My Point of No Return

I’ve reached the point of no return. That is, I’ve reached the point where I’ve decided not to go back to my school after summer break.

My reason? I’ve had all I can tolerate of being used as a pawn in a high-priced diploma mill where white-faced teachers are strictly valued for our ability to complete the facade. I’m done being used by this business enterprise masquerading as an International School.

Okay….I could deal with the school scene if I had to. But, the final straw in my decision not to go back is the fact I cannot walk down the street without some ASS making a sexual comment, lewd gesture or “accidentally” bumping/rubbing into me. I must be some special sort of gullible to let a school director convince me I would love Egypt and this hell-hole of a school.

I did read all the reviews and seriously thought nothing could be as bad as portrayed on ISR. Some of the stuff sounded too far-fetched for me. I was wrong! My seething school review is now on ISR and truthfully, now that I’ve experienced the place first-hand I think some of the reviewers before me went too easy on the place. That’s my opinion.

So….now what? I’m in uncharted territory, living under my parents’ roof with no car, no job and soon without health insurance. I’m starting over at 31 years of age. My plan to stay 2 years in Egypt and then move on to new international schools has hit a roadblock.

For me, this episode in Egypt is just a blip on the radar or as you might say, a slight stumble out of the gate. Fortunately, I found “the job” without the help of a recruiter, so I’ll sign on with one of the big agencies and leave this school in Egypt off my resume.

That’s my story. Any advice anyone? Am I missing something here? I’m all ears!

Thanks in advance.

Comments? Please scroll to participate in this Discussion Board

29 thoughts on “My Point of No Return

  1. You stated,

    “My reason? I’ve had all I can tolerate of being used as a pawn in a high-priced diploma mill where white-faced teachers are strictly valued for our ability to complete the facade. I’m done being used by this business enterprise masquerading as an International School.”

    This really doesn’t tell us any details or facts…can you be specific like academics require? I’d like to understand.


  2. I hope you’re talking about CES Cairo. If not, you could be.
    I’ve worked in seven schools in ten years. They are all money making scams where teachers are the easiest resource on which to save.
    Just take what you can and move on. Life is too damned short!
    Good luck!


  3. Sorry to hear that you had a terrible time. If you want I can ask if my school in Beijing is still looking for staff. It’s a beautiful campus with a great ethos . I have just signed for another three years.


  4. I suppose that now I am semi-retired I should set up and do the research that is so badly needed. I wish some grad student would take this on: Someone needs to put all these reviews into a database & also structure a good, statistically supportable mechanism/tool to allow international educators to answer an in-depth questionnaire that would build a database on the state of international education for educators.
    It is my belief that the data generated would not support there are “thousands” of high-quality school turning out grads, blah, blah, blah. Education globally is in a crisis. The disparities in education between more modern, economically strong countries(1st world?) and the rest of the world is sickeningly sad. There needs to be data that is supportable behind a review of this state of affairs, not just personal experiences – which are another valid source of information. Yes there are some agencies (UNESCO,World Bank, etc.) that have collected data and done reviews but these are outsiders and they reports lack the perspective of an educator.


    1. My issue is with the “western” education authorities that continue to certify bad schools in the face of indisputable evidence from credible educators (when not doing ongoing site visits) that they are not properly run schools! and, because they have the backing of (in my case Manitoba) a Canadian education authority, teachers assume (wrongly) that they will have the backing of that same education authority when in fact they do not-they always support the school even when there has been a long unbroken line of educators telling them the truth of the school’s ways !!


  5. I’m the head of a school, who on reading this post can fully appreciate the situation you are in.

    A year ago I took on a very challenging school, one where I knew I would be tested, but saw a glimmer of hope during the interview process. Not the first time I’ve done this, won’t be the last, but I am close to admitting defeat at this one.

    Having returned from a brief summer break, I am sat here wondering why I thought it was a good idea to work here.

    Resource orders are still sat on a desk somewhere, book orders are most likely in the same place, we do have a lovely new fountain though……not going to make my many new teachers happy.

    I could walk out the door right now and not regret it other than needing to support my family.

    We all work somewhere that doesn’t fit us at some point, how we talk about that experience really determines how people view us at interview.

    Good luck


    1. I feel your pain,. Last school I was at was just the same. Megalomaniac, narcissist school owner. Wouldn’t spend on books, equipment or an essential security system but happily replaced perfectly good school gates with some curlicued monstrosities because they thought they looked nice.
      We all love a challenge BUT it is a sad truism that you cannot communicate with stupid people and many international schools are loaded with stupid owners or managers with the decision-making authority.

      Just make sure your mental health and wellbeing are not sacrificed on the altar of someone else’s arrogance and vanity.


    2. BOH and Lesley: Join the Club! I just spent two years heading up a school that was run by parents for parents. The quality was beyond appalling and foreign teachers only stayed a short time while the locals were completely screwed over. Out of pride, I completed my contract and moved on to somewhere much better. The quality of schools are getting worse due to money grabbing and clueless owners and it is getting more difficult to find well qualified and experienced teachers. When choosing an international school, try and be very selective. We all go in determined to make change and it is stifled by owners who don’t care about quality or professionalism. Nowhere is perfect but you just have to complete a contract and look for the positives – even if it is just the salary.


    3. Spot on. The thing to remember is travel broadens the mind and I’ve had many years of great experiences in and out of schools. In retrospect, I wouldn’t do any of it differently.


    4. I sometimes wonder how much of the madness I manage to shield from my staff to enable them to do their jobs. Do they see through it all and know that things are far out of my control.

      On my way to my current position, I worked for a principal who openly told the staff how hopeless the board and owners were, their money pinching, cheating, manipulation. Created this mad toxic anti-board environment that ran through the school, simply because their personality clashed very badly with the board’s collective personality.

      If it hadn’t have been for the craziness that seeped out of every pore from the principal and the majority of the staff, I could have stayed there for a while, but when you didn’t know what paranoid story you were going to be dragged into next about them, it wore thin rapidly.

      I haven’t broken a contract in the past 15 years, but the clauses in this current one make it very easy to do, with no comeback. It is becoming more tempting by the day.

      This week’s drama is that the new classrooms, which have classes allocated to them and will have students in them next week (three days time), are bare of any furniture or fixtures and won’t have them until at least two weeks time……..I despair when the project had been costed, budgeted and planned for in January.


    5. BOH you raise some very good points here, being the proverbial ham in the sandwich as a principal. In the spirit of openness and transparency you want to share accurate info with staff, but when boards, owners, operating companies are as toxic as they often are; what to do?

      It becomes virtually impossible to operate with any integrity. Staff regard you as the villain of the peace and you are forced to implement policies and strategies that you know, as a half sane human being, are illogical, educationally unsound and often bordering on the negligent or down right criminal.

      Why oh, why they refuse to listen to wise counsel when it is given, based on educational, leadership and market forces they refuse to listen? My sad conclusion, for sometime, is that it all comes down to the mighty dollar (or whatever local currency), their supreme arrogance in thinking only they know what is right and their complete disregard for learning about what makes for quality teaching and learning, even on a limited budget. In over 25 years of International education I encountered only 2 governing bodies who were worthy of holding their posts. One was my own and the other was a colleagues. Pretty slim pickings eh?

      As I said in my earlier post your mental and physical well being are worth more than that, regardless of the package you are paid, especially if you have standards and principles.


  6. I’ve worked at a number of international schools in Europe, Australia and Asia – and while they all share certain negative similarities there are some schools that have been satisfying for me professionally speaking. No coincidence that the ones that received recent positive reviews on ISR are the ones that I enjoyed working at. Most of the schools I worked at have been ‘for-profit’ so there will always be a business element to it, but even the not for profit schools I worked at have been largely about funds and accepting students whose application fee was accompanied by a full fee cheque no matter how selective the school claimed to be. I personally prefer fully inclusive schools, so had no problem with the schools who lied about being selective as I could not have felt ok working somewhere that turned willing students away if they had not achieved the marks the school deemed appropriate for enrollment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One lie leads to another lie in my experience ! There are so many ways to manipulate entrance requirements: giving Gr 11 applicants a Gr 5 level test is one I’ve seen used ! Then not allowing even a Principal to see a student’s full file: I was used to CUM reviews and being the educational leader in Canadian schools. It was shocking to me what a Canadian certified school in Dhaka got away with when I finally pieced some files together…taking Gr 8 students from regular BD schools and putting them directly into Gr 10 Manitoba curriculum-how can that student be expected to succeed in an English curriculum when even a Canadian student would struggle without Gr 9 as their foundation !?! and don’t get me going about teachers handing out 99% and 100% right from the beginning of the year just to make owners and parents happy so they could ‘download’ teach whatever was on the internet that day !


  7. I always visit the schools where I’m applying. This allows me to see so much more than what is on the website or in a recruitment write-up. I can talk to staff members and feel the vibe of learning in action. I can meet the principal in person and ask detailed questions face to face. Yes, it is an added expense, and I only do it for schools I’m seriously considering, but I look at it as an investment in my future. This strategy also allows me to experience the host culture, if even for a day or two. How is traffic? How close to the city/country is the school? Do they have enough playground space so children can run and play freely? How are women treated in shops and on the street?
    Signing on with a school is a huge commitment. A little more money spent on investigating before you take the leap seems judicious.


  8. Just move on. The ME is a hot mess and Egypt is particularly bad.
    It’s a big world and opportunity comes and goes. People get burned everyday. Good luck


  9. Hi, sorry for the troubles you’re having.

    The “white face” preferences are common in many other countries with International schools sadly…. you might have to make peace with that. As far as the slimy men thing goes why not come to China, Korea or Japan? I’ve been in the East for some years and sexual harassment of foreign women is rare.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Many people go abroad starting over again. Try a different place. Do you homework before you go. An agency might provide more intel. Search for reviews of the schools online. Much easier now than it once was.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Good for you taking a stand for what you believe in! Don’t be ashamed of your decision, take great pride in the fact that you are no one’s door mat and a strong professional.
    That being said, you should land on your feet quickly. There are many opportunities in the states for teaching (if that is where you are from) due to a shortage in the professional pool. I ran from my school in Myanmar for very similar reasons and laded a position in the states within two weeks. I was honest and upfront about why I left international teaching and they welcomed me with open arms.

    International teaching is no longer a profession. All we have become is white faces who are expected to push inflated grades and give entitled children a spot in Universities. Many of which wash out within two years and return home to drink and party to death. I find it far more rewarding to teach at home knowing I make a difference in someones life.

    You may be burned by recruiting agencies, don’t count on Search or ISS to support you as the school is where their true loyalty lies, to them you are nothing but $$$.

    Be strong and enjoy your coffee every morning, it will never taste so good!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is never a good idea to make sweeping generalizations as you have done in your response. To state that international teaching is no longer a profession is simply false. There are thousands of good international schools that produce quality students, who then attend top universities.

      In addition, to crucify Search and ISS is also unfair. In my work with those agencies, the majority of the associates are looking out for the teachers. Maybe you were burned, and I am sorry if that is the case.


    2. Isn’t it “is never a good idea to make sweeping generalizations as you have done” in itself a generalization? Yes, the plethora of international-ish school has diminished the value of what it once was to be an IT; and the huge growth of private (for profit) schools does not bode well for the future of IT.

      That said, you both made good points. I just found it humorous in a Monty-Python-esque fashion regarding the prescription that one ought to never make sweeping generalizations, ie. “We are all individuals…. I’m not.”

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I have my own experience with Search Associates and it’s not a good one. Unless you can advise how to bypass an unprofessional bully of a consultant, who loves to get you involved in bullying his own staff and yourself if you decline joining in.

      I am looking forward to hearing from you.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. There are many other recruitment agencies beside Search. They seem to divide their areas of responsibility geographically, so go elsewhere. Also let their CEO know of your dissatisfaction. Search have been around a long time and perhaps that makes them internally complacent.


    5. Search dropped me when I left a position for very serious personal and medical reasons, despite having worked continuously for 7 years building a department basically from scratch and just over 4 years at a second school where I literally demolished and redesigned the science block in my time there plus improvements in Diploma grades.


  12. You’re right to move on. Schools need staff at all times during the year and feeling the place was a sh.. you could not have been well there going back. It will take you to be patient, especially as you have lost independence, but you’ll be much better placed in the future to read between the lines.


  13. I was really sad to read your experience. I don’t think that what you read ever tells you the full story.
    I had a similar experience in the Bahamas, where after finding a huge financial discrepancy, and confronting the SLT, was sacked mid year in some trumped up charge and given 72 hours to leave the island! My husband, who had nothing to do with it, was also sacked. Try explaining that to your 2 kids!
    I had to pack up a house, rehome cats, sell cars. The list was endless.
    I came back, had to get a huge overdraft and rethink every thing.
    Fortunately there are good schools out there and after 6 months scrabbling around I start at a new school in August.
    Don’t feel bad about your experience, use it to make you stronger and wiser than before. If you can, try to get out there and see the school before you accept. Join the international teachers pages on FB and see what people know about your school. They are very honest and that can only be a bonus.
    Most of all, remember that what happened had nothing whatsoever to do with you.
    Good luck in your next adventure 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Don’t leave this off your CV. Recruitment agencies worth their salt will understand. This is a personal safety issue. Also let the school know your reasons for leaving. If you want to be safe then ironically the ME is great for single females, despite some of the current economic political issues there.


    1. I had a similar experience and when the dreadful job was on my resume no one would hire me. In the international circuit there are so many candidates now and so few good schools that the good schools are highly selective. Best to leave the bad job off and never mention it or nearly all prospective employers will view you as a “runner” and thus not worthy of hire. Some admin out there have NO idea of how horrid and abusive some schools can be and will not believe your story. Also difficult is when a previously excellent school goes bad. It takes years for the perception in our intl’ community to catch up. I worked at a school that had been said to be excellent. It might have been excellent 20 years ago but is now corrupt, crumbling structures, etc. I only stayed 1 year and was stupid to list it on my resume. At the next round of interviews I was honest and the interviewers all said, ” I heard that was an excellent school.” They did NOT believe me and viewed me as the problem. Also, all the bad jobs I have had came from Search. Using an agency is not a guarantee of anything except placement fees lining Search’s pockets. I have now had 3 dreadful jobs in a row. I am going home and will return to teaching in rough inner city schools so am used to difficult conditions and I am not a complainer. My first 10 jobs overseas were great! Not sure why there are now so many bad schools but in speaking to my friends– if you are lucky enough to be at a school that pays what they promised and is reasonably safe, stay there!!!


    2. I feel this way about recruiters. I worked at a series of bad schools because I went through companies they won’t get you a job without a reference from your past. They could not understand I did not want to use them and why. I needed the experience to get paid well. Now I see leave the job off.


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