When Should Breaking Contract Be Consequence-Free?

breakingcontract81919928Dear Dr. Spilchuk,  I’ve had to resign my contract at an international school due to an emergency situation at home. I was only able to give them very short notice, which upsets me, too, as I’m always so responsible. I will also try to help with the transition to another teacher by providing lesson plans for 1-2 weeks after I’m gone.

The admin at my school have been threatening me with blacklisting at Search Associates. I understand that I might need to pay a Search Associates penalty fee, and I can live with that. I can also live with being blacklisted by Search Associates. However, another person in admin has been saying things like I’ll be blacklisted from ALL organizations, ALL recruiters for international schools.

I won’t be looking for another job for a while as I have to help a family member at home anyways, but I don’t want to try to find something in a year and be blacklisted everywhere. Is this a real possibility? Is my worry justified?

Worried Teacher

Dear Worried Teacher,

You are correct. You may very well find yourself blackballed at Search and other agencies, depending on how your school responds.

Best of luck to you.



ISR Asks:  Under what circumstances, if any, do you personally feel it’s acceptable for an International Teacher to break contract?

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you just can’t stand your school or location, you know it can be a depressing time in your life. But is this grounds to jump ship? It has been said, “life is what happens to us while we’re busy making plans.” In this vein, the best intended and most dedicated teacher may suddenly find themselves having to decide between family and career, as in the letter to Dr. Spilchuk  —  A real “catch 22” situation.

Certainly the majority of us would choose to return home for a family emergency; no matter what the professional consequences of our decision. Do you feel schools are justified in severely penalizing a teacher that chooses family over contractual responsibilities? If schools are truly in the business of “nurturing,” shouldn’t they extend equal support to those individuals doing the nurturing, in this case the teaching staff. Is there a double standard?

Asking for repayment of recruiting fees and other expenses associated with an international  school bringing a teacher into a country seems well within reason. But when a contract is broken under extenuating circumstance, is this reason to put a teacher out of the running for the remainder of their teaching career?

The overriding question is…..under what, if any, circumstances do you feel a teacher should be able to beak contract without sever consequences to their overseas career. And, if consequences are levied, what should those consequences be?

Where do you stand on this issue?

43 thoughts on “When Should Breaking Contract Be Consequence-Free?

  1. Let’s get real!
    To all those who say breaking a contract is a sin, what about safety, health, and teaching conditions issues?

    I have been lied to by schools many, many times.

    I was given accommodation where someone was stabbed in front of my building, a car was stolen out of the compound, and the marijuana/crank smell coming from the adjacent apartment was terrible. Did I mention the water from the tap gave me skin infections? Did I mention that the school did not disinfect its bathrooms properly so if I broke down and had to pee at work I got dysentery/ diarrhea illness from the school toilets?

    I have been given accommodations to live in that have active rat populations, crumbling walls, erratic water/electric supply, smoke smell, etc. I have been given a mattress to sleep on soaked in rat poo and urine,

    I have been told to teach 90 students each day and given only a chalkboard. I have had a complete lack of teaching supplies, directors who asked for sex, schools that suddenly found themselves in an active war zone, and too many more issues to bore you with.

    Oh and the most recent, a bait and switch. Hired for one school, told their construction was not completed in time and then sent to teach in a craphole “sister” “school” in an entirely different country. Arrived to find out they have no certified teachers and was told I would teach 24 periods per week, have 3 periods of meetings professional development per week, write a curriculum for grades k – 9, lead teachers in grades K -9, etc. Come on, is this realistic? By the way the contract I signed was to be a teacher only. So despite my most careful efforts to make sure there was a good match, it ended up badly.

    And through it all I smile, do my job, don’t complain and try to help others. And yes, if the school was very bad, I left after my contract ended. So being unlucky and having the past 3 schools be bad it does look on my resume as 4 years at one school, 1 year at the next school, and 2 years at the current school.

    You simply can’t believe how bad the conditions are at some of the schools out there, I know I didn’t fully believe until I experienced it. If you are at a school that pays you on time, provides a safe and fair working environment, and good benefits and housing then consider yourself among the fortunate few because in more than 15 years of being international I have only found that once. The majority of the schools are struggling to do the best they can but that doesn’t mean it is ok for teachers or students. I guess it all boils down to your tolerance level for crap. If you can take it with a smile then perhaps you will be ok. I try to look at everything from a positive light. and see a glass that is half way as being half way full.


    1. This last comment brings up a point about living conditions, and I always consider the overall conditions, like work environment. I currently work at a school in the UAE that is the definition of stressful Hellhole. The student body is entirely wealthy Arabs and locals that consider us their servants. All they care about is getting marks for doing nothing, but when you actually make them do the work, they will do their best to get you fired, blacklisted or even deported. All because you wouldn’t give their little angel a passing grade for doing nothing and putting in zero effort. So we are required to fudge the grades and inflate them so the kids will pass and we can keep the “customers” happy. Last year I had a kid with the worst attitude, that did nothing all year, came late to school every single day and failed every test and quiz. One day I told him that he was going to fail out and he looked at me, smiled and said, “don’t worry mister. You’ll see me in the next grade next year.” He had the balls to come right out and say it. These kids know the score and are so manipulative, it’s insane. His mother had a friend at the MOE. Go figure.

      The worst thing is that us teachers, the administration and the school are powerless to change anything, because the Ministry of Education here ties our hands. They have taken any bit of authority away from us by making it so that there are no consequences to the student or parent for their actions. No matter what they do, we are not allowed to punish them in any real way. If you do try, the parent files a complaint to the MOE and you are gone. Just since school started this year, we have already lost three teachers, because the students made up stories about them and complained to their parents, who immediately believed them and took it to the MOE. Last year they tried to get me fired by telling their parents that I had said something insulting about Islam. Something that, fortunately, my Principal knew I would never do. Especially if that parent or child is a member of the Sheikh’s family or they have wasta. There are certain family names to watch for and it’s amazing how these are the worst-performing and most poorly-behaved students with no manners or respect for anyone. They are spoiled brats that feel like the world owes them something, just for being a Sheikh or Shaika, and their parents reinforce this. Most of the kids run amok in the hallways and we can do nothing to stop it. They even curse us out in Arabic and physically push teachers. In any civilized country, a student would get expelled and possibly face criminal charges for that, but not here.

      The UAE is not the rosy and perfect place to work that it’s made to seem like by recruiters and the Ministry of Tourism. In the past few years, more and more people have decided that this is a great place to live and work, and it really can be quite a good life, if you’re careful and know how t look out for yourself, but since it’s become such a popular work destination, things have changed. Salaries and benefit packages used to be excellent in the UAE, but have declined in the last three years as a result. Competition for the GOOD jobs at reputable schools has gotten much tougher now, so the hiring schools are far more picky about who they hire, offer much lower salaries than four years ago and no longer offer the same quality of accommodations. Most schools will offer you questionable housing. If you don’t want to take the offered flat, they will offer you a stipend to find your own place, but it’s usually less than half what you would need to get a decent apartment. My school offers a third of what you would need.

      Also, when living in the UAE, you can get into a lot of trouble for a relatively simple thing. It really depends on how conservative the Emirate is in which you live. A female teacher in Abu Dhabi was arrested, jailed for 6 weeks and deported for saying something to a lazy local that parked illegally in the handicapped spaces at a mall. She confronted him about it, and because he was an Emirati, he was able to ruin her life. While in jail, she was not allowed any clothing and was abused. The locals drive like lunatics and have no problem with running you off the road or actually hitting your car and driving away, and when they do, be careful about filing a complaint with the police. It could backfire on you. There are so many stories like this here. I tried for several years to get a job here and I wish I had known the truth about working in the UAE before coming. Now I’ve built a life here, so I will stay for awhile longer, but I am always worried about getting into trouble.

      To add to the list, the accommodation I was provided has a roach and ant problem, the aircon systems are so dirty that I keep getting respiratory infections and the students will vandalize your car in the parking lot, because they know where we live. Of course the school does nothing about it. The school accountant has cheated me out of thousands of dollars and they lied about the health insurance plan. He keeps changing the plan to to cheaper and cheaper companies that cover little or none of the health care costs. When I accepted the position I was very clear with the Administrator about my need for good medical coverage that I could also use in my home country. The Principal told me not to worry, that it was a great plan with dental coverage, and it even said that in my contract. One month after I signed that contract, the school accountant cancelled that insurance plan and got a new one that cost the school far less and only covers us here in the UAE. Just this last month, he moved us to an even cheaper plan. I would call that a breach of contract on a massive scale, and certainly a justification for leaving. I wouldn’t say I’m breaking the contract either. The school did that by lying to me, multiple times. At one point I went to the owner of the school to discuss the bait and switch they pulled on me with the health insurance. I asked him to split the costs with me, but he said that if I didn’t like the insurance plan, I should find a new job. When I brought up the fact that it’s stipulated in my contract and that I would be within my rights to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor, he almost fired me. Even when the aircon broke and flooded my flat, they refused to come fix it, because it was at night and a holiday, so I had to get a hotel room for the night. It took me quite a long time to even find a room and it was expensive, so the accountant is refusing to reimburse me.

      The list goes on, but like so many others here, I have to say that a teacher should have no problems or moral conundrums about walking out on a contract if it’s justified by the actions of the school, because they lied to you about critical matters, you have a health or family emergency, or you fell unsafe. Your life is not worth ruining or losing for their profits. If you are miserable and living in squalid conditions, just so they can make more money, just leave. Maybe if more teachers could do that, without getting screwed over and blacklisted, the schools would stop misbehaving and start honoring their contractual obligations. Unless teachers get together and form a world-wide union to protect us, the situation will only get worse in the coming years. We are powerless to stop the schools from lying and breaking their agreements and then we have to worry about being blacklisted for not being willing to put up with that. I imagine most of us would agree that this is unfair and not why we became international teachers.


  2. I think is brutally unfair that schools can blacklist you and take actions while we can’t even when been exposed to abuse and contract is just a decorative paper. I have completed all my contracts but sometimes under conditions that baffle imagination. I would expect agencies to be as demanding on schools as they are on teachers. I would also expect schools to be accountable for their actions. Not everybody can afford a lawyer and not all cultures support such actions. I think international teachers are in a very vulnerable position and international action is needed ASAP.


  3. In my opinion you should NEVER work for a school that will not get you a work permit. I had an illegal one in Malaysia and was scared stiff every day. The best day of my life when the plane to leave the country left the airport. I had stayed longer to get rid of the school penalty clauses but surprise surprise they did not keep their end of the deal and did noy pay me the last three months (in my opinion)….blacklisted, well put it this way I have never been given an overseas interview since.


  4. As a recruitment consultant, when reviewing the CV of potential candidates, if I see several ‘short term stays’ without an explanation like… short term contract, or 1 year contract, I immediately want to ask…” why have you left these schools after a short time?”
    If I decide to interview these candidates this is one of the first issues I address, then depending upon the response I usually explain that I am not able to help any teacher who has prev iously broken a contract without good reason. A good reason being something like severe family illness, or death etc. or perhaps personal illness.
    If the recruiter ‘filters this subject’ in the early stages disappointment can be avioded for all.
    However, if after the contract is signed either party does break the contract without a good reason then that party MUST expect some fall out. We do after all work in an important PROFESSION and all must conduct ourselves accordingly.


  5. Breaking a contract is NEVER without consequences. You’ll have to get that idea out of your head. Asking the question “When SHOULD it be without consequences?” (as the title does) is naive and out-of-touch with reality.

    What you really need to ask is this: What, exactly, will the consequences be, and how much power do you have to influence them? Are you willing to negotiate the consequences with all stakeholders?

    It’s easy to tell seasoned professionals from rookies in this regard–on both sides, teacher and admin. Rookies will tend to focus only on what’s in it for them. Rookies will probably ignore why they should be in the profession in the first place: To serve the students and the wider school community. Bad schools are in it for the bucks, and so are bad teachers!

    I have asked, once in my career, to be let go from a contract. I was quite ill, had had a good track record at the school, trusted my admins, they trusted me, and we found an agreement that was beneficial for everyone involved. My bottom line at that time was this: “I am too ill to serve my students and the wider community at this time, therefore I have to go.” And, of course, I had the medical documentation to make my point. I absolutely hated to make the decision, but I had to

    Did I “break contract”? Certainly not in the connotative sense of that expression, i.e. the one that seems to suggest that leaving a contract early is always, every time, in all cases, per default a terrible thing…

    I was neither “blacklisted” nor did I have to pay any money back. It took me a few months to recover from my illness, and I am now back on the international circuit, and I am still in friendly communication with my former bosses.

    I don’t advocate staying in an abusive work environment, of course, but my point is closer to this: Do the research BEFORE accepting a new post because that is what mature professionals do. Find a school that matches your maturity. Once you’ve achieved that, changing the conditions of a contract is no more than an act of polite and professional negotiation.


  6. My previous international school employer fired 25 people on the last day of school to save money. I raised my hand and asked politely;

    Question 1: “so why are you still bringing in the new hires instead of keeping us and honouring the rest of our contacts while we are all in very good standing?”

    ANSWER 1: Admin – “Because the school will get blacklisted by recruiting agencies if we do not honour a new hire’s contract after they signed it.”

    Question 2: “so…. the school has no problem breaking our contracts and being blacklisted by word of mouth from their own teachers in the field then?”

    Answer 2: Admin – “no answer.”

    I think this dialogue says a lot. There are a lot of great schools out there that face crisis situations but handle the issue of letting teachers go in a better way (like giving proper notice to you to search for a job-not a few days!) My previous school handled it very poorly.

    The reality is that schools will not hesitate to break your contract if they need to. It is business for them. Some are nice about it and some are not. Usually the nice ones are non-profit schools, but this could be a generalization on my part. I digress.

    I think they play teachers like puppets and scare teachers with threats of the blacklist because if you break a contract, it costs them money. Unfortunately we teachers do not have a “force Majeure” clause with the school – (meaning that certain unforeseen circumstances that arise can render the contract void) in the contract. But they have one with us. It is in the fine print and probably worded funny and downplayed all the way. but it is there.

    Aside- We all know as teachers that the students are first priority and we would not break a contract unless it was absolutely necessary for us to. Your reasons are yours and totally valid. If you genuinely believe in your reasons then you will have no trouble justifying your decision in your next interview.

    Sincerely yours.


  7. I broke my contract when my boss wanted to give my school supplied apartment to a new teacher fresh off the plane. I gave him my notice as I was leaving for the airport. Never asked him for a letter of recommendation. In fact I never needed anything from him to get another job. Had he not wanted to give my apartment away I would still be working at the school. And this guy was big on loyalty.


  8. Personally, I believe that it is the faculty that should have a recruiting agency and that it is the faculty that should blacklists schools. Schools work with complete impunity when recruiting. If the faculty member realizes that the contract is not being honored, they have few options available to them. The schools, however, seem to hold all the cards and begin to make threats to people who are often in abusive employment situations. Shameful.

    Then, let us not ignore Search Associates’ role in this (I only have experience with Search, don’t know anything about ISS). If I, as a faculty member find myself in an unacceptable situation and go back to my SA representative, the response (if you get one) is that it isn’t their problem. They are only listing schools and putting faculty in touch with possible employers. Uh, I kind of think that since they charge money from both the school and the candidate that they have an obligation to hold the schools to providing truthful listings. Instead, they just publish a little statement at the end of a listing that states that they aren’t responsible. So what the F*** do they do with all their money if not check the credibility of their listings? IMO, Search Associates is a money tree, nothing else.

    In the end, I quit the international circuit. No money anymore, no dignity, no fun. AND I’m super glad to hear that others were underwhelmed with their SA experience. I’m not interested enough to try to sign up with ISS so I’ll either find the job on my own or just work for myself.

    Maybe some very industrious people out there will begin a placement agency “by the faculty and for the faculty”. That seems to be the only way that schools will have to be honest. All the good faculty will be available through this placement agency.


  9. At the end of the day most international schools are open for business. Since teachers work outside of their home countries (often with little labor law or union protection) this leaves room for unscrupulous owners, schools and administrators to thrive in and operate, and yes this industry is FULL of schools and people like this, hence the need for this site. However, some teachers also do the wrong thing, however, in most cases it is the school owner or director that is at fault by not living up to contractual conditions.

    Civil unrest is a major issue and I don’t think any teacher has to explain why they break a contract if this occurs in their host country. However, if they are aware of this unrest before they sign their contract then they should try and stick it out unless things really escalate. Furthermore, breaking contracts in the middle of the year should be avoided unless a real emergency occurs as this is quite a hassle for any school, unless it is in the mutual benefit.

    At the end of the day I owe no loyalty to my school. I’m not saying this as an excuse for teachers to act and work unprofessionally, I’m just saying that my school is not a priority in any way in regards to decisions I make in terms of my lifestyle and my family responsibilities. A for-profit international school’s loyalty is to the owner and thus the parents who pay fees, and I know that. Thus, if I have to break a contract according to my reasons and priorities, so be it. Naturally, this would be only done after careful consideration and if the school blacklists me then I really don’t have a recourse to address it, aside from having impeccable professional referees from my previous employment.

    China and the middle-east seem to be two regions that have a reputation for high teacher turn-over and breaking of contracts by teachers (often due to the school not meeting contractual obligations).

    As a side note it is interesting to see some of the administrator comments on this thread. I truly hope these administrators read and take heed of this article as they have the power to ruin a teacher’s professional standing and negatively effect their personal and family lives. At the end of the day teachers are human, not a simply a resource or a name on a faculty list. It was refreshing to see some of the administrator comments.


  10. I’ve had two members of staff in 10 years break contract – one was because 4 weeks before the beginning of term he had found a better position somewhere else; one was because the teacher concerned had second thoughts about living in the country. Both I feel were not really acceptable reasons – however it is perfectly legal to do so in our country. Both had received a huge amount of support and induction material and and we were all set to welcome them to their new school. In the case of medical or family emergencies it is a different issue altogether; but the issue is always timing.


  11. I broke contract during my second year when my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I was scared for what might happen to my career, but a friend reassured me that any worthwhile future employer would not hold that kind of situation against me. My school was very understanding and even gave me a portion of my end of service bonus for the months that I had worked during that contractual year. After my mother passed away, it took a little while for me to get back on the international circuit, but in the end I found a wonderful job overseas once again. My former employer whom I had broken contract with to go back to my family also offered to employ me once again. I have absolutely no regrets and am so happy that I put my family first. Those times with my mother during her final months are precious memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.


    1. HI, Not sure if you will see this, but I am currently teacher overseas and my Father has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I appreciate you sharing your experiences. Thanks.


  12. As a Principal I would rather have a staff member be open and honest with me and do everything in my and their power to try and work out a solution or the best possible transition than threaten and create a culture of fear which will not stop teachers leaving, it will just make them hide their plans, do a runner and lie to me. The circuit has changed, schools should be nurturing places both for students and staff. Look after people and they will in turn look after the school they work for.


    1. Adam, I wish there were more administrators like you. I would love to work for someone like you, because I have had very few good experiences with administrators. I am very loyal and will go to the ends of the Earth for a good boss. Please don’t ever change.


    2. You sound so much more human and professional than the Canadian sleazebag that I work for in Beilun. All most of us want is to be treated with respect and appreciated for what we do.


  13. I have had teachers break contracts for various reasons. In all cases the reasons were legitimate to them, yet somewhat murky to me. Who am I to judge? I have never attempted to blacklist a teacher, nor would I ever threaten to. There was a silver lining in each case.


  14. When is it acceptable to break contract? When the school breaks its contract with you.

    I had a signed letter of intent with a well-funded school in Korea. A few weeks after the letter-signing, the school emailed and said they could not fulfill all the conditions in the letter. In particular, they wanted to reduce the pay and travel benefits. I asked more than once, by phone and by email, to renegotiate the contract. I received no reply. So, after a couple months, I found other work. Then in the summer, they contacted me and acted like I had some obligation to come work at their school. When I told them I had found other work, at that point they threatened to blacklist me with the recruiting agencies.

    It became clear to me that the school had not given the principal and director full authority to make a contract. Once I realized this, it was clear to me that the REAL administration (the owners and business office) was not acting in good faith. They should have sent someone fully authorized to make the contract instead of playing these games. I was happy to have walked away from that situation.


  15. To obtain a visa for teaching in the Middle East takes at least between 1 and 3 months, especially if you’re in Saudi Arabia. Why would David think that it is easy to fly in a teacher and as unrealistic as in 2 weeks? Maybe David should become an administrator or work in HR in an international school to experience what happens behind the scenes. Many teachers who break contract do not realize the expense the school went into to recruit them. For this reason I would suggest to all teachers to read their contracts properly before signing it – even if you have to take it to a lawyer in your own country to explain to you what you are signing for. You should ask the person who is interviewing you that question. I agree with Michael – go to the Ministry of Labor for advice before breaking contract.


  16. It is ALWAYS a two way street. IF the school or its representative(s) have lied to you or misinformed, misled or openly/clandestinely misrepresented the facts then you have every right to confront them and ask for an explanation(s). If that is not forthcoming or not honestly given then you must take the course that is best for you. You owe the school nothing if they misled you…..it works the other way as well. They will be entitled to the same rights IF you misled them.
    As far as finding another job goes, as most of the posters on this blog have rightly indicated, you don’t need Search or any other organization to help you. Contact the schools directly and be prepared to explain your past as well as your present and future situations. IF they refuse to consider you, move on.


  17. Always contact the Ministry of Labour (or relative gov. dept.)of that country to understand your position. Your consulate also for advice. Always + & – whether to go it alone or with an agency so important to understand their terms before using the service


  18. Schools break contracts all the time. The international teaching circuit has changed from what was once a tightnit community to a complete free for all. Two weeks notice is the norm in most “Western Schools” and there is no reason why it should be any different elsewhere. A school can recruit and fly in a teacher just as fast in Lima, Peru as they can in Ft McMurray, Alberta. Technology has changed the rules and barriers to recruitment.


  19. Before you sign a contract you should check to see if the school has a policy about breaking contract. The school I am at now specifically states reasons that would allow for the breaking of a contract. I also wanted to say that there are ALWAYS schools looking for teachers, my school is currently in desperate need of a Math teacher. When I was ending my last contract I was constantly getting emails from schools that were outside of the job fair, offering me jobs. You’ll have no problems.


  20. I have had to break two contracts, both of which I obtained through Search Associates. Both of these contracts i broke before commencing employment. One was a school in Turkey which informed me after I signed the contract that I would be bound by certain rules for teachers, including sporting a certain hair style and wearing a suit and tie. That was enough to get me to cancel. I informed my rep with Search Associates, who seemed cool with it because the condition was outside of the contract and not previously disclosed. Search Associates helped my find another position in China.

    The next year, I signed a contract with a Bahrain school, also at a Search Associates job fair. The same morning I signed my contract, Saudi and UAW tanks were rolling in the streets of Bahrain and the government declared martial law. If I were single, I might have still gone, but I would not take me wife into a situation like that. Again, I canceled the contract and renewed with my school in China. Search Associates understood. Who wouldn’t?


    1. Funny that. Maybe SA has finally found its humanity. A few weeks after I signed with a school in Lebanon, the country plunged into chaos. Guns and bombs and all. My rep’s response? Ride it out.


    2. Maybe I had a good rep with SA who was more concerned with developing long-term relationships with teachers than making the quick cash. He still earned his commission when I signed “replacement” contracts.


  21. Wow.. I worked at a school in Beilun, China and teachers would often quit one year into their contract and several even did ‘runners’ – all without any thought of professional integrity or concern about contractual and moral obligations. There were no consequences whatsoever imposed by the school.. Guess that is the difference between a top tier school and a 4th tier. Plenty of jobs without going through Search or ISS but they may not be at a top school.


    1. I know THAT school. Some teachers don’t even wait a year and only the really bad ones who can’t get jobs elsewhere or who have questionable credentials stay.


  22. I think the fear of being blacklisted is not such a big deal. Yes, your record does speak for itself. The job fairs and Search associates are not the only way to get a job. If you have a good reason to leave then that really is it.


  23. I’m an administrator at a small international school and I would never blacklist a teacher due breaking a contract when they have legitimate difficulties beyond his/her control. Why add insult to injury?


    1. I’m with you in this, Tim. If there is a very real need to be released, there should be no penalty. In addition, as others have said, there are lots of ways to get a teaching position without using a recruiting agency.


  24. As Brenda says, you do not need Search or a hiring fair.As a matter of fact I do not even know anyone who enjoys the hiring fairs. However, if you break a contract, be aware that you cause many issues for a school and they will react,even if its a good school and you have a good reason.Ones life is hardly over in terms of work.You always have your home Country to return to.You can apply independently to schools-but Directors all know other Directors and your previous history can come into play.If one has a legitimate reason, document it and get it notarised and backed up with a medical or other certificate.Be prepared to defend yourself and be honest.I have never checked the UN Declaration of Human Rights, but perhapsthe idea of “Blackballing” might run afoul of what they stand for.


  25. Look, any school worth teaching at is going to understand extenuating circumstances. Heck, I even think SEARCH would understand, if you explained the circumstances. More and more teachers are being hired via Skype, and while the job search organizations provide a useful database of openings/candidates, if you’re willing to do the legwork to hunt down schools and openings individually, you can circumvent the recruiters altogether


  26. I found out had breast cancer, but couldn’t tell anyone because I did not want my young son, who was with us, to find out until we were ready to tell him. My husband and I finished out the 2 months left in the year and went home to the states to get treatment options, etc. before making any decisions about our return overseas. The biopsy results, diagnosis and treatment plans took longer than expected and we notified our school we wouldn’t be returning only 4 weeks before school started again. We have no idea if we have been “black listed” or anything as we did not find our job through a recruiting agency. How would we know? Our concern is that we will have to tell future international schools that we left after only 1 year for medical reasons and how they will take that….


    1. Schools have a responsibility as well as teachers. I left a school (I was the fifth to do so in the fall) when the school in no way lived up to their side of the agreement; for example, items in the contract were not provided; checks were late; filthy and unsafe living and working conditions; no functional technology (we’re talking copy machines, printers, computers). The experience left me wary of taking a job if I couldn’t see the school during the school year first.


  27. I broke a contract and the “director” blackballed me at ISS. I was a super candidate invited to the Bangkok Fair, and just like that, based on the director’s lies, I was out. My word had no weight and this tyrant had all the power. He is off the circuit now and I would like to think it’s because enough of us posted about our experience on ISR.

    Since ISS would not have me anymore, I joined search. I think my Search associate knew something was up but since I had many years of successful overseas experience she knew I would get hired and she would get the commission. At least that is the way I saw it. Prior to the fair I saw a job offer in a magazine that interested me and I contacted the director. He hired me. You don’t need the recruiting agencies to find an overseas position so don’t let that bother you.

    As far as what should constitute a valid reason to break a contract. I would say any breach of contract on the part of the school, civil unrest, high crime rate not represented at the interview, school entirely not as represented, sexual harassment, family emergence with, of course, something to substantiate your leaving.

    I do understand the investment these school make to bring us over. As such it would be to their benefit to treat us decently and represent the school as it really is. I worked at a school where the director made a point of telling me what a lousy city the school was in, how ridiculous the parents and students could be, lack of supplies, and on and on. I arrived perfectly prepared for what was to come. These nothing worse than coming expecting one thing and then slowly realizing you’ve been duped. I think directors should be required to have a written statement that describes the school, housing, insurance, safety, make up of student body, etc. They and the teacher would each sign a copy. That would solve a lot of problems for everyone.


  28. You don’t even need Search Associates or other recruiters to find you a job. I had a wonderful position in an Austrian school that I found on my own from the states. Don’t lose one night’s sleep over Search or anyone else. Your family is what really matters.


    1. I agree with you Brenda. Also some schools – especially in China, don’t live up to their end of the deal. Search and ISS are over-rated and there are many other channels for good teaching jobs.


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