available. If they really were expanding you could end up in a sweatshop working long hours with limited resources.

    Be careful of the “we’re expanding” phrase. I’ve heard it more than once and research proved the director a liar.


  32. lal says:

    I have always been lucky enough to get a feeling during the interview from the prospective school’s administrators. I always thought and had planned to teach in Africa and was offered positions in two African schools but just didn’t get a good feeling from the Directors. At the same fair, I was offered a position in a school in Turkey (somewhere I had looked at and dismissed as an option before the fair). I just got a really good feeling from the Principal and the Director. I especially liked the way that the Principal spoke about the pros and cons of the school and Turkey itself and he was clearly excited and knowledgeable about student learning and what was going on at the school. He spoke about what he saw as my strengths and how I would be able to contribute and what I would gain from the colleagues that I would be working with. Unfortunately since then (7 years have passed), there have been many changes in administration at the school and I often wonder how they would be at interview.

    Administrators DO informally blacklist people. The International school community is VERY small and connected in so many ways. One Principal that I know bragged about how she was able to discourage other administrators from hiring a certain teacher with nothing more than a facial expression.
    On the other hand, I have found that my associate at SEARCH has always been forthright and honest about the quality of particular schools.

    Maybe I have been lucky but I think that teachers need to take some responsibility for finding out about schools and hey sometimes you make a bad choice now and then…do your time and move on but don’t forget to write a review on ISR including the good and the bad.


  33. anonymous says:

    Another thing to consider is how many positions the school is trying to fill – both in the teaching staff and the administration. If there’s a mass exodus going on, it could mean trouble. At least, discuss it with the potential employer.


  34. Beentheredonethat says:

    These guys meet all the time. The job fair circuit moves annually from the East coast to the Midwest and on to the West Coast over a span of weeks and administrators talk constantly in airports,, coffee shops over breakfast,in conferences and socially. Each educational region of the world has its own administrators’ conference each year and believe me they talk. You’re right about one thing though, there is no physical list. That’s because they are loathe to write any of this down and the black balling is done verbally. Not many emails either. To think these guys don’t network constantly to ferret out so called trouble makes is naive. It is the first rule of the blackguard to check with cronies to see if someone is somehow an “activist” in reform.


    • Anonymous says:

      I have news for you: there is a websites for directors only which has a list, regularly updated, of black-balled teachers. So don’t kid yourselves and be careful, because you can really suffer the near-elimination of your international teaching career. used to know the website and will look for you!


      • Thane says:

        Hello. I’m reading your message about being blacklisted, and I suspect I’ve been in blackballed in the entire Middle East somehow. When I first started applying for jobs there about 18 months ago, it was easy to find a job. I had people begging me from offices in London to go to work at schools in the UAE and Saudi. I ended up pulling an academic year in Oman. However, I left on bad terms, was blackballed in Oman, and now those amazing offers that filled my email box no longer come. I think I’ve been blacklisted. I would like to get hold of this website you’re talking about and take a look at it. If you can give me the address, I’d appreciate it.


    • anonymous says:

      Don’t kid yourself. It’s a small world and it’s not just administrators who share their opinions about other teachers. Ever been to a regional teachers fair? Teachers swap stories about colleagues all the time. I’ve never met a teacher who wasn’t willing to share negative reviews of a colleague that they would never want to work with again. There are veterans out there who have plenty to say. So, my advice is to burn as few bridges as possible with any international colleague, because the infamous “blacklist” can be as simple as a passing comment in the elevator made by ANYone.


  35. No black list but the international school circuit is small…..blacklists are only remotely relevant if you stay in the same country. The good news is – vindictive Directors only mix with similar Directors and therefore at similar schools you wouldn’t want to work at. No Director, no matter how insecure, would share his/her thoughts with a professional school director because a) It reflects badly and b) a professional Director will make his/her own mind up (knowing the school the teacher is coming from. At least that is what I would hope for….


    • Anonymous says:

      I do truly believe the blacklist is a little bigger than that. If you’ve broken contract after one school year or done a mid-year runner, word seems to get around, no matter your circumstances.


  36. Anonymous Woman says:

    Is there a real blacklist?


    • Sandsmoked says:

      There no no real blacklist.. Does not exist. These directors are busy and not conspiring together in a secret club which meets in dark alleyways to pass the sealed envelope to one another. The worst thing that can happen is that the director or principal will not write a recommendation. Ask your dept. head or a sympathetic AP to write the letter and move on. The only problem that you may encounter is when a school calls your former school, which the better schools will usually do.


      • 2xAround says:

        THERE IS A BLACKLIST but it does not exist in the sense which Sandsmoked is outlining. A director blackballs a teacher by reporting their name to Search, ISS and other recruiting agencies. The agency then denies the teacher access to their recruiting fairs. Should the teacher solicit schools on their own, and a potential employer confers with recruiting agencies about the teachers status, the blackballed status will come up.

        I was in this situation some years ago. My wife and I were blackballed at ISS. We found this particular school through ISS and thus the director reported our “defection” to ISS. This prompted us to join Search Associates. Our representative never asked us about the blackball and we never mentioned. It was interesting that ISS offered us a position at one of their schools at the same conference at which we accepted the jobs from which we later broke contract. When we approached ISS and asked them to hear our side of the story and reconsider our request was flatly denied. We suddenly had zero credibility in the eyes of the same people that had offered us positions. This was some years ago and things may have changed by now.

        During our search for new positions, post-blackballed, we saw an ad for a school in South America and the director was the principal of a school we had worked at in South East Asia some years ago. He was aware we had been blackballed as his school recruited through ISS. After a brief explanation of what transpired at this school he was satisfied and said that he knew our work and wasn’t concerned.

        So, there is not a list that directors pass around, but there are ways by which word gets around.


      • Minette says:

        Teachers can definitely be blacklisted or banned in the Middle East. The governments of GCC countries will refuse a blacklisted teacher and employment visa. This ban lasts for only a few months and is not permanent.
        Stuck it out


    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, there sure is!


  37. patricio gonzalez says:

    I was offered a job at a private school in Arequipa, Perú. They offer the IB Diploma. The director contacted me through the phone and offered many benefits. When we had the personal interview, the contract was not ready and the salary offer was not clear, a scholarship for my child which was initially offered, was denied. I had another interview and insisted for the salary figures and the scholarship, when the director went on vacations and didn´t leave anything clear, I rejected the offer and told them, “no, thank you” They contacted me again offering the salary increase and the scholarship. It was too late, another school had offered me everything from the start. Now, they are trying to contact me again. I wouldn´t accept anything from them, ever; everything was so unprofessional….


  38. weedonald says:

    Happyteacher….Search and other for-profit recruiting agencies rarely if ever blacklist a school on a teacher’s word. They are,after all, their principal source of revenue and they will believe the school far more often than a disgruntled teacher. that said, sometimes a call to your agent will help you, IF you were unjustly treated and have been blacklisted. It worked for me once and my success was based on my excellent relationship with my agent.


    • Trav45 says:

      I agree. Talk to your rep. I broke contract with a school after a year, but Search had had so many complaints about the school (and eventually kicked them out of their fair), that my rep even told me he “owed me one” for sticking out the year, because four other teachers left after two weeks!


  39. Happy teacher says:

    That is a terrible situation and I do hope you find a satisfactory school soon. The red lights should have been flashing for myself when the school concerned offered me a job within an hour. Once I arrived at the school and staff kept leaving was when the warning bells saw me looking for another job. Whilst I am no longer on the International circuit, I am in a job I love and in the area where I want to be.
    However, not all these ‘bells’ were at all visible or loud enough prior to me arriving in a foreign country.
    One suggestion is that you contact the agency who initially gave you details of the position… CIS, SEARH etc. Hopefully, they would be proactive in blacklisting the school concerned.
    Good luck in your search.


    • A veteran says:

      We, as teachers are so naive. We think that SEARCH, ISS and the others play by the same set of rules that we do. They do not. It is all about money despite all of the rhetoric.


  40. weedonald says:

    Listening to your gut or intuition is essential in selecting a job. Desperation is counter-productive, as this article clearly demonstrates. Here are some things I always did before accepting a job:

    1)Check all references on ISR, other reviews on the web, the school’s website, etc.
    2)Insist on speaking with the incumbent you may be replacing or at least a staff member(not an administrator) at the school,Failure to provide someone is a sign of the administration’s bad faith and concealed agendas.
    3)Refuse any offer that will be ¨mailed¨to you or signed in situ. Insist on a letter of intent at least,outlining the basics. However I always demanded and got a firm, official contract well before getting on the plane and I always had it checked by a lawyer.
    4) If you have been blacklisted, talk openly and frankly with any school you are applying to and make sure they have your side of the story. It is also a very good thing to speak to your recruiter if you are using one and explain the situation. If nothing helps, keep contacting schools you targeted and for sure a few will not care or not have heard about your situation.
    5)Ask the school if they support the ISR’s teacher bill of rights available on this site. If they say yes, it is already a very good sign.If they don’t know about it,e-mail them a copy and see what they say. If they refuse to consider it, steer clear of them!
    6) check ex-pat websites in the city/country you are going to.Many have their kids in local schools or may actually work there or at least know about the school. Read their blogs and see if you can get inside in formation from parents,staff,friends of school attendees etc.
    7)Check with your embassy or representatives in the city/country to find out if there are issues the school hasn’t told you about (security, political issues, health and environmental issues, etc.)

    Basically do your homework and NEVER rush into an agreement because you are desperate. If the school can’t or won’t wait a day or two for you to do your homework then they aren’t worthy of your interest.


    • Thank for your very valuable/ logical/ intuitive advice, and for taking the time to guide others who are less experienced. I have started to learn all these things by trial and error but your suggestions have really helped me clarify my understanding of this whole international school “Beast” ; for instance, what *I* can do to protect myself, and how I can gain more control over my situation. I did have to turn down job offers in places I really wanted to live, based on poor reviews, unacceptable contracts, and correspondences with previous teachers. Those schools sounded as bad or worse than the schools I had fled. I am lucky not to be blackballed just yet, but live in fear of that… Isn’t it funny how international schools can ruin your reputation so easily, or just deny you a paycheck, or treat you any way they want, at their own whim? It’s like the American Wild West. They are lawless. I am enrolled with Search Associates and they are no help whatsoever (they are often seriously counterproductive). Yet they seem to have a monopoly in this area. They have wasted *a lot* of my time and money. They have no interest in me (or you), and pay no attention to our current activities/efforts to find a teaching position. I wish there were more alternatives besides Tie-online and CIS. CIS will not let “unemployed” teachers join. Go figure.


      • Beentheredonethat says:

        The University of Northern Iowa is as close to non-profit as it gets in this business. They have been doing it longer than anyone else. However the same bad schools get in there as they do in other places so be careful. UNI is an old state teachers college and I think Iowa exports about as many teachers as it does bushels of corn and soybeans. However they don’t get finders fees for placing you. They just provide the venue and back up services for schools and educators for a flat fee and you are on your own. They police it a little bit, but in the end it is just you and your gut instinct when you sign on the bottom line. I don’t think you can ever do too much research when you are about to decide two years of your life far away from home. Jeez everybody, just be careful out there. I have been doing this for 30 years now and still got caught with a bad bunch recently. What did I do? I put my head down, did the best job I could and finished the contract. Then I posted a heartfelt warning on this website hoping my bad would help somebody avoid a tough two years. Don’t get me wrong though, even two years in a bad school is arguably worth it for the privilege of living and working in some of these beautiful places. They housed me well, paid me fairly, transported and insured me, but
        I knew one false step and they would have thrown me out like yesterdays trash. You just can’t be too careful.


      • Jessica Dennis says:

        I received my job placement through International School Services. They seem to specialise in American teachers who wish to go international, but are not limited to Americans by company policy I believe. I am surprised that you feel Search is so disinterested since I have heard mostly good things about them from fellow teachers. I have heard, however, that it really depends on who your assigned associate is. I have not yet tried them myself. ISS does not give you a contact person inthe company. They publish your portfolio and have job faires (mostly the same ones as Search either the week before or the week after) and let you search through vacancies. They do require administrative contacts for the schools that you have worked in for the last 7 years. However, some of my admin are near impossible to find now and they have still posted me as active so long as my current admin sends in the requested recommendations. If what you are looking for is another organisation with access to job information and job faires, then ISS should suit your needs. If you want more direct support, then they are not likely to be what you are looking for. Personally, I am hoping to find money to open accounts with both ISS and Search.


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