Back-Stabbing Director As My Confidential Reference

After what seemed like an endless chain of rejections it finally struck me that one of my confidential references had been stabbing me in the back. Problem is, what can I do about it, if anything?

My resume reflects a heavy math/science background, so I’m used to a good bit of positive interest in my candidacy at recruiting fairs. But this year, unlike in years past, that enthusiasm had screeched to a halt. I was dumbfounded.

At first I thought the wane in interest was due to younger, better qualified candidates who were possibly better “fits.” But through a series of events, I came to realize my most recent confidential reference was spitefully destroying my overseas teaching career. 

All fingers pointed to the director of my latest school! Some years ago I read an ISR article in which a school director confessed he had purposely written poor confidential references for outstanding teachers, and even played down their talents over the phone to inquiring schools. Why? Because he wanted to keep certain key staff from leaving his school. Ouch!

In accord with the ISR article, my recent director had offered me a handsome resigning bonus if I would commit to a 4th year. I had, however, been planning to move on for some time and when I announced my intentions I sensed an immediate change in attitude on his part. I can’t exactly explain it, but suddenly I felt I was on the outside looking in. For the remainder of the school year I got the cold shoulder instead of the usual “bro” treatment. 

My question is this: Can I do anything about this situation? Am I doomed to the wrath of a school director taking out his frustrations on me, and certainly other departing teachers? My letters of reference, along with whatever my current director wrote about me, are all online with the big recruiters and I seriously doubt I can get them to remove the latest one. Any advice? Anyone?

Please keep my name confidential.

Best Regards to the staff at ISR,
G.

64 Responses to Back-Stabbing Director As My Confidential Reference

  1. geomaryp says:

    Four years ago I was in the same position as you, math/science teacher with 14 years of experience and no jobs being offered! I found this hard to believe since my entire career in education has been littered with administrative comments about how hard it is to find qualified math and science teachers. Additionally, I had seen multiple schools approach me for interviews during my previous job search. At the same time I was looking, a colleague of mine was also looking and finding no job offers either – my colleague was also a math teacher. During the search we would often check in with each other to see how the job hunt was going and during one of our conversations my colleague mentioned that she had found out our administrator had written her a less than positive confidential reference. This conversation sent up red flags for me and I wondered how I could find out what my administrator had said about me. Finally, I just sent my Search associate an email telling him of my concerns and he reviewed my references and said that they all looked good. So if you have confirmed with your recruiter association that the director has indeed written a bad reference then delete that reference and get your principal or assistant principal to write the review.

    Like

  2. anhar says:

    My experience was being stuck in a dead end on the school. They wanted to keep me in a job that provided ornamental value to school tours for prospective students and their parents. I never got a chance with any job I applied for, to broaden my opportunities, within that school. Probably best to be ordinary fly under the radar, stay onside with principal.

    Like

  3. Jake says:

    The same or similar thing is happening to me.

    I do hope there’s hope!

    Like

  4. dismasdolben says:

    If I were to try again for employment as an expatriate, I’d just apply directly to schools. However, as a veteran at this, I now know of the very few international schools that are run by administrators possessed of integrity. Neophytes are stuck with using those cut-throat placement services. And, actually, I’m not planning to leave the United States for work any more—and not just on account of poor experiences with school administrators and the recruiters who collude with them; for obvious reasons, the world is turning against the citizens of a country whose influence on world affairs has grown baleful. Anti-Americanism was so thick in the last country in which I worked that you cut it with a knife! Folks who think that what Washington is doing has will have no effect on their expatriate experience are deluded.

    Like

    • Will Riker says:

      I too moved state side to teach again. The international “profession” is dead and the golden years are long gone. Now it’s filled with teacher tourists who get hired right out of University or after they have retired from public schools.
      Admin is made up of sycophants and tyrants who have as their souls to reach the top. I crossed one admin and they black listed me from Search and ISS. In no other profession that I’m aware, is your career dependant on confidential references and managed by recruiting agencies that work for the schools and not the recruits. I paid my $275 for search and ISS and I was treated like a migrant worker or indentured servant by my Senior Associate. Never once did the work for me or even listen to my side. No sir, I’ll stick with North America where there are labor laws and I co troll my on career.

      Like

  5. New to admin says:

    G, can you speak to your administrators, one to one? Yes, they want to retain you, but they will also understand that international teachers move on. If you’re not breaking contract, morally and ethically, it is the responsibility of an administrator to evaluate you fairly, and recommend you responsibly to your next school.

    Like

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had the same thing happen to me with my ex principal. I was jobless for months. One school gave me an offer and all they needed to do was get his referral. After they did, they backed out and told me that he had given them a poor reference. The most annoying thing about the entire situation was that he was the one who offered to give me a reference. I felt like an idiot for believing him.

    Like

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have recently experienced this too. However, I believe in moving on to work with more people professional and caring people and to using someone else as a referee. If questioned then tell the truth at the interview without using derogatory language.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. E says:

    This is a common practice with p.. poor administrators who have gotten their position without merit. ISS nor Search will not assist you and will most certainly side with the administrators of the school.

    I have seen and have experienced Heads of school block an educators forward movement within the international teaching arena and it is shameful, unprofessional as well as showing no honor or integrity (how do they sleep at night, my guess very well based on the salaries, drivers and free housing).

    It is directors like Bill and others like him that should not be in administrative roles to have the power and authority to ruin someone’s livelihood and career, just because they can.

    Once in this thread mentioned lawyers, well good luck with that as most lawyers within the country that you are trying to engage in litigation will not touch the school and most schools lawyers are aligned with legal offices within the states (as mentioned in most international school contracts).

    My advise is to start looking to go back to the states within a public school district where you are protected by tenure, due process and the ability to questions evaluations if one needs to do so within the process.

    Good luck and pray for those admin. who do wrong to others as Karma does exist…we may not see it done but it will happen, have faith.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Eric says:

    You need to change referee! If this is the Director of school, give the Head of Secondary instead.
    Your problem is not at all uncommon.
    You need to simply write people you can trust as referees (probably 90% of people) and if you are asked directly for the director explain why. Be honest. It may not convince everyone but my director was doing the same (a colleague found out when a member of SLT at the school he was applying to was a personal friend! so of course he told my friend) and he changed his referree and was offeted two and a half jobs within a week after 3 months of nothing!
    If you using an agency such as Search Associated they are generally familiar with the problem and are usually perfectlyreasonable about it if you come clean and explain you can not give the Director as a referree.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anonymous says:

    I had a similar situation. I suggest you NOT list him/her as reference. I even had to switch recruitment agencies because Search Associates refused to remove the liar from my referee list! Having confidential references guarantees absolute power of corrupt liars to destroy innocent teachers’ careers. In no other field are references allowed in this way. I suggest taking the first job offered in order to move beyond this ridiculous excuse for a human being. You may have to go to a less desirable location/school in order to get past this. And don’t feel alone because chances are this heartless idiot who lacks a moral compass has done the same dastardly deed to others! A culture of absolute power corrupts. Be sure to rate this jerk on ISR so others can be aware. I am sorry for your experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not a fan says:

      I had the same problem with Search Associates. I even changed associates after not using them for over a decade, so I am going to continue using other organizations.

      Like

  11. Anonymous says:

    I have been an administrator for many years, both as principal and director of reputable international schools. One of the hardest things to deal with is losing good people, especially those that have done something spectacular that has changed your school for the better. But I cannot imagine writing a bad reference in an attempt to keep a good person. That is cruel and unethical. I try to look at it from a different perspective. If the work we did together causes one of my teachers to progress in their career, that is a reflection of my work as well. Although I lose a good teacher, I know that my school is helping people progress in their careers.

    In regards to the confidential references, I think these are necessary. I have never been dishonest in a reference, and I always write them with facts, not personal opinion. In fact, this year I had a teacher who was leaving who I personally did not get along with, but she was in fact an outstanding teacher. Her reference reflected her excellence as a teacher. There are also times when I have to write things that the teachers may not agree with, always being careful to highlight the positive, and tactfully addressing the negative.

    Only one time in my career have I had to deny a reference to a teacher. I could not write anything positive and I told him that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. A good teacher is a good teacher, even if as an administrator I may not particularly like the person. It’s critical to separate the personal from the professional, and on the few occasions when there was a personality mismatch with a clearly talented teacher, my reference was as strong as for a teacher with whom I felt a stronger connection

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you, veteran Admin, for verifying my path. If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all. You’re validating the way I was raised… the way I will continue forward.

      Like

  12. Happier Retired :-) says:

    Great advice to include copies of your performance/year end reviews. How could you be so bad if you were so good?
    Reputable directors and principals know how excellent teachers are victimized by politics. An important caveat regarding this, though. Be sure to keep your own copies — hard and electronic. A vindictive director will order your school Google Drive wiped clean immediately.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Anonymous says:

    Lawyers do help in these cases. Defaming characters to the extent of blocking their careers without robust evidence is not acceptable and can be challenged.

    Like

  14. Anonymous says:

    I don’t agree with confidential referencing. If a principal or admin want to say something negative, it should be CONSTRUCTIVE and PROFESSIONAL with the idea that a teacher is evolving in his or her career. Personal commentary about a professional has no place in referencing. If a teacher is collegial and certified and there haven’t been consistent problems with students learning from him or her, then a teacher should receive a satisfactory “all the best in your new post” type of reference, at least.
    I think Search Associates and other recruiters should have open referencing. Why do they even have confidential referencing?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. dismasdolben says:

    As evidenced by many of these threads at this website, international school administrators are a very mixed bag, and include a lot of bad apples with near-meglomaniac personalities. It seems that they are mostly unaccountable to anything but the “bottom line,” and so my question is WHO evaluates them regarding matters other than profitability—such as curriculum design, learning in classrooms, teacher retention, alumni relations, etc. It seems that the only place where teachers evaluate their administrators in those places is at this website, and that according to what’s written here, the caliber of such “leaders” declines steadily from where it was at during the last century.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re right in terms of the ‘calibre’ of people who manage to jag themselves a position of authority in International schools. I noted, back when I was an international teacher, that in many cases the authority went to their heads and they became incredibly childish and full of self importance. In Western Countries, we have forms of Public Sector Standards ( in Government schools) and also Industrial Commission courts where you can take your grievances to if you have been maligned, bullied or unfairly treated. You can also lodge procedures against unfair decisions over promotions. Answering your question, no one evaluates ‘them’, and I noted that some of them had been away from their home countries for a long time, were out of step with current educational philosophies and pedagogy (but then, so are many teachers, so that works both ways) But alarmingly, many of them had no idea about performance managing teachers in an acceptable way. I fear it will always be this way in countries where people can virtually buy themselves a school to run, then hire people according to their ill conceived whims. As an Aussie colleague of mine used to say about one underperforming administrator “He couldn’t organise an orgy in a brothel ” – I think we’ve all come across such admin people.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Bill Buckner says:

    As a “Director”, I’ve given plenty of bad references to people who flat-out deserved it. In all instances, these individuals did not have the common sense ask me in advance if I could be their reference, and so I felt no guilt in letting the new school’s know my true opinions of them. If they had simply been smart enough to ask, I would have been upfront and told them I cannot help them.

    For good, or even mediocre employees, I am happy to help them along and will say kind words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Calliope says:

      Obviously then, performance management by you had not been transparent or ongoing. Being ‘smart enough to ask’ – was being subjected to a guessing game part of your management style? It’s not ‘kind words’ that a reference needs, it’s comment on knowledge, skills, ability to achieve results, collegiality. Your answer made me cringe.

      Like

      • Chris says:

        I think Bill is saying it’s unprofessional to type a director’s email into a reference request without having a personal conversation first. Bill said he would be honest and let the teacher know that he could not write them a positive letter (and hence they should seek a difference reference).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bill Buckner says:

        It’s not a guessing game.

        They had both been warned of previous shortcomings and had negative evaluations. One of them was a person who had pulled a mid-night run and just quit without notice (which he did when I was a teacher, but still).

        The way you just assume I must have been the bad guy makes me cringe. It’s alway’s management’s fault, right? I guess that’s why you like this site.

        Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow you give bad references to people because they do not ask you to be a referee. You sir, are an embarrassment to our profession.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Will Riker says:

      Wow Bill, you certainly have revealed yourself to be exactly the kind of “leader” this very discussion thread is about. Back stabbing and arrogant. Unless I’m mistaken, they asked you to be their reference the minute they began working for you. Schools want to hear from the most current employer.
      I’m glad I left the international teaching machine, thanks entirely in part to shady people like you. SHAME 🔔 SHAME🔔 SHAME🔔

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill Buckner says:

        Backstabbing? Why, because I told the truth to others about poor teachers?

        These people were poor teachers AND listed me as a reference without asking in advance. What would you do? LIE and tell them that they’re great? Ignore it?

        Frankly speaking, it would be unethical to be positive about people who shouldn’t be in the profession.

        I’m arrogant? Well.. since you don’t know me who cares? I’ve written more positive references than I can count in my career, so frankly speaking I’ve been generous enough to the people who deserved it.

        You’d be surprised…I ask for teacher references all the time. Maybe 5% of them come back negative. Negative references are a common thing, and it’s more than decent to tell people who not to hire so that people who shouldn’t be teaching can be weeded out.

        Maybe this is a tough pill for a lot of teachers, but you aren’t entitled to a positive reference. That’ life. Deal with it. Do a good job and you’ve got nothing to worry about.

        Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for posting your name. I will be sure not to work under such an arrogant person. You must have poor administration training that doesn’t understand your responsibilities to staff and also the reputation of the school you are paid to serve. Once it gets known you are likely to harm teachers leaving the school you are at, noone will trust you and work for that school. How can you sleep at night knowing you are blocking someone’s career path? Horrible director; horrible human being.
      My thoughts are that the international community of directors know the games one another play and don’t often take negative reviews from one administrator too seriously. Often a negative review says more about the person writing it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Will Riker says:

        Bill Buckner was a baseball player for the Red Sox and Cubs. This Director is both a backstabber and a coward.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Bill Buckner says:

          And you’re using the name of a Star Trek character. Nobody here is using their real names, pal.

          Like

          • Will Riker says:

            I love that I’m being trolled by a “Director” because you literally are making everyone’s point by proving how petty, vindictive, and insecure most international School admin are.

            Like

      • Bill Buckner says:

        Right, i’m a horrible being because I gave negative references to people who were poor teachers, and who didn’t even bother to ask if I can help them. If you knew a thing about their job performance, you’d understand why it would be unethical to help them along. Frankly speaking, they shouldn’t have even been teachers. If I’m asked, I’ll tell my true opinion. You expect me to lie?

        I never did this with the intention to Keep a strong and good teacher. For those, I will 100% of the time give them very positive words.

        The whole point of a REFERENCE CHECK in the first place is for people to find out more about the background of the applicant. Under your logic, we might as well just not do them, since they’re all supposed to be super positive.

        Liked by 1 person

        • dismasdolben says:

          For all I know, buster, you may be a person of sterling integrity, but my experience has been that most of your peers are not, and what they call “good teaching” is sycophancy to management—and has nothing to do with instructional assiduousness or creativity, or even good class management style; what most of you administrators celebrate is ass-kissing!

          Like

    • Happier Retired :-) says:

      “Letting the new school’s know […]”
      Curious. The new school’s what?
      LOL

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Bill, I understand your thinking, but as a Director myself, when I receive a request of confidential reference from a disastrous employee, I simply choose not to fill it out. You are right…some teachers are clueless and have no idea who bad they are as teachers, but ultimately they will show that to others.

      Where I have given “poor” references, this is typically a bad teacher that has left the school, has not asked for my reference, and a school calls me directly about the candidate. “Hey, I see this teacher worked for you, but did not list you as a reference.” At that point I would be HONEST about the teacher’s work, but always trying to be tactful in my negative response.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous says:

      You as a director should have told the teacher it would not be a positive reference. Shame on you! You are morally bankrupt.

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Good professional practice would be to contact the person – no matter how bad – and let them know that you have been asked to provide a reference. Then let them know that they should contact you beforehand in future. Then finish with letting them know that your reference may be one the candidate would not want to provide. Practices such as yours helps give administrators a bad name in the international circuit, and I hope you will reconsider how you do things.

      Even if you are professional enough to alert a potential reference in advance, leaders should be treat others how they would like to be treated and model good practice. It’s one of the things we’re paid the bigger bucks for.

      Like

    • Ted says:

      Many words for a man like you. None of which are complimentary.

      Like

  17. Tired of The Bullies says:

    It’s more common than you’d think. Knowing my Principal would NOT give me a good review for personal reasons, I used a different line manager at the school. However, the Principal was the one at recruiting fairs and we suspected he was defaming me and other good teachers at my school. I later got confirmation of this when someone who hired me (who had not spoken with him) told me he contacted her to have her drop my contract. I was lucky in that I already had a good reputation with the new school. If you have annual teacher appraisals that are good, use those as part of your application package to a school so that HR can see there is a distinct difference in what you as a teacher are being told and what referees are telling others. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Shahin says:

    This is nothing new. Very common especially if your director has a past that you are aware of and they want you out so that they can hide their history. You can ask the Head of Department perhaps to write you a letter. Hang in there.

    Like

  19. Calliope says:

    This doesn’t only happen overseas. In my home country this has happened to me as well. I went through the Fairwork system and had a year’s pay given to me, as well as a large payout. It wasn’t the way I wanted to end my career, but it has allowed me to relax and deal personally with bullying on an immense scale. One of the terms of my payout was not being allowed to speak publicly about this. To those who say ‘find another referee’ – your immediate line manager HAS to be one of your referees. Good luck to everyone experiencing this, it is horrendous to go through.

    Like

  20. Anonymous says:

    I was being back stabbed by a former principal. When I couldn’t get a job I had a friend call him pretending to be from another school. She gave me the scoop after talking to him. I called HR an threatened a lawsuit. I then used other people as references.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. S. Marks says:

    Same thing happened to me. I found out who it was because a recruiter at the fair said why should I hire you when a director wrote this about you . . . And then read what was written. With me having math, science and college counseling and my wife with science we were dumbfounded when everyone had not asked for interviews. In the past we were highly sought after. A friend of mine also had a bad report written about the 5 years previous and it keeps coming up on the digital forms. Good luck. We were picked up from a school that knew what was really going on.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. KR says:

    Sign up for T.I.E. online and apply to a school through there. Quite a few good schools still post there. You’ll get to start over with your references, and then you can omit the one from the Director. If you get action through that channel, then you know for sure it was him.

    If all else fails, apply directly to a school using a good old fashion resume and direct email. Exclude him from your referee section, and hope for a response.

    Best of luck.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Robert G Huey says:

    Simply write to your case manager, whoever is handling your account, and let them know that you believe someone has defamed you in a reference letter. Explain that you would like to have that reference letter removed, and you would like to replace it with another confidential reference letter of similar organizational ilk. If you keep it as simple as that I don’t think you’ll have a problem. Good luck. I’ve seen it before, and would have sworn you were writing about Lisa Hughes.

    Bob H

    Liked by 1 person

    • dismasdolben says:

      The problem is Search Associates. They won’t remove a bad recommendation from the most recent head of school, no matter what the circumstances. They work for school administrators, not teachers.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Anonymous says:

        They will if you replace it with another from a position of management. I did it several years ago when I learned my director had done the same thing to me. You just have to have two from the current school (unless things have changed)

        Liked by 1 person

        • dismasdolben says:

          I DID supply them with a reference from another administrator in the same school, which, in effect, contradicted the head’s negative reference, which they still refused to remove, as per my request. I cancelled my account with them, and would not recommend them to anyone else.

          Liked by 2 people

  24. DAVID says:

    Try negotiating a letter of offer with regard to the resigning bonus then use that as evidence that you are valued.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Jon Cristofer Miller says:

    There is a structural problem here, as well. Many schools require a reference from a supervisor within the past year. They reject applications without one. Since returning from China, 7 years ago, I have been substituting… with no ongoing “supervisor,” unsuccessfully applying for many full-time positions. Build up your personal – and genuine – network, not just people in job clubs or online groups. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert G Huey says:

      Take charge. Work superfluously for friend for a while. Actually have him pay you a dollar, or her, and then report that has honorable work experience. Whatever task your employer set you to, regardless of how perfunctory, performance in an exemplary manner. Then report your employment honestly on your CV. Sometimes you have to use the Finesse of goodness to promote good; good being you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robert G Huey says:

        Okay, voice-to-text does suck, but hopefully it won’t be viewed as a reflection on the intellectual capabilities of the poster Mumble Mumble mumble.

        Like

  26. omgarsenal says:

    Depending on how you feel about confronting this reference, and how desperately you need a reference from the DG, here are a few ideas:

    1) IF you need his reference, then when you apply to other schools use only references that will work. If asked by your future employer why you didn’t give your DG’s name, tell them the truth…he wanted you to stay (he did offer you an extension and a handsome resigning bonus, but your decision to leave regardless alienated your relationship.

    2) If you don’t need this reference, use whomever you can from that school as a reference, to show you’re a good teacher and a reliable employee. It is in your interest to create a history of good performances etc. so that your potential employer(s) will quickly see that the DG is an aberration, not a solid indicator of who you are.

    Good luck!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • surly1 says:

      It is also good policy or strategy to get multiple references from administration at the same school. For example, ask for your direct report and other leadership you worked with at the same school. If one person is out to get you, then the inconsistency in the reference will raise questions.

      Asking for yearly references was suggested to me years ago. Simply asking for a letter of reference each year, not that you are leaving, but so you have a record of experience which you can refer to if something questionable arises.

      However, we are at the mercy, a little bit, of administration on this issue. Even in public schools teachers get blacklisted for no reason other than admin has an issue. That being said, those admin also get a reputation for their decisions.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Stabbed once says:

    When I left my last school I knew the principal would stab me in the back. Long time staff at the school had told me all about her. As we neared recruiting season I asked her to write a letter of reference for me. I told her it needed to be a hard copy. When she told me it was done and asked what to do with it I offered to drop it at the post office for her. She sealed it and I took it. I later read it and it blasted me. If that letter had been mailed I would have never worked again. For two years I worked hard and received numerous compliments from her and the director. Now, suddenly, since I was leaving I was no longer on her “good” list. I never mailed the letter but I have described the incident in detail and named her in my school review. She has since contacted me and asked that I remove the review. Good luck with that!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Happier Retired :-) says:

    You don’t have to have your most recent director as a reference. How’s your relationship with your principal? And don’t forget your ultimate consumers: your students and their parents. Ask them for references. This advice helped a friend in a similar situation. A strong reference from a former ambassador garnered him job offers at three top tier schools. If you have or ever had an ambassador’s child as a student, ask for a reference! Other powerful parental references are also valuable.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Rebecca says:

    Are you with Search or ISS? If so, talk to your associate.

    Like

  30. B. says:

    Find another reference!!!!

    Like

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