Should Have, Would Have, Wish I Had

May 25, 2017

Hindsight may be 20/20, but why learn the hard way when you can KNOW before you go?

With recruiting season basically over, those of us who haven’t yet landed a position for the upcoming school year are feeling a bit desperate and maybe a little more than willing to take a chance on a school with not-so-good Reviews.

“I wish I knew about International Schools Review before I took this job” is a recurring theme running through many ISR Reviews. There’s also ISR teacher-members who had read poor Reviews of a school, went anyway, and later commented that they should have heeded the Reviews but didn’t because they refused to accept that any school could be so bad.

Here’s some excerpts from recent Reviews posted by teachers who didn’t know about ISR before they accepted a position, and from those who chose to ignore the warnings of teachers already at the school:

A school in Cyprus
I honestly wish I had read the reviews prior to accepting a teaching job here. Believe me, these reviews are spot on concerning accuracy!

A school in the UAE
This is a miserable place to work. I wished I had looked at the reviews before I set foot in this school…

A school in Oman
Now that I know the reality of working here, I wish I had taken the reviews written on ISR more seriously…

A school in Vietnam
After joining this website, I feel compelled to warn people that I have been at four international schools that touted ‘high ideals and rigor with a strong commitment to students and faculty.’ Oh, how I wish I had found this website years ago! So much stress and heartache could have been avoided…

A school in Malaysia
The school has a notorious reputation of teachers and principals leaving in a short period of working. I wish I had known this fact before signing…

A school in China
I am writing this because these are things I wish I had known before going to work for this school. I hope that it helps people assess whether or not this is the right place for them…

Should Have, Would Have, Wish I Had sentiments are a thing of the past with ISR.

International Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed
is what International Schools is All About!

Comments? Please scroll down to participate

Escape Plan in Place?

May 18, 2017

..  Do you have an evacuation plan ready to implement should it become necessary to make a quick escape due to political or social upheaval in your current country of residence? Many International Educators I know are under the impression their school will take charge in such a situation and fly them to safety. Disconcertingly, a majority of international schools have no such evacuation plan in place–it’s every man for himself.

Believing your embassy will take care of you if an emergency exit becomes necessary can lead to a false sense of security. At least, that’s been my experience as an American living abroad. Following 9/11, the entire staff of the American embassy in Lahore, Pakistan was the very first to jump ship. The same was true in Guatemala after a military overthrow of the government. In the D.R. Congo, military/rebels could easily shut down the only road to the airport, requiring a seriously strong Plan B.

The American embassy serves primarily as an information and advisory body. Its recommendation is that if a crisis arises, US citizens should make plans to leave on a commercial carrier. In the event it does becomes necessary for the US embassy to organize an evacuation, Americans are required to sign a promissory note saying they will cover the of cost their flight “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” So much for putting my US tax money to good use!

My school in Pakistan took responsibility for getting us out soon after 9/11. They set the staff up with a travel agent and covered the cost of our exit flights. In Guatemala, with military tanks in the streets, helicopters patrolling and radio/TV/phone communication shut down, we were on our own. This school had previously offered no support for anything, so we had no reason to believe things would change in an emergency. The director lived just doors from me. He was unavailable.

The speed and regularity at which the global-political climate is changing can suddenly make a country that was relatively safe when you arrived a hot-spot to be avoided. Believing/hoping that your school or embassy is willing/able to take care of you in an emergency could be putting all your ‘safety’ eggs in one basket. A good question for a director while recruiting could be: “What’s your plan, if necessary, for an emergency evacuation?”

ISR Asks: Does your school have an emergency evacuation plan in place? If so, how practical is it, and is there a solid Plan B? Have you created a personal plan for yourself and your family just in case you find yourself on your own?

Getting the Most From Recruiting Season!

May 13, 2017

Tips to Make Recruiting a Success!

Leave Plenty of Time to Complete the Registration Process. Getting registered with just one of the major international school recruiting agencies can easily take months. You will be emailed forms to fill out and return. Letters of recommendation are required and most agencies now require your references to compose recommendations directly on their web site. This has caused considerable problems for those of us who have established paper files and lost contact with references from many years ago. In addition, original transcripts must be mailed directly from the universities you attended. Notarized copies of your degrees and teaching credentials will be requested. Some recruiters even require three confidential letters from parents, composed and submitted on the recruiters’ web site. This all takes time, but fortunately it’s a one-time ordeal. Once you’re in, you’re in and when you decide to attend future international recruiting conferences it’s usually just a matter of filling out an on-line form and putting the conference fees on your credit card. If you’re new to international teaching, start the registration process early.

Contacting School Directors Before the Recruiting Conference. Once you’ve completed the registration process and signed up to attend a recruiting fair you’ll be supplied a candidate number and a password so you can log onto the recruiter’s web site and view the list of schools planning to attend the fair (to date) and the positions they already know are available. The director’s name and email addresses will be included here.

I have mixed feeling about contacting directors prior to the conference. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this, but in the past I found most positions I inquired about were offered to other teaching candidates at recruiting conferences that took place prior to the one I attended. Happily, I also found that unadvertised positions later became available, as each international schools’ staffing needs changed just prior to the recruiting conference.

With as many as seventy international schools recruiting at one international recruiting fair, directors are under pressure to fill positions. Many directors spend a month or so attending three or more recruiting conferences in order to fill positions with top-notch teachers. When they find a “good fit” they usually hire the person on the spot. Directors can’t take a chance on you not working out. My experience is that it’s best to just show up at the recruiting conference and see what’s available. Often, recruiters will have already put an “invitation to interview” in your conference “mail box”.

The trick is to be flexible and open to new adventures. If you want a job and aren’t stuck on living in a particular country, then the chances are you’ll get a job. I tried six times to land a position in South America. All six times I ended up in another country and found each experience to be wonderful beyond what I expected. I’m in South America now, but quite by coincidence. So, don’t get stuck on what you want. Go to the international recruiting conference with an open mind and see what is. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Recruiting Conference Format. A typical recruiting conference for International teachers runs three to four days. Check-in begins the morning of the day prior to the fair and runs into the early evening. Since most teachers are flying in from distant lands to attend the conference, this expanse of check-in time is necessary.

When you check-in at a recruiting conference as a registered participant you receive your candidate badge and a compendium listing hundreds of international schools around the world. You will also receive a schedule of events that take place during the conference. Scheduled events include video presentations on each school. These are presented by the attending director and are followed by a question and answer session. If you’re considering accepting a job at a particular school you definitely want to attend the presentation. Be sure to check our International Schools Review section for information on a school you may be considering. Other events include an overseas forum in which experienced international teachers are available to answer questions and concerns in a group setting. Usually on the last night of the conference a wine and cheese social takes place.

The night before the opening of an international recruiting conference a keynote speaker presents an introduction to the entire group of candidates. You don’t want to miss this because important information will be given to you along with the last-minute list of attending schools and their positions to be filled. Most importantly, this list contains the salary schedule and benefits package information for each international school.

Sign-up for interviews takes place the following morning and in one of the larger banquet halls of the hotel. Along the walls of the room and in rows within will be at least seventy-five tables arranged in alphabetical order by country. At each table sits a director and behind him/her, tacked to the wall, is a big sheet of paper with the name of the city in which his/ her school is located. Following the city name is a list of the positions to be filled. At a large ISS conference up to five hundred teachers will be milling around and forming lines in front of schools that offer positions in their field of expertise. Although sign-ups will not have started, many teachers arrive early to stand in line and get the jump on the opening session.

When sign-ups do start you wait your time in line at each school you’re interested in until you get a chance to seat yourself before the director, present your resume, and have a very brief conversation. If you seem like a potential candidate, the director will schedule an interview time for you. The directors are all staying in the hotel and the interview will take place in the hotel room. Securing seven, eight, or more interviews with various schools is not uncommon. If you are a couple, split up with a strategy in mind for schools (She takes A through M) and interview appointment times (He takes the half hours).

Normally, after a day of interviewing, a second round of sign-ups is held to offer a second chance for directors and candidates to see what they may have missed the first time around. This second round usually takes place early on the morning of the second day and not all schools will be attending. The international schools that are attending have, no doubt, interviewed most of the candidates for particular positions and not found or yet signed on the right person. You may be that person!

Where Won’t You Go? It’s best to decide in advance of a recruiting fair where you don’t want to go. For example: Would you teach in Syria while Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in conflict? Would you live in Indonesia when rebel groups have said they will attack U.S. installations and citizens? Would you teach in Mexico where U.S. citizens have recently been kidnapped by drug cartels making a statement to their government? These are questions only you can answer. By making these decisions in advance, you can avoid wasting time at your recruiting conference.

Making the Most out of the “Sign-up for Interviews” Time. If you teach science and there are five positions offered between the schools attending the conference, your best bet is to start off by trying to first secure an interview with the school in the country in which you most want to live. Although this may sound obvious, I am telling you this because I once made the mistake of seeing a very long line in front of a school in Beijing. Figuring I could get to the front of a few shorter lines quicker and secure a couple of interviews, I left the school in Beijing for later in the morning, only to find the director had no interviews time left. I missed out.

Staying in the Conference Hotel has its Advantages. The greatest advantage of being in the hotel where the conference takes place is that you are right there to receive phone calls in your room and meet with directors for a second interview at a moment’s notice. You can also freshen up between interviews and have a place to unwind and get away from the conference atmosphere which can be quite intense. You may have three or four hours between some interviews. Sitting around the hotel lobby gets old in a hurry.

At a conference in Washington D.C. some years ago, I decided to save money and stayed in a hotel ten miles from the conference. The price was one-fourth the price of the five-star conference hotel. I brought my phone machine with me and connected it in the room. Every hour I called the room from the conference and used the remote message retrieval to pick up messages. This worked perfect as the personal outgoing message assured directors I would be checking my messages every hour. With today’s cell phones you’re really ahead as you can receive a call any place, anytime. Just remember to turn it off during interviews and have a message that sounds professional and eager to hear from any recruiter wishing to schedule a second interview.

Not staying at the conference hotel did have it’s price. On the day for interview sign-ups at the D.C. conference I had a real scare when I tried to get from the hotel to the conference. I called a cab over an hour early. Ten minutes passed and it did not arrive. Twenty minutes passed and nothing. I called a third time only to be told that D.C. traffic is intense in the morning and it’s “hard to get a cab out to your area”. Out on the road in front of the hotel I finally managed to flag down a cab. No! He was not licensed to drop off or pick up passengers in the heart of downtown. I was in a panic. I decided to walk to the Job Fair. I figured I could make it on foot in thirty-minutes. From a block away I saw a cab pull into the parking lot of the hotel. I ran all the way back. I did arrive with only minutes to spare. These complications should be considered when choosing where to stay. Things go wrong in the first-world, too.

Be Yourself ! Candidates Fit into One of Four Categories.

1. Some candidates register and attend recruiting conferences with the idea that they are just testing the waters. They have no real intention of going overseas, but may go should the ideal situation present itself. Yes, there are some lookie-loos at these affairs and most of them don’t make it past the interview sign-up stage. No matter what your intentions may be, in all fairness, if you do accept a position in an overseas school you have an ethical obligation to show up for the job.

2. Some candidates are currently teaching at home in first-world nations and are serious about going overseas for their first time. These teachers have as good a chance as anyone of securing a position. Having some travel experience and noting it on your resume will help. A problem international directors face is with teachers who leave their home country to fill an overseas position and then go home at Christmas break, never to return, complaining of stress and unfamiliarity with situations abroad. The more international experience you have the better idea the director will have of your ability to adapt to life in the country he/she represents. Do you speak another language? Have you volunteered or traveled extensively outside of your comfort zone? Do you willingly seek out personal challenges and complicated societies very foreign to your life at home? Make this all known on your resume and during an interview.

3. Retired teachers make-up a portion of international teacher candidates. Many of these folks get hired. They are experienced, dedicated teachers with a desire to continue to practice their profession while they collect retirement checks. I have worked with many retired teachers. You would think that being in your sixties would put you over the hill for getting hired, but it does not. Most important is an enthusiasm for life, teaching, and adventure!

4. Finally, you have the most serious contenders. These are the teachers currently working overseas that have flown in from all over the world to attend the conference. Most teachers will stay from between two to four years at a position and then move on to a fresh experience in a new country. When an overseas teacher decides to leave a teaching position in search of a new job, he or she is required to submit a letter of resignation for the upcoming school year. This is common practice because it allows the director to freely hire new teachers. About sixty percent, or more of the teachers attending job fairs are currently working outside their home countries, as are nearly all directors. You can figure it costs a teaching couple in the neighborhood of $4000 to attend an international recruiting fair. This explains why the energy is high and intense at these conferences. Should a teacher resign their current position and fail to land a new job this means going back home at the end of the school year — unemployed and often with no house or car waiting.

Knowing where you fit in as an international recruiting candidate and marketing
yourself appropriately will help you get a job.

Be yourself !

Your Resume Should Stand Out. There is an endless variety of ways to make a resume, but no matter what format you choose, your picture should be attached to the top of your resume. If you’re an international teaching couple you will want to have a photo of the two of you together. With over five hundred candidates vying for jobs, your photo is a great reminder of who you are. I also print my resumes on slightly oversized and fairly stiff stock. This way my photo peeks out at the director from the stack of resumes he/she will collect during the recruiting conference.

Attending More than One International Recruiting Conference. Many international teachers flying in from overseas will hedge their chances of finding new teaching positions and register to attend two international recruiting conferences back-to-back. This is a common practice. International Schools Services and Search Associates normally schedule their conferences a week apart. They are usually not in the same city or state. If you’re currently living where more than one international recruiting event takes place, you may want to consider registering for more than one conference. You may want to do this from overseas, too, and be prepared to forfeit some money if you cancel your hotel and flight reservations for the second recruiting conference. Or, you may want to celebrate your new job in the locale of the second conference without the pressure of attending the conference, and with the time to see the sights of this city. Cheers!

Expat Applicants. Advertised positions on recruiters’ web sties are sometimes filled well in advance of the recruiting conferences by qualified expat applicants living in the country where an international school is located. Unless a director remembers to remove the position from the web page, you have no way of knowing the position has been closed. Hiring a qualified applicant that is already living near the school is to the school’s advantage for a number of reasons, and if you are living overseas now it would be well worth your while to drop into the local international school to see what positions will be available.

Keep in mind that if you’re already living in the country where the school is located you will be considered a local-hire candidate. In most situations, local-hires are not provided medical insurance, housing, cars, tuition for dependent children, a shipping allowance or round-trip tickets home for the summer months. Often times local-hires are offered a lower salary than foreign-hire teachers. The really great packages are offered to foreign-hires at international recruiting fairs. I did meet a teaching couple once that were hired when they dropped into a school during a vacation. When they returned to the school to start the school year they were informed that the board and the director “discovered” that they could not be classified as foreign-hires because they were hired “in country”. This meant a drastic pay reduction, no insurance, no shipping reimbursement, and no car. When they refused and resigned on the spot they were summarily blacklisted at every recruiting agency by the director and vindictive board. You want to be sure to get all the details up-front and in writing.

Do you have good ideas for teaching candidates?
Do you have questions about the recruiting process? Join us on the ISR Discussion Board: Recruiting Fairs: A-Z

Human Rights Vs. The Rights of International Teachers

May 11, 2017

An Open Letter to ISR

Dear ISR, I’m writing in regards to the International Educators’ Bill of Rights mentioned in your article, Don’t Bring Me Down. I fail to see how the Bill of Rights can be applied to all schools, worldwide, especially when some schools are located in countries with very different ideas about “rights” than we in the West.

Human rights, including employment rights, are determined by the laws of the country in which you reside and teach, and they are not all the same. For example, there is an Arab charter on human rights, which has its own interpretations on racism, and an Asian version on human rights, where, for example, ‘individuals must put the state’s rights before their own’. How would it be possible for an International Educators’ Bill of Rights to supersede such documents?

For me as a westerner living in the middle east, I find Arabic values incomprehensible and totally incompatible with my education and upbringing; there is a gulf between myself and management which cannot be bridged. As a fourteen-year-old studying history I learned how ‘nepotism’ was a terrible evil. I still think that way. Yet, in my present adopted country, this is the only way to get promoted; experience appears to count for very little.

I feel what might be more useful than the International Educators’ Bill of Rights is if recruiting agencies would require schools to provide realistic information on the culture surrounding each school. This could include such info as the country’s basic laws and regulations, and the area’s overall approach to human rights. How is their treatment of children, of foreigners, the disabled, females, the extremely poor and the uber rich? The info should also include the make-up of each schools’ ownership and management, thereby getting a much clearer picture of the mindset of who you’ll be working for on a day-to-day basis.

For example:  A school organized and managed by the American Embassy school would be noted as such and considered to be run by an American administration. A school owned by a host-national and administered by a host-national director/principal would be designated as such. In this way teachers could understand in advance what sort of experience they were signing on for, not to stereotype schools or countries, but as a good start to knowing if a school is the right choice for you.

I find the International Educators’ Bill of Rights a wonderful document. I am, however, not convinced it’s applicable to all schools in all locations around the world.

ISR Response. We agree that individual countries have their own specific code for Human Rights, including employment rights. We do feel, however, that no educator goes overseas with the intent to be taken advantage of under provisions set forth by law, or through loopholes in a country’s laws.

ISR considers an International School that hires staff from Western countries to be an island unto itself,
and as such, will treat their educators as would a school in the West. ISR feels strongly that a school which cannot, or will not, stick to the basic principles of the International Educators’ Bill of Rights is a school to be avoided.

ISR asks: What is YOUR opinion on this topic?


ISR Note:
This blog was high jacked by a person with a personal agenda. We have removed all comments from this blog.  We apologize to those contributors whose comments were in earnest and on topic.  Posting is open and we invite you to contribute to the topic.

Don’t Bring Me Down

May 4, 2017

..Some teachers love to complain. We’ve all experienced them. It’s who they are! They thrive on conflict, turmoil, discontent and worst of all, endlessly talking about administrators/colleagues in a negative context. I term these people “Downers” and do my best to avoid them.

Based on the School Reviews that grace the pages of ISR, I’d say it’s safe to say we all have something to complain about. And complain we should, but in a constructive manner, with a proposed solution and to someone who can do something about our concern. But, please…not to me, at least not more than once.

Downers” are never satisfied with how things are going. They’ll continue to gripe even when admin agrees to remedy a situation. They moan about how the problem is being tackled and grumble about the speed at which progress towards a solution is being made. Without fail, they always manage to intone their prediction for failure.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some schools are oppressive, top-down institutions which fail in every sense of the word to adhere to the principles of the International Educators’ Bill of Rights.  At these schools, going to admin with a concern or complaint, even in a constructive manner, would most likely put an educator on the list of trouble makers and probably result in retaliatory measures. On the other hand, constant complaining to colleagues only serves to put an educator into the”Downer” category, making him/her just another thorn in the side of a faculty already trying to cope with a bad situation. No one needs a constant reminder of unpleasant circumstances.

I do my best to contribute to making my school and the environment for my colleagues a more pleasant place. We all know what’s wrong here and we all know the admin here couldn’t care less what we think. Constant bitching and moaning solves nothing and I wish I could make some of my more negative colleagues realize they bring me and their colleagues down! Maybe this short article I’ve composed for ISR will have that effect on them. Here’s hoping!

ISR Asks: How do you deal with “downer” types at your school, besides just trying to avoid them? Please scroll down to participate in this conversation:

(This article was inspired by a recent post to the ISR Open Forum)