Recruiting Fairs, Verbal Promises and “Restated” Teaching Contracts

fingerscrossed5051823Verbal agreements made at recruiting fairs have little value, and in some cases neither do written contracts. Most schools are reputable but some do bend the truth to lure candidates into situations they would otherwise avoid. Imagine arriving at your new school to discover your singed contract has been voided. Then, when you refuse to accept a different & blatantly disadvantageous contract you end-up fired and black balled. It can and does happen! Go to complete Article (originally published in 2011 and updated here)

23 Responses to Recruiting Fairs, Verbal Promises and “Restated” Teaching Contracts

  1. Alfonso Bechavez says:

    thank you very much for this article. I agree that we are on our own. I recently had a bad experience. I was told that the visa is not a problem and for as long as I have a returned ticket to my home country and that they will process my working visa as soon as arrived. as expected i was not allowed to enter the country. the host school put me in a very difficult and embarrassing situation.

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  2. Jacqui says:

    My husband and I attended a very well known hiring fair several years ago. We were offered positions at a school, but only verbally. When we asked for something to sign, preferably a contract, they came up with excuses telling us not to worry that their ‘word’ was sufficient. Well, we interviewed with another school that offered us contracts then and there. We told the original school that we just didn’t feel right about not having a contract to sign. Then later at the airport, the head of the fair called my husband up and reamed him out telling him we were blackballed and wouldn’t ever get a job. They went after us and the school that we eventually worked for. Search Associates in Cambridge is the fair that we attended and my husband and I were appalled at the vindictive and unprofessional way that we were treated by them.

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  3. Glenn Frame says:

    Names, names, names! I agree with all who have asked for names. ISR comments are close to worthless without the names of the school, recruiting company, administrators involved in a situation, either positively or negatively.

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  4. Seven says:

    It is about the life you can craft for yourself in overseas education. Sometimes it is just not possible for a school to do it totally legal and illegalities are the accepted practice in a country. There fore expectations of not coming in on a tourist visa may be unreasonable. That aside, when a school refused to honour my written contract I openly and honourably, left. Sadly not everyone is in a position to move as easily as we were, if we all did that then there would be less dishonourable practice.

    Some employers will be straight and honourable follow western type expectations and honourable to the letter of the law, you can still have a horrible time with them. Others bend the rules a little and still manage to care for their staff,a great life may be had. If you cannot accept some grey do not leave home.

    On another note, I have never found employment agencies to back the employee against a school or employer. I fell into the trap of having that expectation, on my first overseas posting, after 20 years on the circuit and 8 countries with a mix of admin and teaching jobs, I have never seen this happen. Better to divest yourself of that expectation and move on, it just is not going to happen, their business is based on school’s listing with them.

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    • Anonymous says:

      No offense, but for an educator of over 20 years, your grammar is horrible and creates an aura of unprofessionalism, lacking credibility, etc., though your comments do seem quite valid…

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      • David says:

        I’m a woodwork teacher with a trades background. My spelling is not the best and proper grammar has always been a mystery to me. My nightmare is to be evaluated not on my skills but on my English skills. This almost happened once and the Principal heard some pretty colourful language come out if my mouth. What can I say, he now has a cheap repair man in the school. It takes all sorts to teach.

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  5. eslkevin says:

    Actually in the world, despite what laws in various lands state concerning verbal agreements and forced changes of contracts, verbal agreements are broken regularly by institutions and contracts are changed often to the deficit of the signatory.–kas

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  6. Kicker says:

    You cant get the school by law some of my colleagues in Egypt were still struggling to get a legal translation of their contract 4 years after they started court action all the school needed was to wait until their lives moved on and they lost interest. I am now in my seventh international school and can say that not one has fulfilled either their written or verbal contract. You just have to accept that you will not get 100% of what you were promised there is no recourse to law if its so bad wait for the contract to finish and move on (I have never broken a contract). Or leave very early so no one will spot a gap on a CV my last school the Friday after pay-day was crunch often on the Monday we would find that one of our birds had flown.

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  7. Curtis Lowe says:

    and by the way…I agree with a previous posting that none of this information is helpful UNLESS names are known. Generalized postings do nothing for those wanting to make informed decisions except give a bleak picture of international teaching. And while some spots may be so….there are hundreds of other that aren’t but how will one ever know if names aren’t given!?

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  8. Curtis Lowe says:

    I taught overseas for 22 years (5 schools, 3 continents) and thoroughly enjoyed each of my stints. However, I did have my share of recruiting nightmares albeit toward the latter part of my career (being badmouthed behind my back and losing out on a few job offers at a few top tier schools) and it seems that many administrators and the recruiting agencies have the teachers at their mercy. There is NO recourse for teachers in many of these situations and, unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. Teaching internationally isn’t for the faint of heart and certainly requires a tremendous leap of faith, but overall I believe the good schools and administrators far outweigh the bad apples. I was always puzzled how an inept director/principal could always get rehired somewhere whereas a teacher could find it extremely difficult if they happened to get on the wrong side of an administrator. Well, I quickly learned what a good ol boy club the overseas circuit is for administrators. However, it is sites like this that certainly help those trying to make decisions and I always found one of the best gauges come decision time was talking to FORMER teachers AND parents of the school(s) under consideration. I am so thankful for the experiences and friends I met in my 2 plus decades internationally and if I was 30 and single today like I was in the late 80’s I would do it all over again. However, if I had a family, like I do now, I would have serious reservations about trekking abroad except for a very few select places.

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  9. been there says:

    This an all to familiar story. I fell for a verbal agreement at an ISS fair. I eventually complained that what I was told and what I ended up with were so different that I never would have come to this school had I known the truth about the area. The directors response was to keep my mouth shut and stop complaining. I left after a year and he blackballed me at ISS. I networked my way into a new position. He was soon run out of the school by a group of parents. I find it hard to believe that some of these rejects from the States find their way into international schools as principals and directors. At this school even the janitors made fun of the guy.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The article is interesting and anyone working in the international arena has heard all of this before. In order for this and all other writing to be useful, the country, agency, school and director’s name needs to be included. Otherwise it’s merely a story that is so generalized it is useless, other than a warning we’ve heard over and over again. The devil’s in the details. Thanks.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    I am starting to wonder if people should go to recruiting fairs at all. It seems as if recruiting fairs have a lot more to do with the blackballing, than the actual schools themselves.

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  11. rca says:

    This makes me wonder if there is any legal action that could be taken against said school. It would well be worth looking into,

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    • Anonymous says:

      Name and shame the recruitment agency/ job fair organizers. This is outrageous and should be publicized to us as teachers at the very least.

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  12. honour says:

    Unfortunately the International teaching circuit is littered with inept, corrupt and unprofessional operators – this is possibly why they have set up overseas in place of their own countries! Having said that it is important to note that there are some reputable operators who work within the law of both the host country and country of origin and are a pleasure to work with and for. Having spent 6 years on the international circuit after over 20 years in both government and private schooling on three continents I can only echo the sentiments already expressed – check everything very carefully before signing anything and make sure you are happy for the good and bad which you will find in any job situation. Some set ups are in what can only be termed ‘hardship’ settings but this doesn’t mean that they won’t be ethical or a good placement – it all depends what you are looking for and expect. From an administrators point of view I have been amazed as the expectations some teachers have, more than they would expect back home, with regard to not only the logistics of their placement e.g. salaries, perks, housing etc. but also school managment and teaching conditions themselves. Children are children everywhere, classrooms are classrooms everywhere, colleagues are colleagues everywhere and it is not just because they are in an international circuit setting that they don’t necessarily behave the way we might expect, they would be the same ‘problems’ back home! Every situation is what you make of it – go in with your eyes open and be the best you can in and through it. If it turns out not to be right for you bite the bullet and get out as honourably as you can – keep your own integrity intact and let them worry about theirs, and the consequences of theirs. What I’m saying is don’t let bad expereinces poison your own soul and put you off what can be a rich and rewarding lifestyle. To the over 60’s out there watch out in Asia as not all governments in this part of the world support the hiring of ‘foreign experts’ over 60 and schools need to show why they need to employ them. This has made a lot of international schools close their doors to the over 60’s, some to the extent where they won’t renew contract with you. Others use age to find something/someone where they think the grass is greener!

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  13. I had a similar experience with China. I too was 60, with 20 years of experience teaching at universities in Latin America, the US, and public schools, at the time I went. They told me they had “all the curriculum that they wanted me to teach; all they wanted was a foreign expert to teach it. I might add this was a major university. Not only did they not have any curriculum, but after arriving I was presented with a new contract, in Mandarin (I do not know Mandarin)and which superseded the contract which was sent to me in the States. When I pointed out the discrepancies between what I was told and a contract which I could not read, I was not contacted for 2 and 1/2 weeks and then only because they advised me to get a ticket and get out. None of my emails were responded to nor information as to what was going on.

    Accepting this “contract” cost me $4500 for airfare, setting up my apt, and medical expenses to get to China. Needless to say, I will not be going China. It has been a learning experience.

    It seems to me that one has to do his/her own research and ultimately, take a leap of faith; just be sure you can physically get out of where ever you go if you find that in spite of your best efforts at screening the employers you have been deceived.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yes! They need to give you anything you sign in Mandarin & English! Even if things are slightly off, this is a necessity in my opinion. There are many translation computer programs/aps out there that can get the point across, including Google translate and Baidu translate. It’s not that hard to copy and paste these translations, unless the perpetrators are trying to deceive you. Be careful of buying a plane ticket or getting visas until a contract is presented, or else they have you in a very weak position.

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  14. Overseas 2 says:

    I had a similar experience in Guatemala. Upon arrival I learned I would be paying 50% for each of my kids’ tuition and taxed at a higher rate than I was told at the interview. I paid $12000 in tuitions and then lost another $4200 to taxes. Pretty much it worked out that we basically forfeited my wife’s salary. We left after the first year. The school threatened to black ball us but we threatened to go to the newspaper and tell the truth about parents coming in and negotiating for grades. I wouldn’t leave home unless you get it all in writing, and even then you just never know.

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  15. Roundtrip says:

    Your situation greatly concerns me, not only because I feel so sorry that you had to endure this treatment, but also because I have four more days to fax in my letter of intent to a school which also does not give a contract until I reach the country (China). I’m 60 years old, so I’m afraid if I don’t accept the position, I won’t get another offer. Could you share with us the name of the school or country? How could a recruiting company neglect to hold these clients to higher standards? Outrageous.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Did this school ‘recruit’ you via recruiting agency? If not, but via one of their own staff…….. beware! My experience with a school in Beijing, who recruited me via their Assistant Head, was that the curriculum, on my arrival was American rather than IBPYP and I was expected to teach to the text books all day every day……. boring boring. I am still stunned to think I lasted four months!! The school…… BIBS (Beanstalk International Bilingual School)

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    • Anonymous says:

      Just got back from a stint in China where I left after a few months due to things being far different than that stated in e-mails and even the contract. Be extremely careful of your situation! They have you at your mercy, especially without a contract. I think mistakes can be made in excusing things based on it being a “different culture” or such. Why can’t they give you a written contract? Unfortunately, China is rampant with stories of deception. It wasn’t just me, I spoke with other teachers, the US Embassy, etc. There is a culture of saying as little as possible and also being greedy. It is the state of China right now, to the extent also of lots of personal and political corruption. The race for getting rich quick is on, making money at all costs, including horrible pollution of the air & water, falsifying documents, etc. Teachers are one more cheap Chinese commodity, as unpalletable as that may sound, in my experience. If you are deadset on going, they need give you at least a template of the contract even if some changes are needed. Also, look carefully at the escape clause if it comes to that. The Embassy and Consulates also have info on labor lawyers as well, though I don’t know how viable that is as far as dealing with the time and expense of going that route.
      I should also add that I went through agencies in the US & China to get this job, which was with a Chinese public school. Alsi, most of the problems were with the recruiting agencies, and not the schools, who were far more reasonable. The kids were also pretty disciplined, well-behaved, etc., which was nice. The schools had pretty good facilities, too, which was nice. Also, China was definitely “interesting” in my estimation
      An interesting aside to this is whether this blog can or should form connections with the burgeoning English teaching abroad profession, which I did in China, though I did teach at an international school previously as a credentialed teacher. The “English teacher” profession seemed to be rife with the unqualified in China, anybody with a vague understanding of the English language seemingly qualified to teach. Local English teachers could barely speak any English, making the job that much more isolating and unprofessional.

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