Country-Native Directors & Principals

April 28, 2016

A recent ISR Forum post about “Country-Native Directors and Principals” caught our attention, sparking a conversation among ISR staff. We ask, What effect, if any, do country-native leaders have on a school? With the word “international” in a school’s name, does it not stand to reason a host national could justifiably fill the position? Or does “international school” really just mean Western School?

The ISR Forum post to which I refer states:

“I’m starting to think about future possibilities and one thing which niggles me is this: I’ve noticed that, while many schools have a head teacher (Director and/or Principal) who comes from or has trained in the country from which their curriculum originates (eg UK for a British school, USA for an American school), there are some schools where the head teacher comes from the country in which the school is based.

Now, maybe I’m being unreasonable here, and I know that there will be some of these heads who are great leaders and managers, just as there are incompetent UK and US heads, but I have this feeling when I see these schools that alarm bells should be ringing about the school and, in particular, its culture. Does that seem fair?”

….In regards to this post, consider that School Heads/Directors play a far different role than do School Principals. Directors are largely responsible for the business-oriented part of an International School and, as such, represent the owners. A country-native Head would surely understand how to get bureaucracy-intensive procedures accomplished and would speak the local language.

School Principals, in contrast to Heads/Directors, assume responsibility for academics, student discipline, teacher concerns and parent relations. One would think it goes without saying that a background, or at least a clear understanding of the offered curriculum would be essential for the position, unless the Principal is simply a line-manager for the school owner.

The topic of Country-Native Heads & Principals is far-reaching with many implications. If you’ve had first-hand experience working with a country-native Director or Principal, we invite you to join the discussion.

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Powerful Bully-Parents Can Be Dangerous

April 20, 2016

bullied-on-computer-76082840If you’ve been in the classroom for any length of time you’re no doubt all too familiar with parents who bully teachers and schools. A parent, one you would never suspect could act in such an aggressive manner, can suddenly behave like a mama bear protecting her cub.

We’ve all experienced or heard horror stories about powerful parents who toss their weight around, insisting exceptions be made for their child in the form of grade inflation or dismissal of consequences for poor behavior. The parent-bully married to a board member, like the wealthy and/or powerful parent, is equally threatening because they, too, see themselves on the inside track to receiving special consideration for their child’s behavior problems or deficient academic performance. Today, with the popularity of social media, we’re faced with a new plague: the parent-bully with no clout or status but who uses social media to smear teachers/schools they believe have wronged their child, who in their eyes can do no wrong.

In 2015 the NASUWT, which represents teachers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, reported that 60% of the 1500 teachers they interviewed said abusive comments had been posted about them on social media by parents and/or students. This was a sharp increase from the 20% figure reported in 2014. The rise in bullying incidents has been  attributed to an increase in parents bashing teachers and schools on line. Teachers report posts calling them “bitch,” “slime ball” and even expressing hope they develop cancer and die.

In the United States the same 60% abuse statistic has been calculated, the prime offenders being “helicopter parents” named as such because they constantly hover over their children, blaming their child’s shortcomings on schools and teachers. A number of teachers report physical threats from such parents.

If you’re currently teaching in an International School you know firsthand that these schools are not exempt from parents who bully. A disproportionate number of ISR School Reviews contain accounts that tell us “the kids make the rules.” Or, as one Review aptly put it, “the inmates are running the asylum.” When admin refuses to stand up to bully-parents, the kids take the upper hand.

A particularly distressing bullying episode outlined in an ISR School Review relates how a teacher was disciplined after giving an “honor” student an “F” grade. This student rarely attended class and the teacher had reported to admin on various occasions that this student was seen in the school parking lot smoking cigarettes with her boyfriend during class time. Her influential parents at this South American school had intimidated the school director into “massaging” the girls grades to honor roll level. The “F” grade did not stick and the girl remained on the honor roll. The teacher was placed on probationary status at the request of the girl’s parents.

Another upsetting instance demonstrating what a powerful parent-bully is capable of is illustrated in a startling ISR School Review. This particular Review tells how the author of the Review sent a high school boy to in-school detention. Then, months later, found herself detained at immigration due to a previously unknown, yet pending, court case levied by the child’s parent. The parent in this Middle Eastern country claimed in-school suspension was excessive punishment for fighting on campus. Powerful bully-parents can be dangerous in unforeseen, far-reaching ways.

It’s clear bullying parents who pressure teachers and administrators into backing down and compromising their principles are doing their children severe harm. The sad reality is they are setting their kids up for an extremely hard fall. This is especially true when a bully-parent takes their child’s “A” grades won through intimidation, and parlays them into acceptance at a prestigious university. Unable to do the work, the kid returns home after one or two semesters, a complete failure. Unearned academic status comes with a price and unfortunately it’s the child who ultimately pays the toll.

There are methods for dealing with bully-parents, but to date no approach (that ISR has seen) has been successful in helping such parents realize this:  The use of force to make a child appear, on paper, to be something they clearly are not, is simply setting the child up for failure in all aspects of life.

ISR encourages you to Share how you and/or your school cope with parent-bullies. Have you found any techniques or conversations that help a parent-bully accept that their child hasn’t been singled-out for punishment? Has being a good listener and allowing a parent to vent, with no resistance, served as the cathartic experience they needed to come to terms with the reality of the situation?  We all have different ways of dealing with tough parents. Here’s your opportunity to Share what works!

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School Getting Too Religious?

April 14, 2016

religion115528220-2“Inclusion” and “diversity” are terms that grace the mission statement of many International Schools. As such, you would think that if religious practices were suddenly introduced into a school touting these ideals, the various religions of the students and faculty would be represented equally. Not always so! Reviews scattered throughout the ISR web site outline schools that have adopted a religious overtone with a focus on one religion only — the Admin’s. Here are excerpts from the ISR Forum and School Reviews that express concern over this emerging practice in some International Schools:

I work in an international school in Europe. Over the years there’s been a clear shift…. Fellow teachers are including religious viewpoints in their lessons, many of the charities the school supports have religious backgrounds, and every Sunday the school is even used by a Christian church for service, Sunday school, etc. Several of the workshops offered to teachers are also organized by religious-related organizations. I don’t support any of this and it clashes with my view of what an International School should be (i.e. void of religion).

The Director and Principals are preoccupied with their faith and this consumes much of their energy. Staff are obliged to attend Christian “boot camp” in order to be broken down, then rebuilt into better, “more godly” people. There is a monthly “joint fellowship” which all staff are required to attend. Each morning there are staff devotions where teachers relate personal faith-related experiences.

Prayers before staff meetings are mandatory and there are worship services before the start of the year. The staff retreat is similar to a church camp for adults. Most of this isn’t negative; however, it has led to a bumpy transition and there are concerns that a strong Christian would be hired over a strong teacher. All in all I would recommend the school if you are a conservative Christian. The trend has been towards a more conservative atmosphere and there have been quite a few staff members who have left because of a difference of opinion.religion115528220-1

In light of these comments, it can be said that if you accept a position at the Christian Academy of Nepal (a fictitious name for purposes of this Article), it would be foolish to think prayer and observance would not be part of the school day. But even in such a scenario there can be more than meets the eye. One ISR School Review tells how the reviewer never anticipated accepting a position at a faith-based school would allow admin to violate his personal space, confiscate his iPod and check that it contained only Christian music, with consequences for anything but.

Although we at ISR consider such actions extreme and far from the spirit of International Education, the aforementioned Review does describe a school that contains the word Christian in its title. Still, a number of School Reviews, as in our earlier examples, relate how a non faith-based school brought in a new director who cast a religious overtone onto the school’s atmosphere, then recruited only faith-oriented staff who incorporated religion into their daily lessons and directives.

ISR supports the practice of all religions. When, however, a single religion is introduced into an International School unannounced by an administrator with an agenda, our position is that this goes against the most basic foundation of an inclusive and diversified education.

Tell us about YOUR experience and position on this topic!

Would You Still Teach in Western Europe?

April 7, 2016

The world as we knew it just a few years ago has drastically changed. Locations once considered tourist destinations and desirable haunts for expats now top the list of places to avoid. That is, if you value your safety.

In light of the tragic attacks that recently took place in Paris and Brussels, ISR asks: Would you accept a teaching position in this area of the world if it was offered? For educators currently teaching in Western Europe: Will the threat of continued terrorism deter you from renewing your contract when it expires?

The staff at ISR concur that there are locations in the world where we once felt far safer teaching and living than if we had been in our home cities of the West. We agree we would be hard-pressed to return to some of these once tranquil areas of the world due to the current and ever-present threat of terrorism, war and/or political revolution.

As a long time, highly desirable International Teaching destination, is Western Europe making its way onto the list of places to avoid? Take our short Survey  below: