International Teacher Initiation

“I suppose I’ve now been initiated into the world of international teaching. I have been completely blindsided and deceived by my admin who informed me I will not be getting another contract. This, despite two glowing performance appraisals over the past two years at this school.

In the end, although I was praised for having a high level of competence and skill in the job, they pointed out a fuzzily-defined personality trait of mine as being the reason for non-renewal.

My question is this: What do I say to prospective employers when asked my reasons for “resigning” (as I was given the option to do) after the initial two-year contract

Also, should I make a case to my recruiting agency over this? Any help would be much appreciated!”

26 thoughts on “International Teacher Initiation

  1. Only just realised this was posted here. I am the OP. Happy to say that this whole thing worked out really, really well (for me that is). I ended up winning a payout in exchange for not criticising them anymore! Then I got a better job with good bosses for way more money.

    I recently got promoted to the same level as the original bloke who dropped the bombshell on me. I earn more than him now.

    If you knew the leadership style of these people, it would not surprise you that a friend-of-a-friend of theirs (of the same nationality as them) is in my old position now. So it was never about my personality … that was the ruse they used to get another sycophant in a senior position.

    Anyway, I ended up winning by simply telling everyone exactly what I thought of these “leaders;” I let everyone at a coordinators’ conference know, everyone at the IB regional office, everyone at the recruitment fair… anyone who would listen would hear my opinion about them.

    I made no secret of the fact that I’d already written their ISR reviews and that it would be on the ISR website the day after my departure.

    With three months left before the end of the year, they invited me in and gave me a contract to sign. I could tell that the contract was letting me off work whilst paying me as if I were still there. They tried to get me to sign it then and there. I had however, learned my lesson about signing contracts with men such as these. I told them no, that a lawyer would look at it and I’d come back in tomorrow.

    This was a wise move. They had built a trap in the contract, my friend (an expensive lawyer by trade) found it and we handed them back a contract that could be legally enforced.

    A group of friends came up to my office on the way out. They couldn’t believe what I’d pulled off. “You’ve taught everyone a lesson here mate, even me!” said a good friend who’d been alongside me through the whole debacle. He has been in the international schools circuit for some twenty years and had never seen anyone have a win like I had.

    I was absolutely beaming on the way out. I shouted drinks that night. I doubt the “bosses” celebrated that night. They chewed on the schooling I’d delivered them.

    Indeed, I did teach them a lesson. The old sociopath who’d attempted to vandalise my career has now himself been fired. I’m not sure exactly why, but his handling of my case certainly didn’t help.

    I took a job offered to me through old contacts. They didn’t contact the school in question to talk about me. They already knew me and were happy to have me. They also knew about the calibre of people I had been involved with, because I told them all about it! There is no secret that I am hiding from my current employers, therefore the aforementioned sociopath has no power over me at all.

    It’s me who holds power over him to this day. If I felt so inclined, there is enough information I have on him and his ring of sycophants that I could sink the lot of them.

    For when I handed him back the contract, it came with a trap of my own device.


  2. Tough call. Some recruitment agencies will ask you outright (on the application) whether you’ve ever been non-renewed for performance issues. You could also run into trouble if the school brings it up during the vetting process.

    Whether you disclose up front or not is ultimately your call and probably depends on the subtleties of your situation. Either way, I’d cultivate a good reference from someone you trust before you start recruiting again. Is there an administrator who will vouch for your quality? Get a letter of recommendation (a non-confidential one) from that person as soon as possible. You might also seek letters from colleagues and parents who have been pleased with your work. Also, make sure you have copies of your excellent performance evaluations on hand.

    Hopefully you won’t need to make your case, but it helps to have your documentation in order if you do.


  3. Who would want to stay at a school where you are not wanted? Fulfilling your contract could never be miscontrued, so leave the personality trait out of it, and happily move on. You have everything to gain by moving on, rather than staying at a school where they do not want to renew your contract. Just go and have another adventure somewhere else! GO!!


  4. You know what? I act like noone is going to ever renew my contract therefore, I plan on moving on after 2 yrs unless I hear otherwisw; that way you’re never disappointed or taken by surprise. Maybe this happened because a new hire has a spouse that can do your job or for some other screw-up on their part. Just make sure that your rep checks to see that your references are decent. Don’t forget that there are schools who have yet posted openings and that some people will cancel signed contracts causing a scramble for teachers in May and June. Also a school”s enrollment can change and if the numbers go up they hire more staff. Whatever you do don’t take it personally and don’t even bring it up during interviews.


  5. The majority of international schools, in my experience, are poorly run, ‘dodgy’ operations that in many cases fall into the ‘scam’ category. Many administrators are poorly trained and inexperienced. There are notable exceptions of course. I once had the choice of being ‘let go’ after one year of a two year contract, despite excellent performance evaluations, teacher/parent relations/etc. Why? The director was having an affair with a female colleague who threatened to blow it up publicly if she didn’t get the position she wanted….mine. Curiously I received a great letter of rec., shipping, ticket home..all the end of contract perks. I also received the second year salary…AFTER taking the school to labor court and hassling for four years. You fulfilled your two year contract…that’s what matters. Get another position first…THEN spread the word about these SOB’s.


  6. In my situation in a previous year I covered extra lessons to make up for another teacher who had to be taken off this advanced job. The principle offered me extra money to help out. This money did not arrive after repeated discussions. The next year they did not offer another contract


  7. Yes, just move on. Despite getting on well with my colleagues and students and being complimented on various initiatives I am in the same position.
    My overall boss who never leaves the office and is out of touch with reality has made the decision.


  8. Don’t worry about it. I did five international schools in ten years by choice. If I wanted to stay in one school I would have stayed in Canada and taught in one school. The main reason for me to teach overseas was to see the world and get as much variety as possible. I am now on a permanent contract in a government school. I never for a moment regretted “surfing schools from one country to another”. It was great! Enjoy yourself while you can.


    1. well said. At one point my husband and I did 5 schools in 5 years…some were one year contracts, others were evacuations and/or other extenuating circumstances…(all were pre-kids) and other than some creative narratives to frame our choices when speaking to potential employers, we have always worked since. You only live once. If it is not a great situation, be happy that you are able to fulfill your contract and MOVE on. There will come a time where that becomes more difficult, but if you see the challenges as opportunities for growth and empowerment, you can learn to choose your own way. You will never get any real control in life, anyway, so when you are given the option to choose, do it.


  9. The same thing has happened to me. If you happen to be a caring teacher in a “for profit” school, you are very subject to this situation. In fact I am going through it now. One only has to read the reviews of this website to see that many Int schools are pathetic. Many hire incompetent, inexperienced admin with little or no education background. The school where I am not teaching constantly calls “students”….”customers.” They do not seem to realize that there is a huge difference between the two. I wish I could give you advice that could help. It is a tough time to be a teacher in the world.


  10. DO NOT get into a discussion about this with a recruiter or in an interview. As others said: “You completed the contract and decided to look to another experience and have always wanted to live in and experience…(the place being interviewed for). Contract completed, end of story. If you tell a recruiter something, he/she is obligated to consider it and pass it on to the schools. Recruiters work for the schools more than they do the individual teacher.


  11. The most usual FPT is sharing the schools problems in the community never a good idea as all schools have something not to be discussed… I would always recommend being totally positive about your school especially to parents its just professional.
    However, as they let you resign they will not say anything in a reference about your FPT. You can just say that although you loved your last school as you intend to stay in Int Ed you needed to gain more experience and hope to stay longer in the next school.


  12. The contract is over, they don’t have to renew it, and you shouldn’t expect it. Contracts are not perpetual, unless you are in French International Schools. In my old school they simply kicked experienced teachers after two years because newly qualified teachers were cheaper to employ. Also, in my case, the campus principal (an inexperienced, insecure twenty something male) could not relate to women subordinates older than him as he couldn’t chat us up, so all were removed, in favour of younger ‘prettier’ girls, or men he could go out drinking with.

    Don’t worry about it. You have not broken contract, you do not have to tell new recruiters anything. You successfully completed your required time, that’s all that matters. If they ask, simply say you wanted a new challenge in a new place.


  13. Yeah, just say you wanted to move on, the pollution was too much, whatever. Since you completed your contract, there should be no problem, as long as they will write you a good recommendation.


  14. OK..sorry to say it..but I’ve heard “fuzzily defined”personality trait as meaning something along the lines of ” I act a little gay cause I am but haven’t come out , yet they assume I am” ..which happens all the time…repeat…all the time…second rate interational schools are afraid of anyone who doesn’t present them selves as Clark Kent. Leave and go someplace better..they won’t torpedo your career…there are better places out there.


  15. It sounds like the school decided to move on. You finished your contract. There should be no problem. If this shoe was on the other foot (you decided to move on after two years and completing your contract) would you even need to give the school a reason? The school decided to move on, so should you.


  16. It sounds like they were just trying to let you down soft. Many administrators lack spines and when these sensitive “personality traits” are an issue they can decide to non-renew your contract. It’s kind of like telling the middle school child that it is time to start wearing deodorant. I have seen many situations with competent teachers just not fitting in with a school. Maybe there was pressure from the board. Did administrators, teachers, students and parents like you? This goes a long way in these private institutions.

    Think about this personality trait. Is there something to it? Is it something you can work on? If it is really fuzzy, ask them to define it further so you don’t fall into the same situation again. We all have our quirks, this occupation tends to attract esoteric personalities.

    It is easy to move on after completing a contract. You just need to find that school that can handle your trait while appreciating having a competent teacher in the classroom.

    The school you are in now is obviously not the place for you. Good luck.


  17. In spite of excellent principal’s evaluations, excellent student-parent-teacher relations, my contract was not extended. What is more, I was bluntly told, that if I challenge the principal’s decision, he will not give me a positive rec letter; otherwise it will be happy to provide me with the excellent references. Guess what I chose. Schools are under no obligation to extend your contract. This applies to Canada and everywhere else.


  18. I’d tell them to get lost, then start you own school nearby and lure all their students to your new school. Ha! This can be the problem, especially in a lot of the “mom and pop” operations overseas. Finding administrators who have been properly trained and/or certified in teacher evaluation is difficult, if not rare these days. I’d chalk it up to experience and a lesson learned, and move on and not give it another thought. Research your next school thorughly before signing a contract.


  19. When applying for another position, you do not have to justify why you have left a job if you have fulfilled your contract. Nor do you have to justify it to a recruiter. You simply have to say your contract was over and you decided to move on. If the recruiter needs to know more, they will ask you. As long as your “fuzzy personality trait” does not put anyone in harms way, I can’t see it as a problem, but then I’m not an administrator and I still haven’t figured out how their minds work.


  20. Surely they can simply not renew your contract and do not have to give a reason.

    Wouldn’t you simply say that you wish to move schools, maybe to another country for broadening experience.

    I will read further replies with interest as I can’t see the problem.

    I can understand that you are not happy and I am sorry that you have been put in this position. I hope things turn out ok.


  21. Here is the deal. Many of these schools are fronts for illegal operations. They launder money. They charge exorbitant fees. They only way they can charge these fees is by bringing in western administrators like whores. They are pimps. They promise all sorts of things and deliver nothing. In the meantime they mix money from prostitution, drugs, and crime with the school fees. They best of these scam schools pay on time and give benefits, the worst screw you.

    They traffic in humans and gullible teachers are just a for of trafficking. Beware. I have been doing this for 30 years and estimate maybe 100 legitimate international school out there.


    1. While you post “Here is the deal…”, it is a viewpoint that would best be described as paranoid rambling. I get it, you had some bad experiences in International education. I have a radically different view as I suspect most other people do as well.


    2. Wow, where have you been teaching?! I have to agree with Robert. I’ve worked at three schools and while they haven’t been perfect, I’ve never believed they were fronts for illegal activity (or anything close). Not to say such schools don’t exist, which is why it’s good to do your research before signing a contract. But lumping all international schools into this category simply just doesn’t fly.

      That being said, if you’ve actually been at such a school, I hope you’re sharing your experience with ISR so the rest of us don’t end up there.


  22. What was the persionality trait that they sited and why are you unwilling to mention it here? Will you let agencies know or will they have to find out through the school via your reference which will invariably include something in them implicitly stated or otherwise.

    Has there been any other incidents of personal clashes or issues with other schools or was this a one off? How long did you stay at your previous schools?

    Generally speaking a good recruitment consultant will look at all of these and beyond before working out whether or not they can place you.

    Personality clashes happen and recruitment agencies can look past these if they know about them in the first instance, and everything else adds up to show that you are a good candidate but they also dont like nasty surprises, so honesty is the best policy there.

    That said when I do get information that is not brought to my attention by the candidate and it is of a nature that needs clarification, I would always go back and ask the teacher if there is anything else that I should know that happened in the school. I have to keep an open mind on these matters until I have enough information at my disposal to make an informed decision on whether to assist a teacher or not.

    I hope that gives you an understanding of how a professional recruiter sees your situation.


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