Same Ole Crappy School, Same Ole Lousy Reviews

Hello Team at ISR, I’m perplexed as to why teachers continue accepting jobs at schools with scads of bad reviews that reflect a history of poor treatment of educators by admin and school owners.

In 2008 when I first joined ISR I was sure that honest reviews of truly awful schools would eventually force them to straighten up and fly right. But 35 reviews and 10+ years later, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the dreadful school where I first taught. The most current reviews of that place actually reinforce the review I posted back in 2008. Nothing has changed! What does it take for educators to finally say:  “Hey, this place looks like it’s been awful for a long time. I think I’ll take a pass.”

Red flags should go up when multiple reviews of a school talk about inferior health insurance, severe lack of teaching materials, insufficient shipping allowance, unclear discipline procedures, rampant cheating with no consequences, overindulged students and/or entitled parents, and no support from admin, etc. I avoid such schools. Apparently some teachers don’t!

Educators new to international teaching may refuse to believe schools could really be as bad as portrayed in ISR reviews. Little do they know! Experienced overseas educators may think, “This won’t happen to me.  But, obviously it can and it does!

My question for ISR: Why do so many educators ignore the words of their colleagues who went (and suffered) before them? Why do they continue to sign on with schools that clearly have a long history of abusing teachers? Anyone wish to comment?


29 Responses to Same Ole Crappy School, Same Ole Lousy Reviews

  1. Kei Yanagi says:

    I work for a government school in the US- even though our union protects teachers, our admin, staff, and other teachers can make us happy or miserable. I am a 30 yr veteran of that. The only difference is that if you go overseas, you cannot easily escape, and if you do, where do you go when you return home?
    My thing is to take every negative experience and learn from it. As a teacher, the love of my students made up for all the horrible experiences I had in teaching. I do miss living abroad, and hope that the experience for those overseas will help to shape their future and make them better teachers.


  2. Anonymous says:

    People need jobs so in this highly competitive market, any viable offer will be accepted. Another issue is that it can be impossible for some people to really understand how bad a school can be. They mistakenly think the negative posters were just crybabies who exaggerated. Best to remember the strongest predictor of future experiences is to review other’s past experiences. This works for personal relationships and the relationship you will have with a school. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can change a bad school or come out unscathed.


  3. SH says:

    When one is mistreated at a school one can not do much as the in eyes of the world the Head is always right. If you vent on this platform the usual word is that you were hurt so now you are bitter. That could be true but there could be and more often that not there is truth . Who listens?


  4. Guilty Admin says:

    While I would like to weigh in on the side of hope and optimism, I think that not enough teachers know the time-tested ISR, and simply may not know if the pit of vipers that they are entering. All but one of my international schools (5 now) focused on hiring new teachers — either newly minted, or new to the international game. These bright-eyed and bushy-tailed innocents often maintain their enthusiasm for a struggling school for longer than they might under other circumstances (read: than the jaded veterans). In my opinion, if these newbies could be encouraged to ask for, demand, and make the needed changes, some of these schools might overcome year after year of negative reviews, and improve.
    Maybe, we, the pessimistic realists who’ve been there before… and leave rather than trying to repair, are the problem. I see myself as guilty in that scenario. Guilty of the default of apathy.


  5. omgarsenal says:

    IMHO many teachers, especially neophytes, don’t do their due diligence sufficiently. They may gloss over negatives and, in the vain hope that they’re just some bitching that isn’t justified, take a chance that the school will work out. Ultimately, your experience will be dictated by the reality on the ground, and that can change as the admin. and the students change. We all see ¨good¨ schools¨ gradually morph into poor schools when a few bad administrators and /or teachers arrive, replacing those who were better. There is also the very real possibility that many positive reviews were written by administrators and even owners/board members whose agenda is to camouflage the reality until they snare the teacher/administrator in their web, rightly believing that they will not break contract.


  6. Jim Upton says:

    ISR has become a little bit of a complaint forum …I continue to read reviews, but take less notice of them. My school has terrible reviews, but I have been here for 5 years and most teachers who stay are very happy…teachers who leave and unhappy and post on ISR. Bottom line is that ISR is not balanced – it is weighted towards teachers with a bad experience. Sensible teachers are aware of this…that is why they go to schools – they don’t believe the reviews are a balance.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Peter says:

    Quite a few schools with a miserable, apparently genuine and justified criticism, are still accredited by various international educational bodies. How is this possible?
    Can this be a prevailing factor. when a teacher is trying to weigh pros and cons for a given school?


    • Anonymous says:

      Having gone through several accreditation processes at awful schools– they lied. This includes IBO and CIS! And the teachers needed their jobs long enough to finish contract and escape these dreadful schools. No one believes teachers who complain. They are seen as newbies or overly sensitive, etc.


    • Peter says:

      Of course! I have seen this myself!
      IBO, CIS et al. mean BUSINESS now. They will sell the logo without hesitation to anyone who is willing to pay – the rest is immaterial. I have seen teachers alerting IBO about illegal / immoral procedures at a given school. Guess what? The IBO would inquire with the school’s admin, why is a disgruntled teacher complaining! The outcome of this kind of a complaint is easy to guess.


  8. Rich says:

    More often than not, the low quality is due to owners of schools rather than principals, who are constrained in their hiring policy and in any improvements that they would otherwise make to facilities. As long as the owners, whether corporate or individuals, make money, they do not care how inadequate the teachers, buildings and equipment are. You tend to see a quick succession of principals in many schools. The reason we jeep taking jobs as teachers, or principals, even if we know the school is going to be less than perfect, is that we need the salary! Maybe we want to try that new country, maybe we think if it goes pear-shaped we could use one job as a stepping stone to another in the same city. It’s fair to say I had the most fulfilling job of my life in an overseas school as a deputy head. Most of the rest were so-so or best forgotten!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. anhar says:

    Sometimes you have to accept a job at a school with bad reviews because you need a job, you have aged out of countries with limits that are far lower than your home countries retirement age, your subject is not high demand and you are not a member of ISR so have not seen the reviews. Most schools need the fees so the parents will rule. For profit schools are usually to be avoided. Many schools attract similar types of admin. Fly low, get through contract, find a manager who will give you an open reference and leave. Dont look back.


  10. JalanJambu says:

    Very good points made about why teachers go to schools with poor reviews. Related to thst is the mickey mouse accreditation teams from CIS, NEAS, IBO.. who supposedly examine schools but rarely pick up on the basic challenges and weaknesses the school faces.. Or – so so many Directors receive such low ratings on ISR.. and yet.. they continue to be hired, move school, wreak more havoc. Having a teacher become a director is like having a bus driver become CEO of the bus company. Directors are heads of muliti million dollar enterprises and they need to be experienced in running a business and getting the best out of employees, their other resources etc. Very little has to do with teaching and teaching skills. Sure, the bottom line is to provide good education. To get the bottom line? You invest in good people, good infrastructure and good materials and use innovative dynamic HR approaches. You don’t need to have been an electrician to run GE. You don’t need to be able to substitute class to be a Director!


  11. David says:

    With the increase of international schools worldwide coupled with the numerous recruitment and advertising agencies, many experienced teachers who have taught in their countries are tempted to leave their workstations and explore a new life which may be more rewarding than their previous posts. Further, new teachers in the profession who are savvy at job-hunting want to get a chance of teaching abroad and earning more money than they would at their local schools.
    This brings in the aspect of accepting whatever comes your way, without due diligence of finding out what others have said. The saying ‘The grass looks greener on the other side’ with the dollar bills having the green color blinds many into accepting offers from these schools.


  12. Anon says:

    Many are unaware due to not having access to ISR. ISR should renove the subscription fee, employee a few voluntry moderators to review comments and run this platform like any other teacher forum that runs on a no fee basis.
    The reviews will increase and teachers will be more aware and bad schools will come to limelight.


  13. mbkirova says:

    “unclear discipline procedures, rampant cheating with no consequences, overindulged students and/or entitled parents, and no support from admin..” Alas this is true of a *very* great number of schools. I agree with others here that the newbie teacher may be unaware of this site or other available, and simply not know, though it’s crazy if they don’t bother to find out. On the other hand, there are those of us who don’t quite fit the bill due to lack of MA, or age (my case) but being old hands at the game, elect to try at clearly poorly run school because they desperately want to get out of the US. That would also be me, but I’m prepared as a veteran of over 20 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Anonymous says:

    One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Some people just like to bitch. Misery loves company. The grass is always greener. Choose your attitude. Life is like a box of chocolates. Yadda yadda yadda.


  15. Anonymous says:

    Just finished a two year contract at a school with very mixed reviews. Loved the first year and didn’t love the second, which was by far the worst year in my 15 year career. The fundamental problems (surprise you’re here for a second year, it’s too late for you to get another job and we didn’t take care of your visa and surprise construction project leading to no classroom) had never been commented on before. I really loved many things about the school and found most of the complaints on ISR to be unfounded. However, given my experience as a returning teacher, I could not recommend the school to anyone and perhaps should have paid attention to the negative reviews because they reflected the general way that the school is run.


  16. adinobro says:

    There are a few reasons but the main one is that at least 80% of teachers are new to the international circuit and don’t even know about ISR so these reviews mean nothing to them.

    The second one is that some teachers are at awful schools and the reviews while bad are better than what they have right now. I know other teachers at schools that don’t pay on time and others that have management screaming at staff in front of students. The school described is a step up from those schools.

    The final and most important reason is that schools change and people are biased when they are leaving. You need to take every review with a grain of salt since bitter people are more likely to post reviews. Chances are there are a lot of teachers at the school that enjoyed the experience and the positives outweighed the negatives. Some teachers complain about everything even if it is perfect.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Peter says:

    I did not ignore my esteemed colleagues opinion. I simply had no choice – at that time (it was June!) – I was still “between the jobs”. I had to accept the position in a certain school in Cairo, even if this school had – at best – mixed reviews.
    The HS admin and the HS principal were decent. The faculty was outstanding – perhaps the best of all other schools in which I later taught. I survived my contract (many teachers did not!), but after that I had a very successful international teaching career.
    Overall I would say that this was a (semi-)positive experience.

    Re Anonymous: How a school, with ALL rave reviews (many of them, not one, or two planted by the schools’ admin) can be unacceptable, I cannot imagine.


  18. I love Teaching says:

    We all have varied experiences at the same place… I love the photo of different people describing an elephant… one the tail, one the leg, one the ears, one the body…. all have different perceptions. My wife and I work at the same school. I love my job teaching science and robotics. She is mildly annoyed at her ESL position that has morphed into a special education position. If I were to poll the 80 plus teachers here I would get 80 very different opinions… ranging from horrible to wonderful. The Middle School is fun and rewarding, the ES is good but challenging, the HS IB is varied depending on your subject, class size and number of preps… good for one with small classes and few preps, a living nightmare to those with large classes and 6 to seven different preps… also the benefits packages varied depending on date of entry and grandfather clauses… New teachers my be angry (rightly so) if making considerably less then someone who has been there a number of years and have reached the top… there you go
    Final remark… I have noticed a trend of most schools cutting benefits and packages over the last 10 years with few or no schools in a region increasing benefits and salary. Next topic for ISR:
    Has your current school been cutting or adding to the teacher package!!!
    Signed a veteran of 27 years / 5 different I.S.


  19. Attentive Reader says:

    Reviews can and do make a difference. When offered jobs at two UAE schools, we looked at ISR reviews as we had past knowledge of their (poor) reputation, but it was only hearsay. We asked admin. at one about reports of difficulties of western children fitting in, and to his credit, he advised against taking positions if our children were nervous about that as it was an issue. The other school had old, scathing reviews which had morphed into acceptable to positive reviews in recent years. Again had honest administrative response to our expressed concerns, this time reassuring. Took that position and enjoyed many years at a school we would have passed on depending on past hearsay, plus children had amazing peers from all over the world.
    Thank you to people who take time to write those honest and positive reviews, and thank you to administrators who recognize parents’ obligation to their children deserve sincere consideration.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Anonymous says:

    Sent to a school with average reviews and had an amazing experience. Followed that up with a job at a flagship school with stellar reviews and it was a living hell. My child was bullied. The worst administration I have ever seen. Schools are about fit. What works for you may not work for me. At the end of the day, I think we make our the places we go our own heaven or hell.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with some of the other replies in these areas:
      * A lot of teachers aren’t aware of the reviews until after they sign their contracts. Those I know who were aware, asked admin and were told the reviews were written by certain “older” teachers who didn’t like the “new” school policies. That wasn’t true and this teacher ended up breaking his 2-year contract and left after one year because he felt the reviews were true. So sometimes admin can strongly convince teachers that reviews aren’t true and for others, they aren’t even aware of them.
      * I agree that teachers have varying experiences at the same school because three different principals plus a Head of School can lead very differently and make very different policies. I taught at a school where most teachers at the ES and HS enjoyed their jobs, where most at the MS did not. Some even transferred to different sections after a year or two to get what they needed.
      * Yes, where you are coming from matters. A lot of my colleagues were accepting of the challenges at my school because they came from so much worse! I came from a great situation, so I had a very different perspective and expectations.
      * I know a lot of young teachers and teachers new to international teaching who will take and have taken whatever to get their feet in the door and stay and don’t complain because they want a good recommendation to get a job at another school. It’s all about your situation and circumstances. I know teachers who have stayed at schools where they didn’t enjoy their jobs, but the school was great for their children to go and their family’s happiness was most important.
      * Lastly, a comment about only bitter people leaving negative comments. I don’t agree with that. A lot of people want to help others and share their experiences with the hopes that it may save others from the stress and frustrations they felt. I wouldn’t say I am bitter, but I was disappointed with what was told to me in my interview and in writing before I accepted my position and it was different and frustrating for me because I couldn’t do the job I was hired to do and that was to help support students with special needs. That’s not being bitter, that’s wanting to do the right thing- ethically, morally, and professionally. All the best to you all!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nathaniel Brown says:

      No one said that “only bitter people leave comments”.

      I assume you are talking about my comment and I stand by it. People are more likely to leave a review if they had a negative experience rather than a positive one.

      I didn’t review my last school since someone else basically wrote what I was going to write before I wrote it. In fact, other staff asked if I wrote it. It was very fair and balanced (from my point of view) listing the problems but also talking about how it was improving.

      That being said most people are not like that. I only leave reviews if have already paid for a subscription when looking for a job. I would not pay $50 to post a nice or average review. I know people who have paid $50 so they could post a negative review.


    • Overseas Bliss says:

      Where do you get the $50 to post a review? I’m not an ISR member and I post for free on the free side of the site. Also, last time I checked it was still just $29 to join ISR.


    • Nathaniel James Brown says:

      Sorry bad habits. I’m Australian $29 USD ~ $50 AUD.

      I didn’t know you could post a review for free. I’ve always been a paid member when I’ve done reviews so I’ve been logged in. I didn’t even know you could review for free. I missed that completely…

      I just assumed the other teacher paid to review. Sorry.


    • Madison says:

      Nathaniel, you wrote “bitter people are more likely to post reviews”…


    • Nathaniel James Brown says:

      “more likely” rather than “only”.

      There is a slight difference.


    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, you are correct. You wrote “more likely” and not “only” so I apologize for writing that word in my response; however, my intention was to highlight the adjective “bitter.” I was simply sharing my personal experience as someone who would write a review about challenges, but not out of bitterness (anger or resentment.) I stand by my personal experience that I don’t leave reviews based on bitterness, but instead on a disappointment or concern that I wasn’t able to support students with special needs at my school which is the main reason I took the position. To me, having disappointments/concerns and being bitter are different, but you may disagree, which is fine.

      Liked by 1 person

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