Too Bummed Out to Go Back – Need Advice

The miserable school I work for is in a hell-hole of a “city.” The school, director, parents, students, and everything about this place disgusts me. I’m feeling abused, angry, anxious, lied to, put upon, and, worse, have been clearly cheated$. I’ve about made up my mind not to go back after summer vacation. I took everything home with me that means anything to me. I came home with four, fat suitcases.

My distrust and hatred for this place started on day two when I was given a contract to sign in the local language. The government visa office (the school’s HR people said) would not accept an English language contract as proof of employment. Stupid me! When I received my first check I found a big deduction for electricity and rent! My original, recruiting fair contract said housing and utilities would be provided. Well, guess what? The local language contract says differently and that’s the only one that has any validity here. Damn!

From grade-fixing (to appease wealthy parents) to Xeroxing textbooks and bootlegging software, it’s an unrelenting assault on my professionalism. After I gave a “D” to a high school kid who rarely showed up to class I was told it was my fault — the kid said I was boring. It’s hard to find a student who feels worth my time to teach, honestly.

I contacted my recruiter who gave me some bull about how breaking contract would destroy my chances of getting an overseas position in the future. This guy should be arrested for human trafficking!

I posted a lengthy, truthful review of this school and now I’m afraid if I do go back they’ll accuse me of writing it. I could actually find myself in jail, when any number of teachers could write a very similar report. We’ve been texting as a group and we’re all thinking of not returning. We had to buy our own tickets home and they said they will reimburse us when we get back. Yeah, right…

Anyone have an experience like this? I could use some advice at this point.





41 Responses to Too Bummed Out to Go Back – Need Advice

  1. Sol says:

    I am reading comments and wondering if perhaps *Search Associates* may now have a questionable reputation? Is this true? I am an international teacher in Mexico. I have reviewed ALL the the schools that Search works with and read specific ISR schools reviews in certain countries. I know reviews will vary and should only be part of the decision process, BUT several schools clearly seem alarming and complaints are consistent.
    Reading comments like: ” Also, recruiters have a financial investment and many continue to promote schools that have had numerous complaints filed with those recruitment sites. ”

    I am concerned that Search Associates continues to promote and work with several schools that have alarming reviews ( Middle East/Dubai/ Egypt etc). I am starting to feel a bit nervous that Search may no longer support their teacher candidates or maintain an annual school screening check up to ensure all schools honor ISR’s Teacher Bill of Rights.I truly hope a reputable recruiting agency would help qualifed teachers STAY Clear away from schools that obviously demonstrate unethical behaviors and illegal practice. I fear it is becoming more commonplace over the past 3-4 years in the Middle East/ North Africa, China. Countries where international schools are exploding and promoting false tax free salaries/ savings..or schools where the cost of living is lower and potential savings higher decide to change their benefit package and conditions upon arrival.
    The abhorrent treatment you have had to deal with from day 2 suggests your recruiter failed to mitigate your losses and support your rights regarding your signed contract during the recruiting fair. Please tell me the recruiting agency was not Search??? You should NOT return! A new school/ director should understand that you were a victim of fraud and HR malpractice. Your recruiter should verify your situation. If you had firsthand experience with a distrustful recruiting agency , please can you post here?


    • jeannie says:

      Search Associates can be tricked by false/misleading school information from applicants but did respond to me when I told them they had wrong info…and my Manitoba recruiter played both ends to his advantage and continues to do so…CIS Bangladesh is in a very OLD rat-infested building yet continues to be described as a ‘modern’ campus and forget about contracts being honored…same dishonest routines and misrepresentations continued during my time there…


    • Anonymous says:

      Honestly, I think Search Associates is a pretty good organization. They too can be duped by schools, and that is why there needs to be some kind of site visit put into place, perhaps on a 3-5 year cycle, for these associates to visit the schools. While the grand majority of schools that attend job fairs are reputable, there are a few that are just scary.


  2. M. says:

    I taught overseas for 7 years, and I’ve known teachers who worked in toxic environments like the one you’re describing. Your wellness, safety, and moral compass trumps any piece of document. Don’t feel guilty about not returning. It’s not your fault, nor your colleagues’ fault that this school is disorganized, dishonest, and dysfunctional. And shame on your recruiter for giving you false information about the school and about diminishing teaching opportunities if you don’t return. You completed the school year, which is more than they deserved, and that speaks highly about you. You have every right to resign and further your career and happiness. -Best of luck to you.


  3. Curtis Lowe says:

    I worked overseas for 27 years in 6 countries and not once did I ever hear my colleagues talk about such mistreatment in their previous schools. Indeed in my 27 years each of the 6 schools I worked at were very good and I never had any such issues. However, it seems in the last 3 to 4 years issues like this are becoming more common and there is a pattern of these schools either being in Kuwait, Saudi, or China. As my teaching career went on overseas I noticed an explosion of schools in the aforementioned countries (particularly China) that called themselves “International” or “American” and many were anything but for profit factories. The advent of ISR has made the international teaching community more aware of such unsavory institutions but the schools themselves and major recruiting agencies really don’t care…you can always be replaced.


  4. Anonymous says:

    I definitely feel that any staff being abused and treated unfairly by a school should not return or continue. I am speaking from experience as I was one of those staff let go because I dared speak up. Hoping that things will improve & get better is wasted time. Trust your instincts and if the initial feeling is negative flee. The longer you stay the more impact that school will have on your resume when you are seeking another school.

    After 20 years working in the States, I went overseas for seven years as an administrator in schools in different countries. Immediately, I realized that an overseas contract is only as good as the paper it is written on and all a person can do is count on the quality of the school. Private schools tend to see parents as “clients” and unfortunately I saw School Heads regularly change grades, openly take bribes in meetings with parents to promote children, and get rid of staff to placate parents when student behavior justified suspension. Complaints to accrediting bodies fall on “deaf ears” as they see only what the owners and Heads want them to see. Some of the worst schools have full accreditation. Any teacher looking for a good school to work for and basing it on accreditation, should rethink that criteria. Also, recruiters have a financial investment and many continue to promote schools that have had numerous complaints filed with those recruitment sites.

    Working as an administrator gave me a unique insight into what goes on in the background of these schools that teachers are never privy to. The depth of corruption and unscrupulous practices is really beyond belief. Speaking of the schools I worked for, many are run by businessmen who have no knowledge of quality educational practices and who regularly put in unqualified Heads of School who mirrored their practices so any educator questioning will soon find themselves on the firing line. They tend to view teachers & administrators as “space holders” & instantly replaceable so employees should never view themselves as irreplaceable. I watched owners and Heads regularly get rid of staff and replace with “a warm body” – a person with no qualifications or experience.


    • Anonymous says:

      As a former administrator, what is your advice to a teaching couple who plan to complete the school year, but not complete the second year of a contract? Will we even be able to get interviews if we start applying?


  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree that other schools will be forgiving if you give good reasons for breaking contract. One thing not mentioned – check the country’s rules and consequences for breaking contract and the vindictiveness of your employers. You may need to avoid the country all together, even for flight transfers. A friend was arrested and jailed for a few days because of a mess-up with the transfer of the work visa (and their leaving was authorised). This was several years ago and things may change – but worth considering.


  6. Brad says:

    Man, this industry is really going to hell. Will these corrupt practices ever end? I blame the scumbag recruiters like Search Associates.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Samar Kalamouni says:

    From what I am reading it sounds to me like you were in Kuwait or Saudi. You definitely shouldn’t go back. No teacher should be treated this way. I worked overseas too and was lied to. I came back to the States and got a job and have rights and unions. You don’t need them trust me. Good luck

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why are so many education professionals still using recruiters? My advice, as others have said, would be to do your own due diligence and apply for positions directly with the school. Recruiters and recruitment fairs are an absolute superfluous entity in this industry. Never used them and never will – after more than 10 happy years on the international circuit in 3 countries.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. jgurr says:

    Recruiter and owners who lie/cheat AND continue to be licensed (in my case in Manitoba, Canada) are baffling…why MB Education would stand by and see Canadian teachers lied to and abused (similar to this story) when they are told the truth by departing teachers/administrators has made me question my 30+ years as an educator and administrator in Canada…trust the HS diplomas being handed out as equal to MB students…NEVER !…trust a recruiter who “visits” MB Ed- NEVER !

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anonymous says:

    Don’t go back. It isn’t worth it. I know many people that just didn’t come back and have gone on to get other international jobs with no problem. Just explain that you did leave before the end of your contract but outline your justified decision. Any fair school will accept that. Don’t let that situation become part of your life any longer! Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kicker says:

    I have been lied to by every one of the 8 overseas schools I have worked for…its par for the course. But I only left early once when the school (BH you know who you are) did not get me a visa/work permit in Malaysia. They then cheated me out of the last months salary IMHO. Remember if you can find another better job leave break contract the new school will be the one providing references. Otherwise tough it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Taz says:

    My current job in China is not nearly that bad, but it’s on the way to it. I had an offer of a great job in Hong Kong during the first year in my two year contract, and I knocked it back due to my sense of loyalty to the contract. I’ve regretted that ever since and wearily trudged through the remaining 18 months of the contract. Follow your heart, not your obligation to people who have no real respect or honesty towards you or anyone else.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Wow sounds like you all got it bad. You dont need to name the school but we can all learn if you spec the country, which of course we guess to be China.
    Recruiters have lied, threatened n promised me often before now in the m east. They all boil down to the same thing, just getting you onto the plane.
    Stuff that job straight away if u can afford to. If u r young enough there r many jobs out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Anonymous says:

    Don’t go back. Being in jail in a foreign country is no good! Report the school on ISR.
    For your next job leave this bad one off of the resume. I would say I had urgent family matters to attend to if asked about the gap on my resume. Change recruiters too. It is most unfortunate that the sympathies are ALWAYS with the school in these dreadfully unfair and abusive situations. Most importantly keep your mouth shut and never mention this terrible school to anyone unless you are in a situation where the other person has direct firsthand knowledge of you having been there. (For example, their friend was also a teacher there and mentioned seeing you there too.) You can’t save the world, just save yourself. Reporting these schools does nothing. Everyone is well aware of how the school operates, especially local authorities. Distance yourself from this dreadful situation and be more careful in the future researching prospective schools. Be advised that recruiters do NOT have dual agency- in other words recruiters make money when schools pay for teacher placements. Recruitment agencies won’t protect you or cater to you. Best to chalk this up to experience and move on as best you can.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. kstellhorn2017 says:

    Sounds like the first school I worked at I Germany. The owner gets people from overseas but then changes contract tens when they arrive. She did it to me, too!

    I’d find a new recruiter. And you will find a job in another school. Get your reference letter before you quit and high-tail it out of there!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Expat55 says:

    Don’t go back. You’re not valued and the stress is not worth the little money you’re getting. You have self-respect so turn your back on them. There’s a better place for you. When they are facing a new year with no teachers they will regret treating good, hardworking well-trained teachers like shit. You are not a slave. Move on and don’t believe any more of their lies or threats.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. expat says:

    I am in the same situation and left for summer holiday and won’t go back. This has been the worst year in my teaching career. My school uses threat of suing staff on financially for breaking contract which with hindsight should be a red flag because throughout the year teachers walk out because of bad treatment from parents and physical abuse from students and a principal who hides in his office behind closed blinds and creates too many barriers si it’s impossible to meet with him. Lots of vital information is hidden when you are recruited because they struggle to find teachers who want to work in the country. All these nasty surprises come out afterwards.
    We are made to feel guilty breaking contract but if a school lies and treats employees poorly isn’t this a breach of contract on their part? Should we not expect fair and professional treatment as Teachers and complete honesty when we are recruited.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Anonymous says:

    Don’t go back! It’s not worth it. Threats that you’ll never get another job in a reputable school are just that.; threats. Most of these types of schools carry on somehow and you won’t be missed. They are usually cruel, callous, money-grabbing sharks squeezing you for every drop of blood they can get. If they do not value you as a person they are not worth it!


  19. omgarsenal says:

    First of all, you’ve done everyone a great service by outing these cheats and liars. We do need to know what the name of the school is and where it is so we can avoid it in the future. Your recruiter is clearly more interested in $$$ than you so dump them and try it on your own. People on ISR can help you find better choices from their experience. I have one really good school I can recommend as well.

    Here are a few things you might consider doing:

    1) Advise your embassy (if there is one in that country) about your troubles and ask them to report this school to their citizens.

    2) Do NOT go back… will lead to dangerous consequences.

    3) IF this shit school is ¨certified¨, contact the association that did this and tells them about the school. It won’t make a great deal of difference but at least they’ll have a record.

    4) If you are owed money, send a registered letter to the school owner(s) advising them that you will pursue them for the outstanding money (airfare, etc.). Be sure to send a copy to the local government authorities as well.

    5) Advise anyone you know who is looking to work overseas about this shit school and its behaviour. Ask your colleagues from that same school to do the above as well.

    6) In future interviews you can avoid mentioning this disaster year but it also offers an opportunity to see the reaction of your interviewer when you mention how badly you were treated. In explaining why you broke contract, remind them that the school broke contract and did not honour the original agreement. Ask them tough questions about whether their school respects their word and contract and how can you be sure they do.

    7) In future, contact people working at that school and do your due diligence by looking on ISR and other websites that evaluate schools, talking to former or current staff (not administrators) and talking to parents and kids if you can, before signing on the dotted line. Former employees are the best bet as they have nothing to lose by being honest!

    8) You can have an effect on charlatans like these school idiots by writing articles, getting interviewed and doing presentations about your poor experience at this school…..if that is your thing!

    Good luck and contact me re potential good schools.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. robert says:

    Definitely do not go back and dont worry about what anyone says. You’re not an indentured servant!


  21. Seinfeld says:

    Forget about the school, forget about the shithole country. Don’t go back. Don’t put it on your CV and use a different recruiter or skip recruiters and just contact schools directly for you next job. If it’s bad as you say it is then your next school won’t know anything about them or who works there.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Barbara Lam says:

    I was in one really bad overseas school for a year and think most overseas teachers have at least 1 story.


  23. Tanja Cherian says:

    Don’t go back! It is a waste of time. Why would you even consider going back? It is actually bad for your career working in a lousy school, where is the benefit for you and your career? You should just forget about this recruiter and this school and move on without fear of anything. Or sue the recruiter and school if you have the time, money and energy.


  24. dismasdolben says:

    If you go back, you will find that they will make reprisals against you in the various ways that administrators can “punish” recalcitrant teachers. The real problem in this business right now is that the recruiters only work for schools and do next to nothing to support the rights of teachers. In fact, it’s so bad that I’d recommend that folks who want to do international teaching no longer even work through the recruiters. We can find our own jobs at TES and CIS, and no longer need the recruitment agencies. I’m beginning to think that it’s only extremely lazy administrators who rely exclusively on these predatory recruiters to find their employees. Watch their behaviors at recruitment conferences and you’ll see what I mean!
    Another bit of advice: DON’T use your current administrator as a referral, and mark on your applications that they are NOT to contact him/her. Find a colleague at the place who will report your professionalism in confidence.


  25. mhodge1234 says:

    They may think they don’t have to follow the English version of the contract with you, but any intelligent person in the educated world will understand that you were cheated if the other version clearly gives you fewer benefits than the English version. Find another job in a different country, and don’t even tell your “old” school that you are quitting until you get all of your summer pay and anything else they owe you (otherwise they will probably not pay you). If they can’t hire an international teacher at the last minute and need to hire a local instead, then so be it. Pick a trusted coworker or two in the same situation to use for references. Don’t let the old school know about your new school in case they try to make trouble for you. And when you finally send an email to quit to the old school, make sure you cc to everyone you know there and clearly explain why you think you were wronged. If an admin emails you back with threats then just ignore them. If a few teachers do this then maybe they will learn their lesson.


    • Anonymous says:

      I always advocate that you are open and honest about your old school, at an appropriate time, with your new school. This will effectively stop any reprisals from your old school. However, no one wants to hear horror stories about previous schools, so keep the information to “persistently not honouring contractual obligations” and if you must expand, simply keep it to the basics. Don’t grouse about your previous school, just keep it professional and clinical. Also, don’t put any of this into your application. You want that interview ….


  26. GatornAsia says:

    Don’t go back. As you said, “It’s hard to find a student who feels worth my time to teach, honestly.” That alone says enough about you to understand how you got yourself into this situation.


    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t understand this comment. I think the author is saying the kids don’t seem to want to learn. Having an employer not honor and mislead a teacher is wrong. She didn’t get herself into this position because the kids are hard to teach. The employer has set her up intentionally and that is a separate issue.
      I wouldn’t go back. You sound like a teacher with standards of ethics and also want to teach kids who are there to learn. Sounds reasonable. Often there are schools where behavior is poor, and I see the point you are making. Do you want to tell us the name of that school and the country so we can avoid the school?


      • Anonymous says:

        It’s hard for backpackers masquerading as teachers around the world to understand that ALL children, regardless of the circumstances, are worth our “time”! We true educators have all been in difficult situations. The dedicated ones find solutions; the rest, well, enough said!


  27. Anonymous says:

    Yep, sounds horrendous. I wouldn’t go back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous says:

      Break contract. Encourage others to do so. Only when they have the shitstorm of classes with no teachers and parents withdrawing kids will they come to regret their treatment of staff. It will be the same where I am. Looking forward to August when admin are left in a hole.

      Liked by 1 person

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