Will I Ever Work in an International School Again?

Dear ISR, Thank you for your enlightening article, Slipping Out Early w/ My Possessions & My Sanity. I’m about to run from a school in the ME & your article couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

A special thanks to your members who contributed a ton of practical information. I feel ever more justified in bailing on this place & so much more confident I can pull it off. My exit plan is securely in place & I no longer feel all alone.

But I do have Questions: What do you think my chances are of getting another international teaching position after I walk out on this sad excuse for a school? Can I be black-balled permanently by this vindictive money grubbing director while he’s socializing in the back rooms of directors’ socials? Can I move past my current situation & still hope to have a honest, viable future in international teaching?

Our director is a known career destroyer. I suspect Search Associates for sure won’t be interested in me after they hear from him. What about ISS & other recruiting agencies that I’m not (yet) registered with? Can this director call them & add my name to a “do not hire” list? Does such a list exist?

The most important thing right now is that I’m just about out of here & my sanity can stay intact. I truly wish I’d known about ISR before accepting this “job.” Based on what teachers have written about the place I would have turned the offer down cold…if only I’d known! My mistake was in thinking recruiters actually vet these schools.

It’s still troubling to me that recruiters allow a school like this to hire at their Fairs. Surely they must read ISR. If so, maybe they’ll understand why I’m running. But I suppose it would be naive of me to think recruiters would stray too far from the policies of the “good ole’ boys’ club.”

Thank you ISR & thank you, members, for filling me in on what future I have in international teaching. I DO appreciate your insight!

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34 thoughts on “Will I Ever Work in an International School Again?

  1. In my humble opinion, I believe you should really take a good look at the head of the school before accepting work there, It would seem that some of the worst of humanity can “hide out” on the international circuit and, due to their self-serving ruthlessness, often hold high positions. I’ve seen fantastic schools become toxic within a year due to the school head being changed. I really think that if more could be done to expose these people, the better it would be for all international teachers.


  2. I walked from a shame of a school and they tried everything to end my career. Blackballed on Search and ISS, lies about performance, and fabrications regarding the circumstances.
    When I went and applied for a new position they asked why I left my old school and I was honest. Fortunately, their dishonesty was a two way street and the school and its admin had earned a reputation for being trash within the international community. I was applauded for having the courage to take a stand and hired by a new school. Your life will go one and when you’re in a better place, take satisfaction knowing that those bitter men and women are still trapped in that sham of a school that you were too good for.


    1. Teachers need to band together and take a stand against the blackballing. There is far too much evidence of teachers being subjected to horrible working conditions, breaches of contract, etc., and then being turned on by vindictive admins.

      Maybe teachers are less litigious by nature, or maybe it’s just a function of the international nature of the industry–making it harder to seek justice in the courts–but this sort of thing would result in huge problems within any western country. It’s defamation, restraint of trade, etc. And Search/ISS siding with the admins implicates them as well. Enough is enough. People need to gather the evidence and take these cases to court–or at least start a blog to document it all and push for accountability.


  3. My professional advice:
    I was an administrator who worked under a Head of School that was vindictive. I gave my teachers an eval/letter to have. So, get a written recommendation from a supervisor. Go on line and search for an accredited school and contact them directly.


  4. Yes, I expect the school/director will try to do your career as much harm as they can. This type of leadership sadly is becoming almost the norm in an ever increasing profit driven industry. In 25 years of international teaching I have seen the climate of a true desire to improve education to the desire to deliver profits using a veneer of ‘excellence’ to bolster marketing. The use of self appointed ‘top tier’ status is a term I have only used in the past 7 years or so. I would suggest that you delete all reference to the school from your CV, social media etc and say you had time off and think of something useful you may have done during this time. Sometimes you need to go back to go forwards again.


  5. Nothing new and I agree with everything that has been said, except for the obvious misdirection from Myna Anderson. Yes, we work in a profession that deals with children but as Brad says so do doctors and they would not put up with the mistreatment that is often perpetrated on teachers, young and old.
    Me: twenty years in international education as a teacher and administrator.
    It very much depends on the country the school is in, if the labor laws are strong then the school, to a certain extent, has to behave itself. Basically a single owner school will, for the most part, make the school cope on 50% of the fees taken. Even the not for profit schools still take profit, they called it “withholding”, the point is that no school is perfect but the tighter the regulations in the country the better the school will have to be as far as how it treats the employees.

    Administrators, if they are termed as “strong” read “does not listen” and usually “vindictive”, if they are termed as “friendly and supportive” read “will not stand your corner” and “lets the owner do whatever they like”. I can hear the comments flowing stating that they know someone completely opposite to this or someone who never gives up, all I would say is they are very good actors.

    Always remember that everyone in an international school wants to be paid (often they are not paid on time or the full amount) and they expect to earn more than their home country. When a school deliberately withholds information to get you to sign then you have every right to leave.


    1. This is very accurate. Teachers in “international schools” are seen as little more than educational migrant workers. They are flown to a country and often put in BELOW sub standards housing and expected to put the students and the school first.
      I taught international for ten years and called it a career, outside North America, after seeing that I was not treated as a professional at any of the schools I worked at, merely labor that was dispensable.
      I also saw new hires were becoming younger and younger, often with no classroom experience. That, or they were of retirement age and so set in their ways it became toxic. No thank you, I’m no ones door mat. Especially not some smug administrator that would never last a day in a public school. The profession is broken and all we, as international teachers, do now is train the competition and slave for the wealthy.


  6. Yes and no….I left a dreadful, so called “British International” school, and found that my short time there inhibited my opportunity to get into a really good school in another country. It certainly put me back


  7. Stay clear of Guatemala, but I believe you can get out without too much difficulty. The fine for overstayed visa is cheap even if the US Embassy staff is lame….well the majority is. No one really wants to be here very long. Happy Easter.


  8. Some friendly advice from someone who has been in your position:

    1) Talk to the recruiters and/or schools upfront and tell them the truth. You ran into a poor director but your interest in the kids and the school made you stay as long as you could. Finally it was all too much and you had to break contract because of your health and safety.

    2) Do your due diligence before believing ANYTHING a school offers you. speak to ex-employees, parents and students if possible and the embassy if that country has one.

    3) Come on ISR and ask your questions…there is always someone who has known or worked with people from the school(s) you’re looking at or had direct dealings with the best/worst of the lot at that school. Keep a balanced viewpoint but do ask tough questions.

    4) DO NOT be defensive, fearful or hesitant to express your honest concerns and issues with anyone who will listen at the target school.


  9. I used to work at the Rabat American School during 10 years.
    It was, for me, my professional home. My goal was To work at R.A.S until I retire, in 6 years
    Unfortunatly, a new director was hired. He is a poor manager, a lyer, a rude and disrespectfull person. He does not value his employees work. He is destroying this school, this comunity . A lot of good teachers are leaving, students are leaving too. WHAT a same.


  10. Search and ISS are not siding with anyone and are not unions.  They list all schools and candidates who invest in their services.  On both sides, it is a ‘buyer beware’ situation. Terribleness in a school at any level can be temporary: a change of owner, leadership or even teacher can cause changes to quality — both positive and not so positive. For poor schools it will be more long term and you will see that in sites like ISR. This is why checking out schools is important and remembering that one person’s bad (or great) experience of a school and one school leader’s bad (or great) experience of a person should not be your only input.  Even for the most beloved and talented teachers and leaders, there is always somebody who did not think well of them. I am thankful for the 9 wonderful schools I have been able to serve overseas even if I was not always happy with decisions made there from time to time.

    Myna AndersonEducational leader & human dynamo


  11. I taught in international schools for decades before entering leadership and continuing in international schools. I consider many hundreds of applicants every year. I would like to clear up some misconceptions and share some advice since I have experience dealing with applicants who have gone through difficult experiences.

    1. There is no blacklist or ‘Do Not Hire’ list for ISS, Search, etc. This just does not exist.
    2. No leader can post a reference for you to recruitment databases without your request.
    3. Directors may choose to share the name of staff who have broken contract with colleagues in email forums. They ask others to contact them if the person applies. Even then, directors do not say ‘do not hire’.
    4. As a recruiter I am made immediately suspicious when candidates fail to list current supervisors and director as referees. I will ask candidates why this is so and I will contact the schools to triangulate data.
    5. Quality schools will require a live reference check (phone call or VOIP) with your current head of school or supervisor. This is now standard and required protocol in light of child protection.
    6. If your CV has multiple 1-year and 2-year positions or ‘sabbatical’ years, I will be very unlikely to consider you in the first round of candidates. I have many colleagues who have worked through 2 years of terrible situations and survived as stronger professionals. I have known other teachers who committed to a third or fourth year to show commitment to the school community. Longer stays in schools make you look more stable.
    7. Always be sure you have put the interest of students and school above your own. Whenever you can…make it through to the end of the school year for your students’ sake. That’s what we are all in education for after all.
    8. Email is a good tool for documenting your professionalism in the light of leadership failure of professionalism. Write your reasons for breaking contract in an email to your head of school and announce your departure. Save the email reply. This might be a useful piece of evidence to share with prospective employers who ask about the reason for departure.

    Good teachers and leaders understand that every teacher, school and leadership team does not always work out. We know that a teacher who doesn’t make it in one school might be fine in a different circumstance.

    At the same time, we know that there are teachers and leaders out there who do not conduct themselves professionally on a long-term basis. You have met them as well as I have.

    While your reputation and trail of references may describe you, it will not define you. School leaders, just like teachers, are often treated unfairly. We all have to remember that only our chosen levels of commitment, personable-nature and professionalism will define us.

    Wishing everyone a great end of year. Love your students and parents, do everything you can for your school and remember that leaders are humans, too, with a tough job — just like you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You had me until “always put the interest of the school above your own.” This is total and complete nonsense only an international school administrator would rattle off about. Honestly, how delusional do you have to be to publish this claim? What other business or even service would insist that you put the company/ firm before your own? Are we in a cult now?

      Even if you are a doctor working in emergency at a hospital and your hospital refuses to pay you, breaches contract, doesn’t provide you with a health plan, doesn’t pay your taxes, threatens your well being and leaves you in a state of unhealth – does the doctor continue to work for the hospital? No! Because he is no longer able to do his best or even adequate work, because of the circumstances. In this case, the hospital has failed – not the doctor! The public should then be made aware of how the hospital has embezzled and misused its resources and the administrators terminated.

      To all you young teachers out there: Take Care Of Yourselves First, always. After that, you can take care of others. Please think carefully about stupid and manipulative comments like the above. They come from a place of delusion and lack of empathy. You are in education because you want to do what’s best with your integrity and dignity in tact – not to be some indentured servant in the Middle East. Get real, Myna! You go get a job a McDonald’s because that’s where you belong!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Hi Brad

      Number 7 of my 8 comments did not mean to lack empathy nor to touch a nerve. It was stated with conditionals as well. Note that it said:
      “Always be sure you have put the interest of students and school above your own. Whenever you can…make it through to the end of the school year for your students’ sake.”

      I take your comment to heart and will re-word this to better state what I feel is best advice: “Keep the best interest of students at heart when considering what and when to act. If you can make it through without hurting yourself…make it through to the end of the school year even if you will leave mid-contract. This will benefit you and your students.”

      Thanks for questioning the comment and considering the response.


    3. No nerve was hit here. My goal is to shock people back to reality after reading your post. I still object to your revision. To use students as kind of emotional blackmail is something I’ve seen Admin use on young teachers who consider leaving. If a teacher isn’t getting paid or not getting healthcare, they need to leave. Period. After that, there needs to be an inquiry as to what happened. Both the school and the administration should be responsible and accountable for that teacher’s departure and “the kids.”

      If you are a parent and reading this because your child’s teacher has left the school abruptly, please make an effort to contact that teacher to ask what happened. You can do this quite easily these days with social media. There is a very good chance (I would say 90 percent of the time a teacher leaves is because of the school stealing, or withholding money and benefits) that the school is corrupt overall, and your tuition money is being embezzled and misappropriated.

      In this case, your child is indeed going to suffer. What parents do not realize is how easy it is for schools to siphon funds, false advertise, skimp on safety, not update technology platforms, lack sanitation, fail to develop protocols for bullying and discipline, take bribes from influential but harmful families, take kickbacks from supppliers of school construction materials, plane tickets and on and on… buy cheap ingredients in the cafeteria, and, yes, rip off or extort the good teachers they are supposed to be connecting your children with. All this nonsense will result in thousands of lost hours of potential learning time and productivity over the course of your child’s school life.

      These corrupt practices seem to be becoming more and more common, as schools know they are dealing with the vulnerable sector and hiring the naive, young teacher to just take it. As parents, please give your children a voice by demanding more transparency and accountability.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. I tried to respond to this early but my comment just sat for days on end with “awaiting moderation” on it. I agree that Myna overlooked the importance of looking out for oneself.


    5. I appreciate your post. However, it is ignorant and very naive from the teachers perspective. I have personally been “blacklisted” from BOTH ISS and Search Associates. If you want to send me your email address I will happily forward you the email from both recruitment organizations notifying me that the admins at my former school “rescinded their letters of recommendation” and that I was no longer “eligible for their platforms”. I did nothing wrong, I was a whistle blower that a high school art teacher was embezzling $7,200 from his students. I went to the press and in an effort to save face they ended my career and fabricated lies. They even went so far as to conjure up a story that I sought refuge at the US Embassy and then fled the country.
      I had to get the communication records from the State Department to debunk their lies, send those records to both Search and ISS…. no change.

      Also, any sane human would look out for #1 and NEVER put the school or the students first. That is crazy. Typical international admin


    6. I also was dropped by Search after leaving a school in my 5th Year there due to very difficult personal and health reasons. When I tried to re-register Search just said no.


  12. I have been working internationally for 20 years and in 5 different schools, and the only one where my experience was not as good as the others was a for-profit school. I swore to myself to never work for such institutions EVER AGAIN!! All the other not-for-profit schools had good admin teams, educators who cared about students, and a great package. My advice is to not work for a school whose primary purpose is to make money. You will definitely be able to work again overseas: schools interested in your CV will ask you why you left your previous job, and as long as you can justify your decision, they’ll respect it. I know several teachers who broke contract and had no difficulty finding another job later on. Good luck!


  13. I agree with what Sue says, if you remain dedicated to working abroad do your own work. There are many schools not entrapped in the web of SEARCH or a network of directors. You will need to research carefully, but one can be independent and find positions that are good.


  14. I really feel for you. I’m glad you were able to get support from this forum and to see that most responses were empathetic. Some schools in the ME and elsewhere are brutal (and sometimes even life threatening) and you don’t know until you are in the thick of it.

    You CAN get another position at an international school but it may be challenging and you’ll probably want to omit this current school from your CV. You can say you took a sabbatical year to explain the gap. Search will probably not represent you, but there may be a work around.

    I am asking myself the same question, “Will I ever return to international teaching?” After 20 years of teaching stateside and abroad I just don’t know if I will return to international teaching. The last school might have been the final straw. It’s too much of a risk to sign a two year contract and move to a country, school and a life that you have really have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. I always get a kick out of the responses that say, “You should have done your homework.” As if one goes to a new school in a new country without doing any research so it’s your own fault. And it’s hard to gauge a school by the reviews when it seems most of the reviews are negative. Every international school I have worked at had negative reviews on ISR, but the two in the ME had the worst.

    Anyway, best of luck to you. Don’t go back to the ME. But damn, I know people who are somewhat happy there – it just depends on so many factors.


  15. Unfortunately the world of international schools is a small one and many directors know one another through various networks and yes, they do blacklist teachers who break contract. However, there are always plenty of unaccredited schools out there who will hire without reference checks.


  16. I did land another job within days of leaving. I started looking before I left and did not list that school on my CV. As far as I was concerned I would move forward as if that sorted affair had never happened.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Search might drop you. But there is no blacklist. My advice: before you leave contact SA and explain the situation. If you still decide to leave, there are plenty of other search agencies and job sites.

    Why not stick it out until June? That is not long.


  18. The better question is, “after what you experienced, would you ever want to?”
    I worked at three different schools and at each of them the admin was broken and useless. Tuition always increased and nothing ever changed. I choose to go back to the UK and work at a school back home. I miss the disposable income and the travel perks but not the bumbling incompetence or the broken system.


  19. I left a shit school in Yangon, Myanmar due to how the admin treated staff and the manipulative lies of parents and students. The Director, Greg Von Spreecken and HS Principal David Falconer got me blacklisted from Search and ISS. However, I landed a new job state site and could not be happier. I do not need to be a cog in the gears of a broken system like 21st century international teaching. Many new teachers that enter the field are either tourists pretending to teach or educators who have washed out of the profession in their home country and looking for a fresh start abroad.
    I can’t speak for you but I have found it very rewarding to return to teaching in the states after 5 years abroad. I learned a lot and it has made me a better teacher in the classroom. I also have the protections of the union so I no longer live in fear of being put out of the street because of an unethical or sociopath administrative team.
    ISS and Search are not recruiting agencies that care about their members, they are PRIVATE and FOR PROFIT businesses, never forget those two things. They will always put profit over people, and so will international schools.

    I wish you nothing but the best and if you do summon up the courage to take a stand in the face of injustice, you will emerge as a stronger person on the other end!


    1. There are some crap schools in Myanmar and greedy, nasty owners. The poverty and nepotism there are depressing and I know several folks who did well-deserved runners from ILBC – the other “school” owned by the corrupt megalomaniac who owns YIS. Bunch of thugs! Qualified teachers should boycott those places.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. You have nothing to worry about. I walked out on a school I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. The so called director contacted ISS and spread my name around to anyone who would listen. Little, fragile egos are easily hurt by women who stand their ground and refuse to be bullied by men with an agenda. I later registered with Search without a problem. Keep in mind that you are a commodity to recruiters. I had years of overseas teaching experience and lots of good references. My search Associate was happy to have me — she knew I’d find a position and she’d make money. So don’t despair, if you want to go back overseas, you’ll find a way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have worked in 4 International sChools an never used a recruitment agency..TES and apply dorect5


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