The Art of International School Management

Our previous blog, Safe, Sound & Far Away is focused on schools that use threats and intimidation to discourage staff from posting to the ISR web site. While this tactic apparently works in the short run, once safely out of the country, teachers clearly spread the word about these suppressive institutions.

Obviously not all schools see ISR as a threat. Among the many informative postings to this Blog, one that caught our attention closes with this comment from the director of The International School of Macao: “Issuing gag orders is not a solution. The best solution is to create a culture and community where feedback is sought and handled in more constructive ways. This is what we are working towards.”

This statement resonates harmoniously here at ISR. We’d like to share the complete posting from the Director of the Macao School and ask for your comments. We’re certain many of us will be standing in line at the next recruiting fair for a chance to work in this environment!

Howie says:
June 28, 2012
“As a school, we have taken a different approach to ISR. Considering that many prospective teachers are going to use ISR to check up on the school, I believe most schools monitor (or should monitor) the posts therein. ISR gives a perspective of a school. Multiple perspectives are needed in order to effectively gauge the culture of a school. We encourage all prospective candidates to contact as many people on staff as they want. When they want to know about the cost of living in Macau, we point them to a staff survey that lists differing perspectives.
At the end of each year, I forward the latest 2 reviews to all of the staff who are leaving and ask them to consider giving their own review–this includes staff whose contracts we have chosen not to renew.
This year someone wrote a scathing review accusing me of being a bully. What do you do? I chose to expose it to all of the staff. Why? I wanted staff to be aware of it for a few reasons:
1. Bullying behaviour has no place in a school. I gave explicit permission for any staff member to confront any bullying behaviour they saw in me or in anyone else on staff.
2. I hoped that the person would come forward so we could find some reconciliation. Clearly this person was hurt.
3. Remind staff of appropriate channels for feedback and concerns. If they couldn’t come to me then there were many others safe channels.
4. Avoid the gossip mill. Hiding things only makes it worse. ISR is here to stay.

Do these concepts coincide with the reality at your school? If not, is there a way to introduce this approach to running a school for YOUR school’s management team? We’re certain many schools see ISR as a constructive tool as opposed to a threat and sounding board for “disgruntled” teachers. We encourage directors and teachers to weigh in on this topic.

8 thoughts on “The Art of International School Management

  1. I am a school director and I love this site. I also encourage my newer teachers to check it out if they are unaware of it. It is highly informative and at times entertaining. I like to say I come from a teachers perspective and always offer candidates the opportunity to speak with existing staff as well. Even the ones who may have a negative perspective. The truth will set you free! It is all about educating ourselves, improving our schools and improving ourselves. School directors have a duty to move their school in the direction of the Teachers Bill of Rights. Often times in proprietary schools and other local schools, this kind of mentality is non-existent. Most directors I have met are cowards and/or political folks who are of the mercenary type. I know , some times directors find themselves between a rock and a hard place but you must always “DO the Right Thing!”

    Keep on Truckin ISR!


    1. Perhaps. I like the comments this Director makes, but since they have chosen to remain anonymous they might be at a school where it is difficult to DO the right thing. It is not always the directors fault when things go wrong.


  2. We also use ISR as a means to monitor the basic sentiment of our staff in relationship to the principals and other key personnel we hire. Of course we realize that there are personality conflicts and other factors that can lead to teachers developing ill feelings towards key staff. When we hear of bullying and lack of willingness to include every one as a member of the team, in favor of friends, we become concerned and lend a watchful eye. ISR has become an excellent tool for gaining an insight into staff sentiment. I will agree that some people are never happy and like to complain, but there are certain comments that warrant attention. I’d recommend other school leaders use ISR in the same manner. As the above poster mentioned, ISR is a good tool to see where your perspective candidates are coming from.


  3. As a school principal/director I like ISR and refer to it often. I like to know something more about the school a prospective teacher is coming from, and if I was job seeking would read all reviews with an eager eye. Not only that I would expect all prospective teachers to read reviews of my own school. Intelligent people can take reviews with a grain of salt if they are clearly from a disgruntled employee or a principal anonymously reviewing his/her school because it is another source of exposure to the market (that’s me – guilty!).
    Rock on Howie in Macau! – this is just the sort of leadership we need in all the schools – no fear of the truth and a willingness to improve (as we expect our staff to do) if found short. Any jobs there? maybe I’ll apply.


  4. I have been working for almost 10 years to open a school for special and exceptional needs and GED kids in Mexico and my partners and we have a number of basic principles we hold firm to, regardless of the potential investors’ business or personal aims:

    1) A school must first be an educational environment and then a business, not the other way around.

    2) Happy teachers make for happy stakeholders (parents,students,administrators) so being preoccupied with our teachers’ needs and concerns ensures the rest will follow.

    3) The principle role of an educator is to bring out the best person and to promote the innate promise a student provides.

    4) We are not principally or uniquely disciplinarians, timekeepers, pseudo-parents or school buddies to these kids, We are their mentors, cheerleaders, supporters and role models and sometimes their confidants…but above all else we are their protectors and guardians. Failure to promote,protect and guard our students is failure to fulfill our commitments.

    5) Finally, failure or setbacks are essential steps to success and should be positive experiences if imaginatively and pragmatically learnt from by willing calculated risk-takers.

    6) There is no one absolute formula for learning, therefore, there is no one,rigid and ¨correct¨ way to teach or educate….the more individualized the process is the more it works for the individual.

    This all sounds vaguely idealistic and ¨Pollyanna¨-like, but it is based on years of experience, errors, trials, gradual success and thoughtful analysis of what education is now and could be for the future. Unfortunately, explaining these principles to profit-focused investors or to philanthropists whose visions are more traditional has proven to be a challenge.
    We hope that someday we’ll be able to open this school and proudly declare (and prove) that we support the ISR core values and Declaration as a model learning institution(s). we’d love to hear from our colleagues to share their ideas and feedback.


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