Consequence-Free Early Departure?

.From time to time teachers write to ISR and ask:  Why would anyone teach overseas? They reason that based on negative School Reviews, no one is happy.

No situation is perfect. Annoying and even unacceptable situations worth writing a School Review about do not necessarily translate to:  “I’m miserable here and I’d leave today if I could.” A negative School Review may simply be intended as a heads-up to other teachers. Helping each other Make Informed Decisions is what International Schools Review is All About!

ISR Asks:  Are you sufficiently satisfied with your current International School situation that you’re looking forward to honoring the remainder of your Contract? Or, would you leave on the next flight out if you could do so without suffering any financial and/or career consequences? 

Take our survey with real-time results:

15 thoughts on “Consequence-Free Early Departure?

  1. My school, while the worst, surprised me with the fact that teachers are allowed NO breaks from September to June. We might might get a day here and there for some national holiday, but only the students get term breaks or long weekends. Teachers have to be in the office even if we’d get far more done at home, or have nothing to do at all. I also arrived to find there were no textbooks for my classes (or any other materials) and have three separate Literature classes, all of which require completely different materials and exams. Books? Ha. Result is I spend all weekend and get up at 4 am every day searching for materials online, formatting them and then waiting for the photocopy lady to print, because of course we are not allowed to do this ourselves. Bottom line unbearable workload and unrealistic expectations from management- chronic exhaustion which the money does not justify. I’d be out of here overnight if I had another job to go to. The two Lit teachers before me split in mid-year- easy to see why.


    1. pity no editing function here. I meant to say ‘not the worst’ because management knows damned well how hard it would be to replace us in this godforsaken place (think Antarctica- not far off)


  2. For the teachers that are in China, or who have left China in a “hurry”, please note that during the time from handing in your notice to the actual departure, you have the support at your local State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFE). This administration handles all teacher and School affairs as well as gives a teacher the “Foreign Expert” status/certification, and gives the school it’s status (A, B, C, D) category, in terms of how well-favored (Guangxi) it is with the Provincial Education and District Education department. A being the best category, in which the visas will easily be granted to schools applying for teacher Residence permits or “Z” visas, and they have an unlimited number of applications for these. It gets tougher as a school category is lowered to a D, where it can be very complicated for a school to apply for a letter of invitation for a potential teacher or application for a Z visa or application for a residence permit and or Foreign Expert certificate.

    You can also lodge an official complaint to this office, stating very clearly the proper Chinese name of the school, the area where the school is located and the district where they have applied for your Residence permit. If the owner of the school is a “sleazy” Chinese businessman with his wife as a partner making up the “Board of trustees”, you need to have his proper name in Chinese, both his family name (Surname) and actual name to present at this office. You do not have to worry, as the “old” days system of paying a worker at this office by the Chinese proprietor, are done and over with, and now the Education department (Local district and provincial) are ever so ready to act on these people trying out these scams. Hence the SAFE offices, now actually work for the safety and fair treatment of Foreigners working as teachers in China. Schools that have opened overnight by “Husband and wife” teams in china are being closed down overnight. If you are in a little family-run school (Business), you need to get out of there as soon as possible, as the chances are that you are not registered with that school as a worker of that school, which in itself may not be registered with a proper licence. This licence should be placed in the administration office of the school you are working with. If it is not there, then you need to know if the school is registered. However, asking this question might just get you fired immediately, so be careful as to how you find this out.


  3. International teaching is great except that you don’t build a lifetime retirement. Lifetime retirement comes from SSI and a state’s PERS system. It takes 35 years to get max from SSI and at least 5 years to be vested in a state retirement system. Every year a person is not teaching in a US school is another year they lose on a lifetime retirement payout. The bill for fun always comes when we hit our 60’s.


    1. Right and not right. If a couple entering International teaching right now with zero savings was able to save an average of $50K/year, invested at 6%/year, for 35 years, they would have amassed $6,000,000 by 2055.

      If their current living expenses in 2020 were 50K/yr, that would translate to 118K/yr in 2055, given inflation of 2.5/yr.

      Now, 118K is merely 2% of 6mil, which means they could easily withdraw their living expenses every year forever, even allowing inflation pay-raises. Granted, they would have to live in a country with cheap health care. Health insurance, private or public, would be out of the question, I think; as one would require astronomical premiums from 60-100 year-olds, and the other would levy huge taxes on their retirement, thereby ruining them.

      Some international teachers are spending as though no tomorrow, and some others are saving. However, most of those saving are not doing proper math. I’ve come to realize this after speaking with dozens on the topic.


    2. I will have a small pension from my PERS in the US, but in 11 years abroad I have invested and saved several hundred thousand dollars. It is all about personal choices. You save or you play – your choice. But there are also some lousy PERS in the US and many states that you don’t get SSI if you are a teacher with a PERS. In the end, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Making a broad generalization about not being able to make it in retirement after 10-20 years abroad is not the picture painted by many of my international teacher friends who have been retiring over the last 5 years. They have bought and paid for homes, have investments and are doing just fine.


  4. I have worked in five different schools in China in the last ten years and seen many teachers come and go at each of these schools. For all of these schools except one, whenever a teacher quit during the school year, they never got their last salary and housing payment. Most of these schools paid on the 10th but it covered the previous calendar month. So if you gave 30 days notice on the 10th (right after you collected your salary for the previous month), then you would not get paid on the 10th of the next month which means you worked your last 30 days for nothing. If you gave the 30 days notice on any other calendar date, you could lose even more salary. And once teachers gave notice, they were immediately treated even worse then they were before, so whatever made them unhappy enough to quit before just became a bigger deal. Once other teachers noticed this, they wised up and would wait until the 10th of the next month, collect their salary, and take their already-packed bags to the airport for their already-booked flight. I was tempted to do the same at a couple of my previous schools, but luckily I was able to “suck it up” and make it to the end of the contract each time.


  5. A few years ago a friend asked me if I won the lottery what would I do. I stated I would keep doing what I’ve been doing, since I love it so much. These days, I know I need a change, and honestly, if I had won it during summer vacation I would have only come back to pick up personal items I wouldn’t want to leave behind. I know my school is pretty decent, and I will be moving on soon, but I think if money wasn’t an issue, I’d probably change the direction of my life to be where I feel the same fulfillment I felt a few years ago.


  6. For personal experience I can verify that most schools tend to give the teacher or staff member the benefit of the doubt. When I worked in an International school in Germany I had a few middle schools kids go to a fellow teacher and says things about me, which the teacher duly reported to the principal without talking to me or getting my side of he story. When I confronted this ¨informer¨ about why he had not had the decency to ask me about the kids’ story first, he simply said that he was doing his ¨duty¨. I also did my ¨duty¨ and spoke to the principal, who told me he had investigated and that the story was made-up. He had also spoken to the informer and warned him that spreading gossip was unwise and that the next time he was in a similar situation, he should ask the accused first. The informer shamed b y the principal, never spoke to me for the rest of the year, despite my openness to forgive and forget.


  7. I wouldn’t take the next flight out but submit a proper notice according to the contract terms, provided my employer hasn’t already violated the contract.


  8. A student levied an accusation of misconduct against the secondary Principal at an embassy school in Myanmar last year and he left that night. After being confronted, the young woman admitted to have made the whole thing up so as to not be punished by her father (I worked at the school at the time). However, word spread among the children that if you don’t like a teacher or member staff you only need #metoo them and two weeks later a completely different young woman did the same thing to a teacher at an entirely different school. He never showed up to teach again.
    International teaching is all about the money and school’s will do anything to protect the bottom line. They have enabled the children to lie with great personal cost to the educators who have taken great personal risks to teach abroad. There are countless articles about such things on ISR ranging from “Locked up in Qatar” to the case in Indonesia. Until school’s protect the teacher instead of just their income, I will never hesitate to catch the next flight out of I feel threatened.


    1. This is not true for all schools. It is probably true for most for-profit schools, but there are plenty of decent not-for-profit schools that will stand by their teachers.


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