I read with interest your recent article about legal threats made by schools and their attorneys against ISR. Apparently, reviews considered critical of schools, or the people who run them, have the potential to hurt some feelings. From my perspective as an executive in a multinational corporation (currently living in Asia), I recognize this knee-jerk reaction. A loud threat from attorneys is the way of business everywhere in the world.
I had a brief experience working as a substitute board member for the international school in which our daughters are enrolled. A sitting member became ill, had to leave the country for treatment, and I was invited to step in for the remainder of the school year. In my time there I saw that this school was in all ways focused on the financial advantages of “providing an education.” In many ways, they ran a much tighter ship than my boss at my corporate job. This experience opened my eyes as to the disparity between the sense of caring found in public schools back home and the hard line profit motive found in private schools. This was a startling realization for me. Schools and teachers carry an aura of hope to save/help the world; but the reality is, this private school, and I would imagine others, was purely a money-making endeavor.
I believe international teachers need to keep this financial focus in mind when applying to teach at private schools. Owners most certainly see you as a commodity and your value for XYZ School may be simply to provide one small cog in the wheel that drives the school. Yes, you may be a superb teacher with a heart full of life-enriching talent and knowledge to share with your students and administrators. But, more importantly to the school, you are a Western face in front of the classroom, a promotional tool to get more wealthy local and expat parents to enroll their children. It may be hard to accept that you’re just not that special to these school owners and your opinions and suggestions, however well intended and enriching, may not be welcomed. That is simply the truth of operating a business focused on profits.
During my time as board member, conflicts arose when a teacher (and his division) pushed for sweeping changes to align the school more with the American education system. Although the school follows American accreditation requirements and the school is considered an “American International” school, these costly changes were never approved and ultimately, the teacher was drummed out of the school in an ugly manner for his efforts. I, too, found that I was seen as a nuisance in calling for fairness when dealing with this teacher and his frustration over the situation. I could see that he was trying to implement his leadership skills to guide the school in becoming the best “American” school possible.
I have a new-found appreciation for my children’s teachers and coaches. When faced with a strictly for-profit motive, these teachers consistently carry out their duties, act like enthusiastic professionals and deliver a top-notch education. I salute their dedication and commitment in the face of what must be, at times, a miserable experience. The reviews I have read of this school on ISR mirror what I saw happening as a temporary board member.
That being said, I applaud the communication and advice shared on ISR. Teachers take care of each other by writing reviews to laud good schools and administrators, and warn about others. Parents like myself search the reviews to find where good people are directing quality schools, where teachers are treated fairly and with respect. That’s where I want MY children to go!
Just remember, it’s business as usual no matter what country you work in.
(name withheld by request)
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