References That Can End Your Career



..
School Directors like to criticize International Schools Review for providing a place where International Educators anonymously share information on Schools and administrators. Yet, these same Directors feel justified in writing confidential Letters of References about teachers and even discussing teachers secretly by telephone and/or at Recruiting Fairs.

..There’s a huge difference between these types of reviewing. When a teacher shares their thoughts on a school and/or its admin with other ISR members, the Director has the opportunity to read what has been said and respond in writing. However, in the case of confidential references in writing or in person, teachers have no knowledge of what is said about them, let alone by whom. It’s all done behind their back and someone with an ax to grind can destroy an educator’s career!

..An ISR member tells us he and his wife asked their school principal to send a Letter of Reference to a school they were considering for a career move. Being “cheap and lazy,” the principal eventually handed the letter over in a sealed envelope and told the couple to mail it themselves. Not trusting the principal, known to be a back-stabber, the couple opened the letter — the picture it painted was of the couple as lazy, back-sliders, incapable of performing their duties. Upon confronting the principal it came out that her intention was to keep them at the school since she “depends on their expertise.” The couple left the school and later exposed this administrator on ISR.

..Certainly there are two sides to every story and just as there are poor International Schools, there are poor-performing International Teachers. In any case, ISR believes Teachers have the right to know what is being said about them and to respond. Any leader of an educational institution lacking the fortitude and substance to look a teacher in the eye and say to them what they would otherwise write behind their back is, in our opinion, not qualified to lead and should resign.

..If you’ve ever wondered why you were turned down for jobs you thought were ‘in the bag,’ it could be there’s a negative Letter of Reference lurking in your dossier, dead-ending your career.

..How do you determine who wrote the crummy letter so you can remove that person from your references? The ISR Member Area is a good place to start your investigation because often School Reviews include information on a Director’s history of writing poor Letters of Reference, or refusing to write any letters at all. If you suspect foul play to be keeping you from landing a new position, do the research and “tidy” up your recruiting package.

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47 Responses to References That Can End Your Career

  1. mautio1 says:

    It is very true about references. You can have 10 great letters from admin, fellow teachers, and parents, then have 1 negative letter and that’s the one that derails the career. That’s where I am now. I am having to obtain the documents from a school where I was terminated for questioning admin about renewal of contract 4 weeks to the end of the year. This was viewed as unprofessional behaviour. I have emailed numerous times to have them forward the file to a new place, being honest about the situation, and they have failed to do so. I don’t know if that is a good thing or bad thing.

    Like

  2. Anon says:

    I had a rotten director in Yangon who made excuses not to give a written reference despite my evaluations being excellent. He gave a great reference that was a pack of lies for a really lazy teacher he wanted to get rid of. Needless to say I never used his name and still got a great job.Some so-called directors are vindictive trash!

    Like

  3. Former Admin. says:

    Ask for a letter of reference from the principal, assistant principal or supervisor that you can keep on your computer. Do this before you start looking for a job. Then you can include these letters with your initial contact with the school in which you hope to get a job.

    Like

  4. My suggestions after reading all these comments are to keep all of your performance reviews for the entire period you are employed at each school. When a reference does not match these statements then a competent recruiter/principal etc should be able to make a decision that it is just sour grapes that you resigned or completed your contract and wanted to move on. I experienced this in Dubai when after 21/2 years of very hard work I was head-hunted for a position in Qatar at 3 times my salary and opportunities to dream about. When the reference was handed to me on the day I left the country at the airport one of the comments amongst many good comments was I could have been on time for meetings. To the best of my knowledge I was never late for a meeting and in fact waited for some time for many staff to turn up each week. This is sour grapes as they tired very hard to get me to stay but the offer was just too good to miss. I do not regret it even now and this happened in 2010.

    Like

    • mautio1 says:

      I worked overseas 5 years at 4 schools. Only one admin visited my class in all that time. Admin isn’t doing performance reviews. I was in a school two months as a sub; when I spoke with numerous teachers about the visits to class by admin, most said they hadn’t seen admin for 4 months.

      Like

  5. Carla Magenheimer says:

    I had a situation a few years back. After working at an American school in Asia for 4 years, it was time to move on. I asked the principal, who was not a very warm, caring person to half the staff, and the director to write confidential references for my ISS (International Schools Services) file. I went to the ISS fair that winter. After many interviews that went no where, I sent out letters of interest to many schools. Still no luck. I then went to another job fair where a director friend of mine was attending. I told him the situation, and that I was concerned this principal had written something negative. He looked in my file and confirmed my fear. She was a vindictive woman who could easily have declined my request. The worst part of the whole situation was when I contacted ISS to have it removed (it was my own file, I should be able to choose what is in it), I was told only the person who wrote it could remove it. I was stuck with it. So, I closed my account with them, opened one with Search Associates, and had to start over again, asking my past administrators to send in new references. They did so happily. I’ve had 3 international jobs since then, now in the place I’ve always wanted to work. Watch out for ISS!

    Like

    • mautio1 says:

      Yes, the BS teachers have to tolerate is political and immature.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Teacher says:

      ISS has changed its policy, and letters of recommendation can be changed if a candidate feels this is necessary. You must always have three from your past seven years, and more forms do create a stronger file, but ISS did listen to candidates and made changes that allow teachers more flexibility. Forms must still be confidential – so deciding on who you ask for a recommendation is key!

      Like

      • Carla Magenheimer says:

        This is good to know. I wish it had happened earlier, before I had to change everything over. The teacher should have the right to add or remove things from his or her own file.

        Like

  6. Teacher says:

    I had a head teacher write a bad reference about me even though to my face he was telling me how well I was doing. I was turned down for several jobs where the interview went well and they said could they ask for references -then didn’t hear from them again. Finally a school I had been offered a job at phoned me (she nkticed that one reference did not match the other two) and told me what had been written in my reference and gave me a right to reply. Luckily I still got the job, but not the best first impression. I later found out he had done the same thing to other teachers at the school. So thank you mark thomas from british school of guangzhou- hope it made you feel good about yourself.

    Like

  7. Anonymous says:

    Reality check. We are not helping ourselves.

    After reading comments above heads and recruiters will feel vindicated in their approach of working their professional network and contacting non-listed referees for references from time to time.

    Comments here confirm what they must have suspected / known all along. Some teachers get their “friends” to write their references. If we cannot get the head of school, the divisional principal, the vice principal to give us a reference to the point where we have to rely on a friend then something IS wrong.

    If the problem lies within the school administrative then report them to ISS or SEARCH or whoever did the accreditation. If the unethical allegations are found to be factual the school and administrators will be black-listed (not limited to)

    There are checks and balances for this stuff. Use them.

    Like

  8. J says:

    So it’s ok for teachers to post damaging and often slanderous comments about a school and a director/principal/headteacher but they don’t like it when they are given a reference which doesn’t paint them as hard working professionals? Interesting!

    Like

    • With respect Sir, all too often some comments made by directors and principals may in fact in be true. Obviously if some teachers are not “hard working professionals,” then , “honesty is the best policy.” However, directors and principals should realise that if they paint a bad picture in their reference of a teacher for their own selfish reasons (and there are many in my experience who do that) they ruin not only that teacher’s career , but the lives of families also. In my own case, I had to be separated from my family for 2 years in order to pursue my career outside of the country of which my wife and family are citizens ( my spouse and children are Asian and I am European) in order to put bread on the table for my family. Being an older teacher with a young family with a different passport makes teachers like me “an expensive hire” anyway, especially if one’s spouse isn’t a teacher.
      Perhaps Directors and principals should also realise that “The quality of Mercy is not strained…” By all means, if a teacher is a bad teacher, one has to be truthful. On the other hand many directors simply abuse their position because they are “Big white men” in SE Asia or wherever they may be, and they deliberately do these things which result in terrible turmoil for a family. Teachers are born , not made. A dedicated teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. But for principals and directors to be “two faced” towards their teachers and pretend that all is well with that teacher, and then taint their character with irresponsible half truths in confidential references, that is despicable. By the way, ISR always puts out warnings saying “who wrote this review?” Discerning teachers can indeed spot the lies told in “slanderous comments” about principals , directors and schools if they do their research properly.

      Like

    • mautio1 says:

      when an admin willfully throws a dedicated teacher under the bus because they don’t like their character or personality, that is wrong. When an admin at an international school is willing to terminate a teacher for doing the right thing and place $$$$ over principals, that is wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

    • simon says:

      J, you’re a real piece of work. I bet your teachers are inspired by you.

      Like

      • I personally think that Teachers who write on this website have the best interests of their colleagues in mind. Sure there will be a low percentage who write disparaging remarks about a school but anyone reading the entire comments on that school can see that they are NOT supported by the majority. As many thousands of young graduate teachers consider an International career they deserve to be able to make inquiries about the school and access information. In many schools HR give evasive answers or none at all and once employed at the school- Good Luck in getting some of the benefits on your contract. Their is no Union and you are a visitor (legally) sometimes in another country so their attitude is “:Leave if you do not like it at your own expense”. Many tell lots of lies about health cover, tax, accommodation and it is a shame as there are some schools who are excellent and who also look after their employees.

        Liked by 1 person

        • mautio1 says:

          Totally on point. I worked for 5 schools overseas and they were never late with pay. I heard of other schools that were consistently late. I worked for admin who lied to my face. I had admin who were not upfront and honest about future employment. At one school I applied for sub positions for the following yr, was to told to wait a week, showed up at a farewell reception and saw my name and picture on a table along with 26 others. How’s that for upfront and honest? Professional and integrity?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Barbara says:

            I have worked at 3 schools overseas and will be heading for #4 this year. Every school had its problems- being paid was fortunately never one of them. It was always administration and treatment of employees. And I have only ONCE used an immediate supervisor for a professional reference as reputations and dirty deeds seems to be a common thread. As I wrote prior, in my second school I had a manager who I THOUGHT loved me, but found out she was actually going behind my back trying to get the owner to fire me and to this day I STILL do not know why. She told people I had no classroom management, but I would walk into ANY of my classes of grades 7 & 8 Middle Eastern BOYS, who we all know are a handful, and they would smile and SHUT UP! And my kids showed the highest growth in the entire school in my 1st 6 months there. And for that she tried to get me fired? But it is how things seem to work in a lot of international schools.

            Like

            • mautio1 says:

              That sounds like a jealous admin. I have had that too. I had the worst group of grade 4 students at my first international school. For two months they refused to let me teach, thinking I would leave. It took numerous methods of classroom management ideas to get them under control. I did it in spite of the principal who hated me. I used her own daughter’s ideas and she told me I couldn’t. In May, she changed the participation rules and grades. My students knew before me and used it against me during a test. the chaos was terrible. She used that to kick me out of the class. I was thrown under the bus. She pitted my team against me. I went to the middle school the following year to be L/A support. that principal let me know day one he hated me. My supervisor learned that my work ethic and principals far surpassed those of admin. the principal would undermine me constantly regardless of my classroom management and teaching methods. I finished the year but the exhaustion was incredible. Coming up against a management that wants a teacher to fail is a nightmare.

              Like

            • Yes Barbara and God only knows why these people carry on like bullies and ruin good teachers reputations. I think one thought might be that if you do not crawl and follow them to the letter, then you are independent and proud of your ability and at times you express an opinion. All of this is frowned on as you are expected to march to their tune.

              Like

  9. Anthony says:

    Career-ending or career-crippling confidential references are all too common in international education. Teachers often don’t realise that the administrator who they confidently asked to write a reference for them in the expectation of at least a fair assessment has, on the contrary,
    done the dirty on them. I had this experience many years ago at the mid-point of my career. It permanently blighted my chances of promotion to administrator level and even prevented me from getting any other job in the clasroom. Suspecting that the problem lay with the director’s reference, I posed as a recruiter and asked for a copy to be sent to my home address. When I opened it I could not believe my eyes. It comes as a huge shock when a person you thought you had a decent working relationship with writes an unfair, inaccurate or incomplete appraisal of you. The reference consisted of just three lines and gave almost no detail about the extensive curriclum work I had done in the school as department head over three highly productive years. The brevity and lack of detail demonstrated how little the director really cared about me or my future (and we are talking here about a respected head who went on to head a string of big international schools in Europe and Asia). I managed to put my career back on track after a year spent gaining a master’s degree, but the damage was very difficult to recover from. And the worst aspect was I had absolutely no right of reply or means of redress. My sense of injustice continues to this day.

    Like

  10. Anonymous says:

    I wish shady, unethical administrators were rare. In my experience it is the ones with integrity that are rare!
    These scum bags can end your career and you have no way of knowing what they have written or said as you have no access.
    I caught one in lies about me when I listed him as a reference and then had my friend pose as a school administrator. She “reference checked” by calling him. What he said was shocking and untrue. So of course I never listed him again.
    I hope all the scum bags get what they deserve even though I might not be around to see it.
    Another administrator was angry I would not have any personal relationship with him. He told a prospective employer I was difficult. I know this because my new administrator made a comment one day saying, ” Wow you are so flexible and easy to work with. One of your references said you were difficult but I hired you anyhow.” I knew the other 2 references socially and professionally so very easy to pinpoint the lemon. But again no recourse for their lies. A teacher’s hands are tied.

    Like

    • mautio1 says:

      I have one who is derailing my career. She terminated me 3 weeks to the end of school because of a conflict with admin. I am trying to apply to a ministry and need the file regarding that situation. Three times over 6 months i have requested the info be forwarded. She refuses to do it. Weird when one thinks that if it is me that is wrong, why not forward the file? what does she have to lose?

      Like

  11. DrJP says:

    Written confidential references are a thing of the past. And, their use as a weapon is one reason for their demise. Instead, I ask my current school administrator to provide me with a letter of recommendation at various times during my tenure. I even provide them with a rough-draft or a list of criteria to address. These requests correspond with occasions that I have provided some service, worked with students or with colleagues above and beyond my daily duties. Admin is always friendly then. Parents are really good about this as well (on their corp. letterhead!).

    I collect these occasional commentaries over my tenure then submit them directly along with my CV, my police records and occasionally a video-recorded classroom demo or display, when applying to a new school. This serves two purposes: it provides new admin with a sample of the range of extracurricular comments and it also counters any negative comments given in secret, often from the same principal!

    In general, placement services such as Search Associates seem to be trying to move away from secret references in favour of multimedia options such as classroom demonstration videos and Skype meetings. But they are only able to eliminate the secret reference system if the hiring schools stop requiring them. Teachers need to take control of the recruitment process and use the tech available to them.

    Like

  12. Anonymous says:

    The easiest way around this is to have people you trust and are friends with write your references… i.e.. Dean of Faculty, Dept. Chair, Dean of Students, etc.. Then if you are having problems getting a job, have a friend call your old school for a reference pretending to be a principal from a new school. This way you can see if your previous school is screwing you. I have done this and it works. I never asked one of my principal’s for a reference letter because I knew he would give me a bad one. I went around him by having friends write letters for me. It worked. You have to think out of the box.

    Like

  13. Jacki says:

    To me school administrators should be honest enough to say no I won’t give you a reference. Rather than write a crummy review. It’s better to just say no. And it’s a little odd if you’ve got a bunch of other good reviews and then this one. Also I think the school should also be decent enough to say – I want to let you know this person who you used as a reference wrote terrible things about you.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, what they should be and what they are, are two different things. Teachers should be smart enough to cover their tracks and learn how to be creative when obtaining letters.

      Like

      • mautio1 says:

        Many admin won’t write letters. they want direct contact with the next school. That way, they can say whatever they want. It is vindictive and low. I have had admin who claim they filled out forms for Search Assoc but never did and said they had problems submitting the form, which is stupid, it is so easy. But that was code for ‘won’t do, can’t do’ even though I did everything asked. Thank goodness, several teachers wrote letters for me.

        Like

  14. Curtis Lowe says:

    oh my…I’ve been down this road. I must say of the two plus decades I was overseas this only happened once. But it stung…and it lingered. I was a mere 1 phone call away from my dream job. So, yes, 1 bad reference on the international circuit can derail a career. And it was a confidential reference, which I should have never known about, and there was nothing I could do. Nothing because the damage was done. Let’s don’t forget the overseas Directors Club is an exclusive one and it spans continents. Its always seemed to me the bad administrators move on and are always able to find jobs but teachers who may get the short of the deal with such admin types don’t get the positions they want. So for me instead of getting in at ASIJ I thankfully I had two other offers from excellent schools in Thailand and Hungary. We lived in Thailand for 8 amazing years so it was a happy ending:-) When I asked the hiring folks in Thailand and Hungary if everything was ok with my references they both, to their credit, said there was some feedback that wasn’t “positive”, but both stated my other references, my overall track record and my interviews (because there were three with each before an offer was made) cancelled out the negative feedback. In other words, they were experienced folks and they knew that sometimes grudges are held for non-professional reasons.

    Like

  15. Some principals and directors use confidential references as a means of demeaning a teacher they do not like. I taught at a Christian school and, because my tradition in the faith was perceived as “not in keeping” with the more evangelical stance of some of the teachers at that school, ( I am an Episcopalian) I have been given a negative reference by this person. I had a friend who was the Personnel director at another Christian school at which I had applied.He was responsible for vetting teachers when they applied for a job at the school. Both he and the director felt that I was “a good match” as the saying goes, and wanted to hire me. When they contacted my previous school for a confidential reference, the Headmaster at my previous school said ” I cannot be a referee for this applicant. I do not want to say anything bad about anyone, so I won’t say anything at all.” A remark like this is more damaging than actually saying what it is about that teacher for whatever reason he may have had with the particular axe to grind with me. Three schools since then, over a period of 6 years, have hired me anyway,despite these negative comments. As I am an older teacher, jobs on the International school scene are more difficult to come by. I have since removed that person as a referee from my CV. I believe that particular head of school has since left under a bit of a cloud. As they say in Thailand “Sum nam na.” (serve you right!)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Anonymous says:

    Oh yeah I have been there. A head who lied about having seen me teach- he had but said he had not- lied what the work I had done and basically kept me from getting work. He repeated his blackballing with several other teachers.

    Like

  17. Edward Jackson says:

    I worked at Yew Chung School , Pudong, Shanghai a few years ago. I asked the then Australian Principal to complete a Search associates reference. He told me to my face that he had completed it on several occasions; however Search associates never received it!

    Like

    • mautio1 says:

      Same here. The principal kept insisting he couldn’t see the ‘send’ button to forward his form. I gave up. Code for ‘not doing’. I was stabbed in the back by him and a co-worker for doing the right thing.

      Like

  18. mautio1 says:

    I am currently applying to a provincial ministry in Canada. Because I honestly stated I had been terminated 3 weeks before the end of school as a result of a disagreement with admin, that school had to send all their documents regarding the situation. It had nothing to do with my teaching or my students. If I had omitted this employment period and it was discovered later, the new employer has every right to terminate me because of lying. I chose to be honest and upfront. Now, that ministry is checking my moral character and code which could stop my employment opportunity. I have 10 reference letters testifying as to my professional conduct and character of integrity. But that one school admin could possibly shut down my teaching career because I chose to be honest and transparent. That school prefers to be vindictive than say I did my job right.

    Like

  19. Barbara says:

    The school in which I am currently employed with will not give letters of reference, but only statements of how long you have been there and what your position is/was. Its kind of difficult to move on without references.

    While “Anonymous” above feels 1 or 2 bad references will not hurt someone’s career, that is 100% not true. ONE bad reference can and will keep you from working, regardless of how many outstanding ones you also have. I am scared of blind references as no matter how well you think you are doing and no matter what you believe you relationship with management and school director is, you never really know. When I first started at a school in Qatar (my second international job), the manager smiled in my face, but I was later WARNED that she was actually trying to get the owner to fire me, which turned out to be true- and I STILL don’t know why… Funny thing is I kept my job and SHE was fired a few weeks before the end of the year. So, a blind reference? Never on my watch. I have seen hard working, dependable employees slandered and out right lied about, so I trust NO ONE.

    For some reason international schools seem to be a haven for insecurity and back stabbing. I am in my 3rd school, looking to stat in #4 this month and every single one of them has come with way too many shady administrators.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Anonymous says:

    It is simple. Scenario: Of 10 references on your resume you have 1 or maybe 2 that are the “ax to grind” while the others references are good or glowing then no way will the 2 that are out of whack from the 8 others destroy your career.

    However, if the references progressively go from mediocre to bad or bad to worse with a consistent troublesome pattern, then yes, in this competitive market, your career is over.

    On this subject of career dead-enders, you cannot simply blame confidential references. School leaders speak, as do teaching colleagues, recruiters and even trainers – it’s the network that brings most careers to an abrupt end.

    Scenario 2: Recruiting fair. I am a middle manager. I was not at the fair recruiting but a former colleague of mine was and he had an interview at the fair with a couple who he noticed from their resume had worked at a school I had worked at. Easy, we have a long standing professional relationship, trusts me, called me and asked me, a non-referee for a telephonic references. I gave one. He cancelled the interview.

    Best bet, if you are not happy, come to an agreement or try to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and leave with as little turmoil as possible. Trouble sticks.

    Like

    • mautio1 says:

      I was booked for an interview at a school overseas while working at a school in that same city. It was cancelled. I found out later one of my own partners knew someone at that school and contacted them and badmouthed me. Interestingly, the email said ‘the interview is postponed and cancelled’. when I asked ‘is it cancelled or postponed?’ the response was ‘yes’. I am glad i didn’t go. but the fact my own teaching partner badmouthed me was insulting and hurtful.

      Like

    • kaduzy says:

      Asking someone not listed as a reference for a reference is a foul move.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        Reality check. We are not helping ourselves.

        After reading comments above heads and recruiters will feel vindicated in their approach of working their professional network and contacting non-listed referees for references from time to time.

        Comments here confirm what they must have suspected / known all along. Some teachers get their “friends” to write their references. If we cannot get the head of school, the divisional principal, the vice principal to give us a reference to the point where we have to rely on a friend then something IS wrong.

        If the problem lies within the school administrative then report them to ISS or SEARCH or whoever did the accreditation. If the unethical allegations are found to be factual the school and administrators will be black-listed (not limited to)

        There are checks and balances for this stuff. Use them.

        Like

        • mautio1 says:

          it is also common practice for admin to tell teachers to write their own letters and admin signs. they can’t be bothered to do the recommendation.

          Like

        • mautio1 says:

          Thank you. i have known admin who willingly throw teachers under the bus for doing the right thing. Unfortunately, these admin don’t care who bad mouths them, they have power and know it.

          Like

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