Making Lemonade at a Lemon of a School

lemonade14087900Most cultures revere teachers, especially International educators who come from far off lands to teach their children. But there are places in the world where the uneducated, wealthy class of the society see teachers as nothing more than another form of servant for their children.

The following comments from a recent ISR Review illustrate this mentality (Members can log in to read the full Review with school name):

“To be fair to the school, they do have an awful clientele. The students, from the wealthiest families in the country, are abysmally spoiled, and parents trot to school to complain about every nit-picking thing, and are bowed and scraped to by administration.

The parents have a shopping mentality about education – I bought it, paid for it, and expect all A’s. I must hear nothing of any discipline problems concerning my child, who is deserving only of special consideration, regardless of what he/she did – OR didn’t do. Multiply that by 400 kids and 800 parents and you have a nightmare!

The school is NOT a college prep school as touted, but a baby-sitting service where discipline is non-existent. Teachers are routinely blamed for poor test scores, or poor report card grades, and parents cause teachers so much trouble and grief because their lazy children won’t study, apply themselves or learn, that many teachers just hand out A’s like candy.”

Consider that many students from such schools grow up to take over the family’s multimillion dollar business, or go on to become political leaders in their own country. Who suffers? Ultimately, their country, as does their families and indirectly, or directly, other businesses and countries who must interact with these future “leaders.” In effect, ‘Country-Club style’ schools are abusing students, teachers and the world.

As long as there are entrepreneurs willing to sell an inferior educational product for which there is apparently a demand, such schools will continue to exist. For educators, who unsuspectingly find themselves in such schools, you can choose to run for the hills as many have done, or submit to the lunacy and chaos, and exist in survival mode alone.

The third option, perhaps the most noble expression of our profession, lies in the opportunity to turn a lemon of a school experience into lemonade, which can be done by focusing on saving at least one student from the distorted version of entitlement and reality that has been spoon-fed to them by both their school and parents. While it won’t be easy to shrug off everything around you in pursuit of your goal, it could be just the influence a future world leader needs. Indeed, you could influence our planet.

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22 Responses to Making Lemonade at a Lemon of a School

  1. Anonymous says:

    Making lemonade at a lemon of a school, bitter sweet I say.
    Look we are told to do our homework, read things take others advice, but we are human we do our homework and say It’ll be ok I can do this, so we do and then whoops s.. happens, so we dig in or leave.I left one time and that has only caused me no end of strive on my CV, yeah I could have left it off but someone knows someone who knows someone. Then there was the time I dug in, the school owner lived in the school rich kids by the country standard but not so by western standards, we were all manipulated, when things went well they were great when parents got hold of the owner things went from bad to worse, he would threaten the leaders, swear at them, shout abuse so loud that others could hear it through the thick doors, you will never get another job … that sort of thing, then the head of the school decided that that was a way to see him look strong so he started threatening his leaders I will make sure you don’t get another job i will ban you… that sort of thing. The leaders couldn’t tell their teachers what was going on as the owner and the head had a few teachers who they needed in other key positions. In the eyes of the teachers they looked weak and didn’t know what they were doing. Thing was the parents ( most 99%) were so happy with the progress that was going on and the changes being made the teachers were on a downhill cycle, life was s.. school was sh..salary was ok they anted more. you just cant win.

    As far as search and others are concerned I agree some key administrators who make life miserable for teachers continue to be accepted and continue to get great jobs out there, the most telling thing is they often times give sh..references for their staff but the owners or those higher in the organisation give them rave ones. where is the justiceI ask?

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  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s not really germane to the debate going on in the other comments but until I reached the third paragraph of the green review text at the top, I was thinking that a private school in the U.S., rather than in the Mid-East, was being described.

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  3. Bronwyn says:

    I worked for five years at a school like this in Saudi Arabia – staying on and on because of the ideal of making that lemonade out of the lemon – because kids are always worth it. Definitely made a difference with some kids, but I was sabotaged over and over by teachers and admin. Eventually the nightmares caused by living in a place where Human Rights just don’t exist drove me to leave, back to my mother continent, Africa.

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  4. Kevin Higgins says:

    There are some very good International Schools and ones which abuse teachers by treating them as glorified waiters passing on questionable educational packages masquerading as a curriculum. Unfortunately some institutions are so interested in making money that education is not really part of the equation.

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  5. staying abroad says:

    Thanks for reminding me why I decided to stick with private university work! We get some cases like this but it’s a problem for all (including admin) and we are at least able to ask problem students to leave the class, and fail them for cheating. And if they call me by my first name, so what.

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  6. Joni says:

    I worked for a school like this in Abu Dhabi. It was a nightmare, as the “Head of School” and I use the term lightly, would yell at the teachers during a faculty meeting and tell us that we are the problem, not the students, and that we should not be teachers! So much for a pep talk to motivate us to deal with the disruptive behavior!

    Very very sad that people think they can throw many at you and their child will receive a good education. But money does talk and people do bow down to it and “play the game”. but a true educator will not stand for it and therefore leave the “Baby sitting service” that they call school.

    I really do not know how to fix the problem as there will always be people who will accept the big bucks and bow down to the pressure of the parents. Until schools stand up to wealthy people like this, there will never be change. Very sad indeed.

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  7. Eyeswideopen says:

    Again it appears that the quality of the school clouds the experience – yes you do get a sense of consumerism with education being a product in Kuwait but from my 3-4 years there that was mostly found in the greedy murky areas of tuition where I know teachers who fill a spare room with 4/5 students every afternoon charging them 20KD an hour for 2/3 hours a day 5 days a week – so in these instances my sympathy isn’t always with my fellow teachers- but then my school achieved excellent academic results too so it’s difficult but we shouldn’t generalize and tar all schools with the same brush, do your due diligence before accepting any overseas post

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  8. trav45 says:

    “But there are places in the world where the…wealthy class of the society see teachers as nothing more than another form of servant for their children.”

    You mean the US, for example!? : )

    Having said that, I taught at a school like this in Egypt. All the other new hires left after two weeks; I gutted out the year, then broke contract for a better school.

    To its credit, after multiple complaints, Search did ban the school from future fairs, though I suspect the school not paying them their fee helped a lot in that decision.

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  9. Terry White says:

    I totally agree with Robert Elser. We need to stop these big recruiting firms from controlling our profession. I have been to Search and ISS many times and I am aware of many schools and administrators who break teachers contracts, allow parents to ruin a teachers reputation, and the list goes on. I saw Michael Popinchalk and his daughters god-mother Julia Alden while at AIS/D in Bangladesh cancel teachers contracts without just cause. While Michael Popinchalks contract was not renewed at AISD, Julia Alden was allowed to stay on for two more dreadful years! Both of these administrators should not have been allowed at ISS and Search, however their abuses continued for years!!!!!
    If a teacher cancels a contract or violates a contract, the teacher is “banned” from ISS and/or Search. I think it is high time that administrators and schools get banned from ISS and Search! While the discussion of why horrible schools and horrible and abusive administrators such as Julia Alden and Michael Popinchalk have been allowed to continue to recruit at Search and ISS has been a hot topic at ISR, I think teachers just need to stop using Search and ISS for recruiting. It is only then, that we can stop these Search and ISS from controlling our profession.

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    • Overseas says:

      I agree with you but I’m not so sure it is entirely fair to place the responsibility on Search and ISS. I think of them as a clearing house or a third party venue. In other words, they supply the venue and after that it’s every man for himself.

      Unfortunately, when a school complains about a teacher the teacher if banned from recruiting, but when a teacher complains about a director, nothing seems to happen. In all fairness, if these schools that have many crappy reports on ISR are allowed to recruit at the conferences, then teachers with complaints from schools should be allowed to recruit, too.

      In my experience a crappy director who can’t deal with constructive ideas gets a bug in his pants and fires the teacher who questions the status quo. It doesn’t matter if the director is the real problem here. His word seems to be gold with the recruiting agencies .

      To make things fair l ISS and Search should become true third party venues and ignore the complaints of directors about teachers just as they seem to do when teachers complain about directors.

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  10. I taught English/British Lit at such a school in Kuwait. The students called the teachers by their first names, just as they do their drivers, nannies, housekeepers, and gardeners. Our school had a large custodial staff of underpaid ex-patriots, mostly from India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. I had the students write a narrative based on a member of the custodial staff, which required the students to interview their subjects. Mostly, I wanted to know in the narratives why the custodial worker came to Kuwait. For many of my students, this was the first time they saw their subjects as humans and could get a glimpse of their suffering. I hope it stuck.

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    • robert elser says:

      Nice! I was in Kuwait for a year and witnessed human rights violations and many administrators who supported this for the big money. That is the main reason I left. Folks have to realize on a certain level some of these countries are nothing but a mercenary type position of dog eat dog. If you go in with that in mind then it is much more palatable. But what a great way to deal with some of these issues. Well done Patrick!

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  11. robert elser says:

    It is also important for folks to stand up for what is right and leave and/or vocalize your reasons for doing so far and wide. Too bad we only have ISR as a platform. But we can also write emails to all parents, students, all stakeholders the outside community. Post it on youtube, fb wherever you can. Social media is all we really have and it has been effective in bringing down dictatorships, maybe we as international teachers should use this medium more effectively. Point being… stand up and fight.(as much as you can) and inform, inform, inform!! I also think teachers should confront these schools at conferences and black list them. We have to stop these big recruiting firms from controlling our profession.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Excellent advice! Teachers ready to complain bitterly about the schools they are in need to listen carefully to this.

    It is a mistake to go abroad thinking that an overseas opportunity is where the grass is greener , the sea is bluer, the sun hotter etc. After all children will be children and over worked over stressed teachers will behave in the same way regardless of whether the school is in paradise on not

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    • Overseas says:

      Do you really think such schools are normal and teachers should just accept that this is how it should be? Because if it is…we are all in deep trouble. Let the flogging begin!!

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    • Domhuail says:

      What BS and utter rubbish! Teachers complain because things aren’t educationally sound or the management of a school are unethical. This is shortchanging the kids and your glib rationalization about kids being kids is a meaningless and vacuous excuse to hide the truth….kids need leadership and models to admire and copy….true teachers and management offer that and more.
      We are all overworked but we still care enough to make the effort in our classrooms, not seeking paradise but seekingto have an impact.

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      • baggie says:

        Well done Domhuail – fantastic job of putting it back on the teachers and excusing the dozens of administrations and thousands of irresponsible parents referred to in the article. i worked in Kuwait for 12 years and know the situation described only too well. Leadership and models don’t count for anything at all in a school where teachers are treated like the latest maid. I taught 17 year old kids who came to school in their Ferrari’s – they don’t need what i had to teach them, they don’t care about the grade they achieve, why would they respect a western person earning slightly more in a month than their father gives them in pocket money a week. Yeah we all care – but total crap to think we make any difference to these kids at all most of them understand cash not western values. After all their not westerners!1 the article is spot on- try for the one you MAY be able to change and dodge the whining parents and the self serving administrations.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Domhuail, you are either naïve, insensitive, aspiring to be or already is, one of those administrators who is willing to stay on the ‘good book’ in order to continue sucking the Kuwaiti currency, if you could have the temerity to use terms such as BS and utter rubbish here. I believe you are probably ignorant to the fact or both ignorant and the above mentioned conditions.

        These teachers are not the teachers who watch the calendar and the clock daily or call in sick if the wind blows a bit harder, the sun get a bit brighter this morning than it was yesterday or for what other reason. They are not paradise seekers. They are teachers who want to give leadership, be models, to manage and to make a difference. Can all of these happen when these kids do not want it or try to create the conditions needed for such. Can any one fill a closed empty bottle? I honestly think you owe these teaches an apology.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It turns out you are wrong. I used to believe what you said about “…over worked over stressed teachers will behave in the same way regardless of whether the school is in paradise on not.” Then I decided to use this site to test if that was true.

      I took reviews from all of the schools reviewed on this site in one particular “paradise” city. I then grouped them into two groups–accredited and not accredited. What I found out is that you are right that they all “complain bitterly,” but the posts made by teachers in the non-accredited schools were significantly more bitter in the areas of fair and equitable treatment by the board and director; school has adequate educational materials on hand; and assistance with visas, shipping and air travel.

      Fair treatment, teaching materials, and help getting into the country seem like pretty foundational things to me and I think teachers are justified to complain about them.

      Most of these schools are pretty rubbish, but some are more rubbish than others and something should be done about that.

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