How Will You Spend Thanksgiving?

November 25, 2015

If you are teaching in an International School there’s a high probability your school observes the Thanksgiving holiday. In the United States, Thanksgiving falls on the 4th Thursday of November and many International/American Schools around the world are closed both Thursday and Friday, affording students and teachers time with loved ones.

The giving of  thanks for a bountiful harvest is not unique to the U.S. Canadians celebrate on the second Monday in October — this earlier date is due to the fact Canada is North of the U.S. where harvest season ends earlier. China’s Autumn Moon Festival takes place late September or October and also celebrates the end of the harvest season. Korea’s Chuseok, Liberian Thanksgiving, Ghana’s Homowo Festival and The Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles are also celebrations emphasizing thankfulness.

ISR would like to know how YOU will celebrate the theme of Thanksgiving in your part of the world. Please complete our short Survey. Then fill us in on the details using the Comments section that follows.

Witch Hunt

November 19, 2015

..Hello ISR – I am writing to relate to you an experience I had at my previous school which left me feeling ‘shell shocked.’ I’ve been long-gone from that snake pit for some time now and finally feel safe in sharing with you what amounted to an inquisition which left me feeling emotionally abused and violated. I’m certain there are teachers out there who had a similar such experience as mine. If you could provide a place where we could communicate and support each other that would be wonderful. Thanks for your kind consideration. Here’s what happened:

..On a Friday morning I was called into the main office during my prep period and asked to take a seat on the ‘visitors’ side of the director’s desk. After a brief exchange of small talk he turned his computer screen my way, and there, illuminated in all its glory, was a review of our school on ISR. I could hardly hold back a smile and somehow managed to look at him inquisitively as he let loose with accusations — “I know you wrote this….make this easy for both of us and confess.” Assuming a puzzled look with my head wagging subtlety back and forth, I replied with a deeply offended tone of voice, that it was not me who wrote the review. I knew who did and I was glad she did.

..The next person to enter was the school’s attorney. He threatened me with a civil suit for defamation and/or deportation or maybe something even worse. I stuck to my position of innocence. At lunch I learned from other teachers that some of them had been called into the office and given the same third-degree routine. The director was on a ‘witch hunt.’ By Monday, 3 new reviews were residing on ISR, each warning the international teaching world about this hellhole.

..Angered, the director called the entire faculty to an after-school meeting. More threats were hurled and we learned he had written a letter to ISR demanding the reviews be removed and the authors’ names revealed or a lawsuit would ensue against your web site. To his dismay, ISR posted the letter along with the reviews! It was a nasty piece of work, which only served to prove the reviews were fair representations of him and his school.

..Tuesday morning we were greeted with a memo telling us that one of the principals was good friends with an ISR staff member who would send him the names of the authors. The memo concluded with a statement telling us that if the authors turned themselves in all would be forgiven and they would simply need to request that ISR remove the reviews.

..Feeling paranoid, I wrote to you guys and asked if it was possible for the principal to get any names. I don’t know if you remember as this was some years ago. You assured me that when you say reviews are received anonymously, it means that even you don’t know who submitted them. I knew the principal was lying to us but it felt good to hear you say you have security measures in place to completely protect our anonymity. I spread the word to the faculty. It was clear to all of us — the director had nothing on anyone and was bluffing.

..Things quieted down and the school year progressed with no further incidents. But, as recruiting season approached, the majority of us decided not to extend our contract. The director then announced he would not be writing any letters of reference this year, nor would he return phone calls to any schools calling to inquire about those of us applying for positions. His excuse was it took up ‘precious time he could devote to managing the school.’ If you call toting around a cell phone on a golf course on mid-Wednesday morning ‘managing a school,’ then so be it.

..I have since found a position at a wonderful school where teachers are valued and supported. I couldn’t be happier here. I’m so glad I didn’t just up and leave international teaching. Still, to this day I carry with me the residual fallout of that awful experience. I find it hard to shake off. Being in a foreign country where I had no rights and was completely subject to the whims of someone I considered to be off-balance was a frightening experience, particularly since that person was accusing me of something that could land me in deep, deep, trouble.

..Based on reviews I read on ISR and the threatening letters you have posted from directors, I’m certain there are teachers out there who had similar such abusive experiences as mine. A place where we could communicate and support each other would be wonderful. Once again, thanks for your kind consideration. there are teachers out there who had similar such abusive experiences as mine. A place where we could communicate and support each other would be wonderful. Once again, thanks for your kind consideration.

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Adrift in the Doldrums & Seeking Advice

November 12, 2015

Recruiting for International School positions can take a serious toll on your self-esteem, especially if your resume & cover letter aren’t prompting replies from schools you’ve emailed them to. A contributor to the ISR Forum reports that he classifies this period in the recruiting season as “the doldrums, when the Fairs haven’t yet started & schools are inundated with applications while not yet sure what positions, if any, they will need to fill…”

If you find yourself currently adrift in the doldrums, you are not alone. ISR Forum member,

Emilysue1212, says: 
We still are anxious to hear back from SOMEONE! We’ve applied to more than a dozen schools we thought ourselves to be well-matched for, but haven’t heard ANYthing back. It’s torture!

Jimmycajun says: 
Thanks for sharing, as that is exactly where we are….in “the doldrums.” It is comforting to know that while others may be getting interviews & perhaps offers, we may not be as left in the dust as it seems…

Steve416 says: 
I feel your pain, although I’m in primary & honestly don’t expect to hear anything until January sometime. Hoping that by applying now I will be more able to cast a wide net.  I’m particularly interested in hearing from experienced teachers about how much contact is too much contact?

   Opinions on how candidates should deal with the doldrums vary. Do you passively sit back & hope to hear from a school you’ve solicited, or do you start a campaign to land a teaching position? Some teachers recommend not pestering Directors once you’ve made contact. Others recommend launching a self-promotion drive to keep your name in the forefront & reinforce your interest in the position.

What do YOU do when finding yourself adrift in the doldrums?

Big-Time Teacher Salute from a Former International School Student

November 5, 2015


Dear international teachers,
From 5th grade through graduation I attended schools in 4 countries and loved nearly every minute of it.  My parents were both international school teachers and together we got to see the world. I have beautiful rose-colored memories of sights and cultures experienced over a childhood spent globe-trotting.  Now, as an adult with children of my own, I recently ventured into the online world to wallow in nostalgia and, perhaps, take the career leap into international teaching myself.

Of course, within minutes of searching for international schools I stumbled upon International Schools Review.  Out of curiosity I joined and began reading reviews of random schools.  Let me tell you, I was floored!  Maybe my family was lucky, or maybe my parents did a good job of shielding me from the up-close realities of teaching at these schools, but I had no idea that so many of you went through such mistreatment and abuse!

When I look back, I suppose I can see some of the issues that arose from living overseas:  I remember long hours spent in 3rd-world airports, disappointing housing accommodations in a new country, and seemingly endless days and paperwork in waiting rooms to get passports stamped, visas supplied, doctor’s appointments completed and immunizations provided.  Each new location was greeted with lots of embarrassing cultural exchanges, miscommunication and a constant, nagging feeling of being lost while navigating a new city, a new school, unfamiliar school standards, unknown classmates/peers, and a totally different way of interacting with others in my school and community. And all this discomfort was just for me as a child.

When I read on ISR what teachers have to deal with, the administrations of these international schools sound especially unpleasant.  In hindsight, I imagine that some of the rich, overly indulged kids I experienced as peers were probably very challenging to have as students.  I am sure that many of the filthy rich parents who welcomed me into their lavish, sometimes obscenely so, homes were demanding and awful to tangle with, especially if the director took their side in the battle. I can’t imagine working with few materials, missing paychecks, vendettas by insecure administrators, and/or maltreatment of local staff.

After some time reading ISR as a member, I must say that I am sincerely impressed with you all as a community.  Never once as a student did I get the impression that my teachers were being put through the ringer. To smile and inform a classroom of children while left unsupported and unappreciated by the school/parents/students themselves is a Herculean feat.  I know that in international schools I was given a great education by a group of creative, inspirational teachers who truly cared.  So whatever you all are going through day-to-day, remember that you ARE changing and shaping lives for the better.  Without a doubt I know I am a better person for all you did for us students, and I absolutely salute you!
Thank you!

A former international student

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