136 Countries Where U.S. Teachers Have Their Human Rights Violated

gary_sanford by Gary Sanford

More than 7,000 U.S. citizens teach in 195 schools in 136 countries. Many, if not most, of these schools are accredited by U.S. accrediting agencies, private organizations that are legitimized by the U.S. Department of Education and receive financial assistance from the Department of State’s Office of Overseas Schools.

I taught abroad for 13 years in four different countries and I can testify that teachers are treated in ways that would not be tolerated in stateside schools: Administrators routinely bully and lie to teachers, fire teachers without due process, violate contracts, withhold salaries, and engage in many forms of discrimination. Obviously, my experiences alone cannot adequately support my claims; however, I have crossed paths with many teachers in the milieu of international education and I can say…..read more

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160 Responses to 136 Countries Where U.S. Teachers Have Their Human Rights Violated

  1. altaling.eu says:

    Why viewers still make use of to read news papers when in this technological globe all
    is existing on web?

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Gary you mention that 136 countries have violated American teachers’ Human Rights. Does this figure equal or exceed the number of countries that the American Government has committed Human Rights abuse in ???

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  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve worked at 4 different schools and have never seen anything that comes close to abuse or loss of rights. I do however, witness many teachers that don’t understand that they have an obligation to get on board with the policies and practices of their school.

    Schools do not have much oversight, accept this fact or don’t go overseas.

    Also, schools are under no obligation to renew any teacher at the end of a contract. If you finish your time and are told you are not renewed they do not need to show cause. It simply is not a good match in the eyes of the school.

    If you want protection and a place to gripe, stay in your home country.

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    • Gary B. Sanford says:

      Gee, well, since you haven’t seen abuse of rights, I guess that means it doesn’t happen. I don’t imagine most teachers get on board policies and procedures that constitute abuse. Now, go stick your head back in the sand.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, it’s possible my head is in the sand, I’m sure some shady things take place. I’ve just never seen it or had it happen to me. If it did, I would leave immediately and find a better school.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I’m surprised you don’t realize that it is abuse and bullying to say things like ‘now go stick your head back in the sand’.

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  4. SWall says:

    Very interesting read. As an international teacher, I have grappled with many of these issues – what is “right,” if not “rights” vs. cultural sensitivity, class differences, the role of accrediting agencies and U.S. government organizations abroad, etc., like many teachers have noted in their posts. Still working on figuring out my views and responses to these contradictions.

    I do remember an advertisement directly from a U.S. government agency abroad a few years back seeking a teacher to teach children of U.S. government employees in an Asian country. This advertisement stated directly that the maximum age for teachers was 50. Now, even if the host country does not offer work visas for people over a designated age, how can the U.S. government not be held accountable for upholding U.S. laws in their own schools? As I see it, this issue involves both our rights as well as what’s right.

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  5. Been Around says:

    A veteran international educator for close to 20 years, I am somewhat dismayed by a number of the issues raised on this forum. Agreed colleagues can air their views, but what about the laws of natural justice, where the accused has the right to face the accuser. Like myself I choose to be anonymous, though prepared to write this, not prepared to be identified, what strikes me sadly is that colleagues due to their own timed out injustices decide to air them for publicity, is this correct I ask you.
    In international education there are no unions to assist either parties, some schools have policies, I’ve seen some good ones, though staff have been lacking in putting pen to paper for fear of transcripts going on file, yet seemingly willing to potentially ruin someones credibility because they didn’t get their way. How old are these people, don’t we expect students to stand up and be counted, to be risk takers and take a stance, yet when it comes to an educational injustice, educators feel they need to air their dirty laundry publicly.
    For example as a freshman to international education I too witnessed some unprofessional behavior by a staff member; A to a senior administrator B. Back home that would be cause for instant dismissal. A, knew he was on firm ground, no union, no rep, and B was not about to jeopardize his career advancement due to this behavior. A completed their contract was given a rave reference and went on to publish untruths about the B. The school director and administrators knew these were inaccurate and unfounded, yet this went on to ruin B’s career. I was left dumbfounded that an educated person could do this to another and get away with it. As time passed, I witnessed and heard of the odd discriminatory act, generally from young educators about their administrators, some called for some not and sometimes administrators to staff. These people most likely behaved similarly in their home country, we can change our appearance with cosmetic surgery, you name it it’s there, we can change the way we dress, the color of our hair, but can we change ourselves, I very much doubt.
    Of course there are those administrators that can be cause grief. What needs to be asked is are they asking staff to undertake tasks for the betterment of the school, most likely yes, as standards are always rising due to the competitive market of education today. Again most administrators have someone higher up the ladder, an accountant, a business man wanting their hand full of gold.
    I’ve been in many positions in my time, from classroom to administrator, it is not an easy act, it takes time, patience, will power and intelligence, nor is it an easy act in ones own home country.
    Of late I have noticed a great deal of confusion about the term “international school,” let’s take a few moments to debate that. International school, could be a school where students come from various nations, could be a school where they use a curriculum that is international, could be a school that is a dual national and international component, could be a bilingual school, even at a stretch a national school, even further a language school. Apart from one of the above mentioned I have worked in some capacity in them all, are they all international, questionable I say. Yet when many new recruits generally the X and Y generation knock on the schools door full of determination (ready to start their new life overseas) to change things they become disillusioned quickly when they discover that in some cases they find themselves in a school that is not international. Quickly they start on a down spiral of debate, debacle and dishonesty in behavior within and outside the school.
    It is here that I come full circle, where these colleagues decide to air their grievances publicly when they are causing injustices that can never be remedied because they did not check before they entered their contracts. So rather than stand up and address that they made a mistake but will do the best they can, they go on a hunt to make someone else’s life as miserable as theirs.
    Shame on you international teachers review for allowing such remarks on what is a credible occupation and one that should be preserved and held on to with firm hands than let the weak of mind cast doubt on fellow educators.

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    • Gary B. Sanford says:

      I’m sorry. I really can’t make sense out of much of your comment. Seems you’re trying to turn the tables and make administrators victims. I think we all recognize that there are many good administrators but there are obviously many who violate the rights of teachers and they are the subject of this article, although it is natural that they will hide among the just and innocent. Shame on them. Unfortunately, the rain falls on the just and the unjust, which necessarily recommends that administrations police their own ranks. You also seem dismayed and perplexed that teachers air their grievances publicly (Oddly, that’s what you are doing). I hate to get your socks wet, but there’s a new sheriff in town: The social net, of which ISR is a part, and its expanding and never ending mission is to expose those who believe they can hide and are unaccountable. Despots are being dragged out of culvert pipes and university officials are toppled for covering for pedophiles–and its just getting started. It’s all a part of the civilizing process, of human flourishing, which is the side you might want to get on. It’s the effect of the cause that you conveniently gloss over with a whole lot of rambling. Shame on you.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    I’d be happier with the discussion if it didn’t keep returning to the old prejudice that (almost) all admin are evil-doing idiots, and (almost) all teachers are excellent professionals. We sound ridiculous when we pepper our arguments with this presumption.

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    • Gary B. Sanford says:

      “Prejudice” doesn’t work here because “prejudice” means to judge without just cause or sufficient knowledge and that’s just not true in this case. “Stereotyping,” on the other hand, allows us to generalize information so that we don’t have to re-evaluate information repeatedly. It’s a survival mechanism and, like it or not, we are stuck with it. That will not change in this case until the stereotyped information/behavior changes at large. Additionally, the ever present and inescapable media often reinforces our stereotypes: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/protest-slut-shaming-speaker-west-virginia_n_3103241.html

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  7. Chris says:

    I kind of have mixed feelings about this post. Here they are:

    a) Why are we only focusing on the rights of US teachers? As a Canadian teacher teaching overseas with an Australian wife (who is also a teacher) does ISR only care about American teachers?

    b) If you feel that your rights are being infringed upon, do something about it – leave or fight back.

    c) There certainly are schools out there that do some pretty stinky things to teachers because they can get away with it. There should definitely be a way to deal with this.

    d) The system in the States (see Waiting For Superman) where no one’s rights are infringed upon is abysmal and the education systems fails because of it. What do we want? No rights for educators where children do well overall or rights for teachers where children don’t do well. (Obviously a happy medium would be the best!)

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    • Gary B. Sanford says:

      a) I’m attempting to link international teachers’ rights to the rights they are guaranteed in the US. However, it seems obvious to me that if schools uphold those rights for US citizens they automatically uphold those same rights for all teachers. You’ll note that after referring to US teachers in the first paragraph I did not make that distinction thereafter for precisely your concern.

      b) I am fighting back. Leaving is a poor idea because teacher turnover is a prime detriment to students’ learning. Additionally, if you don’t fight back you leave incoming teachers to the wolves, which is not my idea of courage, collegiality, and professionalism. Unfortunately, that’s what many administrators want. Doesn’t matter if you’re the best teacher on the planet, if you ruffle admin’s feathers, you’re gone one way or another.

      c) There is a way: Exposure and “d” below.

      d) The education system is failing in America because administrations are opaque and unaccountable, and when they screw up–which is often–the consequences fall on teachers while administrators scurry into their offices (School boards in their present role are cosmetic and a joke). Decisions about student learning should never be made unilaterally but by rotating representatives who hold the line in the education community: teachers, students, support staff, and parents. What is more, a school’s mission should revolve around the idea that all children have the right to the “privilege” of education. They should not have rights that allow them to steal learning from others.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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  8. I just read the new (19) administrator reviews. Four were good to excellent, one was mediocre, and 14 were scathingly poor with one administrator scoring 3 of the poor reviews.

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  9. PieGuy says:

    ‘B.Rawlins’ mentioned the word ‘union’. Gasp!

    We need industry specific, worker representation – regardless of where the teacher comes from. International schools are the industry and teachers are the workers. Confine worker’s assistance organisations to their country of origin and we’ve lost the plot.

    How about the International Labour Organisation? “The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.” That sounds like a good start.

    In the meantime, let’s thank heavens for ISR and the freedom to read and respond to articles like this.

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  10. B.Rawlins says:

    As an experienced (British) teacher and administrator of thirty years in overseas schools, I can verify Gary Sanford’s argument that abuse is indeed routine and widespread. The detailed reports in ISR are just one source of evidence, and the similar websites for EFL colleges (e.g. ESL Watch) show they are even worse This should not be surprising, as we are in the position of migrant laborers, and therefore ripe for exploitation, even as low-level “professionals”. The key thing for me is whether local laws are broken or not with regards to intimidation. Where they are, then getting out in one piece is often the only recourse. Sometimes it is possible to register with local unions who are sympathetic, as in Cyprus or other EU countries. One should always register with one’s embassy, for they can supply lists of lawyers, even if legal success in local courts can hardly be guaranteed. I have had success contacting the police about threats from a former manager in northern China. It is also worth keeping in touch with your teaching union back home, even as an associate member. The UK National Union of Teachers, for example, has an overseas section. The quantity of evidence that has now been amassed through ISR and other accounts is worth passing on to unions, perhaps even at an international level such as ITUC. New recruitment agencies are starting to emerge that are more responsive to teachers’ needs and will provide much needed competition for the existing ‘big names’ in the field of ‘international education’.

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    • Thank-you for your supporting comment and advice to international teachers. I also suggest that teachers lodge complaints with their recruiters and/or the school’s accrediting agency and continue to post on ISR. We can only hope that once a picture of abuse emerges in a particular school that appropriate action will be taken. I’m glad to hear that new teacher centered recruiters are emerging. Perhaps the Good Ole Boys will take heed and right their ships. My hope, and my goal, is to get accrediting agencies on board with regard to enforcing their standards of ethical practice, and, if they do not, to get the US Dept. of Education and the Dept. of State, who support US accrediting agencies, to take action. I will continue to push buttons until I eventually hit the right one. One would also hope that administrators/owners/school boards themselves would police their own ranks rather than continue to protect the administrators who consistently sully the profession and drag good administrators into their mud. There is absolutely no place for abusive administrators/owners in the most influential and sacrosanct profession on the globe. Thanks again.

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      • middle ground says:

        And thanks to your post, and *most* of the replies to it, I contacted the governing body (UK) of a school who has been keeping me on the line for months, mentioning a possibly fishy contract. I have to say they didn’t *appear* to be much interested, but it doesn’t mean they are not secretly checking into it. They ought to. Thanks for the inspirations, everybody!

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    • Happy Expat says:

      Ditto on the above. I find the argument against Gary has gotten boring and there is no end to this bickering. He has some VERY valid points. Perhaps, those of you berating him have had the good fortune not to have been a victim of this very real situation that definitely exists. Just be thankful and quit denying that it exists. You need to relax. This venue is for people to share their opinions and those opinions do not have to match yours… read the entry and be accepting. Most of the responses recently have served no puropose or help in other teacher’s making sound decidsions for their futures. Let’s remain civil with one another, shall we?

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  11. David Archer says:

    No Gary, what it means is that you overstate your case to the point where your argument becomes silly. And you make things worse with this ineffable American presumption that you have things just right in your small corner of the world and consequently have the prerogative to prescribe ways and means for everyone.
    How pretentious to say that there are 136 countries that contrive to get things wrong and abuse poor American teachers. Most countries in Europe (and many in other parts of the world) have labor laws that make the US look like a backwoods jungle. Try giving state school teachers in Europe pink slips a few weeks before the end of the school year and saying: “So sorry, you don’t have a job next year because local elections voted to cut the schools’ budget”. Not surprising, I suppose, given that you have a President who is deemed a dangerous communist by a significant part of your electorate but who, to us, seems like a left-of-center Conservative.
    And yes, it is silly to conflate the teacher whose contract is terminated at the end of the contractual period with the woman – or man – who is gang raped by the local security services and then say that they are both forms of human rights abuse…it’s just that one is minor and the other is major.
    But the big nonsense is in your statement that “Administrators routinely bully and lie to teachers, fire teachers without due process, violate contracts, withhold salaries and engage in many forms of discrimination.” I don’t doubt that some adminstrators behave in ways that are completely unacceptable. I don’t doubt that some teachers behave in equally unacceptable ways. What I object to is the notion that this is “routine” on either side. I know many school administrators, and most of those I have met are decent human beings trying to do their very best in an imperfect world. I would say exactly the same about the teachers I know. Fact is, I know very few of those same administrators who weren’t teachers themselves, and the large majority of us don’t turn into Mr Hydes the moment we take on the admin role.
    I understand that you believe you were done an injustice when you were in Saudi; I’m not sure that the best way to respond is to lash out like a wounded animal at all international schools and all their administrators just because you feel hurt.

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    • David, the other Gary just really needed money, or the notoriety from writing the article – ISR likes to instigate. He admits that he hasn’t really seen much of these “Human Rights Abuses”, it’s mostly theoretical. When someone questions him, he totally exaggerates what was said and takes it to a ridiculous conclusion. He does not seem to get that some people find the idea that teachers “have their human rights abused” as offensive when compared to true human rights abuses. An administrator telling a teacher what they must do is not bullying – it’s called feedback and direction. Some admin do it well, some do an awful job. Who are these admin types? They used to be teachers.

      But honestly, he wants the accrediting agencies to mediate these problems (or the Department of State). Really? This gives Americans a bad name and we sound like whiners and complainers. Teaching is a privilege – start acting like it. If you don’t like where you are, fair enough – move/leave. He seems incapable, or unwilling, of understanding what an accrediting agency is supposed to do. It’s not there for teacher pay, sick days, assignments, days off, supplies, who won’t be who’s best friend, or personnel issues. They are there to certify that a basic level of education is provided to the students.

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      • Anonymous says:

        THAT’S the problem. They don’t.

        I am not sure which administrators are on here constantly degrading others but that’s what you are doing to Gary and all he is doing is trying to bring issues such as the accrediting agencies rubber stamping school claims. Shame on you. Unfortunately for me, I think I have worked for a couple of you before. Believe me, you are half the problem. Thank you for bringing me down to your level yet once again.

        “Teaching is a privilege”? No, it’s a job. Sometimes it is more rewarding than at other times. That can depend upon whether or not your rights are being abused. Despite YOUR whining to the contrary, it DOES happen.

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        • Sorry to disappoint you, but I actually teach and have no desire to be in admin. I don’t know how you would work for me when I teach and I don’t have an assistant. I’m not the one whining and complaining. I enjoy teaching and am glad I get the opportunity to do so. I feel like teaching is what I was meant to do and one of the few things I am actually good at doing really well. Being able to help someone learn is very special to me. I’m sorry if you feel like it’s “just a job”.

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      • “David, the other Gary just really needed money, or the notoriety from writing the article – ISR likes to instigate.”
        Nope. Didn’t get paid and didn’t get notoriety, but I wouldn’t mind. ISR is composed of both good and bad teacher reviews.
        “He admits that he hasn’t really seen much of these “Human Rights Abuses”, it’s mostly theoretical.”
        Wrong again and I’m sure most people discern that “water cooler” talk and ISR reviews are not theoretical.
        “When someone questions him, he totally exaggerates what was said and takes it to a ridiculous conclusion.”
        Please give me an example of where I exaggerated and took it to a ridiculous conclusion. You would know.
        “He does not seem to get that some people find the idea that teachers ‘have their human rights abused’ as offensive when compared to true human rights abuses.”
        “Human rights” are “commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being.” According to Webster’s “abuse” means a (1) corrupt practice or custom; (2) improper or excessive use or treatment; (3) a deceitful act; (4) language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily; (5) physical maltreatment. I get that some people resort to oblique ad hominem, straw man fallacy, hysteria, and cherry picking definitions to accord with their agenda because they have little or no critical thinking and argumentative skills. That is clearly demonstrated in your comment.
        “An administrator telling a teacher what they must do is not bullying – it’s called feedback and direction. Some admin do it well, some do an awful job.”
        So you’re saying that all administrators all the time are simply giving feedback. Do you know that such a generalization is ridiculous and confirms that you cannot reasonably argue. Well, maybe to your friends, anyway.
        “Who are these admin types? They used to be teachers.”
        Yes, I know. Did they get out of teaching and go into admin for the money, the notoriety, because they hated/feared teaching, because they washed out of teaching, as a shroud to cover impotence and incompetence, or was it because of the pathetic cliché that they all thought they could better serve youth as an administrator? Really? I’m curious about why Hollywood typically portrays administrators as buffoons? Where do you suppose they get that idea? However, that’s no to say that they are a few good administrators out there. I met one, once.
        But honestly, he wants the accrediting agencies to mediate these problems (or the Department of State). Really?
        Yes. Really and honestly. For example, the New England Association of School and Colleges/Commission on American International Schools Abroad Policies and Procedures 1.2 states: “Schools accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges are expected to operate in the public interest and in accordance with ethical practices with respect to the rights, responsibilities, health, and safety of faculty, students, administrators, board members and all others associated with the school.” Accrediting agencies set themselves up as mediators when they expect schools to comply with policies and, like I said in my article, they get their clout from the US government.
        “This gives Americans a bad name and we sound like whiners and complainers.”
        But America is a nation of whiners and complainers, or better yet a nation of people who refuse bullying, complacency, and status quo. There aren’t many whiners and complainers in North Korea.
        “Teaching is a privilege – start acting like it. If you don’t like where you are, fair enough – move/leave.”
        Absolutely! And part of upholding that privilege is to keep it from being sullied by Good Ole Boy bullying, opacity, and unaccountabililty. I am acting like it.
        “He seems incapable, or unwilling, of understanding what an accrediting agency is supposed to do. It’s not there for teacher pay, sick days, assignments, days off, supplies, who won’t be who’s best friend, or personnel issues. They are there to certify that a basic level of education is provided to the students.”
        Another ridiculous ad hominem and reductio ad absurdum. Once again: The New England Association of School and Colleges/Commission on American International Schools Abroad Policies and Procedures 1.2 states: “Schools accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges are expected to operate in the public interest and in accordance with ethical practices with respect to the rights, responsibilities, health, and safety of faculty, students, administrators, board members and all others associated with the school.” Who doesn’t understand?
        I think we know who you are.

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        • Seriously, do you actually read what you write? You said, “Administrators routinely bully and lie to teachers, fire teachers without due process, violate contracts, withhold salaries, and engage in many forms of discrimination.” – I do not see this and have never seen seen this as “routine”. I often go to conferences and take classes over the summer with teachers and I have not heard that this behavior is routine. I’m sure there are some mean/nasty admins/owners (just like there are some mean/nasty teachers), but to say this is routine is just plain wrong. Throwing out big words and attacking just makes your position worse, in a way you are resorting to bullying. I also don’t see anything that, “wouldn’t be tolerated in the states”. We actually get paid early sometimes, they are way more flexible, and we have way more freedom to teach. Our school does a wonderful job of taking care of its teachers. I’ve heard the same thing about many other schools. Where is the “routine bullying” in that. There might be exceptions, but “routine”? I enjoy teaching and am glad I have this opportunity to teach.

          Do you know who I am now?

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          • Wow! I guess since you’ve never seen or heard about violation of teachers’ rights means it doesn’t happen. Read the ISR reviews. Yes, there are some mean, nasty administrators/owners who routinely violate the rights of teachers and who are given a pass by accreditors. That’s why I wrote the article. That I would hit a nerve with administrators and their sycophants and cronies was expected. I’m not attacking. I’m defending. If the big words bother you, get a dictionary. I am glad that you enjoy teaching and have the opportunity. I enjoyed it, too.

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            • Anonymous says:

              Goodness, you really don’t like schools, administrators, accrediting agencies or anyone who’s ever done an accreditation visit. Have you considered a career as an ambulance chaser? It would get you away from these places and people you hate so much. And you seem to quite enjoy encouraging people to take the worst possible interpretation of events, and to follow a punitive course of action. Again and again you suggest negative consequences for schools/admin who are accused of mistreating teachers. Has it occurred to you that a) there are two sides to every story, b) sometimes the admin are right, c) sometimes the teacher is right, and most especially d) sometimes the best approach is to look for a positive win-win-win solution? I don’t know you, but you seem very negative in your outlook. Seems to me that people who look for negative things, usually find them. Some teachers, year after year, swear they have the best students in the school. Others, year after year, complain endlessly about the lot they’ve been given to suffer. Is it really the kids, or the teacher’s outlook?
              Instead of shaking a stick at every windmill, try starting with a constructive discussion. You’ll have to listen to other people, not just deflect what they say, so it might be hard to get started, but you might find it more satisfying overall.
              I’m not sure if there’s much reason to say more on this thread. All the good points are being lost, deflected, made fun of, or ignored. It’s too bad Gary wasn’t really looking for dialogue about how to improve things.

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            • Anonymous says:

              Gary: “It’s interesting that so many administrators and their sychophants and cronies, who typically disparage ISR, read it.”

              So anyone who disagrees with you, must be admin, a sycophant, a crony? No one of value or integrity could possibly hold an alternate opinion? Interesting. Are you sure you really think you can make things better? If you disparage every person or institution that could possibly take a role, how do you expect to proceed? The scenario is laughable. You insult, accuse, threaten, then sit back and wait for the insulted, accused and threatened to say “Yes, please, we want to come to your pity party. We’ll bring a dessert.”

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            • I haven’t seen an alternate constructive opinion, only denial, hysterics, ad hominem, reductio ad absurdum, and red herring. I outlined a plan for improving schools but no one has commented on that or come up with a better idea to stem the abuse of teachers’ rights by admin/owners. Are you saying that it doesn’t happen, that it happens infrequently, that it doesn’t hurt teachers and the education community relative to more extreme forms of abuse so it’s just not worth pursuing? If not, what’s your plan? Oh yes! It’s laughable that admin and their cronies are writhing under the truth and clawing for “Reason”–but mostly just pathetic. Sorry. I won’t be shutting up anytime soon. I’m just getting started. I originally published this article with an “active” organization that gets five million readers a week. Clean your house.

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            • anonymous says:

              Hmm, I didn’t take the original article to mean that international teachers are on par with the millions of people who are on the receiving end of some heinous human rights abuses. I understood it more to mean that some teachers are hired with a lot of promises and when they get there they are often subject to unfair working conditions, contracts that aren’t worth anything, or or open to interpretation, job security is at the mercy of whatever mood the principal is in that day etc. Since so many of these jobs are tied directly to work visas and accommodation, if you are fired with 5 minutes notice, you have not only lost your job, but your apartment, your ticket home and your visa. No, this is not life threatening, no it’s not the same as living in squalor, but is it something that international teachers may have an interest in. Especially since much of this treatment is not brought on by bad teaching practice, but outside factors.

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            • Thanks. Those who hysterically equate the article to heinous human rights abuses use that as a red herring and a straw man to avoid the Truth. It’s obvious that these people are administrators/owners/cronies who perpetrate the abuses. And you’re absolutely right, the abuse is not typically brought on by poor teaching practice but by those who ruffle the administrative feathers. You’re seeing that here by the ad hominem attacks. Ironically, abusive administrators/owners encourage poor teaching by encouraging cronyism. Schools are no longer primarily about learning inasmuch as they are about comfortable, high paying nests for administrators who systematically tear education down, castigate teachers, and then rely on them to rebuild. Fortunately, the teaching profession–the one administrators bailed/washed out of–attracts dynamic, intelligent, and committed people who struggle against all odds–mostly administrative–to get the job done. No wonder that Hollywood typically portrays teachers in heroic terms and administrators as buffoons.

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          • It’s interesting that so many administrators and their sychophants and cronies, who typically disparage ISR, read it. That I piqued your ire was expected. I’m gratified that you expose your impotence and incompetence and that you are writhing under the truth. Don’t know anything about vetting comments.

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            • brother teacher says:

              Gary, let’s be real. I told you earlier to not get side crapped… and “New Educator” reminded you well to take care of yourself first. Man, what you are doing and what you have done is great! I have been there, and I am still there. We know s*** never goes away until grave time, maybe? We ALL know you are correct on EVERY point. PLEASE stay on point or on the real issues, and not be “side crapped” by every criminal and coward (which I don’t know the difference) who types here. And, we know criminals do crime.One of the crime and racket scenes and venue, here, just happens to be education. Most of them are fraud educators or care takers of education who become more violence when exposed. And, if that aint violating life, I don’t what is.

              Brother, you are doing a great job, and you have a purpose that is not the same as those referred to above. We must strongly remain focused. I am desperately trying to do that alone (because I have to) where I am. I have been through 20 + years (US and abroad combined) of education/teaching under many criminal admins, boards, governments, etc. (Remember, it starts from the top.) In my fights for my, other colleagues (cowards, local and “not local”), and students’ rights, I have emotionally”/humanly” allowed myself to be side crapped so many times and lost battles, if not wars, for justice and righteousness.

              Your true commitment and passion clearly comes across to any humane being. REFOCUS more, RE CHANNEL more, and keep up great work! We need you. …just giving an outside view.

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            • Happy Expat says:

              Great advice, brother teacher! Hang in there, Gary!

              Like

          • anonymous says:

            It’s routine where I work (the Middle East). Every school I know of (and of course I don’t know all of them) has had a teacher fired/dismissed every year under strange circumstances – at least one a year, sometimes 2 or 3. It does happen, maybe not where you are, and that’s great, but it happens. And yes, I love my job and behave just as I would back home, perhaps with a little more caution.

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  12. Are you saying that the subset of less serious human rights abuses are acceptable in the set of serious human rights abuses? Are you saying that because “racial segragaton is continually practiced at high schools and universities across the country” that a teacher does not have the right to complain about being bullied, having a contract violated, being fired without due process, et al? Does that also mean that I can’t whince and whine about a painful hangnail because someone somewhere is being hacked to death–and if I do, I’m somehow less sympathetic to all who suffer from something somewhere? Keep the argument within its context.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Please, you’ve been asked several times. Specify which of a teacher’s human rights are being violated. You’ll find them listed here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Pages/Language.aspx?LangID=eng
      There’s a few that might apply, but I doubt you’ll get many human rights lawyers to take any interest in the case of isolated issues happening to well-resourced and generally well-off international teachers.
      You’ve pushed your point several times, that one is still entitled to whine about a sore finger even if someone else has a broken leg. True. But this isn’t a sore finger or a broken leg, and you don’t really want the right to whine. You want the right to demand medical attention, even though your broken-legged brother has none. Your comparison doesn’t stand. You’re trying to rally the troops to action over righteous indignation that teachers are being abused. Maybe some are. But the troops are more likely to rally over systematic, endemic and life-threatening human rights abuses. People, and I don’t mean international teachers, are being imprisoned, tortured, denied education, families torn apart, forced into slave labor, and on and on. I refuse to get on my high horse about relatively minor issues (and note the use of relatively, which concedes there is an issue), demanding money and resources be thrown at my cause, while huge numbers of people are still suffering beyond human endurance.

      Like

      • “Human rights” are “commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being.” According to Webster’s “abuse” means a (1) corrupt practice or custom; (2) improper or excessive use or treatment; (3) a deceitful act; (4) language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily; (5) physical maltreatment.

        You are cherry picking definitions to suit your agenda and resorting to red herring and hysterics. What is happening in the Third World is another issue, a battle that is being waged on other fronts. It doesn’ t mean that other, less harmful, abuses get a free pass–except of course by their perpetrators. And the “few that appy” are too many when you’re the victim.

        For a more specific list of abuses read the ISR reviews.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    An ill informed, unrealistic , contradictory and inflammatory article which is again symptomatic of this website . Human rights abuse in an ex pat country can be attributed to those poor Pakistani and Indian contruction workers in Dubai who have to labour under 50+C for 16 hour shifts and then go home to dormitories where there is over 50 to a room , and they get paid a pittance .

    Ex pat Teachers regardless of where they work never EVER have to suffer such hardships or abuse. Grow a pair of balls and realise how absolutely lucky you are that you were born in a country that gives you these priviledges in life

    Those of you that have whined and whinged on this blog and others, perhaps if you stop and lsiten to the employers who suggest that you are not good enough for their schools and think about how you can get them to think otherwise in the future, you may break the cycle of ending up in what you deem to be bad schools.

    If you have had a series of school principals telling you the same thing then perhaps there is an element of truth about it. It is all too easy to blame the school, the staff and the location for your shortfalling but the real man would take a good hard look at themself and make the changes necessary

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  14. Anonymous says:

    An American teacher should be very careful when complaining of serious human rights abuse. This is rich coming from a country where not 50 years ago a black child could not go to the same school as a white child, and where racial segregation is continuously practiced at high schools and universities across the country.

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    • over_here says:

      Total agree Anon., American teachers working in countries like China and Burma have ‘rights’ and salaries that local teachers can only dream of. There are certain things that you need to expect as an international teacher working in other countries with different culture. Bottom line, be flexible, adaptable and if you don’t like it move on!

      Like

      • Gary B. Sanford says:

        Are you agreeing that the subset of less serious human rights abuses are acceptable in the set of serious human rights abuses? Does that also mean that I can’t whince and whine about a painful hangnail because someone somewhere is being hacked to death–and if I do, I’m somehow less sympathetic to all who suffer from something somewhere? Keep the argument within its context. Leaving is a poor idea because teacher turnover is a prime detriment to students’ learning. Additionally, if you don’t fight back you leave incoming teachers to the wolves, which is not my idea of courage, collegiality, and professionalism. Unfortunately, that’s what many administrators want. Doesn’t matter if you’re the best teacher on the planet, if you ruffle admin’s feathers, you’re gone one way or another. Don’t feed the wolves. They’ll take your hand off every time.

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  15. Yes, you’re absolutly right. Re-read paragraphs 3 and 4 and see if I’m not saying the same thing. No, I don’t want the embassy involved nor do I remotely suggest that. I want accrediting agencies to do their job. Read their mission statements and policies and note that they promise to uphold ethical treatment of all within the education community. No, I don’t exaggerate about human rights abuse when you consider that the first definition of abuse is “a corrupt practice or custom.” What you are hysterically saying is that since starvation, rape, torture, and murder occur throughout the world then it’s okay for a school administrator to bully teachers, violate contracts, fire teachers without due process, etc. This article is not about “first world problems” and because I am attempting to defend the rights of international teachers does not mean I am unsympathetic to all human rights abuse. That’s ridiculous. Why would YOU suggest such a thing?

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Didn’t.

      Like

      • Yes, there are two sides to every coin. I’m addressing the ugly side that teachers address in their review of schools, the side that instills fear so more teachers don’t come forward. So, I should quiet down and become an ambulance chaser so you’ll be more comfortable. Don’t think so. I loved teaching, my colleagues, support staff and students and got along splendidly, which is why I defend, and will continue to defend, education to the teeth. I just didn’t like it when a selfish, self-important, impotent, and incompetent administrator hurt teachers (and therefore the entire education community) because he just couldn’t get past his sick self. And I didn’t like it when I reported his more than 37 abuses of other teachers and the Good Ole Boy NEASC’s investigation amounted to asking the administrator in question if they were true and he said “no.” End of investigation. And I didn’t like it when the Dept. of State concurred with the NEASC point blank. No interpretation of events here. Just read the ISR school and admin reviews. Yes, I am negative in my outlook towards school administrations who abuse teachers. I’m not the cause. I’m the effect–in the same way that ISR is an effect. Your response is hysterical ad hominem and therefore fallacious. And you’re right, there’s no reason for you to say more since you have no “Reason” to say more. If you’d read my article unfiltered through your agenda and cherry picking of definitions of “human rights” and “abuse” as a red herring like your buddies here keep doing, you might see room for Reason and dialogue. But I doubt it.

        Like

  16. Anonymous says:

    The US embassies and consulates do not exist for the purpose of protecting the rights of US citizens abroad. While they do provide certain services for US citizens, such as passport renewal and checking on people who have been arrested, these are not their real reason for being here. They exist primarily to maintain high-level diplomatic relations with the host country, and to further business ties between the two countries. In other words, they try to prevent war and improve the US economy. This is a simple fact. They are not here for us. Like it or not, approve or not, agree or not, that is the way it is. And remember it is not our tax dollars paying for their existence (since most of us don’t pay US taxes). It is the tax dollars of people back home, which is rather fair, since it is ultimately the people back home who will benefit from strong diplomatic ties and increased business opportunities.

    And let’s not insult the people who work there by saying embassies close at noon every day, as if that means everyone goes home at noon. Not even close. The consular services section may close at noon, which just means that the consulate maintains a certain portion of the day for the appointments or drop-in needs of citizens and non-citizens, from passports to notary to visa applications. Since, in every country I’ve lived in, I’ve been able to either walk in or get an appointment within a few days, I’d say they’re devoting a sufficient amount of time to this service. Beyond those hours, the embassies and consulates are not closed. They are doing their other work, which is probably much easier since they aren’t constantly interrupted by people turning up looking for a new passport.

    Like

  17. If you think the accrediting agencies should get involved, try that out in America. Go to them with a complaint about pay, seniority, etc – see how far that gets you. Go to the Feds (Department of Education) and complain about a school in America and see how far you get. The accrediting agency’s job is not to get involved in disputes between teachers and the school. If you were really an American, you would be highly skeptical of those groups getting involved. Seriously, you want the embassy involved in schools? Really? As inefficient as they are. They work banker’s hours over here (they are closed each day by noon and get American and foreign holidays off). We get news that is days/weeks late, and they are highly political. And you want them involved? Why?

    You really exaggerate when you talk about human rights abuses and it does a diservice to teachers when there are problems. The problems you speak of are 1st world problems and they make us Americans seem like cry babies. I think by making this such a huge issue, you are crying wolf – the next real wolf may hurt someone else. To equate perceived bullying as being in the same category as starvation, rape, and torture is beyond me. Why would you say something like that?

    Like

  18. Happy Expat says:

    Off topic but regarding the U.S. Embassy ~ having been in Egypt during the revolution that happened in January 2011…. they were worthless!!! Even their emails were about 6 days behind the actual events that were unfolding. They took care of their own and left the rest of us U.S. citizens to fend for ourselves. When they finally got around to inviting us to leave, you really did have to sign an open-ended invoice saying you would pay costs that were not on the document. The airfares themselves were outrageous and the hotels at the closest cities deemed “safe” were also through the roof, from what I was told by other U.S. expats that used this service. I was not eligible as I am married to a citizen from another country and he does not have a U.S. visa so we were left to fend for ourselves… fortunately, did not have a problem and stayed through the entire revolution.
    In another instance, I was in Kenya for this past election… the U.S. embassy again, was of no help in advance of the potential violence and uprisings that could have occurred like they did in 2007-8. I don’t rely on my government to keep me safe when abroad and I personally, do not think they live up to their mission to do so. The people working at the embassies live in expensive mansions, drive expensive cars with drivers, their kids go to the most expensive schools and I really think the U.S. taxpayers are getting “hosed” as these agencies do not serve a valuable enough service to justify their expense. This is, of course, just one humble U.S. teachers opinion.

    Like

  19. Anonymous says:

    It seems strange that you would specify the US government get involved when international schools are typically made up of a very mixed bag of nationalities, from owners to board, admin, teachers and students.
    But let’s put tht aside for a moment.
    Why do you suppose American expats get such a better tax deal than US residents? It’s because we don’t get services. No roads, hospitals, parks, libraries, police protection. Even if the embassy needs to evacuate all Americans someday, they won’t do it unless you first sign a paper that you’ll pay them your share of the cost, including fighter jet escort if needed. We don’t get services.
    If you would like the US government to get more involved in your life, I suspect you should be prepared to pay for the privilege.

    Like

    • Strange? Re-read my article! I am talking specifically about schools that are accredited by US accrediting agencies that are, in turn, supported/funded by government agencies that are, in turn, funded by US taxpayers. In their mission statements and policies, these agencies promise to uphold ethical rights and responsibilities of all within the education community. Accrediting agencies need to do more than collect Dept. of State funding and fees, rubber stamp schools after cosmetic examination, and frolic about on their junkets. Most who have witnessed accreditng in action will conclude that there is no action and that they are a joke. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have need to write this article. Accrediting agencies need to uphold the policies and standards that they include in accreditation. It’s easy to see why they don’t: They would have significantly fewer clients. Tax breaks don’t include unethical treatment by schools and embassy procedures are way outside this issue.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        Once again you’re incredibly dismissive of and insulting towards the accrediting agencies. You seem to feel they’re useless. Ok, but then why in the world would you pick them to be the champion for teachers in distress. If, in your opinion, they cannot even do what they themselves say is ‘what we do’, why in the world would you pick them for a job they state clearly is ‘not what we do’.

        Like

        • Can you tell me how–exactly what language I use–that even remotely suggests that I “champion” accrediting agencies. Re-read paragraphs 3 and 4.

          Like

          • Anonymous says:

            Reread my note. I do not state that you champion them. I state that it’s strange that you want them to be champions for teachers in distress.

            Like

            • No, that’s not what you said. You said “why in the world would you pick them to be the champion for teachers in distress?” Same thing except I use “champion” as a verb. So, can you tell me how I “pick them to be the ‘champion’ for teachers in distress?” Suprisingly, if you file a substantial compaint with an accrediting agency (I have done this) they will in fact follow up, which suggests to me, anyway, that’s part of what they do, and, if they recieve enough complaints about a school, they have been known to get involved. My contention is that they are too dismissive of teachers, don’t investigage complaints thoroughly to the satisfaction of all parties, and typically concur with their “clients” out of hand. In short, their involvement in teacher/administrator disputes is plastic and cosmetic. My goal is to inform teachers that, according to law and common, reasonable ethical practice, their rights “within” an accredited organization located abroad and supported by US government agencies are inalienable. And yes, if speaking the truth is offensive and insulting towards accrediting agencies then it is what it is. To my mind, they are fraudulent, Good Ole Boy agencies interested in protecting their fluffy nests. How do I know that? Significant personal experience and the plethora of negative reviews of accredited schools/administrators on this site. How can such rampant, appalling administrative behavior be loosed on such a wonderful, noble, and sacrosanct profession? From some of the comments here, a telling picture emerges. What a shame for youth.

              Like

  20. Anonymous says:

    Involving the US government seems strange. First of all, the owners, boards, administrators, teachers and students of international schools are not all American. Many come from many other places.
    But let’s put that aside for the moment.
    Why is it, do you suppose, that American expats get such a better tax deal than US residents? It’s because we don’t get services from the government. We don’t get the roads, the hospitals, police protection, parks of all sizes and types, libraries, and on and on. We don’t get services.
    The way I see it, if you want the US government more involved in your life, you’d better be prepared to pay for the privilege.

    Like

  21. Your comment speaks for you. And good luck with all that.

    Like

  22. Anonymous says:

    You knew the job was dangerous when you took it. Quit your crying and count yourself lucky they didn’t charge you extra for the excitement. You want justice??? Stay in the United States.
    What a baby.

    Like

  23. Anonymous says:

    Wow, super intresting article. Makes what I saw and went through that much more credible, validating. I was a new teacher at a school in Africa. I was the teacher rep for the teachers at the school and found out all sorts of crazy stuff that went on the year before. I did my best to mediate this situation, hear all sides, be engaging and fair. Then, the school hired a new director and things went even further south in a hurry. She instantly demanded we completely rewrite the entire curriculum, work many more hours outside of the school day than was contractually obligated, demeaned and disrespected me at every turn because I was the only teacher left who would even tell her the truth let alone stand up. I consistently had to e-mail her sections of the contract so that she could see that, yes, we were obligated to work every day as she stated. The local staff lived in fear of her, the only other American on staff set a new standard for butt kissing, etc. This woman was an appalling person and director, doing far less than everybody else and getting 4 times as much to do so. I know that this person only respects people who have any sort of power over her, such as an effective union or such, thus she went to lunch twice a week with the school board president in a highly inappropriate relationship. She enforced my contract, especially in reagards to shipping and flight allowance in a highly prejudicial manner. Thank you ISR for letting me write a review about her, but yes, we need to figure out ways to hold people like this accountable, shameless individuals who think they can do whatever they want to people far away from their home country in a place requiring the highest level of connection between admin and teachers.

    Like

  24. Anonymous says:

    The school I’m at in Kuwait refuses to follow the updated labor law that was implemented in 2010. They still abide by the old one and will not dialogue about it. They refuse to recognize the maternity change from 45 days to 70, they will not increase the sick days from 6 to 15, nor will they pay the end of employment indemnity properly (they pay it yearly instead of at the end when it is supposed to be at your highest pay scale). There is very little to be done since the school is part of a mega educational holdings group so any lawsuits then tie you to the country until it is resolved.

    So much for this American school following American values.

    Be warned…ask questions about the school following local labor laws, and don’t expect schools to provide labor laws to you easily.

    Like

    • You can report the school to the accrediting agency and they will respect your anonymity. Even though you will get little in the way of results, multiple complaints will show a pattern of unethical practice that just might get someone’s attention–but don’t hold your breath for any satisfying results. When I complained about a school, the accrediting agency called the school and asked them about my claim. The superintendent said it wasn’t so and it ended there.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        Our school underwent accreditation last year and many of us were open with the visitors about the lack of following the labor law…nothing.

        In the self-study there is only when question about it as well.

        The school is too powerful, it is part of a large educational holdings group and makes taking legal action isn’t simple in Kuwait.

        Like

        • Gary B. Sanford says:

          Thanks. Will do.

          Like

        • Gary B. Sanford says:

          Email the accrediting agency your concerns. Save your message and any replies. You won’t get much action but you will contribute to a growing body of evidence and perhaps the accrediting agency will be compelled to act some day. Until then, do good work, enjoy your students, your colleagues, and your travels.

          Like

  25. The Hippo says:

    Having taught in the UK, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Romania, the UAE and now Qatar, I would say yes, of course some countries do not respect human rights. Yes, it is is true that some principals do not follow proper procedures with regard to their treatment of international teachers. My advice would be to avoid going to countries that are not nice and do not work for people who do not treat their staff properly. However, please let’s not talk about “abuse” when teachers CHOOSE to come to this-or-that country and CHOOSE to work for this-or-that school, where they are invariably paid a lot more than local teachers.

    Like

    • Why would “choosing” be a call for unethical or abusive treatment anywhere? Doesn’t matter what the country disrespects. If they allow foreign organizations to work in their country to the mutual benefit of both, they also allow that organization to operate within the framework of their bylaws and/or what has been agreed upon. Most often, if not always, host countries do not interfere with the rights that employees of that organization would otherwise be entitled to stateside. For example, some country labor laws disriminate against age but allow foregin countries to uphold their countries labor laws concerning age.

      Like

  26. anonymous says:

    I worked at a school in The UAE with an Australian curriculum and Australian Heads of school, yet the prevailing atmosphere was one of bullying by the heads and back stabbing by the co-workers to get a head in the seniorority stakes. This was tolerated by all and there was certainly not any solidarity unless you call getting drunk together by a select group on weekends solidarity. It was absolutely appalling to see humans treat each other this way, especially as it is not allowed in the work place in Australia. To concur with a previous writer, although not on the scale of the atrocious human rights violations that one is aware of in many undeveloped (and developed)countries it is still shocking to witness so called civilised Australians, in what should be a supportive environment, tearing each other down and the heads treating their staff with a “seen but not heard” mentality that is meant to demean and inflict fear upon staff. We are not protected by any laws except those that govern the country we are in.

    Like

  27. Anonymous says:

    International teaching is a great way to get out, earn money and really see the world.

    However it is the international teacher´s absolute duty and responsability to ensure that the highest standards of workplace practice are enforced. If not, then you are not educating your students,.

    If you are unhappy with the way that your colleagues are being treated you have to show solidarity. If not then you are educating your students (who will be from the upper classes on average) that all employees are there to be chewed up and spat out.

    What sort of a world do you want your grandchildren to inherit. If you tolerate this, they will be next.

    Like

  28. Anonymous says:

    Let me get this straight.
    The accrediting agencies, all of them, have made clear that this is not their responsibility.
    The US government (and I note you assume for no given reason that it is US law that should apply in international schools) has let you know that this is not their responsibility.
    And you, with 13 years of international teaching experience, have decided that the agencies and government are wrong, or lying, and that it is their responsibility no matter what they say.
    Interesting.

    While I do not agree with the very weak ‘argument’ presented in your article, I am not actually unsympathetic to teachers who are undeservedly treated poorly. Perhaps you would do better to work with the recruiting agencies. Despite the bad rep they often get on this forum, they can and do get involved on a regular basis in mediating disputes between teachers and schools. And they have a lovely power, which the accrediting bodies and US government lack, to stop dealing with schools who treat teachers badly. Making it harder for bad schools to hire more teachers, that could help.

    And in some countries, teachers can form a union.

    Like

    • “The accrediting agencies, all of them, have made clear that this is not their responsibility.”

      Yes. Very clear. By allowing their schools to operate with impunity. Read their missions statements and policies.

      “The US government (and I note you assume for no given reason that it is US law that should apply in international schools) has let you know that this is not their responsibility.”

      Yes. And I gave reasons but I’m not talking about “law” in the sense that I’m advocating that whole countries have to abide by US law, which seems to be what many commenters here think. That’s ridiculous and a convenient red herring. I’m talking about upholding the ethical treatment of international teachers that accrediting agencies promise to uphold but do not. Again, go to their sites and read their mission statements and policies and read the ISR review of schools and administrators. Maybe you’ll be able to tell the genuine reviews from sour grapes harangues.

      “And you, with 13 years of international teaching experience, have decided that the agencies and government are wrong, or lying, and that it is their responsibility no matter what they say.”

      Yes. When agencies knowingly allow the unethical treatment of teachers and when those agencies are, in turn, supported by US government agencies who have also been apprised of the unethical treatment yet keep the “Good Ole Boy” club running.

      What makes you think that school administrations, US accrediting agencies, recruiting agencies, and US government agencies always operate in the best interest of those they serve–which are students?

      Perhaps It’s not my article that is “weak.” Re-read it! And read some of the supporting comments, particularly the one from New Educator.

      Like

      • over_here says:

        Really, it would be madness to believe that accrediting agencies are run by totally upfront honest, high integrity educators! I have been far from impressed by the little junkets that I have seen WASC inspectors make on their visitations and as for IBO – pay your fees each year and get membership. IB only visits something like once every 5 years! Actually lots of ‘international’ schools without accreditation are doing very nicely in getting their students into colleges in the USA – it’s all about money!

        Like

  29. Anonymous says:

    I strongly recommend that a little research be done into the official definition and scope of human rights. From what I see, they’re not being violated in the circumstances described in the article.
    Civil rights are civil rights, and they extend as far as the national border. You get new civil rights in your new country of domicile, you do not take the old ones with you.
    Accrediting bodies certify the school as an acceptable place of learning, not as an employer.
    The educational system in the US still relies on the hopelessly outdated concept of tenure. Once a necessary protection, it’s now a hindrance to due process and protects the teacher over the needs of the students. Given that students have an actual human right to education, hence teachers do not have a right to keep their jobs if they are awful. I would prefer to see a system that concentrates more on the needs and rights of the students.

    Like

    • Human rights:”A right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person.”

      Keeping teachers in fear of their job is a denial of a human right. Firing excellent teachers (or any teacher without due process) because they make an administrator uncomfortable deprives the teacher of a job, tarnishes the teacher’s career, and, the most damaging–deprives students of their right to the education they deserve. Violating a mutually entered into contract deprives one party of the terms of the contract and is a violation of trust that further deprives an education community of its integrity. Bullying teachers into doing something against their will is an egregious violation of human rights. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

      “An acceptable place of learning” involves more than infrastructure and cosmetics–but those are easy. Do some research and check the mission statements and policies of accrediting agencies and see if “ethical practices” are not part of their standards.

      I’m not questioning cross border rights. I’m questioning the practices within an organization operating in another country under the auspices of accrediting agencies, recruiters, the Dept. of Education, and the Dept. of State. If a country allows an organization into its country to the mutual benefit of both, the host country also allows the organization to run under its bylaws so long as those laws do not usurp the laws of the host country or what is otherwise agreed upon. For example, US companies are not allowed to discrimate against gender, age, unequal pay, and race. If this is agreeable–and it always is–with the host country, then the empoyer is not allowed to violate those rights no matter where they do business. This is especially so with organizations that are tethered to government organizations as I have describe in my article.

      I’m not concerned in this article with the state of education in America. Tenure is not an issue in international education.

      Treating teachers fairly benefits students.

      Like

  30. Thanks. 1) I have loved my work and my students and had wonderful times abroad. I actually had very few bad times. But I’m not speaking about “my” experiences in the article. I am speaking about a trend that is bad for education. (2) I could get “real” by collecting and publishing testimonials on violations of teachers’ rights, many that qualify as abuse, but ISR does that. Read them. Most are genuine. (3) My defense of the rights of international teachers is primarily the defense of education, of students. The greatest detriment to international students’ education is high teacher turnover of which you exmplify save for your 10 years in Dubai. 4) Can you tell me where in the article I “knocked” any of my four host countries? From what I read, teachers don’t knock host countries as much as they do school administrators, and I’m guessing school administrators give them good reason. It can’t be all sour grapes. 5) How is it possible for you to compare your experiences to mine? 6) I doubt I will inhibit the flow of teachers going abroad. The benefits outweight most detriments. The best I can hope for is that teachers going abroad will make better informed decisions about where to teach. (7) Yes, I will likely write a follow up article based on responses here.

    Like

    • middle ground says:

      Good, and thanks. The topic is interesting or it wouldn’t be attracting so very many comments. So far the middle ground has to be whether this is really a human rights issue based on US standards, or also the importance of bothering to get to know the culture of the country and organization you are signing into. It’s not uncommon that other faculty, dept chairs are wonderful, but the admin is totally dreadful, whether Soviet or Ottoman or a mix (like Baku). With luck, you can ignore this, though, and have a great time with your students and colleagues. If not, you move on.

      Like

  31. New Educator says:

    Gary, thank you for caring enough and having the guts to speak out on behalf of thousands of suffering teachers who are expected to be role models while their ‘superiors’ behave much more like rogue embassy staff abusing their ‘diplomatic’ immunity rather than behaving like responsible, caring people. Instead of supporting their students and staff they at times gravely impede them both in their development. Once the community has discovered their selfish perversities, they have usually already moved on to another unsuspecting school to repeat the cycle. Once no school will have them anymore, they are often awarded positions in ‘august’ institutions such as CIS, SEARCH and TIE and now probably also the IB. There they can not only do more damage to students and educators but they can far better perpetuate it as well. We have all noticed the changes in these ‘pillars’ of international education, right?

    I believe all the responses to Gary’s posting above have at least some merit. Yes, compared to human rights abuses that cost you life, limb and liberty these unsavory ‘worst practices’ in many schools are relatively minor or even myopic. Yes, I have seen many North Americans and some Europeans and others too try to impose their relatively rigid standards in countries outside their own while showing little understanding of or respect for the culture they chose to be part of. I might even add that the focus of both Gary and bloggers is too narrow…very Anglo orientated, perhaps. A school is more internationally minded because it has teachers from other Anglo countries? Are you listening to yourselves? Not in my experience, unfortunately. This would be ignoring the even greater difficulties and even worse treatment that non-Anglo country passport holders often face compared to Anglo-country passport holders.

    Myopic or not, do not underestimate the impact of poorly run, for-profit-only education featuring many overburdened and undervalued teachers who fear for their livelihoods. If they are like me, they love their jobs most of the time. Working with their colleagues, developing better material, making better use of technology together, going to their classes to help their students evolve. If they are like me, why is it then that they are finding all these good things in teaching increasingly more difficult? Why do they look increasingly more forward to their vacations rather than working with their students? Why do the many days in school need to be outweighed by the increasingly fewer days out of school? Why are their lives seemingly on hold while teaching something they love? For those of you who do not know what I am talking about…more power to you and you can stop reading now.

    The demands placed on teachers these days are impossible. We all know that we need to educate today’s students very differently. After all, we all raised them in a very different type of world, didn’t we? We need help, especially from Senior Administration. Poorly supported and abused teachers filled with fear of high-handed reprisals from many mediocre Senior Administrators can not possibly rise adequately to the demands of educational innovation. In fact, it is amazing that so many teachers still choose the profession. Could it be ignorance, blind faith…no better opportunities? Who knows.

    Enough greedy and myopic administrators have been invited to the top so that mediocre in-school administrators are getting away with nothing less than destroying education and teachers’ as well as students’ futures. Surely, this is significant enough to say at least some human rights are being violated here?

    Gary, you keep on saying it like it is but remember to take care of yourself first.

    Like

    • Thank-you for an excellently written and well thought out response. Yes, I was concerned about the Anglo-centrism but I felt it prudent to focus on Americans, first, since much of my article hinges on the shortcomings of US accrediting and government agencies. My hope is that all teachers serving in US accredited schools will enjoy the rights they are entitled to as a natural consequence of holding accrediting agencies and their government benefactors accountable. Unfortunately, that task is significantly more daunting than I had expected given the paucity of teachers interested in one another’s rights. It’s sad, really, but I should have known that fear is, after all, what drives the choices of many. As for me, I have been blacklisted worldwide for standing up for my colleagues, but I knew that going in and I was willing to assume the consequences (I have always refused to live in fear). Therefore, I retired early, at 59, nearly two years ago–which, among other pursuits, gives me plenty of time to work my cause.

      Like

  32. William Bradley says:

    Dear Gary,

    I have worked internationally since 1995 and I have not been lucky enough to work in the absolute top of the range schools. My schools have generally been fairly ordinary. Most of them have been proprietary. In all that time I have had some good bosses and some terrible ones. I have been lied to by head teachers (but then I was lied to by head teachers before I left the UK to go abroad). Once I got my salary 5 days late (the person who caused that was re-assigned within the organisation. I have been told by my head that I did not fit in with the vision of the school and that my contract would not be renewed (fairly low point, that one) and I have been dismissed for having the gall to apply for another job!

    The last one was surely unfair. But abuse of human rights – come on! Get real – it was a disappointment, not abuse of my human rights.

    Since I left the UK I have always known that I could leave if I was not happy where I was – 2 years in Bermuda, not particularly happy, I left. 2 years in Ras al Khaimah and left to go to Dubai. 10 years in Dubai and left to go to Qatar. 1 year in Qatar and left to go to Turkey. Three years in Turkey and loving it at the moment.

    Have I had my human rights abused in the last 17 or so years – absolutely not, I have had a great time and enjoyed the diverse countries and cultures that I have been lucky enough to meet and be part of. I’ve taught children from all over the world and had them working together solving problems. I’ve taught third culture kids with language skills that just leave me totally embarrassed and I’ve taught kids who not only think that learning is cool they are actually desperate to learn.

    Personally I think that my experiences are much more typical of international education than yours are and I really do feel that what your article does is puts people off going to teach abroad. And I think that is a shame!

    There are too many expats who want to knock their host country and it would seem that you are just another one. If your experiences abroad have been so terrible then I genuinely feel sorry for you but I believe that the truth is, on looking back, you are looking at the bad times and magnifying them out of all proportion to the good times you have had.

    I challenge you Gary, to look back at the good times an write a more balanced article than the one you have. I will look forward to reading it.

    Like

    • hmph says:

      Well said. GS appears to think cultural insensitivity is ‘way off topic’, but your balanced comment here still leads me to say it is a two-way street.

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I worked in Saudi Arabia and I was not allowed to keep my passport with me. The school kept it. This meant I was not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia unless the school allowed me to leave. I was not informed this would happen until after they took the passport to apply for my residency card. I do consider that abuse of my human right to freedom of movement; the right to leave the country if I so chose.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        To the person who wrote “Your comment would only have merit if you indeed were not given your passport when you requested it. Who cares that they hold it?”

        Yes, I was NOT given my passport back when I requested it. I received it only when I could show the school that I had a ticket to leave. Each time I returned, I “forgot” to return the passport to the school until it was time to get another visa so that I could leave once again. The administrator in charge of “holding” the passports would nastily inform me that I was in violation of labor laws by not returning the passport. I found out that this was inaccurate.

        Like

        • Anonymous says:

          So you were given your passport after showing you had a ticket. What’s the problem? I live in Saudi right now and they do the same thing. I see no issue with this. It’s not like you are a prisoner.

          Like

          • Anonymous says:

            And in an emergency?

            Like

            • Anonymous says:

              In an emergency the HR director is called and the passport is delivered to me within an hour. I’ve worked at my current school for 6 years, they hold everyone’s passport. In that time I have never heard a complaint about the policy nor am I aware of it ever being an issue. I’m sure you have your reasons for being against this practice but it does not bother me in the least.

              Like

            • Anonymous says:

              My brother had a medical emergency in the U.S. and was probably dying. My personnel director supposedly couldn’t get a visa (not enough wasta?). I cancelled the airline ticket, but requested that the visa be obtained. My brother died two days later. No visa appeared until two weeks later. Could not even attend my own brother’s funeral.

              Like

  33. Anonymous says:

    Your article is point on! You are ABSOLUTELY right.

    Everyone will have a different experience, so everyone’s perspective will be different.

    For those comments stating huge generalizations about “American” teachers being this and that is really unfair. Having worked along side various nationalities, I can attest to you that it’s an individual thing. The most inflexible, unhappy teacher at my school last year was Canadian, always complaining about the school, country, everything! He broke contract and split. Does this mean all Canadians are this way? Of course not, and it would be ignorant of me as an educator to assume such a thing.

    I have had good experiences abroad, BUT I have worked with good administrators. I had great experiences working in the states, BUT I had good administrators. It depends on so many factors: country, the school, admin, teaching climate, parents, students, etc.

    You can do all the research in the world and still get screwed. Too many factors are involved, and you never really know what’s going on until you get there, usually.

    Furthermore, I think that international teachers who tolerate or defend a school’s mistreatment of teachers know that in the back of their minds, they can leave at any time. Their U.S, Canadian, British, etc. passport allows them to “escape” whenever. That can make a working situation a little easier, right?

    Think about all the locals who have to stay put, like it or not. They don’t have the options we have, and many suffer in silence. International teachers may be their only vocal advocates because they are usually afraid to speak up about injustices lest they risk losing “the best teaching gig in town”. If those international teachers who defend mistreatment were put in their shoes, maybe they would be singing a different tune. Tolerance is much easier when you know there’s a sure way out.

    Like

  34. Anonymous says:

    Gary, you are RIGHT on point with all your points. Let’s not get side crapped by all the bs.

    Like

  35. Joe C says:

    I am not sure why you think US laws should apply to host countries. I’ve taught both stateside and abroad for many years and think that some of the specifics you mention are not necessarily a “right”. For example the age restrictions. The accreditation agencies are not law enforcement agencies. They are simply there to say the school follows the agencies MINIMUM standards for educating children. They typically don’t go into personnel difficulties other than having a minimum standard for teaching practices. I don’t think US laws should be applied in other countries, because if so, then other countries would have a right to apply their laws within US borders.

    Like

    • Thanks. I believe I addressed your concerns in the article.

      Like

      • hmph says:

        For the complainers who think everything should be like the US, don’t tell me you haven’t occasionally been ill from politically correctitude, like banning Huck Finn or To Kill a Mocking Bird?

        Like

        • Some people dislike Americans, because we tend to open our mouths when situations get out of hand and abuse gets to the point where you feel you can’t take it anymore. I’ve been teaching for 10+ years outside of the U.S. and I’ve seen some of my fellow Americans complian to much, but really, Canadians never complian they are happy to take whatever crap is thrown at them sometimes you would like to ask them “Do you have any self esteem left?” If I had a dime for everytime I saw a Canadian teacher take a load of crap from a host country school owner and just accepting it I’d be a millionaire right now. Please don’t lump the Brits with the Canadians the Brits complian plenty just not as loud as Americans, but they don’t take the crap Canadians are willing to take. As far problems such as banning, books in some towns in the U.S. these problems usually are corrected by the courts and against the book banning maybe you should be better informed about the U.S. itself, before you write something.

          If you don’t like that Americans will open their mouths sooner and louder than others than don’t hire them your loss and a loss for the school you work for. You talk about cultural sensitivity it goes both ways. A minimum of respect for all cultures goes a long way to avoid these problems, but really yourintolerance for Americans comes through all of your entries here what did we ever do to you??????? Grow up yourself!!!!!!!!!

          Like

          • weedonald says:

            Albert…..your jingoistic view of Canadians is unfair and unwarranted. We have excellent self-esteem but are realists as well. Our nature is, unlike you and some hyperbolic Yanks, non-confrontational. We may not complain much but like the Brits, we do let our concerns be known, albeit diplomatically and positively. Your views of your own countrymen and women are blinkered and very simplistic. There is whining and bitching and then there are those Americans who criticize positively and try and change things. the former seems to be your type of person, the latter are those who get things done or leave for better options. It is people like you that leave a sour taste in non-American mouths.

            Like

            • Weedonald- You can be as anti-American as you want, but your realism is just an excuse for not wanting to rock the boat. You say Canadians have self-esteem well to be walked all over and then complianing to your fellow teachers isn’t so called “making our concerns known”. Be a MILKSOP, if you don’t have the strength to stand up for yourself, but don’t come crying to your fellow teachers. I know plenty of Brits who prefer the company of Americans over Canadians (not all there are a few with a backbone not many though), because as my friend Anthony(English) said to several Canadians when he and I were working in Saudi, “STOP WHINNING and COMPLIAN TO the SAUDIS NOT TO ME”. You may not like it, but Brits and Americans have more in common temperment wise than Canadians and Brits. Brits don’t get kicked in the rear everyday and ask for more.

              Like

            • weedonald says:

              Albert- You can be as anti-Canadian as you want, but I am definitely NOT anti anyone, particularly Americans. That said, I find that, like you, far too many Americans overseas shoot first and ask questions later….or, as in your case, make assumptions about one nationality based almost exclusively on their narrow, bigoted and blinkered experiences with a few bad apples.
              I know plenty of Brits who prefer the company of anyone but Americans like you, who with their confrontational attitudes and prejudices, give good US teachers a bad name. Your statements are so generic and ethnocentric in their vigour that one can begin to think you have an enormous chip on your shoulder.
              As I stated in this blog, it is time for all of us to get together, stop finger-pointing and blaming fellow professionals, and present a common front to the owner-managed and Board controlled schools and institutions. Without that cohesiveness,collaboration and cooperation, we are always going to be the easy prey for unethical, profit-oriented and corrupted schools, whether in the Us,Canada or worldwide. If you can’t or won’t join such a movement then at least get out of the way.

              Like

        • over_here says:

          Go hmph go!!!

          Like

          • I would like to see schools run by an advisory board where rotating representatives of all stakeholders–admin, teachers, students, support staff, parents–have equal input on all matters. No decisions regarding the education of youth should be unilateral. Vesting all power in the hands of one person (supported by the traditional cosmetic, rubber stamp, Good Ole Boy school boards) is patently stupid. All decisions regarding the education of youth must be transparent and accountable. One wonders why a dictatorial management system is allowed to persist in any school anywhere. It flies in the face of education’s ultimate goal, which is to develop critical thinking. All else follows.

            Like

            • Anonymous says:

              This example would be a mess. Way too many people with too many personal agendas. Your views sound like you just can’t understand that overseas schools want robots. Do as your told and cash your tax free check. People that understand this do well, others spend a lot of time wondering why they keep getting let go.

              Like

  36. Meschi says:

    Gary,
    I am not sure where you have been, but you are subject to the same laws as local citizens. In fact, most of the time you have more rights than they.. I taught in Texas for a number of years and our big right was a duty-free lunch. BUT we had the right to be fired without a real an fair hearing. Did that happen to me, no, but it it did happen to a colleague who dared speak out of turn.
    I have been out for a bunch of years, and even with things that become roadblocks, I have enjoyed myself. I have seen inflexible American teachers who refuse to learn about the country they are in….They go home early and very unhappy…”It ain’t the States.”

    Like

    • Yes, I understand expats are subject to host country laws; however, in the absence of particular laws or laws that are waived or ameliorated for foreigners, what laws should schools that are accredited by private US agencies that are, in turn, supported by US govenment agencies, adhere to? What rights and privileges are maintained for US government and US company employees (Many foreign embassies in Saudi Arabia were allowed to have alcohol and sell it to expats on site, although alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi)? Additionally, your enjoyment (and mine) and inflexible American teachers are idiosyncracies that have no bearing on the rights international teachers should have. I am addressing the needless abuse that your colleague suffered.

      Like

  37. over_here says:

    I agree with Matthew’s comments. I have worked in several countries where American teachers often display no cross cultural skills, behave as if they are in a state school back home and are totally inflexible to anything outside their experience. Some international schools now prefer Canadians, British and Australian teachers who are more flexible, more tolerant and internationally minded. You know Gary, you cannot expect to turn up in a foreign country and behave as you would in Podunk, Iowa and expect all the privileges that you enjoy in America. Just because a school follows an “American” curriculum, it does not mean it should be run like a state school in the US. One constant problem that crops up with American teachers who only have US state school experience is that they cannot begin to comprehend why parents in international schools paying large tuition fees want high quality teaching and accountability. I just had one incredibly arrogant American “teacher” working under me, who had one year of subbing experience in the USA before coming overseas. He refused to provide extra help for weak students, would take days off pretending to be sick when he had been asked to do modest extracurricular duties and behaved as if he were in an inner city school in the Bronx. It is simple, if you being overseas does not give you the “rights” you think you deserve as an American, then go back home!!!!!!!

    Like

    • Amrcn_in_ME says:

      Your comment is pointless except to illustrate hostility towards a few, or perhaps one American teacher. Reread you comment and ask yourself whether you are on topic and contributing to the discussion or whether you are using a public forum to rant about a personal issue.

      Like

    • hmph says:

      Spot on, thank you. I wouldn’t hire Americans either, unless they had substantial experience abroad.

      Like

        • hmph says:

          sorry you think so. Some folks, wherever they are from, operate with such cultural insensitivity that they are bound to get into trouble.

          Like

          • Fiona Matthew says:

            Interesting that someone who has such an obvious prejudice against Americans would accuse Americans of being culturally insensitive. Having spent more than twenty-five years living and working overseas has taught me that no nationality has the corner on the market of cultural sensitivity. We all strive to do our best, and with a little help and support from our schools we can foster international understanding between people of all nationalities, as we should. Our primary goal as teachers must always be to impart an understanding of the curriculum, but as airy-fairy as it might sound, the foundation that underlies all of our interactions overseas should be bedrock of understanding and open communication between cultures. If we can’t even get along with a few colleagues of diverse nationalities, how can we teach the concept of tolerance to our students?

            Like

            • long abroad says:

              Didn’t I say, ‘wherever they are from’? I’m an American, I just can’t live in the US any more. I have found, however, that ‘new recruits’ from my home country are among the worst at making cultural adjustments.

              Like

      • Freebird says:

        That goes for any teacher from any country, most large American cities are highly diverse. Sometimes the biggest issue isn’t dealing with the culture that you adopt, but dealing with the culture of the teachers you work with- both teachers speak English, but one is a Brit, the other, American. Totally different cultures, totally different approaches to resolving conflict, etc. The only cultural connection: beer

        Like

        • Didmyhomework says:

          I agree about the cultural differences/teaching approaches between Americans and Brits. I did my homework and was hired by a very reputable school in Europe yet was treated incredibly unfairly. The director who hired me was American but my level principal was British. Just a couple of months into the job and my British principal decided I wasn’t fit for the job. Additionally, I was harassed by a British parent the entire year and who happened to be very friendly with the principal because they shared the same passport. Yes, my professional (and cultural) approach were different, however it did not make me less qualified to do the job I had been hired to do. I was put into a no win situation of, “you can stay a second year but if we don’t see an “improvement” (read subjective) we cannot guarantee you a positive reference.” Or you can leave after one year and we will give you a small severance for the notice happening in February instead of December.
          When I realized that my principal would never support me with parents and was not supportive of me being new to the school; I made the very hard decision to leave. Nobody spoke up in support of me and it was professionally humiliating to be treated in an unfair and unprofessional manner. Had I felt that I could have gone to an outside authority for support-I would have. I was heart broken, working at this school had been a dream come true only to be railroaded out due to cultural/personalty differences that were not respected or even discussed.
          This dark cloud has followed me ever since because when interviewing I am always asked, “so why only one year at X great European international school?” And I have not been hired by great schools since. Unfair practices happen everywhere and even if you “did your homework” does not guarantee you will be treated fairly even in reputable schools. I can vouch for that.
          One small side note, I do not appreciate Americans being targeted as being culturally insensitive, rigid, etc as these characteristics are not just limited to Americans teaching in international schools. I have worked in five countries not including the U.S. I have worked with or rather tried to work with incredibly rigid teachers and administrators from other English speaking countries. This is not about nationality it is about personality.

          Like

          • long abroad says:

            While it may well be true you were treated unfairly, this would be more interesting and informative if you explained his reasons for not liking your style. I would be curious, and it might also help others as well.

            Like

    • Teachers with poor social, cultural, and teaching skills; host country laws; geographical location; and what one thinks he or she deserves does not give administrations a pass on treating teachers unethically. “I” did not turn up in a foreign country and behave as I would have in Podunk, Iowa. I turned up in foreign countries, embraced and loved the cultural and teaching experience, and behaved accordingly (although I did not misbehave in Podunk either). I did, however, voice my concerns about the unethical treatment of my colleagues rather than keep my mouth shut and run home. Sometimes that can be a good thing.

      Like

    • Tuco Ramirez says:

      Caveat emptor! Anyone with a desire to teach abroad should really do their homework first. The last school I was at openly discriminated against Blacks, Jews, and anyone else who wasn’t a drunken pervert, like the Director. Gary hits the nail on the head.

      Like

    • Happy Expat says:

      There are examples of lazy, arrogant and ignorant teachers everywhere but, in my experience, they are few and far between. It is best not to focus on those sad examples. They can cause resentment amongst the ranks. We all know that teachers are not in it for the money but for the love of learning/teaching and it is a noble profession. The type of teacher above needs to be held accountable and the administration is doing the school a diservice by not addressing that type of behavior. The school I just left had one expat (he was an embarrassment to the rest of us) who had taken 12 days off when not sick (maybe hung over) and that left the rest of us to cover his classes… yea, that should not be happening but does. You just have to do your best, not compare to others and be proud of yourself and your efforts to do what’s right.

      Like

    • Freebird says:

      That guy wasn’t a teacher, period.

      Like

  38. anonymous says:

    Many citizens in many countries don’t enjoy a lot of human rights, so I’m not surprised that foreign teachers have some trouble in this area as well. Being from the unionized ‘west’ I think we get used to being protected from any malpractice. Since working abroad I have worked in schools where certain teachers have been bullied, school safety is an oxymoron, and contracts are broken by the company but God help you if you need to break contract for any reason, you will be financially crippled. The contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and the teachers who understand that manage to deal with it, but there are several teachers I’ve met over the years who do not agree and they leave after a frustrating year or two.
    I think administrators can get away with a lot more than they could back home because they are not being monitored. Perhaps it’s because they are at the top and in many places hierarchies are respected. The school owners feel that they’ve hired the principal (who in turn usually hires his/her cronies from a past life) and the owners want nothing more to do than to collect the profits and let the principal run things as they want. This make it difficult for teachers in real trouble to find any help from above, and if help is sought then a quick termination is often the result. I work in the Middle East and sometimes I think that on the whole teachers are no different that any other supply. If one leaves, just replace it with one of the many who are at the job fairs.
    I don’t know if this is a human rights issue, but there is definitely something to be said for the fact that many teachers are a long way from home with the potential of being fired or worse with absolutely no warning. Keep your wits about you and do the research.

    Like

  39. weedonald says:

    Gary…..an excellent, if a little hyperbolic article about the abuses often visited upon educators worldwide. Those who say close your eyes, hold your nose and move on after your contract expires or before, if you don’t mind getting ¨blackballed¨, are simply contributing to the problem. Their narcissistic, navel gazing is counter-productive and rather short-sighted.
    Isn’t it about time that the thousands of ex-pat educators were protected, as much as possible, by an organization or association of their peers? While this daunting task would face serious prejudice, resistance and outright antipathy and fear from many fellow educators and certainly vested political and educational interests, it would lay the groundwork for the future protection, promotion and principled treatment of educators worldwide. That said, here are the key issues yet to be resolved:

    1) Without the support of at least some key political powers in our home countries (Departments or ministries of education, state departments, foreign offices) it would be very difficult to hold foreign educational and business organizations accountable to local laws,rights and standards. It would also need the support of hiring bodies like Search and UNI to name a few.
    2) In order to have any sway or influence over foreign hiring institutions, such an association would need to have at least 50% of ex-pat educators as members. 50% means that out of every 2 applicants to a foreign job, 1 applicant would be protected by the Association. It also means that neophyte NQT and first-year educators would be essential members of such an association. That also implies that recruiting them needs to be done while they are studying to be teachers, support staff or administrators.
    3) The association would need representatives and in-country experts in local labour and civil law, international relations and contract negotiations in order to work with schools and hiring institutions needing their support in dealing with the association’s members.
    4) Such an association MUST deliver the goods if they want any credibility with their members and that inevitably implies some confrontation and even denial of service to ¨offending schools.¨ As Teddy Roosevelt said, speak softly but carry a big stick . so such an Association would always choose the path of moderation and compromise but when all else failed, the no pain, no gain motto would apply.

    The biggest but not the only challenge would be dealing with the minority of educators who will work for anyone, under any conditions just to have a job, either out of necessity or expediency. Initially, this provides a way out for the unethical and abusive schools, but the more such people get ¨burnt, the more likely they’ll finally join an association.
    After all, this is all about the unchallenged power and hegemony held by the hiring groups, recruiters and hiring institutions. It is akin to bullying. Once that is effectively confronted, over the long and medium term, it tends to diminish significantly. Those who claim that such abusive behaviour is culturally and traditionally ingrained are missing the point. Just because its there and been there a long time doesn’t mean it belongs there!
    Here’s a rallying cry to those who care about international education and who adhere to ISR’s philosophy of what an ethical school should represent, to

    Like

    • weedonald says:

      For those who laugh at the idea of 1 out of every 2 applicants for a position being an association member, thus potentially prompting a school to hire the non-member (disadvantaging the member), I would point out that if the member is highly qualified and has excellent records, they would be just as likely to be hired. As well,if an association proved to be helpful and constructive to hiring institutions (through recruiting advice, teacher standards enforcement, labour relations support etc.), then it is equally possible that hiring institutions would actively seek such members. Such an association could be an arbitrator and counselor to its members, as well as offering other valuable services to both the educators and the schools.
      Such an association should include administrators and support staff as well. Unlike some unions, an association wouldn’t ¨protect¨the incompetent but would act as a bipartisan and impartial balance between educator and employer.

      Like

    • Well done! Although I believe the “minority of educators who will work for anyone, under any conditions just to have a job, either out of necessity or expediency” is likely the majority, which is precisely why many schools pathetically advertise “savings potential.” I do, however, suspect teachers quietly understand that it’s okay to make money “and” cultivate ethical environments but the fear factor prevents them from speaking out.

      Like

  40. Dr. Barbara Spilchuk says:

    Absolutely bang on!!!

    Like

  41. You should know that most of the coutries in the world wouldn’t even know what human rights are!!!! In the last few years the human/constitutional rights of U.S. citizens have been abused in the U.S. never mind overseas. I agree with the earlier writers that, if you do your research you should be able to avoid most of the bad schools out there. The world is ruled mostly by THUGS, so don’t think that human rights is a big issue to most governments. If the U.S. government ignores the rights of its citizens how can you, hope that others will keep human rights. As far as proof of U.S. constitutional rights, being violated see the recent executive orders allowing the IRS to break into U.S. citizens SAFETY DEPOSIT BOXES without a court order/warrent, if that isn’t a constitutional /human rights violation what is? The world is slowly going backwards to dictatorship and human rights violations hold on it isn’t going to be pretty. That is why I have found a country with a great human rights record and that is where I’m living and teaching I have given up on the U.S. government thay have ripped up the CONSTITUTION a long time ago. It’s all lip service NOW!!!!!!!!!

    Like

    • hmph says:

      ‘most countries’. Oh dear, you sound like a very ignorant and nationalistic/xenophobic American or Brit. I have lived outside the US for nearly all my of adult life, often in developing countries, and have never been sorry for the experience, even if it wasn’t always rosy. ‘Most’ countries/cultures still value family, long lost in the US.

      Like

    • Happy Expat says:

      One of the clauses in my contract that I just left was that you were never allowed to discuss the school in any online venue (or any other for that matter) or legal ramifications would be made towards you. I posted above about this school but did not say which school it was for that reason. I was unable to do my “homework” as you say because there is no information about it even on this website. I don’t want to have any more to do with them or to get on the “black list” because of them so I have opted to say this leaving the school anonymous. You might say it is cowardly, I say it is self preservation. If a school has no information, you can’t research it. However, that in itself should be a “red flag”. It was for me and my gut instinct was right. Another clue was that there were no other U.S. or Canadian expats there. There wer 8 of us but they were Austalian, Russian, French and one UK. I should have heeded my gut feeling from the get go but wanted a post in this particular country and went ahead with the deal. Intuition can be valuable too and I did not listen.

      Like

      • long abroad says:

        Dear Gary, Dear Happy,
        Despite the venom the original post has generated, I think you both have helped open a can of worms that really needed discussion, and thank you. While my posts have not always been appreciated, what Happy has revealed here and below has led me to be highly suspicious of a school where I really wanted to work, because I also sense there is legal policy regarding ‘no talking’ — ie I could find no information at all. The school is in the Czech Republic, to the south, and though I got on famously with the English department chair, when the owner (US/Canadian) bothered to get back to me 2 months later, and then kept me waiting 2 hours for a scheduled skype interview, all I could see was him calculating was how little he could get me for. Since I have no contract I would like to ask: if anyone actually knows about this school, and has left it, please let me know.

        Like

  42. Anonymous says:

    I have worked in international schools for 15 years in 4 countries and I have not worked in a school like what you have described. We have been very thoughtful and careful about choosing our employment internationally based on some of the issues you described. Based on my experience, if you look to the legal basis for what you describe in terms of authority of US governing bodies in terms of labor law in other countries you will find no authority. This does not relieve the moral or ethical responsibility in my opinoin but they are limited in real authority in most other countries. I am not saying that there are not schools out there that treat people in a ways that I would tolerate, but your generalizations do not seem to be based on a more widespread experience. We would recommend that if you plan to teach overseas that you do your homework before you go to work for an international school because there are some that do not treat people as they should. However, there are many good opportunities out there with administrators who care about the people they work with. Lastly, I would agree with one of the previous comments, to suggest that ill treatment of international expatriate teachers equates to human rights abuse is offensive to the many people around the world who are suffering.

    Like

    • Thanks. I couldn’t find any centralized authority either that would ensure international teachers’ rights, which is why I linked accrediting agencies to the US Dept. of Education and the Department of State. And you’re absolutely right that, because there is no centralized authority, international schools accredited by US agencies are not relieved of their moral and ethical responsibility and allowed to treat people in ways that you would not tolerate. Yes, indeed, there are many good schools out there that stand as models for all international schools and their lead needs to authorized. As for homework, ISR is, to my mind, a leading part of the homework that prospective international teachers should utilize. Finally, I’m almost certain that you or any readers of my article realize that I in no way intended to offend the suffering masses but rather understand that I should not have used the word “abuse” and that my poor word choice does not detract from the intent of the article.

      Like

    • Happy Expat says:

      I have worked overseas for 8 years in 3 different schools. I recently left my school in Africa because of many infractions to the contract which I signed. This is the first time that I had any problems with a school not living up to their word/contract. I was underpaid by almost half my first check, then I was given twice the teaching load that I was promised which meant twice the number of students (114), the insurance expired after 5 months and was not continued??, the work permit never was received so I worked for 8 months illegally, etc. …. finally I got fed-up and left the day my tourist visa was due to expire so that I wasn’t caught in the country illegally in that regard. Fortunately the issues were more between me and the head corporate office so I was in good stead with the immediate Head of the School. I was able to get paid in full from that individual and also got a fantastic reference letter so I was not scathed completely. Also, I left before the probationary period was up, by one week. Flying my family and myself out of there was pricey but over and over I felt like I was working in a late 1880s U.S. atmosphere where human rights were just not a part of the deal and I knew that this particular third world country had a long way to go before they will be able to consider themselves civilized.

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  43. Matthew says:

    I believe this piece is an embarrassment to the countless number of people suffering from human rights abuses around the world. I am in my 12th year abroad and I have seen some things that wouldn’t fly in the US, but I wouldn’t go so far as to label them human rights abuses. I’m not saying that some egregious things have not happened to teachers in some schools, but with careful research (even before ISR) I have been able to teach at some great schools. The time I worked for a director whom I felt was unethical, I did my job, helped the school and moved on after 2 years. The minute I feel my human rights are abused, I will pack my bags and head home (no rights are abused in the good ole US of A, right?)

    Like

    • Yes, I’ll agree that “abuse” is a bit strong. “[T]hings that wouldn’t fly in the US” and “some egregious things” is more to the point. Thanks. Packing your bags and moving on is a form of protest but probably not as strong as openly protesting when your colleagues are treated unfairly. Yes, rights are abused in the US but that is beyond the scope of this article.

      Like

      • Matthew says:

        Knowing when to walk away is just as an important skill as knowing when to stay and fight.

        Like

        • No, I don’t think it’s much of skill but sometimes its just the best course to take all things considered.

          Like

          • Matthew says:

            It absolutely is a skill. Perhaps if you had chosen your battles more wisely, you wouldn’t have such a negative viewpoint. I avoid proprietary schools, that is not to say that boards cannot be corrupt. I have been in a place where the board did listen to teachers about unethical behavior from an administrator and acted upon it mid-year. I served as a union rep. in the US as well and while I will always be pro-union, there were cases where the teacher being defended was clearly incompetent.

            Like

            • Gary Sanford says:

              I reasoned that defending my colleagues was a wise choice and I obviously believe that speaking out about violation of teachers’ rights is a worthwhile battle. “Negative” is a dubious term often recklessly employed to set up a straw man, which is a fallacy in reasoning, and a convenient but doltish way of escaping rational argument. I could as easily conclude that the reasoning behind not choosing to defend the rights of colleagues is an equally negative stance. In fact, I find it an egregiously negative stance in “the” profession that shapes society. I’m glad you have had good experiences with administrations. I have, too. But that does mean that bad administrations are not flourishing as well, quite the contrary I contend.

              Like

    • Human rights abuses are relative. A lesser human rights abuse in one environment is not somehow softened by a greater human rights abuse in another enviroment and vice versa. It’s rather like telling your child who just skinned their knee to quit crying because someone somewhere just lost a leg. It’s also unlikely that all those who lost a leg on a given day are any worse off because someone somewhere may have skinned their knee. Additionally, you do not have to lose a leg to be sympathetic and perhaps helpful towards one who has.

      Like

  44. No.More.BS says:

    Although I appreciate the spirit of your blog, I don’t know where you got the idea that these things don’t happen in stateside schools. They happen quite frequently. Protection of workers is almost a dead concept in the United States, if by that you mean protection by law. Some strong unions still exist, for better or worse; but the U.S. is an “at will” employment country. That is a lesson I learned at great personal cost when I tried to protect my students from harm by filing a complaint. Unless you are willing to spend your life, fortune, and health pursuing a case, you should forget it and move on. Sites like ISR are critical for this very reason: they do more to put the fear of God/Darwin in unethical schools than the law or some corporate pawn of an “accrediting agency” ever will. I just wish there was an American equivalent and actually wonder why ISR doesn’t start one up. God knows they’ve steered me off some incredible losers overseas.

    Like

    • “In ways that would not be tolerated in stateside schools” does not close the door on injustice in stateside schools. And you’re absolutely correct that abuses occur in stateside schools–but that’s another matter that I could hardly incorporate into an article on an international schools site.

      Like

      • Happy Expat says:

        It is absolutley true that injustices happen to teachers all the time in U.S. schools HOWEVER, you have a union to fall back on. You have a union rep who will go to bat for you and make sure that your contract is adhered to. That is not to say that you will still be without a job BUT the union rep can make sure that the incident is not a matter of record so you do not have to tell a future employer about the situation at all except that you did not finish a school year. It is up to you to reveal what you want to about the details of that fact.

        Like

    • Brian says:

      I agree with No.More… I worked in North Carolina (where even discussing the formation of a union can land you on the street) and the governor not only cut teacher pay in the last month of the 2008-2009 school year, but made it retroactive back to August. She took back money we had already been paid! The state’s Attorney General upheld the action as an executive order. I resigned and haven’t worked in the States since.

      Like

      • weedonald says:

        Brian…..where I worked in Canada, during contract renewal talks the provincial government passed legislation to roll back salaries to the previous contract levels and then threatened to jail any union reps or teachers who went out on strike. Of course we went out on strike for 4 weeks but the government passed a return to work order. They jailed a few reps and fined teachers who remained on strike then passed a unilateral contract that retroactively returned us to our previous contract. Needless to say this government wasn’t re-elected!be paid only if
        This all goes to prove that, in the eyes of the public and politicians, we are basically glorified babysitters who deserve the same wages as real ones. If they had their way, most teachers would work 12 months of the year, get 1-2 weeks holidays and be paid or get increases only if our kids passed standardized tests showing improvements. They would also be overjoyed if our union rights disappeared and if we could be fired on the whim of anyone, but especially the Board administration. All very Conservative and Autocratic but just what the doctor ordered according to certain simpletons who want to be in power. Ask yourself why an entertainer or athlete, who does little to help the nation or our kids, gets handsomely rewarded yet teachers who mold kids lives and learning get peanuts and are treated like dirt. Its because we are, in the public’s eyes, in a soft job with lots of holidays and priviledges but ¨only¨ responsible for their kids education.
        Any teacher who says they are better off without union protection and are willing to accept a job at the cost of their moral and ethical virtue, is not a teacher but simply a worker.

        Like

  45. anon says:

    Great piece Gary!

    Like

    • Anon says:

      Agreed. Thanks Gary for all your efforts on behalf of teachers. One of the things that bothered me most was having my passport held for long periods of time. If I had an emergency at home, it would be a difficult situation….not to mention salary deductions without any warning or statements as to the reason. These things are hard to fight alone and most teachers are afraid of losing their job.

      Like

  46. been there says:

    avoid Turkey unless you apply to a ‘top ten’, and Azerbaijan entirely. That’s all I know, from bitter experience.

    Like

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