Canceling a Contract After Signing – Where do you stand?

Here’s the scenario: You’ve attended, at great expense, an international teaching job fair. On the last day of the recruiting fair you sign on with your 3rd-choice school. You’re not enthused about this job, but realistically know it’s definitely a world better than no job at all. As you head home you feel an odd mix of relief and reluctance–you are glad you’ve found your next international teaching position, but still would have greatly preferred schools #1 or #2. You try to think positively and make plans for the upcoming move.

Then, a few weeks pass and you’re emailed an offer from your 1st-choice school–your dream position and salary in a super desirable school and location! Yeah! But….uh, oh. Hold on a moment…..You’re confused. What should you do?

Comments from International Educators indicate there are two, distinct camps of thought on this dilemma:

Camp #1 is exemplified by this comment: “It’s a question of character. I have principles, and I respect those who do. I make choices in life based on those. You have to decide if your word is your bond.”

Camp #2 is exemplified by this comment: “Character is just an excuse people use for sticking with a bad decision. SMART people change their mind when confronted with better options. What people do in business isn’t always the same thing they would do personally.”

Which camp do YOU stand in? And, why?

93 thoughts on “Canceling a Contract After Signing – Where do you stand?

  1. I’ve been working overseas for seven years now and there are some things that you need to realize about international school contracts. Firstly, they are more to protect you from the business of the school and is not something that binds your soul to the school. Most contracts have leaving clauses, some with penalties and others without. For me, it’s not about standing by your word but rather following the wording of the contract itself.

    Secondly, if you don’t have a valid work permit in the country you’ve been hired, then your contract is null and void anyway, because technically you are an illegal employee. It isn’t until receiving a valid work permit that the contract can be held up in court.

    Before you sign a contract, check the leaving clause. What are the consequences for breaking the contract? Many schools want advanced notice and usually you will have to pay back any fees (flights, visa, etc.) that the school incurred on your behalf.


  2. I have accepted and signed a contract for next fall, but my first choice school is offering me a position closer to home and sigificantly more pay. Can I back out if I haven’t started working? Are there repercussions beyond moral obligations?


    1. There is no loyalty, anywhere. Management can terminate someone on the sport for any infringement they deem happened. I had signed a contract but because they did not sign, i see that as not being bound. Yes, it goes both ways. i have seen runners as well. Some teachers seem to be targets for admin and make their life a living hell. Running is the only option for mental health. I have been in schools were a 20 year counselling veteran with an impeccable reputation and professional conduct forced to resign because a new director was coming whose wife is a counsellor. Management was making changes that didn’t include the existing personnel. The whole staff was furious at this decision. I had two meals with that person and found out that management told them they weren’t experienced enough!!!!! That’s how educators get thrown under the bus.


    2. Check the probation period. If you haven’t started yet, they still have plenty of time to get someone else. If you’re really wanting to take the better job, I would contact the Principal of the school you already signed with and tell them your feelings. Hopefully, they will understand and allow you to leave. Don’t forget that you haven’t even started your probationary period and that they could terminate you anytime in that period. One other thing to consider is if both schools are in the same country. If so,then you may have to check the labor laws. What I will say, is that from my experiences, it’s better to do what makes you happy. I understand all the talk about integrity and following through on your word etc., but I did that myself and was miserable for two years. I should have gone ahead and taken the job I wanted and been happy. After those two years, I have finally been offered a job with the school I wanted in the past, so I’ve taken it. I’ve learned that you need to be happy and that no one wins when you’re not where you want to be. If you can get the Principal’s blessing, then jump on it, but if you can’t, I say still go for it.


  3. I signed a contract back in February. Last week, a better offer closer to home came to me. Since i haven’t bought a flight and it’s still 3 months away, is it proper and valid to tell the first school sorry, but a teaching positions came available much closer to home.


  4. i signed a teaching contract that starts sept 2015 a month ago but i am now worried that the country may become unstable and unsafe, is it possible to cancel the contract without penalty ?


    1. If you cite such security reasons, you have every right to cancel a contract. You cannot be expected to work in an environment where your safety is at risk. Did you know about this when you signed? If so, or if you had an idea it might besom unsafe, then you may have a problem.


  5. Our school had two ELL teachers on a two year contract and they did a “runner” after three months. Nothing happened to them though. Another teacher did the same and no repercussions!


  6. When my first choice school failed to even grant me an interview, I applied to a few more schools, then, after being sent two contracts, I asked for time to hear from my second choice school, who also sent me a contract which I accepted. At the time I let the other two schools know that I was waiting to hear the result of the third interview and they were happy to wait. I also let the second choice school know that I had been offered two other contracts so they didn’t keep me waiting longer than necessary. It is just a matter of communicating and being open and honest.


  7. Is a return email saying that you’ve accepted the position considered a signed contract? I don’t think it is. Just wondering what other think about this.


    1. Stephen email replies accepting an offer can be construed as legally binding prior to the signing of a contract. It is best that you do not accept anything until you are sure that you want to do the job


  8. Any school worth a grain of salt would not make an offer to someone who has already signed a contract with another school.


  9. The problem is with the scenario. Why do you panic and sign on with your third choice school. Hiring does not end on the last day of the fair, many school make offers in the following week before the next fair starts.

    You should tell your third choice school that you greatly appreciate their offer and would like some time to think about it as you have other schools that are considering you for positions that you would like to hear from before making your final decision.

    If they will not give you a week to think about, I don’t want to work for them. It speaks volumes as to how much they value you as a potential employee and more importantly how you can expect to be treated in the future. if they give you no respect as a candidate and try to bully you into making a very important decision on such short notice then why do you expect them to act any differently once you have committed and moved to the school?


  10. My first international teaching position that I accepted was in Cairo at a private for-profit school. It was definitely not a good school. I figured I had to put my time in before I’d get an offer at a good school 😛 Two weeks later, I got a job offer from Singapore American School. I didn’t even think about breaking my contract. Yeah, it was too bad, but I do think this reflects one’s character and commitment. I couldn’t accept a job and then change my mind after signing on. I expect schools to do the same.Just because they meet a better qualified candidate later, they shouldn’t break contract with a teacher already hired. Thank goodness some people still have the integrity to stand behind what they say. You should not sign on with a school and then change your mind later because something better comes along. I believe that if you treat somebody this way,you better watch out, b/c in one way or another it will come back to you and you will payback somehow. Treat others the way you want to be treated.


    1. The problem Jen, is that most schools would do that to you, no matter how much you had committed yourself to them. As I said before, when you work in such a bad environment, it’s no good for anyone. Not you, the students or the school. I would go and speak with the Principal, then talk it over with him or her and see if they will let you leave with some notice. If the school is so bad, it would not matter if they had a supply teacher in that room and the outcome for the students would be the same or better than if stayed. Life is too short to spend two years in a Hell that causes your sanity to waver, you are so unhappy and stressed out. Talk with the Principal and they should be willing to understand and let you leave.


  11. My question is that would a first choice school that offered you a job after you accepted perhaps a third choice school even still want you if you chose to break the contract to go with them? Would a teacher be obligated to tell them? I feel like I would want to be honest and tell them that I would really LOVE to go to them, but that I didn’t think they had an offer, so I went with the other school. It would be so hard not to want to go to them, especially if one had a family and knew that the first choice, as far as a fit for one’s teaching style and environment for one’s own children, was perfect.

    I am very curious about this, since it seems so wrong to break a contract at all.

    Thanks for any responses.


  12. For me it’s simple: I honor the contract. I have been contacted by schools with better offers, countries, etc. after signing a contract but have told them, “No, I’ve signed with someone else.” It isn’t about the blacklisting, or the kids even. It’s about personal integrity and honor. Call me old fashioned but I gave my word and that’s my bond. If I hate the new school I can always find another at the end of my contract. On the other hand I don’t have kids to worry about so I can be a little more daring than parents can. I do however have a wife who would not do well in certain cultures so I don’t accept offers, or even interview, with those schools. Not anything against them, I just know it would be a bad fit. I don’t interview just to get a job. I interview to get a good job.


  13. The picture that is being painted here is quite distressing. It is one of international schools that are filled with owner-thieves who hire puppet-Directors who use fear and manipulation to constantly browbeat the young idealist teacher who apologizes and asks for more while being in constant battle against veteran teachers who look out for themselves only and are willing to abandon ship at anytime.

    Back to the original blog question – definitely don’t accept a job at a school like that!

    I’m sorry to hear that some of you have had experiences like that – it would be terrible.

    I’ve been overseas for 6 years and have come across many amazing schools. For the most part, schools will do well if they have great teachers. A shady school will never be able to attract or retain great teachers.

    Does everyone leave our organization happy? No, unfortunately not, though I hope they are a very small minority. However, we do try to treat them ethically and professionally. Do we blacklist? No, but I will give an honest reference if asked.

    I agree with Allen, if you get another offer, be open and transparent with the school and most will be willing to find a solution.

    At the end of the day, teaching internationally is an amazing experience and a very rewarding career.


  14. I have been in your position. After I confirm that my “first”
    choice is “perfect, I accept the position if it is still “perfect” after I contact my embassy, the education department of the home country of my first school, and communicate with current and past teaching staff members. Then I contact the first school and tell
    them the truth. Most schools will not want a staff member that
    does not want to be at their school.


  15. Reading these posts have given me insight. Clearly, those that profit from a teacher´s labor, schools, administrators and recruiters use scare tactics (blacklisting) and guilt (whaddabout the kids?) to manipulate folks. Remember, we are talking about adminstrators and schools that are problematic. It is all about money for these people. It is a business and their livehood..period. They are in the business to make money…bottom line. Any talk from them about ethics, etc, is complete BS.

    BTW generally speaking, what is the percentage of good schools vs. bad schools??? If you were to give a number?????


    1. Roberto, I can tell you this from 25 years experience, salary wise, the difference between a so called “top tier” school and a regular old international/billingual school is only a few percent, depending on the country. Of course you have to be careful, but there are so many many schools in the non-top tier rank that you should never be concerned with black listing. Not every well paying school goes to recruitment fairs.

      Bottom line, if a school (its administration or its students) don’t treat me right, I’m gone with the next paycheck, usually to Thailand, and I have never had a problem finding another job.

      Its a great life but not if you have to hem and haw for fear of being black-listed. That would just take all the fun out of it for me and I might as well go back and baby sit at an inner city school Memphis.


  16. In my experience, most contracts have a clause which states that either party can terminate the contract within 90 days. I believe that if you sign a contract, it is your word and you are obligated to go to that position. If it is not working out for you then you can leave under the proper circumstances without fear of reprisal such as black listing. Others above have mentioned how very small this industry actually is and you can really run into trouble by getting on the list that is negative. Do your homework ahead of time and only interview with schools who you would like to work at. Then there is no problem. My personal feeling is that I can make no mistakes, only poor choices… every time each step I take only gives me the lessons I need to learn in this life. Good luck to all of you.


  17. All Americans from the Southern and Midwestern States, and probably all States at this point, would be forced to go with Camp 2 and do whats best for them.

    It has nothing to do with character or values or any of that nonsense – its called Right to Work. What that means is, if the school wants to dump you then they can dump you. That could be tough but the bright side is, teachers have just as much right to dump the school and with no need to do a mid-night runner but walk out, head held high and demanding every penny they are owed.

    Its a Right to Work issue so teacher should do what’s best for them.


    1. Simon – I am on your side regarding earlier posts, but I think you miss the point of Nick’s post.


  18. Also kind of rich that ‘Anonymous’ is ranting about anonymous posters. There are several of ‘him’ in every place i’ve ever worked. They always end up getting the short end of the stick no matter how much they brown-nose the boss. I have to say it always gives me great pleasure to see it happen.


    1. Wilbert I was not hiding I simply did not add my name it is a mistake. Like yourself I stand by the courage of my convictions. I just disagree with yours


  19. You sound like the one who is venting and ranting. I don’t have to work in my home country or internationally–unless i want to eat.

    But even though I have to work, I’m not going to bend over for anyone. I’m offering a well-qualified and talented professional. I expect the other side to do the same. I don’t feel that I should just be happy that i’m not a pakistani worker putting in 16 hours day. Fate had other plans for me. I’m also not a starving child who should eat every piece of crap that is put in front of me. Thank fate for that also.

    Having worked both in ‘business’ and then a second career in U.S. education, international education, and back to U.S. education, I can say that i’ve been treated far worse in teaching than I was in a ‘real’ profession. Professionals don’t clock or sign in and out. Don’t put up with much of the nonsense that teachers put up with. When i was working in corporations, no one constantly beat the drum that the abuse that I took was ‘for the kids’. Believe me, wealthy expats and locals who can afford an international school’s tuition aren’t going to be adversely affected by someone failing to put up with every indignity thrown their way.

    What other field would someone force you to make a decision about renewing up to 8 months before the end of contract? I’ll state again, that unless i’m getting paid, that ‘contract’ is merely a mutual agreement without legal binding. If you take their money for airfare, salary, lodging, and then bolt without much reason that is lame. But if you get a better offer 6 months before the year starts, thats business. If they really wanted to make it binding, they’d start paying me when i signed.

    All of this about blacklisting may happen in some cases, but i have many friends who have been doing the top tier international circuit for a long time, and are still in it, and for none of them is anything written in cement or blood until they actually get on the plane. Something better comes up, they call the first school and let them know. No negative consequences. Most directors that i’ve talked to expect it as part of the business. You are going to lose some prospects especially if you aren’t able to match the offers made by the better schools.

    All of this about integrity and honor is overblown and overly dramatic as far as i’m concerned. Backing out of a non-binding contract (slavery isn’t legal, so how could an employment contract be binding before any money is paid?) isn’t the same as selling your friends down the river or stealing from old ladies or any other of the implications about those of us with no ‘integrity’ or ‘honor.’

    There are issues far beyond the original post here. Yes there are jerks and whiner that teach internationally. There are also a lot of spineless people with self-confidence issues who will take any sort of mistreatment and chalk it up to ‘having honor’. Stand up for yourself, no one else will.


    1. Wilbert,I totally agree with you. I’m relatively new to the international circuit, but I learn quickly and I see no differences between the way I have been treated now versus when I taught in the states. I have found that most administrators have no integrity, honor, ethics or morals when it comes to their willingness to sack a good teacher for doing something either they or some powerful parents didn’t like, such as giving that kid the grade they deserved for not doing any work in class and getting failing test scores. Even if a teacher has done nothing wrong, they need only to get the wrong kind of attention and their contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Like so many others, I signed a “binding” 2 year contract with my employer, only to find out the only person bound by it was me, not my employer. If I wanted to leave for another job, for any reason, I faced blacklisting, financial penalties and a guilt trip for leaving my students hanging by doing what was best for me. However, if my Director wanted to get rid of me, for any reason, he could do so at any time and I had no recourse. Effects on the students are not considered. I have always been a man of morals and ethics, placed the needs of my students first and sacrificed my own happiness countless times to take the high road and honor my commitments, but I will not do this any longer. I have discovered the truth of modern education. We teachers are pawns in the game of profit. We have our role to play, as do the administrators and they always have the upper hand in the realm of contracts. It’s not worth dealing with all the stress and negative issues. In the end, I wind up having a lousy experience, hating my job, my life is adversely affected and my career shortened. Why?, Because I was willing to honor my professional obligation to my students and the school’s owner. In all these years of teaching, I have always conducted myself in a professional manner. All the while and many times over, I have been screwed by my administrators again and again. They use immoral and unethical tactics and are willing to do anything, including lie on paper, to further their own agendas, no matter how it affect the students and I. If I get an offer that is better, with a boss I feel more of a bond, for a better salary and in a place where I believe I’ll be happier and get treated better, I will walk out on the contract. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t feel great about it, especially if I chose to do so mid year, but in the end, I have to do what’s best for me, because no one else will look out for my best interests. How do I come to this conclusion? Six months ago, while being treated like garbage, hassled by the powerful parents of the laziest students I have ever taught, hung out to dry by my Director, harassed by my Principal constantly, required to work on my holiday break, lied to from the start about the support & PD I would be given and then laughed at when I asked for some additional pay for being required to work 14 hours a day EVERYDAY, just to keep up with all the extra work dumped in my lap, I was offered a very good job in my country of choice, but I turned it down. I felt that it was the right and honorable thing to do. I felt that I should stick to my ethics, not abandon my students and follow through with my agreement to the school. I should have taken the job and run like Hell from the job I had, because my treatment only got worse for the rest of the year. In the end, they didn’t want to honor their end of the agreement, so I resigned. Now I’m having to take a job at the 3rd or 4th school on my list and I don’t really like the conditions of the contract, but I need a job. So if my number one school calls me in two months, you can believe I will back out of the contract I signed and go with them. As they say to me when they screw me over, “it’s just business” And I advise everyone here to do the same. In the end, being ethical will not help you and no one will really care that you stood up and acted honorably.


    1. Come down from your high horse and recognize that no matter how much research is done there are still people who end up in the wrong place or job. This does not necessarily indicate a lack of judgment. Just because someone has been deceived as to the nature of a job does not mean that he expects everything “to be the same as working at home.” It also does not mean that he should allow himself to be abused and taken advantage of.


    2. Valerie

      My comments are very much related to the original question which was to do with whether one should break contract if another better job comes along after interview.

      You also have not read my comments clearly enough as I do acknowledge that it is not all one sided and that there are schools out there that will look to take advantage of a teacher by ignoring or changing aspects or all of the contract once the teacher has arrived. And I also acknowledge that this site offers a good service when these schools are highlighted

      From a personal point of view I worked in a school claiming to be international but in reality it was a local school with a sort of bi lingual programme offering a bastardised version of GCSEs. My timetable (on arrival) changed considerably too and I had to work a lot harder and for more hours than I had initially thought I would, although admittedly the school paid well and on time.

      I could have run away from that job, but in the end I felt that the experience ( good and bad) would actually serve me well in the future and that as a professional I could learn from what was happening in the school and though my colleagues

      And finally the thought that if I had left without notice and the school for whatever reason could not find a replacement easily, the children’s education would ultimately suffer and that regardless of what my contract said and whether the reality was the same, as an educator ( first and foremost) I coukld not leave them


  20. This last comment and most of the comments from Tony have prompted me to write again on this matter because it really is the type of comment and thinking that irks me.

    Let us get a few things straight here when it comes to working overseas:

    1 Nobody is forcing you to work abroad
    1b Working abroad will not ever be the same as working at home ….isnt that why some people want to go abroad???

    If you accept that you are entering into a new lifestyle and culture then you cannot expect your home country’s rules and regulations to apply. To attempt to do so is arrogant and patronising and if you dont like that idea then you need to stay at home.

    I have read reviews on this site for absolutely excellent schools that pay over the odds for teachers to work there because they wish to attarct the very best teachers , and yet there are still complaints about how the school is run,comments liking their employment to slavery. This is outrageous.

    If you dont believe me then go to Dubai or the Gulf and ask the Pakistani workers who are ferried to and from ther 16 hour shifts for not even a quarter of the worst paid teacher in the area if they feel the same way about you

    2 If you are offered a job , it is not as if there is somebody standing over you holdiing a gun to you temple forcing you to sign. It is your decision to put pen to paper

    2b If you have the kind of paranoid attitude that Tony and this poster have that everybody is out to get you , from the recruitment consultant to the Head of the school to the colleagues in the new school and those that you have asked to be professional referees, then it is very clear to me that you are in the wrong game and it is time for you to go home and do something else that makes you happy.

    It is impossible for eveybody else to be in the wrong and only you to be in the right. Either that you you have been extra ordinarily unlucky in your choices and so I revert back to the idea that you REALLY need to do your research and not jump into the first thing that comes along.

    This is really the issue with this site because it can offer an extremely good service, by highlighting schools that do fail to keep their word and do not come up to a basic standard of due dilligence and protection of their staff. However it is watered down considerably by the high volume of people who just dont like the decision that they themselves have made by accepting a contract in a school , and so ratehr than face up to their own lack of judgement decide anonymously to vent their anger and frustatration

    Tony do you hear me??


    1. I totally agree with the above post. People, by nature, are whiners. The worst are those who blame everyone else for their own failures or lack of vision & planning. This is why I take this site with a grain of salt and dismiss the comments of those who are clearly in attack mode. We are so fortunate to be able to have these options in our lives, and everything needs to be kept in perspective. Honestly, go home if you are not content working your way through this sometimes uncomfortable process. Newbies out there? The contract signing process is generally straight-forward and honest, even when you want to be released. Very few people are ‘out to get you’. Stay away from the complainers.


    2. I absolutely hear you, but you are missing the mark badly. First, I have been overseas since on and off since I was 18 years old. I have no firm understanding of where home is. I am not new to this business , nor a few others that have allowed me to make a decent life.

      Second, paranoid has never been a word used to describe me, but I am constantly evolving so maybe…but very doubtful. As I have stated, I have been the boss as many years or more than I have been the producer ( the person who actually does something productive). My observations come from not only my own experiences, which limit us all, but from what I have witnessed happening to others, and my friends and colleagues experiences. My personal positive experiences outweigh my negative by a huge amount.

      I often hear Admin in international school use the “out to get” phrase when dealing with dissatisfied teachers. I have worked in several businesses internationally and have never heard this used so frequently before, if at all. I certainly have never felt that way, and would not allow myself to remain in a situation if I did. My views are a combination, if not a comparison, between international education and other business. I struggle to understand many upper administrators decisions, but I feel it has a lot to do with the dwindling number of opportunities available as one moves up the ladder and the need to keep their jobs. Many teaching jobs, few principal and less HOS. Most teachers I have seen treated unfairly and when I was treated unfairly, this seemed to be the motivator and speaks much more to personal ethics, in my opinion, than breaking a contract.

      The comments about no one holding a gun over you and and slavery I wont address because they are from somewhere out in left field, and I would think not comments you would make if slept on it.

      Not only do I hear, Sandsmoked, but I see where your coming from and as with all of us, That is constantly changing and the way we view things from year to year does (should) also.


    3. I hear you too, Anonymous, and your words come from the position of someone who appears to have never faced the decision to make like this. Have you ever been completely lied to by the person hiring you? Have you ever been promised all sorts of great things and had them reneg on every single one of them? Have they ever expected you to honor the contract while they do not? Have you ever been forced to work double your contracted hours just to keep up, because if you fall behind, your Principal will harass you even more? If they won’t stick to their agreements and promises, why should you? For the students? They will survive and be just fine without you. So will the school. Besides, how good of an education will you be giving those students when you’re working under such poor conditions? How does being unable to focus or devote the necessary time to planning good lessons affect them? Can you really be the best, most effective teacher you can be under those kinds of conditions? Be honorable, yes, but also make the decision that works for you and is the best overall for yourself, first, the students second and the school last. If you are given good reason to break a contract, do it without hesitation, be comfortable with your choice and don’t look back. Look to your future only and let those who lied or pushed you to make an ill-informed decision or take a job just to have it and put you in this position, be Damned.


  21. Let us not be naive and foolish.The bottom line is that in “international education”, like most places, you are dealing with unbridled thieves, control and money mongers, liars, thugs, abusers, bullies, low lifers, and the likes. Yea, they have pretty bad reputations! Do they have the right to do this? No! Their approaches are based on how to “get” you / teachers, and this puts you in defense mode! They want to abuse their power more, cry about me defending myself, have me smile, and have me ask them for more punishment? They and their actions further define and reveal themselves. If anyone wants to address this issue, stop playing Flanders on the Simpsons, be honest,and address the crook. These, and fearful supporters, are the real business culprits who hurt children and futures.There should be a blog, if there has not been already, about unethical international education racketeers and recruiters. Yea, you might have some good ones just as with anything else, but the thugs of bad ones make you (as many have said here) look out for you and yours. Yea, there are huge ethical issues here. Victims should not be questioned and further punished. “Intellectualizing”, more rhetoric, and pontificating doesn’t cover this up. Just listen to some of the pain of teachers here. I am not saying all teachers are good and honest, but who or what created and supports this culture of international education / school crime, with no to little means of defending yourself.


  22. As I get older, I think I become more realistic. I am now teaching in my fifth international school and am very happy. However, I did break contract early in my career when the contract I signed was completely different from the job when I got there. I decided to tough it out, but by May, my health was seriously suffering. I was in a country that had strict exit requirements, so I simply organized everything ahead of time, left for the weekend, and didn’t go back. Later my husband also broke contract, but he did it the honorable way – he paid back every penny he owed. I do not believe we owe our health and souls to the schools we work for, nor that as someone pointed out, the students will necessarily suffer if someone else takes the job. There are many considerations that must be seriously thought about – then make your decision and go with a clear conscience.


  23. ISS, you need to have a limit on length of the blogs you accept. TOO long (and, MUCH too detailed, IMHO). Sheesh!

    On to the topic at hand. As a contract teacher in Australia (and earlier, as an IT contractor in the USA), I looked out after my own interests and assumed the companies/schools I dealt with were looking after THEIRS. If ever I got a better contract, I canceled any existing arrangements, and took the better offer. Only once (Houston, TX, 1988) was I threatened with “blacklisting”…and, 3 months later, that same company was calling, wanting to know if I was available.


  24. I am heading to my fifth international school next year. I have been a teacher, principal and director. The recruitment process is difficult on both ends; however, I have never signed a contract just because I needed a job (and yes, I do have a family). My wife and I have left a recruitment fair feeling broken down and dejected, but we never settled for a job that we did not feel comfortable with. In my career I have been fortunate enough to work with ethical administrators and teachers because I have always done careful research before signing. Part of that research is regularly reading ISR, even when I am not searching for a job. Once a contract is signed, it must be honored by the school and the teacher. If you are not sure about the position, don’t sign.

    If ISR has taught us anything, dream schools come and go. I have read all of the above excuses, the most common being the school would do it to me, but to me there is never a good enough reason to sell out your integrity.


  25. Its not very nice when you and your family leave one school to go to the next, everything sorted, or so you think. Only half way through may to get an email from your new school saying they have appointed a new Headmaster and he has brought people from his old school and you are no longer employed and have to start looking from scratch again. The situation becomes worse as you head off to a last minute position in Doha only to find once your there you cannot escape. they trap you with the sponsorship law.

    It makes you want to be committed to the schools? I think not.


  26. The original premise of this topic was that it is better to accept a job you are unsure of than to have no job at all. This is wrong! Are you telling me that uprooting your whole life and moving to another country to live and work away from your support network, when you are not sure about the job/school/country is better than being unemployed? People who do this are setting themselves up for failure which will probably be vented on this web site. There are no guarantees in this profession or any other. The best you can do is to put yourself in a position to succeed and hope for the best. If you “settled” on choice number 3, then ditched that school for something better, then to be honest, I would not want you as a coworker. Yes, there are bad schools. Stay away from them! Don’t settle on a “fake international school” just for a paycheck. Stay home and wait for something better.


    1. You are assuming all teachers are just becoming international teachers and it is easy to tell bad schools. For those of us who have been doing it awhile, it is still hard to tell bad schools . We are already here and the way the system works. for the most part, is we have to quit a job before getting another one. Teachers often find themselves in a less than preferable situation going on the market that die to the market and have to look at schools that are not ones they would have ranked highly initially. Working just for a paycheck means feeding the family and honoring financial commitments that can’t be set aside. I wouldn’t judge my coworkers too harshly for their personal decisions


    2. I have been teaching overseas for 13 years and am now at my third school. I consider this my career. I am pretty sure I can tell you which are the fake schools with a high degree of accuracy. My rule of thumb is that if the school was not around 10-12 years ago, then stay away. In recent years there has been an explosion of schools around the globe and based on anecdotal evidence I have heard many of these are not places I would consider (just look at the ISR site). I get your point about feeding the family and financial commitments but accepting a position at your 3rd tier school just to make ends meet will probably leave you worst off financially in the long run when it all goes sideways. There are large start up costs to moving overseas and and you don’t become an international educator to save loads of money (unless you end up at the right school). Like I said, do this if it right…not because you have to.


  27. In my first international teaching job, I discovered less than a week before school started that my teaching assignment was vastly different than the one I had signed for. I had inquired about the specifics several times over the summer so that I could prepare for the students, but they dodged my questions. Then, at the end of orientation week, timetables were revealed directly following a lecture on emotional intelligence. Several of us were broadsided with changes to our job descriptions, and it was clear that we were expected to accept it or be branded as trouble makers. The fact that we were not involved in a conversation proves to me that it was an intentional bait and switch as they were hard-to-fill positions. After a semester of hell, I asked to convert my contract to one year and gave the school plenty of time to find a replacement, and I have since signed a teaching contract for next year.

    I agree that the deck is stacked against teachers and that contracts and recruiting organizations favor the schools, because the schools are the clients, not teachers. In my case, it turns out that the school and director had less than stellar reputations, but this was’t reflected on ISR because there is definitely a culture of fear. I wasn’t forewarned by the recruiter nor were they reprimanded, because they are a big client – lots of turnover.

    Given my experience, I am torn on the specific scenario at hand, changing ones mind for a better offer, because I have found that loyalty is rarely reciprocated in the business world, where everything is driven by the bottom line, not integrity and certainly not the best interest of students. So as I get older, I am more inclined to put my interests first but to do so with integrity as suggested by Scott above.


    1. Very good point about the schools that are often the biggest contract violators are also the best clients for the recruiting organizations because their need to constantly replace leaving teachers. I had never really thought about that fact and how that might affect the recruiting agency. They will eventually bar schools, but it takes years and perhaps that has more to do with payment than it does with reputation. I have never had a recruiting agency tell me a school had a bad reputation, other than my first job. The representative said that he had just been to the school and didn’t think it was very good. I later figured out that I had found that job on on TIE, the school wasn’t listed with the recruiting agency, and the representative had never visited the school. He later told me he has misunderstood the school I was referring to. Possible.


  28. First of all, I think blackballing is a myth. You may not be able to use the same search company, but there are a few good ones and a lot of smaller regional ones. Directors are FAR too busy to act like private investigators. Secondly, a good dose of honesty and forth-rightness about the situation will usually get you out of the contract. Despite all the the visceral slams against directors and owners, they are usually thoughtful people. It is a school market right now; you are not the only candidate for the job.

    BUT… I would never do it in a under-handed way. At what point should your personal satisfaction outweigh your ethics? Teachers with children may have a little more latitude for me, though. Your own child’s education tends to trump other concerns.


    1. I wouldn’t say that thinking blackballing is a myth or that directors and owners are usually thoughtful people are naive statements, perhaps just lucky in your experiences. I once said that all companies had a desire to provide a good and honest product so they could stay in business. That was naive.


    2. Naive? No Tony. I have spent my whole career teaching in international teaching and while that may have only exposed me to a piece of this world, I am am in a decent position to share sound judgment on hiring practices. In every school, there are disgruntled, ineffective teachers who make it their life’s work to slam “The Man’. It is based on fear and the inability to see through their own insecurities. This problem is not nearly as large as people make it out to be. Make sound decisions based on ethical principles, and you, too, will be OK.


    3. I agree that some people in general are disgruntled, but my experience shows me they are not permanently in such a state , More often they have a valid point that people continually simplify, trivialize, or just don’t want to work hard enough to understand. Personally I slam “the man” whenever he deserves it. I have been “the man” more years than I have not and I can tell you that insecurities usually play a much greater role for “the man” ( or the woman) than they do for the the teacher, welder, mechanic…


  29. I find international schools to have odd ideas about many things and contracts are one. Another I must add is the ISR website. I have read (and had conversations with administrators) on the fact that reviews on ISR are anonymous and that somehow that fact makes them less than accurate. I find it interesting that these same administrators will then justify the need for confidential references on Search or ISS.
    It is easy to get caught up in the “You gave your word” conversation, but that is not what it is always about. Our contracts, at some schools at least, are one-sided. The school has the options. If it becomes financially undesirable to have you teach,they have options. Enrollment numbers not what expected, we cant use everyone next year. Sorry. In a country that could possibly require evacuation for safety reasons? How many schools will even pay you for the remainder of the year? Some might argue these are things out of their control, but at the same time, a teacher might feel they have little control and must accept a job in a country or school they would not choose if it weren’t for dire financial concerns My point is, school have options when it is financially in their interest to not honor your contract, but we are being immoral if use our options. Contracts have to be fair to be legal. Ours usually have penalties for breaking it, and that is fair. Pay the penalties and everybody moves on.
    Blackballing is what is unfair. Not getting a good recommendation is fair. Having to explain why you broke the contract is fair. Having schools and recruitment agencies work together to hinder your ability to make a living is unfair and probably illegal in most developed countries.


    1. Hi Tony,
      Your points definitely highlights the need to review and understand the contract itself. Contracts should not be one-sided. They should clearly outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the teacher AND the school. For example, in our contract, a teacher must let us know by a certain date if they want to renew their contract for the following year. If they do not, there are financial penalties. However, if the school does let the teacher know by the same date, we have to financially compensate the teacher.
      One reason I don’t like job fairs is that everything is far too rushed. Candidates need time to weigh their options, learn about the schools, and review any contracts. For recruitment, I prefer multiple interviews with the same candidate often by me and another by another administrator or program leader, if the candidate looks promising I will send salary package and contract template for them to review. When an offer is made, I prefer to give teachers at least 1 week to consider and ensure that we have answered any questions about the package or the contract.
      I also encourage them to talk to anyone on staff to get a better perspective about the school. As a recruiter, I realize that I’ve already placed myself into a role similar to a used-car salesman and candidates should find out more about the school by as many different perspectives as possible.
      I do disagree with your assertion that confidential references are the same as anonymous school reports on ISR. The names of confidential references are supplied by the candidate (at least in our case), that’s significantly different than an anonymous anyone-can-post-a-review type of evaluation. That being said, I emphasize to candidates that multiple perspectives are the key to fully understanding a school. Hence, while I will recommend certain staff for a candidate to talk to (direct program leader for example), candidates are free (and encouraged) to contact anyone on staff.


    2. Good points, Howie.

      I am all for hiring outside the fairs. Frankly, it is not with the schools that I see the problem. One can have conversations with current and perhaps even former teachers, review the contract, speak to administrators, have a look at the school’s website, check ISR, and speak to friends about what they know or have heard. These things give me the warm and fuzzy feeling I need to make my decision. I will take my chances and will survive any bad choices. It is the relationship that is developing between schools and Search that concerns me. ISS and Search are trying to see how they fit in when many schools are using Skype and other means to find teachers. So far, they seem to be leaning toward being very punitive toward teachers and offering a bit of a “get even” service. Of course, this will only be used by bad administrators, but can we say we have a shortage of those?


    3. Theoretically supplying the names of confidential references would make all the difference, but teachers must use their supervisors at their schools , so I fail to see much difference there. A written reference from a current (and past) supervisors should suffice. My problem is the idea that supervisors are honest in written recommendations given directly to teachers, or as one Search representative said: Schools tell us the written recommendation doesn’t give the information they need to make the decision. I have to call bullshit on that one. I have seen written recommendations that were completely different than what was put on Search confidentially


  30. I have been in a similar situation. I once had to turn down the much hoped-for (but-not-offered) better job after accepting the less desired and much lower paying option. I thought the interview for the better position went very well, but at the end of the interview, the headmistress in a private Dallas school indicated that there were no available positions. She didn’t even give me any indication that anything would become available. Since I was in dire need of a job I took the 2nd less-desirable offer. When I returned from my summer vacation I found a message on my answering machine saying my first choice option was available if I wanted it!

    I was torn about what to do! But I quickly resolved the dilemma in my belief that I did the right thing by turning down the better job since I’d already accepted. After all, my word is my character. Some people don’t believe this, but then they should look up the word integrity in Webster’s. Besides, a verbal agreement to take a job is a binding contract that can be held up in court- not that a school would take one to court, they would just let your reputation and past circumstance circulate in the international administrative community.

    Better jobs come along if you don’t love the one you’re in, and each job is a stepping stone to who you will become as an educator and as a person with principles. In the international setting, I was once told by an administrator that breaking a contract only helps you have a more difficult time finding another teaching job in the international community. My friend found this to be true when she broke contract with a school after having stayed just three weeks into the school year! Unfortunately for her, she didn’t get a better job and had to take one in the states that she truly does not like, but she is close to retirement and she feels like she can stick it out for a couple more years.

    One thing to keep in mind is that there are some international recruitment fair organizations that permit you to attend multiple fairs for one fee. You still have to get there and arrange accommodations, but it could be worth the wait. Don’t take a job unless you are 100% certain you are willing to accept the challenge. Most contracts are just two years in length, yet it is important to be certain that you could meet the challenges faced in the host country and in the school. I believe strongly that one’s word is truly valuable!



  31. Come on…lets be real. The majority of schools will leave a teachers stranded and will think nothing about letting them go . The business leans heavily in favor of the schools and recruiting agencies are all run by former administrators working on commission. These places have consistently banned teachers for breaking contracts at notoriously dishonest schools – schools that were later banned from their services. Do the recruiters go back and offer anything for causing the candidates serious financial hardships? An apology? No way. And they play the ethical card. The argument that ” I worked hard for you” is even more ridiculous. How does a recruiter at the “Big 2” work to get us jobs? I do all the work, they only give me access to the site. Their work is done for the schools. Life is too short to not do what is best for you.


  32. Look, the whole industry is stacked in favor of the schools. There are usually no relvant national labor laws, no unions, the contracts benefit the schools before teachers, and recruiters favour the repeat business of a school over a teacher EVERY SINGLE TIME (after all, how many schools get ‘blacklisted’ by Search and ISS for breaking a contract???). So by all means, look after YOURSELF, because in this industry, no one else will.


  33. Well, to me this is very difficult. Morally I don’t believe you break contract. However, based on years experience as a teacher and Head Master I would have to say it depends on what part of the world you find yourself. I am generalizing but its pretty close. In the more westernized parts of the world, don’t break contract, there is a rule of law and it’s generally respected. In the parts of the world where the rule of law is not respected and contracts are not worth the paper they are written on and as soon as the employer does not “need” you or finds someone “cheaper” they will dump you ASAP, they do not deserve your loyalty. Well you will say, “Don’t go to these kind of schools”, etc, etc. Remember, in my opinion, it is not necessarily the school; it’s the part of the world where you find yourself, and the general mindset, the culture of the people. What should happen and what does happen are often two different things. I prefer to deal with reality and what does happen. In the end you have to live with yourself, just be aware.


  34. The older I get, the more important integrity becomes to me. A teacher or a head’s personal word should be their bond in all situations. A lot of effort has been expended by a teacher in obtaining a job, just as school heads have put in considerable efforts to hire and sign up teachers. Both sides have to recognize that to give any validity to what they claim to be their professional status, they must abide by the guarantees they have made. While there will always be extenuating circumstances, having found a better job can never be one of them.


  35. As an administrator, I expect candidates to honour their signed contracts. Offering and accepting a contract is always full of tight deadlines. Should the school offer to candidate A or wait for someone else? Should the candidate sign a contract with school B or wait for a different school?

    If the school or the candidate is uncertain, then they should wait. However, I think it is best to be as transparent as possible. If a candidate is offered a contract but has other interviews or leads, then they should feel confident saying, “Thank you, however, I have been discussing positions with other schools. When do you need a decision by?” Likewise, I’ve told candidates that I’ve really liked them but that it is too early in the recruitment season to make a contract offer right now. I give my timelines but encourage them to contact me if they are given an offer so that I can see what I can do.

    The signing of the contract should be the decision time. Granted, sometimes things change. If you think your situation might change, you should place it as a condition on the contract or at least let it be known during the signing process.

    Teachers should not break contracts if something better comes along in the same way that schools should not cancel a contract if a better candidate comes along. We don’t have trade unions but we do have a professional codes of conduct whether they are explicit from your certifying body/jurisdiction or implicit within the profession.

    ISR’s Bill of Rights, has an implied other side of the same coin. Rights and responsibilities.


    1. Sadly Howie, you are among the minority of International School admin. Most can’t be trusted as far as you can throw them.


    2. I agree with “Long-Term International Teacher”. As far as administrators are concerned “most can’t be trusted”.
      I have worked in schools stateside and international for decades (yes decades) and I have found that international administrators have FAR LESS accountability when it comes to fair hiring/payment-for- work -done practices. This includes a tremendous amount of FAVORITISM.
      ALSO, an international teacher —especially one new to this “world”– has little protection against past associations/friendships made in earlier postings. It is not a matter of recruiting/hiring of someone the administrator has worked with before and feels s/he knows and can trust. It’s when they hire them ANYWAY–even if the teacher is known to have had a negative past history with former colleagues at other schools, are generally lousy at their job, will present a problem to new colleagues–all for the “I got your back” headset.
      This is not to say that they are all this way, but it happens and it happens VERY often. Just because you, dear teacher, are highly educated, trained/certified, highly experienced with good references, does not necessarily mean you will be chosen before someone who is a newbie to the profession, not even fully documented in his/her area, with little or no classroom experience, blah blah–you know the drill–BUT whose mother previously worked elsewhere for the principal of the school who just hired her.
      Nothing wrong with giving new teachers an opening, but they should be required to have the same basic qualifications as anyone else applying for the job.
      Administrators should have an appraisal system following them (formal/informal) of their work just as the teachers–down with the “old-boys” network.


    3. Your advised reply – how nicely put, I will remember to use that.

      Job applications on the International Circuit are very nerve-wracking, especially when you have heavy financial commitments and want to know where you are going as soon as possible.

      Having tried both the “word is your bond” and the “runaway candidate” models, I will always now opt for the former. I have a cleaner slate and am not looking over my shoulder.

      Hold out – “don’t like- don’t sign”; your instinct may be trying to tell you the job is not suitable anyway. One can sense a few vibes, trying to sign you up too quickly or issues not mentioned.

      If you act with integrity to Choice 1, they are likely to remember you for being fair and consider you in a future application. That has happened to me.

      If you are desperate for the job and it is late in the season, you took the job for a good reason and you can make it work for you. (Experiences, more contacts etc.) If the school turns out to be really awful, then make as decent extraction as possible. Often the decent schools are sympathetic to you making an awful mistake and are interested in your resilience coping with the challenges. I have minor regrets I did not wait for the job I wanted (I was worried about financial commitments and exhausted by the job application process) but then I had a positive time at the one I signed for and my career is going in a different/ good direction. Going off-plan can give great benefits. You are adventurous enough to be on the International Circuit anyway.

      Before I sound too sanctimonious – the students as hostage factor – take the lead from administration on that. If they are horrendously unscrupulous, don’t fall for the emotional blackmail.By treating their staff badly, they are not serving their clients well either. The discipline and learning situation can be so bad by then that your staying is not going to make much difference.

      Thankfully we now have ISR which was not around when I first started so there are more opportunities to do your homework. Answers to a few pointed questions at interview such as staff turnover and staffing policy can give you further information to make your decision.

      Best of luck in your decision.

      Good luck


  36. One of the reasons that I left international education is because of the undercurrent of threat in the system. Teachers are managed with threat (“You’ll be blacklisted!” – as Catherine notes) – not respected as professionals and FULL humans with desires, dreams, and complications. Maybe if the rhetoric would change, this would not be such a system-wide issue. I’m currently not in my ideal place, but I greatly appreciate the respect, freedom, and choices I’m given as a both a professional and a person – and this really makes me doubt that I will ever go into international teaching again.

    You know, life is too short – I say follow your bliss. I would deeply regret not taking a job someplace I really wanted to be…there would always be that sense of “What if…” that would distract from the quality of my life in the place of Option C.

    And as for Bill’s comments about the children, I think it’s egotistical to think the quality of their education depends on ME and the sacrifice I would need to make in terms of my own happiness. I think the children would be better off with someone who really wants to be there.


  37. It is a sticky situation. International teaching is still a relatively small industry and if you get blacklisted then you could have a lot of problems if you want to continue to teach internationally. I think generally you need to go with the Character argument. I know a lot of International Schools that would be very unhappy if they found out you reneged on a contract to take their contract. So much so they might even cancel theirs. Personally the best situation might be to talk with both schools about the situation. Tell them your problem and see if there is a way to work through it. Chances are not, but you never know how these situations could work out for two reasons. First I bet most schools, in this case the school you want to go to and the school you already signed a contract with, would be impressed at your ability to try to work reasonably through a situation and second a school who knows your not interested in being with them for a while might have another option and decide to go that route. Sometimes it might just be a matter of monetary expense that you work out. Like others said character is important and you don’t want to be blacklisted but everything is situational. I find when people are honest and try to work through tough times it is amazing what might happen.


  38. Wow, Wilbert . . . hope I’m never on the other side of a contractual agreement with you! When I’m hiring I always do the due diligence and ask about prior work history. Call me old fashioned, but I adhere to the idea that a person’s (and school’s) word and signature on an agreement needs to be honored by both sides. At the very least I’d expect a candidate to contact the first school and request a release from the agreement. Ultimately, if you’re the kind of individual who is willing to renege on an agreement, it will show itself in other elements of the individual’s work ethic. What goes around comes around . . .


  39. Hmmm… what happened to the commitment to the children? When a contract is signed, the school obviously feels the teacher contracted is good for the school’s students – and a broken contract often leaves those kids hanging. Sign a contract, at least fulfill the commitment to the kids. Get there and have the discussion, if needed, about leaving after the first year of a 2-year. One year will not destroy anyone’s life under the circumstances presented here, but leaving the kids with no teacher or a less talented teacher will (if you look at the research on the impact of weak teachers on their students).

    SCHOOLS that break contracts in similar situations should be shot.


    1. “SCHOOLS that break contracts in similar situations should be shot.”

      Sadly though Bill, those schools will be welcomed back to the next Search or ISS fair with open arms and no warning about their past behaviour will be issued to prospective teachers by either recruiter. Teachers who leave contracts however are ‘blacklisted’.

      Let’s face it, in this game it is ‘heads: schools win, tails: teachers lose’.


  40. Wilbert I think what you are saying is unfair for the school and to the students. Once you have signed a contract you should honour it. If teachers don’t honour contracts how can we expect schools to.

    On the other side though I don’t think teachers should be penalized by recruitment agencies for honouring contracts and terminating their contract within the allowances there within. It is not principled for a recruitment agency to blacklist someone if they followed the contractual rights. For example if they went to a school decided they didn’t like it handed in their contractual notice (e.g. three months) and left. Simon would your agency agree what I state in this paragraph?


  41. First of all, be upfront and honest with yourself! Can you live with yourself wondering about that ” dream job” in a “dream location?” If you can’t, then be upfront and honest with the school that first signed you on. It is not a terrible thing to change your mind. It is actually quite courageous!


  42. Remember, too, your contract with the job fair people states if you break contract, you are responsible for all hiring costs, which can be anywhere from $2-4000. On top of which, you are now black-listed with that organization.


    1. I just looked back at my contract language with the job fair, and it says you not only pay fees, they will not represent you again, and will contact every other organization.

      I have broken a contract once. I took a panic job, got there and discovered it was going to be a disaster. Then heard from 3 other schools who had been trying to contact me all summer, but the organization had my wrong email address (Despite me sending it to them when I left my original position). Anyway, long story short, though it killed me, I stuck out the year–even though the school broke my contract within my first month!– then left the school for a better one, giving the school plenty of notice. Every one else I was hired with left within two weeks, I might add.

      Signing the contract needs to mean something (on BOTH sides!) and the fact thee are unethical schools, doesn’t excuse unethical behavior on my part.


  43. If we were talking about a reasonable time frame and more equal conditions like in most other professions (at least the ones i’ve been in) then i’d say stay. But you are given a day to make a decision. if you think it over, you lose. The advantage is firmly in the schools favor in the international school racket.

    I would do the best that i could to make a good first decision, but your scenario makes the choice for me obvious. Dream job, dream school, i take it. All of the small world stuff won’t matter with 5 stellar years a top-tier school that everyone admires.

    the situation would be stickier if it was more lateral and over 2k or extra airfare or something. To me the contract starts when i start working. Unless they are paying advances, they paid nothing for my commitment besides acting like they are doing me a favor. You want me, start paying me, otherwise accept that nothing is sure until the school year starts.


  44. What about the schools who cancel the contracts after signing… hmmm? It happened to me, and I tell you it’s a very uncomfortable situation. I wonder what the consultant who wrote the first post thinks about the situation…
    Now, about the situation where a teacher wants to cancel the contract:
    be careful, you’re going to be black listed. It’s a very small world and all directors, recruitment agents, etc. all know each other.
    and unless the situation at the new school would be really impossible, just think 2 years go by really quickly!


    1. Catherine you have a point . I am not particularly enamoured by schools that do not honour their commitments to teachers either, which is why we take our practise of due dilligence very seriously when looking at which schools we work with and which we don’t. If a school has offered you a contract and has taken up references , completed their police checks and made sure that you say who you say you are , then there is no reason why they should break contract with you.

      That said there can be exceptions to the rules, for example a lot of the schools that go to these fairs have potential posts that may not yet be confirmed and so depend on whether a teacher is staying or going. Again I hate it if this is the case and try as much as is possible to make sure that any vacancy that I take on is a real vacancy and not a school simply fishing for potential staff. Again to avoid this do your homework.

      Similarly from the other side of the coin if you have been offered a job and no contract is forthcoming and the school seem to be unable to provide you with satisfactory information on their process to get you to their location safely and on time ( eg the visa process has not started sufficently on time, details of your accommodation have not arrived, a contract has not been sent or seems to contradict what had been said at interview and the school are unwilling or unable to answer questions relating to this), then I think that in some cases a teacher is entitled to change their mind) . What is objectionable is to do so purely for financial gain

      However you then ruin you point by taking a classic paranoid “they are all out to get us teachers” point of view in your second paragraph. Look not all agencies and schools are villans and thieves and unscrupulous individuals out to make a quick buck and this website which advoctes accountability on the part of schools also has to do the same with teachers.

      I have seen enough on here to know that one of the biggest copmplaints by teachers about their schools is that the contract offered with a salary clearly stated ends up not being enough when they get there , because another school offers more. Well quite honestly that is tough luck and had they done their homework properly they may have found out that this was the case.

      Similarly another excuse for breaking contract is t he classic ” this is not an international school” because it has local bi lingual children attending it. Again this is a reason that enrages me. Not only is a cop out but it really is rather patronising to think that an International school in the 21st century should be exclusively for ex pat children and that somehow by having locals in it , the school becomes devalued.

      But in the end Vatherine you do ahve a final and very good point that you finish on even if the reasons for stating them are paranoid in some respects …2 years does go by very quickly and if you do find yourself in a sitaution which is not perfect but do -able it speaks volumes to a school or a recruitment consultant the next time that you apply for a job


  45. Simon is right. Do your homework. However, I have seen many recruitment companies that are more concerned about their commission than by doing the leg work that Simon does to find a right fit for people or on the other hand, screening folks properly before they recommend them to schools. It is a business and international education is a growing business. Always do what is right for YOU no matter what. Don´t ever let anyone guilt you into doing something that isnt in your best interest. I have found overwhelmingly, that teachers act more ethically than institutions. It goes with the territory. As long as you give the school enough time to replace you it will not negatively effect anyone. Administrators should always be prepared to deal with these situations. This is their job! If you have a problematic school you should be even more prepared. As long as there is no International Teachers Union and teachers lack rights under the law in many countries, how can they honestly be expected to not do what is best for themselves? But again, this scenario needs more details in order to make a correct decision… obviously…if there even IS a correct decision…Bottom line, do your homework. Taking a job overseas is serious business. If you dont know what you are doing be prepared to suffer the consequences.


  46. A lot depends on your personal situation. Let’s say you are pushing 50 when this happens and you have a chance to go to your dream school in your dream country where you think you’ll easily stay 7+ years. A no brainer really, you take that job. But what if you are in your 30s or late 20s and trying to build your international school career? I think it would be too risky to cancel a contract then because it would eventually catch up with you.


  47. As a recruitment consultant working with international schools I take a very dim view of people who switch because a perceived better offer comes in at a later date.

    The reason for doing so is that through my company, I spend a significant amount of time and effort advising teachers on the jobs that they are applying for, the schools and how and why the job may be the right job for that particular teacher.

    At every stage of the process I give ample opportunity to the teacher to let me know of their concerns, their worries and their feelings about the school and the job on offer. If the job is not the right one for them, then it is perfectly acceptable for them to pull their interest from applying. In fact at the earlier stages of the process it allows me to have a further understanding of what the teacher really wants from their job and school/ location , enabling me to advise in a better way and there have been many cases where I have advised that the teacher should not apply for a job rather than the other way around.

    Once a teacher has agreed to be put forward I also spend a huge amount of time and effort on speaking to the school, explaining why I think that they are a good candidate and how they would fit into the school. The schools expect me at this stage to only present teachers who are proper options and to have weeded out time wasters and peripheral candidates who may or may not back out of a job.

    t is also important because the school need to have the right people in front of the classroom and spend a lot of time and money getting them into their school. If a teacher pulls out after the recruitment process has finished and the other candidates have been informed that they have been unsuccessful, it can be a huge problem for the school to recruit again and then it starts to becomne an even more costly exercise.

    Most importantly the chidlren in these schools , the ones that really should be at the forefront of our thoughts get messed around if teacher pulls out of a job on a whim at the last minute because a better offer comes in.

    Finally that “better financial offer” many not necessarily be the better school for the teacher. International schools will often recruit staff right up to the end of may and sometimes later. Just because they do doesn’t mean that they are bad schools

    My advice? Do your homework before accepting a job. Dont rush into anything. At this time of the year it is still relatively early and so if you dont get appointed from a fair there is still enough time to find the right job in the right school for you.

    Similarly if you are not 100% about an offer from a school and feel obliged to take it because it is the only one available to you at that time , then DONT take it… that is not the right reason for wanting to go somewhere, you need to be enthused about the school, the children, the job otherwise this is a disaster waiting to happen


    1. You seriously do all this leg work for your clients? What recruiting agency do you work for? I wish I would have had you as my agent. My husband and I went to a job fair a few years ago. I was changing subjects from teaching PE to a classroom position. Needless to say we did not fair well, as I was now an expensive first year classroom teacher. Lesson learned. My husband and I had also just had a baby. We left the job deflated and without an offer. We sent out resumes in a desperate attempt to find something. We were interviewing with two schools, one in a country we vowed never to go back to and one in a new country we new nothing about, but the school seemed promising. We were offered a job at both and accepted the one in the new country only to find out the visa’s would not go through. Fair enough, in a panic we verbally accepted the second job. We view this country as hell on earth, but were scared we would end up with nothing. We were then contacted by a school that was on our radar the next day. A new school in an agreeable country. The package was not as good, but we both believed it would be a better fit for our whole family. We called the first school and apologized. Obviously, they were not happy, but such is life.

      I’m sorry, but in this world, the welfare and happiness of my family comes first. We could not be happier with our decision. Now that I have classroom experience under my belt, we applied and received a job at our first choice school. A place that hits all our wants and needs and we plan to finish out our overseas teaching careers. I do not feel the least bit guilty for our decision.


    2. It’s just like selling cars or houses, you put in all the time and effort only to have someone back out at the last minute. International Teachers are free agents and need to do what is best for them. Although, if people want to stick with their bad choices, then all those better offers can be left for me. 🙂


    3. “The welfare and happiness of my family comes first.” That’s G__D___ right. 99% of administrators love you when you do right by them. The same 99% will forget about you in a hurry when you’re working elsewhere and need a favour from them. Always, always, always do what’s in your own best interest.


    4. Someone wrote:
      “The welfare and happiness of my family comes first.” That’s G__D___ right. 99% of administrators love you when you do right by them. The same 99% will forget about you in a hurry when you’re working elsewhere and need a favour from them. Always, always, always do what’s in your own best interest.
      I truly hope this person is not a teacher, with such a warped and cynical view of his fellow educators. Very sad if she or he is.


    5. I agree. As a parent and teacher, the thought of that person teaching my child is upsetting. Schools should be passing on more than just information; they transmit values, including honesty, integrity and consideration. They should never expect anything less from themselves.


    6. Why is it warped? He didn’t say anything against the fellow educators, just that he chose a better school. I really hope you aren’t a teacher with such a judgmental attitude.


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