Would You Stick It Out? Or Run?

When you find yourself in an intolerable school situation do you stick it out or run for your life? Opinions vary, with each side of the dilemma adamant about its position:

I’D RUN FOR IT: “There is no honor in suffering. The idea that working at a rotten school in a lousy country, educating a do-nothing population with no interest in academics will somehow make you a better teacher or a better person is pure malarkey! Suffering is suffering no matter how you cut it & the less time of your professional life you can spend doing it, the better. Some schools are so god-awful, shifty, & immoral, the most honorable thing to do is to call it a day & RUN!”

I’D STICK IT OUT: “I could have run away from the job, but I felt the experience would actually serve me well in the future & that as a professional I could learn from what was happening in the school. My colleagues thought that if I left without notice & the school could not find a replacement, the children’s education would ultimately suffer. As an educator first & foremost, I could not leave the students.”


34 thoughts on “Would You Stick It Out? Or Run?

  1. I am disappointed in these attack based on nationalities. This is a forum where we are supposed to give opinion of course, but not attack one another. This site is meant to unite us and not divide us.


  2. http://www.opednews.com/articles/SUBCONTRACTING-and-Teach-by-Kevin-Anthony-Stod-120207-270.html

    This is a frightening article about the pervasive effects that unrestrained capitalism has had on our school systems. And Not just ours. Around the world. The author has written proper to this on the subject and now writes the third edition of how outsourcing is eating away at our education system. If you have children or grandchildren in school, you need to read this article. Even if you don’t, if you have someone that you care about who has children and grandchildren you need to read this. It is a horror story in real life.


  3. I don’t see much point in running. You can either wait to be fired–while doing your best–or you can resign early.

    Many people who have run from jobs without properly resignng etc. cause unnecessary political, social, and economic stress and retributions for others, too.

    For example, rotten companies in the Middle East and elsewhere have responded to run-aways by holding passports etc.


  4. Do your research and reduce the possibility of this issue becoming one you must deal with. If you fail to plan, you plan to f…oh, you know. Here are some ideas, please add more if you can. The key word to look for below is WARY, not DISMISSIVE. Listen to the little voice of doubt in your head. Look for the subtle but obvious signs, the little red flags, that can get overshadowed by your simple desire to get an offer and get the job hunt done. This is preventative maintenance. Reduce the risk of running by being hyper-observant…

    If a school representative cannot comment on the academics or curriculum in your particular subject area, even after several of your requests, then be wary.

    If the school is a a national school, be wary. If the student population is 100% local, be wary. Many schools pass themselves off as international schools when in fact they are nothing but. Ask how many of the staff are foreign. Ask about the teaching qualifications of the local staff, and for god’s sake ask about language issues. If you get blue-sky answers that sound too good to be true, be wary. If you get the runaround, be wary.

    If somehow the person who is leaving (and thus creating an opening) cannot be contacted or the school stonewalls you about speaking to current staff, be wary.

    Generally speaking, If the school is a for profit venture, be wary. If the school cannot or will not answer questions about how teachers are used in school marketing campaigns to increase enrollment, then be wary, too. Ask about or research the board of governance, those high up and out of sight. If they are businesspeople or have questionable/no educational qualifications, then be wary.

    Ask about technology. Not if there is a computer lab (because a school will consider having a lab to be cutting edge, but it is meaningless, like boasting that all classrooms have desks) but about bandwidth, classroom specific devices, technology integration in teaching and learning, access and acceptance of technology, platforms, vision. No concrete responses? Be wary.

    Look at the school website. Look very closely at the photos of teachers and students. If all of the photos are staged, even classroom photos designed to look spontaneous, then be wary. I’ve had to cancel real lessons so that photographers with lights and gear can come in and arrange photos of fake lessons, complete with posing teacher (me) and students. Low point in career. Just be wary.

    If the school is in a developing (used to be called “third world”) country, be wary. If the school is in a predominantly Muslim country, be wary. If the school is is a huge, chaotic nonwestern metropolis, be wary. Not because these are necessarily bad things, but because most people simply do not, or will not, understand the realities and challenges of adapting to these environments until the flight response kicks in. Vacationing in these places is one thing. Working and living there is another.

    Please, add to this list.


  5. I’ve been teaching abroad for 20 years. I stayed for 4-6 years in schools I believed to be real schools, educating children. I did not stay in schools that were horrible and I have no regrets.

    I’ve taught in “schools” that were run by lunatics and by near saints. Leave the lunatics and look for the near saints, they are out there.

    If the situation in untenable, cut your losses and book out. School principals/administrators who create unbearable situations through their own incompetence deserve to be left holding the bag.


    1. I agree! I stuck it out for the sake of my students…but that is the ONLY reason! I ended up taking a year off from teaching…and then easing into it by subbing again. My trust in admin is still not real high. I know there are good principals out there…just wish I could know that ahead of time…before accepting the next full-time teaching job. Smiles, Gina


  6. I’D RUN FOR IT: “There is no honor in suffering. The idea that working at a rotten school in a lousy country, educating a do-nothing population with no interest in academics will somehow make you a better teacher or a better person is pure malarkey! Suffering is suffering no matter how you cut it & the less time of your professional life you can spend doing it, the better. Some schools are so god-awful, shifty, & immoral, the most honorable thing to do is to call it a day & RUN!” This is how I feel about teaching in my current public school in america


  7. At least that Americano was honest about her situation that she probably could not change. Hopefully she tried to find a better situation where she could be more productive and successful, and not whollow in filth and beat on her chest about what a man she was for sticking it out in garbage.


  8. If the school are in breach of contract due to not delivering against promises then that is unethical, unlawful and unreasonable. Lots of highly professional teachers find themselves in situations they were not expecting each year due to lies and broken promises, it’s a fact.

    If you knew what you were letting yourself in for and find you want to leave as it wasn’t as you imagined then that is a tough one for you and the school.

    If you were lied to and you moved to a knew country and job as a result then you have every right to leave and in theory should be compensated for your losses. In most if not all cases this is unlikely as the school will have known they were telling lies, but in some cases they are simply deluded.

    If you get there to find that you are not at “The best school in the world” or the “Most successful school in the far east” you probably only have yourself to blame. If you get there and they don’t pay the salary you agreed, don’t give you accommodation you agreed or don’t meet their commitments in some other substantial way then you have every right to end the contract and often this means doing a runner. Most runners find a post at a professional educational establishment and after you get your fingers burnt once or twice you acquire the knowledge necessary to reduce your chances of making mistakes.

    Ignore most of what Rambo, AKA Beentheredonethat says. The world is not as dark and depressing as they make out. Anyone who has read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy will recognise Rambo’s view of teaching overseas. However the vast majority of school’s overseas will not leave you needing to make the sacrifices Rambo suggests and their descriptions and advice say more about them and their small band of global educational high grounders than is does about this business.

    Whatever job you choose in whatever place you choose there will always be people who are not satisfied with their decision. There will always be unscrupulous employers who will try to make a quick buck or a quick reputation by managing incompetently including treating people badly. Such is life and teaching overseas is no exception.

    Give it a few years when Rambo and his gang have moved through the system and hopefully there will be fewer people who are willing to make allowances for incompetence and shabby behaviour and then things might improve a little for the pretty good condition they are currently in.

    If they are in breach of contract do what you have to do and don’t be concerned.

    If you have found that it doesn’t meet your expectations, do what you have to do but let your conscience guide you.

    yin and yen…….so much wisdom in so few words. Good for you, I wish you and your husband every success


  9. My husband and I went to our first overseas position at a school in the middle east. We were both professional, experienced and well travelled. We signed on for 2 years, with our contract allowing us to leave giving a month of notice. On arriving at the school we discovered ALL the administration had left during the summer vacation. We were given administration positions immediately even though we were employed at teachers. We were bullied into the positions without any extra pay for the huge work load we encountered. We were constantly abused by the local-hire teachers and unsupported by all except a few western teachers. Teachers left the school, or mysteriously disappeared, at an alarming rate.
    We are people of true grit who withstood a year in living hell. We were at all times professional, did our jobs at best we could, and boxed on like the soldiers we were brought up to be. We handed our notice in and did everything according to our contract.
    Life is too short to work in a school as such. Yes, we learn from our experiences, but what gives a school the right to be so unprofessional and such bullies. You learn a great deal from the bad experiences as you do the good. We look back and focus on what we gained from it and then moved on. Life can be a rollercoaster!! Take the good with the bad, but don’t linger in the bad!!


  10. As someone who has taught for almost twenty years in Africa, I am well versed in difficult conditions. However, my recent experience of Asian schools is that they are increasingly staffed by the intolerant, who regard any legitimate professional concerns as “whinging”. ANZACs seem to be the worst in this regard, but Brits can be just as ignorant and anti-social in their attitudes, demanding that everyone else “put up and shut up” no matter what the conditions, as long as they draw their salary and do not have to think about what they are doing.

    Worse still, managements seem increasingly driven by the profit motive and just want to “fill up” with pupils not able to take courses in a foreign language. In my experience, this is just a licence for patronising, harassment, bullying and direct threats with violence towards professional staff. In the UK or US this would be termed criminal misconduct, never mind just ‘unprofessional’ behaviour, and no one should have to put up with it at home or abroad.

    I agree that prior research is important, but some are in a desperate situation and have to take what is offered. Also, the job situation is getting tighter at home, which strengthens the hands of bullying managers. There one would use unions and the law. Overseas we are in a weaker situation dealing with thuggish “colleagues” and “managers”. When in doubt, do not go overseas in the first place. If you are stuck in a foreign hellhole masquerading as a “school”, contact your embassy, get legal advice and do not hesitate to walk out. Too often your “students” are part of the problem. Some of those “macho men” posting above certainly are. Putting your own security first is not being unprofessional, it is plain common sense.


  11. I am a teacher with 30 years experience. My school situation is HELL every day. My students curse and swear at me all day every day. The parents are helpless idiots. The middle east country is a pig sty. I have never been is such a helpless, hopeless situation.
    In the k-12 school, we average just over 1 “defection” per week (that is…teachers who “evaporate” at their own expense because the school is so horrible). YOU DON’T WANT TO EXPERIENCE THIS! Head for the hills!


  12. As an Aussie, I will back the “Yanks doing a runner” statement, though I know it will not get me points. I think the poor old US of A teachers are just way too insular to really know what the rest of the world is like, and aren’t prepared to suck it up because, well, they’re American, and deserve better. When reading ISR, you can spot the American teachers in a heartbeat. Same old gripes, same old attitudes. It’s a shame because I also know many US teachers who are not like that, but that suffer because schools are also aware of American attitudes, and, I am told, may be less willing to hire US teachers if they think it’s not a good investment and they will ‘bolt’.

    I spent two years in a school from hell, but I have never regretted my decision to stay. I learned so much there, and also made some wonderful friends, and some good networks in the same city, where I am now in a much better school thanks to the experience.

    Just do it. You have made the commitment, and unless someone has died, put a gun to your head, or you can’t eat, drink or live without pain, it’s an experience that will teach you much about yourself.


    1. You dont know what you´re talking about. I worked in inner-city USA for over 10 years where folks like you wouldn´t last 5 minutes. Just because you are working in a society that doesn´t grant basic human rights to folks doesn´t mean you have to accept poor treatment. That is no excuse. I think it is more cowardy to keep your head down and mouth shut when your collegues are getting hammered by unscrupulous adminstrators. Maybe some Americans have the intestinal courage to stand up against BS. I never saw an American do a runner but have seen 2 Canadians do so..I have also seen 2 Americans resign in protest to injustice suffered by a fellow teacher by the hands of a bad administrator. Regardless of how bad a school is…some of my best experiences were in bad schools…what is worse is when you have selfish, sell-out coward colleagues who grovel at the feet of their adminstrators. I have seen more of that than anything.


  13. I think the posts here are mostly accurate and share a common theme, “Kwitcherbichen!” I’ve worked in 4 international schools. Promises go unmet and the unrealistic demands of administrators often detract from the teachers’ ability to do their jobs. So what? Never had that in the US? Ever work a job outside of education with a tyrant boss? Everybody deals with that stuff. It’s what jobs are all about.

    I do think there is room for the intolerable though. If you have kids and war breaks out there may be good reason to “do a runner” as our aussie friend said. I don’t think it’s very common though. If you didn’t do your due diligence when you accepted the job then suck it up. I do think that you should stick it out if at all physically possible.

    We are all privileged to live and work in countries that many people can only dream about. That in itself is huge. Along with that we accept that this isn’t living in suburbia. There are tropical diseases, strange foods and customs, bureaucracies that madden and a host of other problems unfamiliar to us when we arrive. It is a different world out here and we chose to deal with it. If you can’t handle the international lifestyle then head back home. There are others that will try it. I wouldn’t go back to teaching in the US for anything, and I’m actually paid much lower than I would be in the US.

    So stiffen that spine. You may find that this experience, with the good and the bad, is well worth it. If you want everything and everyone to be just like it was in the US or GB or Down Under you are going to be unpleasantly surprised so don’t try this. Besides, a lack of candidates makes them pay those of us who love it much more.


  14. Your happiness is extremely important..or you will not be able to do your job well. I found myself in a situation overseas where my female principal was targeting and harassing me. I kept talking with my colleagues(veteran teachers) about it and asking them…”At what point do I go to the director?” They kept saying that she was my principal…and you never know what kind of principal you are going to get when you go overseas…plus there isn’t a teachers union to register a complaint/sue the principal when you work in schools overseas. There definitely should be a union as too many principals and directors get away with treating their teachers poorly. After over a year, I ended up going to the director and telling him that my principal had been harassing me and other teachers also. He asked for documentation. I gave him 8 pages and told him I could provide him with more. In the end, I stood up for myself and told the principal that we would no longer be having any “meetings” and called her on all the harassment! I had decided that I needed to resign and go home to heal my heart and spirit for teaching…so I had nothing to lose by going to the director. I stayed on through my contract. The director looked into the allegations of harassment..and other teachers started coming out of the woodwork and meeting with him so he knew more of what the principal had done to damage the morale at the school. The principal was fired(but let to stay on through the school year). I think she was told not to have any contact with me…but she kept sending the assistant principal to try to continue the harassment. I told him exactly what I thought about that. Do what you need to do to be happy. If the hiring school was not honest with you about the conditions or not honoring your contract…then you have a valid reason to leave. If you are being treated unprofessionally by your superior…and have called them on it or brought it to their boss and nothing has been done..you are at a really bad school…get out…the damage of being harassment stays with you for a very long time. Hope this helps! Smiles, Gina


  15. I received three offers, and in looking at the reviews for all three, there were plenty of negative comments. I found the information about living conditions most helpful… “not a good location for families”, “you can save a lot of money, but there is little to do outside of school”, “you won’t save much money but it’s a great place to live”. The rest of it was teachers being teachers. Read between the lines. No matter what school you go to, you will find complainers. Some complain that things are changing, others complain when they aren’t. Teachers everywhere put in long hours for little reward.

    You didn’t look into teaching overseas because it would be easy. You got into it for the adventure. As long as your life is not In jeopardy, you can do anything for two years.

    My first two years as a teacher were in deplorable conditions with students far below grade level. Nepotism was rampant, and supplies were scarce. Looking back, I have fond memories of the time with my students in spite of the conditions. I just closed my door and taught.

    You just signed up for something new. Of course you have second thoughts. But in 10 years, what do you want to look back and say about yourself?


  16. Be careful taking ISR too seriously. I subscribe because it is interesting, and I would rather have more information than less. However, my experience is that there are a lot of crazy teachers out there, and that they are disproportionately represented on ISR. Happy teachers aren’t as likely to post.

    If I were you, I would ask to speak to several teachers who will be continuing next year. I would be very honest with them- and tell them what you have heard. Give them a chance to respond. The school might be making big improvements, or there might have been some personality conflicts that they can explain.

    Get both sides of the story before making any big decisions!


    1. I totally agree! When there are bad blogs about schools or administrators, keep in mind that perhaps that particular person was unprofessional, difficult and was a serious issue for the school! We came to a school in Saudi after reading a terrible blog about it…..but there was only one….all the rest were positive. After doing our homework – and yes, you SHOULD do your homework before embarking on your professional adventure – we discovered the woman who wrote the blog was unprepared, difficult and expected the country to pander to her cultural needs!! She left after only 3 months at the school…..


  17. As A rule, I do not quit. I’d have to be fired, which many illegally and unscrupulously are. I take my work and commitments very serious, but sometimes you are not dealing with people of integrity. Much of this work is very personal to me. I have to make my own ethical decisions, despite the behavior of some very bad people. Mostly, I have to live with myself than anyone else, and I am willing to take, learn and grow from my sacrifices.This approach has always worked for me. I wish any good person in this situation the best. I been there many times.Also, teachers need to be more supportive to one another.


    1. Bullocks. This is a tough profession. No candy-assed folks need apply. There is no room for namby-pamby folks who think everything is relative. This is a nasty business (at times, uplifting, at others dismal) educating the spawn of the oligarchy. Tough stuff that pays well. We all know it, or should. Untouchables can’t pay the fees of the schools we work for, even the bad ones. Have-diploma-will-travel. We are all educational gunslingers except perhaps in the top 50 international schools in the world, and where do you think those people cut their teeth. This is a business of the quick and the dead,and I hate those whiny emails from someone in Kuwait who detained the kid of a known local tyrant and influential Sheik, are you on crack? Did you ask the freak’n boss first? Did you ask anyone about whatever school you were stupid enough to sign on to before you Goolged life in that country? Too lazy for Google? Wikipedia?

      Deluded? Misinformed? Retarded or just criminally insane? The last thing we need in politically and culturally sensitive areas of the world are ham-fisted, idiots that make an already difficult situation worse. In what universe does someone who is so naive as to blindly go to a country like Kuwait and proceed to act like a bull in a china shop, then to complain? These dilettantes and amateurs should be stopped by the agencies charging them exorbitant fees to be placed in places they don’t belong. Leave Kuwait and all the other hot spots to the pros. Naive adventurers, dilettantes, those seeking fortunes and just plain idiots should just stay home. You bring discredit to educators who have been dealing with sensitive issues in societies less than democratic for years. Duh.

      Let’s all try to keep these deluded people from falling prey to adverts from unscrupulous headhunters targeting soft-minded idealists who think the world is like the home and family section of their local retail outlet. god save us from the misinformed, misguided and greedy educators that plague international education.


    2. Wow I sure hope I’m not working with Beentheredonethat. You’re really an educator? How dark and unkind.


  18. The Aussie’s and the Kiwi`s call breaking contract “doing a runner“ and often mock the soft Yanks who go overseas, can´t stand the heat of the kitchen and then bolt, often in mid-contract with disastrous consequences for the students, the school and colleagues left behind.

    If no one is dead, stick it out. Do your bloody homework before you subject your weak knees to a tough job. If overseas work were generally cushy anybody could do it. Personally I am tired of all the thin-skinned dilettantes who show up, freak out, call in sick, moan constantly from day one and then do a runner in the middle of the night leaving the rest of us to clean up their mess.

    Start up schools and proprietary schools are a messy, unfair business. Only a handful of international or overseas schools are where they want to be or should be. The rest are generally in a hell of a mess and looking for some adventurous educators with some intestinal fortitude to sort things out. It may take a series of teachers, in a tag-team type of relay, to make even minimal progress in some of these places. The faint of heart need not apply for Christ`s sake, as it takes a bit of backbone to weather sometimes blatant corruption, affluent parents who treat one as a servant, cheeky students who try to cheat their way through,political upheaval, poor administrators, rolling blackouts, and even war.

    Weak sisters stay away. We only have to pick up your slack as you drive us mad with your constant bitching. Back in the day your type didn´t come out. Today your sort seem to be everywhere. Veteran overseas educators remind me of those who made the summit of Everest in the old days without oxygen. These days Everest is littered with oxygen bottles from every Tom, Dick, or Harry with enough money to pay a slick guide to take them to the top. Well, the slick guides today are Search Associates and the International Schools Services who put emotionally unstable people on the “summit“ so to speak, only to leave those of us with the real experience and credentials to deal with it. What rot these headhunters fill the heads of weak minded idealists with. They send these people to us and expect them to finish contracts… with both the educators and schools paying high fees for this international-educational malpractice. What rot they say, what lies the weak administrators spin and what crap eventually we get in the trenches (read staff rooms) overseas.

    So, international teacher…are you in? Do you have the right stuff or are you going to be seduced by a lucrative offer in god knows where only to find things are not quite kosher and you don´t have what it takes to gut it out. Run? Me? I would literally die first and some of you don`t deserve to shine the shoes of those who have. Yes, lives are lost every year in this profession.

    Cowards. Stay home. Please.


    1. Crocodile Dundee lives! So glad I never met you in my travels in the Middle East. I’ve met Canadian “whiners”, British “whiners”, and New Zealand “whiners”, but actually, I only met one “Aussie” and he managed to get himself sacked for a cultural faux pas. The others (Aussies) just signed the contracts, then never showed up.


    2. Cowards? I worked in inner-city USA for over 10 years where folks like you wouldn´t last 5 minutes. Just because you are working in a society that doesn´t grant basic human rights to folks doesn´t mean you have to accept poor treatment. That is no excuse. I think it is more cowardy to keep your head down and mouth shut when your collegues are getting hammered by unscrupulous adminstrators. Maybe some Americans have the courage to stand up against BS. I never saw an American do a runner but have seen 2 Canadians do so..I have also seen 2 Americans resign in protest to injustice suffered by a fellow teacher by the hands of a bad administrator. Regardless of how bad a school is…some of my best experiences were in bad schools…what is worse is when you have selfish, sell-out coward colleagues who grovel at the feet of their adminstrators. I have seen more of that than anything. ISR is a great site and teachers must stick together. Even if the teacher is weak you should still stick up for them…as much as you can that is……..


  19. I strongly agree with Anonymous. Research before you sign and go, but once you have signed and are in place honor your commitments. Perhaps the school is not what you expected, but cutting and running is leaving the students in the lurch. I am old fashioned, but I think how one handles this speaks volumes to one’s character.


  20. What is intolerable ??? Unsafe accommodation or a war torn location, no payments made , threats to your life???

    Or is it just that the expectations do not meet up to reality?

    If it is the latter , which is normally the situation found on this site then why havent you done your research BEFORE you have gone?

    It is easy to make a decision based on a little ground work before the $ signs mean you put pen to paper. If it sounds too good to be true generally it is! And if this isthe case then tough it out you wimp you get no sympathy from me

    however if you have found yourself in a situation where your life is threatened or a war starts up or a similarly serious situation happens that makes your professional and personal life impossible especially if family is involved then the decision is more difficult and you have more sympathy from me.

    JUST research before you go.


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