Do The Pluses Still Outweigh the Negatives?

I grew up in International Schools. Today, with a teaching credential and 3 years classroom experience under my belt, I’m preparing for my first ever International Teacher recruiting fair. I’m ready to get back overseas where life feels so much more authentic to me!

I recently discovered ISR and have been reading Reviews of schools I attended as a student (grades 4-12 in 4 different international schools). In my teen years I was well aware some stressful stuff was going on for the teachers, but not to the degree or magnitude of what I’m now seeing on ISR.

My question:  Do ISR readers who’re currently overseas think the positive aspects of living internationally as an educator outweigh the negatives, especially the really harsh stuff I’m reading on ISR?  Memories of life overseas are among my most treasured possessions and I’m willing to take the bad with the good….to a reasonable extent, that is!




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23 thoughts on “Do The Pluses Still Outweigh the Negatives?

  1. I can repeat, what other teachers already had said. Everything depends on the school in which you work/teach. I was very lucky – even in the proprietary school in Cairo the balance of pros and cons was positive. Of the remaining four schools three (Korea, China and Caymans) were fantastic, and one (Switzerland) just so, so.
    But some friends, who went to different schools, had really terrible experience – despite that the given school had relatively good reviews.


  2. International teacher is the best experience ever! Want the boring same same in your home country…. stay home. For eye opening experiences go, travel see the world from a teaching angle! You take the good with the bad. Do your best and see what happens! This coming from a teacher that experienced 4 different schools AND got fired from one of them only to come out stronger and more aware of how the world works.


  3. The biggest problem with international schools is that staff who are fired can’t fight back. After your contract has been terminated, you have 30 days in most contries to get out before you become an overstayer.

    I thought I was employed by a reputable Australian school in the UAE. But my contract was terminated because I challenged a school policy. They wouldn’t get away with this treatment in Autralia, or any other first or second world country for that matter. They could only treat me like ths because I was an expat teacher. It is appalling behaviour and all too common at international schools.

    While the 9 year overseas teaching experience was fantastic in most ways, I am really glad to be back on my turf.


  4. What I am very distressed to see is that weaker teachers seem to suck up to management and somehow find their ways into leadership positions when they absolutely should not be there. After 15 years as an international teacher I have seen this to be the case in so many schools.
    In leadership roles they are merely fulfilling a personal desire to control and seek power.
    They too often have very little in the way of people skills, neither compassion towards individual needs.
    I long for and seek to work with directors and leadership who have earned there way into these positions through years of teaching and many experiences that make them competent in their positions.
    I am distressed at so many leadership teams that care only about themselves. I have experienced incredible laziness and a lack of interest towards the school and students and of course the teachers. I have witnessed experienced and really dedicated teachers being fired as a result of leadership not knowing how to deal with such good teachers who question their practices.
    I have been involved in situations where leadership turn a blind eye at student behaviour that is unacceptable as they don’t know what to do. What terrible life skills for the students.
    It is not ok in my opinion that people do these masters in education, skip hop and jump into leadership roles without enough time spent on the shop floor in teaching. Or brown nose their way into positions.
    What a shame! Now I really feel the need to interview directors and leadership to see if they are able to work with a good strong teaching staff or if they need characters that are weaker yes people.
    I know the environment that I prefer my own children to be in!


    1. I should also say that I have worked with some amazing directors and principals who I have had wonderful experiences with! I have had so many amazing experiences, however I do find it to be a shame that international schools seem to be turning into major businesses and are not quite the experiences that they used to be for students or teachers. It is something that I may do again in the future. I would just recommend that people starting out do so knowing that you take your own chances in the international teaching world and only do so if you can bounce back and deal with situations that you may not expect at home!


  5. My home school district is Chicago public. I would never had been able to to purchase a condo much less pay it off in 10 years had I not gone overseas to teach in Asia. The travel and cultural experiences are also a bonus, there are so many more positives than negatives to teaching overseas. Go for it!


  6. PBDL
    I left Canada 23 years ago. since then we have been living abroad in different countries. Schools are like people; there are good and bad ones. Maybe I was lucky since I had met mostly good ones. what I have seen that it is not only the teachers who were fired; principals, CEOS are also fired (although it is easier to get another job at the same level). For me, trust in God was especially helpful even if I was fired 3 times.
    After living abroad so many years, I would not be comfortable to go back to Canada. The local and the international mindset is very different. Good luck to everyone.


  7. It depends. I’m going to share my experiences for what it’s worth. For people starting families and needing help, living in a country where maids/nannies are cheap can outweigh suffering through a lot of crap at work.

    For me, I am single. There are a lot of us still single overseas searching for a partner. I would look at the older singles, when I was younger, and think, “Poor things. I will meet someone eventually.” Overseas has many expat men who marry local. Quite a few expats have a lifestyle that includes heavy drinking– not my thing. In Asia I also have met a lot of expat guys who are very unsuccessful in their home countries due to quirky personalities. Luckily these types quickly get snared by locals looking for a breadwinner/immigration possibility. Marrying a local is rarely a good thing for a woman, although some I know tried it. Places that have suitable men for me don’t pay a living wage. For example, say living in Western Europe where costs are high and taxes eat more than half your wages. I did meet an expat and marry him. However we both realized we were quite unsuitable for each other and most likely would never have even dated each other in our home countries. But in country “Y” there were so few choices we gravitated towards each other. When we returned to our shared home country, suddenly I realized he was very different from how he had been in our host country. It was shocking to say the least. I hope my experience is an isolated case as I’d like to think there are loads of happy ending stories out there.

    Then there is the emotional and financial costs of being away from family. I have been overseas for 30 years as an adult. (I grew up in international schools as a kid.) Now my parents are in their 80’s. I am an only child. What will I do if/when they need help?

    Luckily, I am healthy. However I have seen many teachers overseas fired the instant they became ill with cancer, diabetes, surgery need, etc. I have also seen teachers fired over no good reason while other corrupt teachers keep their jobs. There are NO protections for workers unless you are in EU. Wild, wild West conditions prevail in most countries. Imagine being sick and losing your job!!!! So keep a large nest egg, just in case.

    I have no retirement plan giving me a monthly payout, unlike teachers who worked in my home country.

    So along with the quickly deteriorating working and pay conditions overseas, these are all factors to consider. Maybe living overseas is a good plan for young teachers or for teachers who work in home countries long enough to get pensions and then go overseas.

    I don’t regret my time overseas, but it came with “costs” I didn’t fully consider as a younger person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sad because a lot of what you say is true, esp for young women who want to meet a guy and have kids. Most overseas teaching sites warn single women against even thinking about it, since even the most unappealing men can find pp hunting women in developing countries. I was lucky, though. I met a great guy on an international dating site *before* I started teaching in his country. It lasted 17 years, until his death a few years back. YES health issues will be a problem, especially for older people, so make sure you get a very thorough checkup before you go.
      Lastly, I am in my 60s now, single, and while it is much harder to get work at my age, I have done so and will be setting sail at the end of the month, to a decently paid job in an odd part of Asia.


    2. I am an administrator and was living in California in the late 90s and absolutely could not afford a house. The plan was to go overseas for a few years to save enough money for the down payment required on an average house. Twenty plus years later, I am still overseas.

      The first part of your response is conjecture as it is impossible for you to have first-hand knowledge of all regions of the world. In my opinion, the “dating scene” is one factor in a list of many that people should consider when choosing to live overseas. One would hope that the school factors are equally important as personal factors. There are literally thousands of good schools overseas and I have worked in regions (Greece for one) where women are far more successful in dating and marrying locals. At the school where I worked, there were at least 10 women married to locals, and most were for 10+ years.

      There are some people on this site who will try to paint everything negative. One member, in particular, will spread his/her venom, and I have come to the conclusion that that person must have been a terrible teacher for hating ALL overseas schools. There are both good and bad schools in this big world, and you have to do your homework.

      I think the points about emotional and financial costs are valid. Aging family members and retirement plans are big issues for teachers who choose to live overseas forever, and as the poster states, this is not something young educators think about. My advice to those teachers who are young…THINK ABOUT IT. If I could do it over, I would have planned better for retirement. I have had to do some serious real estate investing now in my late 40s in order to be prepared for retirement. Just be aware that retirement plans, in general, do not generate financial independence at retirement age, and much less so in international schools (if this benefit even exists).

      Good post.


  8. Been teaching overseas for 8+ years and plan to keep teaching overseas for at least another 5.

    First of all no schools are perfect. If they are good in one area they often suck in another area. One school will have too much paperwork, another one limited stationary, another will have discipline problems, another parents that cause problems. Be aware of what you want and what you are willing to tolerate.

    Other things are also important. Do you want to be downtown? Do you want a good work-life-balance? Do you want to travel? Do you want good pay? Do you have children?

    What makes a school good for one person will make it bad for another person. That’s ok.

    If you want to work not for profit (and avoid the ones that just call themselves not for profit) your choices are very limited. This personally isn’t a requirement for me so I have lots of options.

    When you are at the school make sure you don’t burn bridges. There are virtually no safeguards protecting employees so be nice to your management. They can make your life hell. Standing up for something based on principal has a cost. Make sure you are willing to pay the cost before you cause waves.

    I still think it is worth it but it is very different from working in your home country. Don’t treat it like it is the same.


  9. As most people move a number of times in their international career, you don’t have to stay in a bad situation too long. If you can get into the better schools then it is amazing. The kids are respectful, parents are supportive, and you are typically well funded and supported. The opportunity to broaden your and your children’s (if you have any) global perspective is reason enough.

    Just be sure to budget well as you will need to fund your own retirement. You will/may get a retirement bonus but you have to be diligent to invest wisely or else.


  10. Unfortunately, I think quantitatively at least, things turn to the negative. This means most schools who call themselves international they become so in order to make money, not because their creators have a genuine interest in high standards of education. I say this after searching in 46 international schools in Beijing, and seem some of them working first hand, where I’ve found that only three are worth their international status, the rest seem to be lead by the quick money they make out of how they market themselves for.


    1. Eric, I’m in Beijing and have noticed the low standard in schools here too. I’ve worked in two so far but the horror stories from colleagues are shocking. Also…. some of the hygiene and food 🤢. Can’t help but feel they rip off chinese parents.
      I would love to read a longer post from you about this sometime.


    2. This is why not-for-profit schools tend to be better choices. The Far East and the Middle East have so many proprietary schools I feel they hurt the image of the international schools in general.


  11. If you can get into one of the solid tier 1 or tier 2 schools then yes, it’s worth it. Otherwise, too many dodgy schools out there.


    1. This idea of Tier 1 and Tier 2 schools is basically a myth. Some of the “Tier 1” schools that are famous are in bad shape right now. I can think of perfect examples in Argentina, Mexico, and China. There are good schools and bad schools, and one of the biggest determining factors I have come upon is proprietary versus non-profit. My recommendation is to avoid proprietary schools like the plague. In my career, I have only encountered one that actually reinvests significant funds into the school.

      Teachers need to do their homework when choosing overseas schools. ISR is PART of that homework, but the reviews on this site tend to slant towards the negative (for understandable reasons). Look at the accreditation of the school. Search for the accreditation reports online. If possible, talk to teachers who currently work at the school. Investigate the city and country where the school is located. All of these things are important.


  12. Yes, teaching overseas is interesting and exciting. But I need a place I can call home. A place I understand and in which I am part of a community where we understand each other. I recently returned to New Zealand after 9 years of teaching oversease, and I won’t do it again. It was a great experience, but I now prefer being at home.

    Just be aware that if you spend too much time overseas, you will have nothing to go home to.


  13. Enjoy the adventure and the challenge. The risks exist, but you can survive, enjoy the difference, and benefit from the “learning experience” of things gone bad. However, unlike you, many older “empty nesters” will find the doors shut, regardless of qualifications and commitment. Don’t wait too long… go, even with children!
    Jon Cristofer Miller


  14. There are some truly dodgy schools out there, but most are just places with all the problems that follow people. You just have to keep an open mind and realize you only control your response to things much of the time.


  15. Yes, the positive outweighs the negative but so much depends on the school you are working at. There are some great schools to work at but there are also many that are awful. Find the good tier 3 schools and stick with then and you will have a great life.


  16. I think so much depends on an individual’s experience , attitudes and school choice. I have happily been living overseas for almost 25 years working at 7 different schools. Each one was incredibly different, small to big, different continents, curriculums, parent/student body make ups. But… each one has been great in its own way & given the different place / stage I’ve been at in my life at different times. If you are open minded, adventurous and willing to try something new I would say 100% go for it …. is there a chance you could end up at a crappy school or even end up at a great school and have a crappy experience.. absolutely… but you’ve got to take a risk if you want the amazing rewards that can come with an international teaching career – good luck with whatever you may choose!!


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