Deceiving Parents & Feeling Guilty

Every morning, as if she were the maître d’ at a 5-star restaurant, Dr. L, as she likes to be called, plants herself right in the middle of the school’s impressive Romanesque, arched entryway, welcoming all who pass through with a hearty “Bienvenidos!” If you didn’t teach here, you’d get the impression you were entering a school to be proud of.

Dr. L’s office completes the charade. With its over-sized CEO-style mahogany desk and shelf after shelf of classroom textbooks, there’s an air of substance, longevity and high academia. Behind her desk, just far enough away so they can’t be easily read, an array of diplomas from foreign universities proudly grace the meticulously painted wall, each adorned with a shiny gold- or silver-embossed emblem.

In the classrooms it’s a far different story: Students share outdated texts and photocopies of workbooks. There is no curriculum, at all. We do our own thing here. Continuity from one grade level to the next is non-existent. Disciplinary support is an illusion. And, if a parent should ever ask to review the curriculum or the associated textbook, they are met with “The document is currently under revision.”

Looking a bit deeper: Parents have no idea the school’s software is of the glitchy, bootleg version. There is an intranet of sorts, but it’s down more than up. With a sketchy, slow internet, high school students bring laptops to class and use cell phones as hot-spots to connect to the internet through cell towers. The school is literally still in the dial-up age of technology.

If only parents knew the books in Dr. L’s office are promotional samples and that her diplomas come from online universities, as in, “Earn your doctorate in only 2 weeks” type universities.

Not included in the ‘potential client tour‘ of the school is the one old photo copy machine intended for use by the entire teaching staff. I’m allotted only “x” number of photocopies per month. After that, each copy is deducted from my paycheck (which, by the way, rarely arrives on time). Working here is like having one hand tied behind your back. If parents only knew…

At what point does professionalism cross the line into deception? I feel guilty hiding the truth about this place. I feel myself complicit in cheating kids out of a well-deserved education. This is my second year of a two-year contract (there will not be a third year). Colleagues and I have posted seething, yet truthful reviews to ISR but this only warns teachers, not parents. How do I warn parents?

Searching the web, I found sites hosting reviews of schools written by parents, for parents. It came as no surprise to find that from a parent’s point of view my school looks okay, if not pretty good. Parents comment on the professionalism of teachers and how supportive and accessible they find us. They talk about after-school activities and the tasty cafeteria food (an extra cost). They are impressed by the high marks their kids “earn.” If they ever found out they had been inflated by admin they would scream.

How do I get the word out to parents about this “hell hole,” short of telling them to read the reviews on ISR? How do teachers at a school like mine alert parents to the fact that what they think they are paying for and what they are getting are two different things?

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20 thoughts on “Deceiving Parents & Feeling Guilty

  1. In response to:

    “There is no curriculum, at all. We do our own thing here. Continuity from one grade level to the next is non-existent.” This is on the teachers within each department; this is not Admin’s job. It’s not an easy task and can sometimes take years to satisfactorily implement – about 3-5 years. Grade-level teachers should be meeting weekly and the department at least once a month.

    “And if a parent should ever ask to review the curriculum or the associated textbook, they are met with ‘The document is currently under revision.'” Again, this is on the teacher. At the beginning of each year or each semester or each unit, the teacher can send home the unit plan(s) for the parents to see.

    “Students share outdated texts and photocopies of workbooks.” I understand the frustration with limited technology and resources. This is when I use Google Classroom to post the ‘handouts’ and tell the kids to print out at home. I don’t use textbooks, but when I do have printed materials, I scan them as well. When the onus of responsibility begins to fall more heavily on the family, they start asking questions. Direct them to the CEO.

    “Disciplinary support is an illusion.” Yeah, this one only works when Admin has a spine and an appointed “sergeant-at-arms.”

    “Inflated marks.” Nothing you’re going to be able to do about that one. Sleep at night knowing that you were honest about how you graded and leave it there.

    “Late paychecks.” Money is flowing through that school in the wrong direction. Cut your losses and leave at your earliest convenience, but don’t break your contract. That will hurt you in the long run.

    Next time you interview for a job, ask questions about resources, teacher turnover, discipline, etc. When they offer you the job – but BEFORE you accept – ask for the email of one or two teachers with whom you’ll work. If the school has nothing to hide, they’ll share. Then ask the teachers the same questions.

    Good luck!


    1. Some schools try to make it the teacher’s job to develop a curriculum. This is a great question to ask during an interview – what curriculum do you follow? If a school says it is up to the teacher or a combined curriculum or anything of that nature, RUN. It’s a giant red flag.


    2. How does a teacher “leave at your earliest convenience with out breaking a contract. This sounds contradictory. Can you please share with how this can be done?


    3. ‘Convenience’, ‘the state of being able to proceed with something without difficulty’. Hope that helps.


    1. No worries.

      Happy to contribute something that isn’t bleak and condescending for once.

      The defamation part is really important to get right. You don’t want to suddenly find yourself out of work and your passport held by the police as they carry out their long and protracted process.

      I met a whistleblower a few years ago who was trapped in Thailand for more than two years as the school sued him for defamation. No income, lawyer expenses and the stress of jail time eventually led to them paying the school off, rather than keep fighting. Somewhere to the sum of 30KUSD or so at the time.

      Certainly soured their IS experience.

      Make sure you know the laws before putting anything in writing. Even if you know it is all true.


  2. I worked, for a short time, at a national school in Saudi Arabia. The elementary school was entirely dysfunctional, yet it had a reputation as being one of the top 3 national schools in the country. It was on a glitzy campus with all the amenities. After two weeks on the job, the PYP coordinator dropped by my desk and asked what I thought of the school. I told her it was the worst school I had ever worked at. Discipline was nonexistent, students were rude, curriculum was absent. Grades were grossly inflated. Teachers were discouraged from contacting parents about behavior or academic issues. I phoned one parent of a high achieving student, one of a few, and asked her if she knew how bad the school was. She said she did. I’m not sure other parents knew or cared. The school was also, I believe, an example of deception. Luckily for me, I was able to leave having completing only a few months, without breaking contract as all contracts were on a one year basis and I was hired half way through the year. I went back to the school I left, whose grass seemed very, wet green by then.


  3. You went there to teach, to be what you felt you could be for the students you were to serve. Do that to the best of your ability- that is your job. Be one of the tools in the school that works and serve the students and parents. The key word is to serve not remake. Be an example and maybe it will catch on. Criticism, public or private, will only come back to hurt or frustrate, especially if you lose your job.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Why, oh why do we breeze in with our Western-centric entitlement and assume it’s up to “us” to tell the truth, inform the parents, save the children, fix their education system etc. etc? You’re not in Kansas anymore, you left Kansas because you wanted to teach somewhere else, remember? Well, this is what “somewhere else” feels like. Deal with it!


    1. Dealing with local conditions is very different from dealing with a school that misrepresents itself, which has nothing to do with locality and everything to do with integrity. An international school that employees teachers from overseas is by definition not part of the local education system. I would have struggled with what to do in this situation and was lucky that I never had to.


    2. Oh, I know! Those educational bodies that internarional schools are affiliated to. You know, those ones that inspect you for academic integrity, business transparency and maintenance of resources etc. Could that be what confuses an international teacher into thinking they are arriving at an altogether different system. Stop gaslighting teachers into accepting corrupt and poor practice because of not assimilating to the culture. There are decent schools out there who survive amongst difficult terrains. Let’s find them and demand others follow them.


  5. I have worked at two different schools exactly like this, and in both cases the parents were aware of problems but willing to deal with them because the school was cheaper than other options in the city. In fact at one school, my idiot boss’s inability to stand up to pushy, unreasonable parents was the root cause of most of the school’s problems! Based on what you’re describing, it seems naive to think that parents aren’t somewhat aware of the truth. They should realize their kids are bringing in laptops, using cell phones, and don’t have real/up-to-date textbooks, for a start. So they made their own choices and don’t need to be warned about anything as far as I’m concerned. But if you’re determined to blow the whistle, I suggest you start gathering parent emails now using various excuses. Then only once you are no longer employed by the school, you set up a dummy email account and a VPN, and send all these parents a long, fact and proof-filled message about what’s been happening behind the scenes and the principal’s actual credentials. Let them take it from there. As long as you don’t give yourself away in the text, it can’t be definitively traced back to you. However, you may still be suspected, so make sure you’re not totally dependent on this school for a positive recommendation to other employers.


  6. One thing to consider is, are there other options for parents to send their children if they learn the truth? Not that you shouldn’t do anything, but by doing this do they still have choice, or are you going to really horrify them about what is their only option? And however careful you are you are putting yourself in a risky position and may end up without a job and blacklisted. Not a small personal consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is a challenge but not an impossibility to contact parents. Here are a few suggestions.

    1) Find a parent(s) who you trust 110%, as your career is on the line if the admin. find out you are telling the truth and puncturing their BS bubble.

    2) If you’ve found one or more, ask them to host a parent meeting at their home or somewhere where the admin. cannot suddenly show up. Once they have agreed to meet, write down, in detail, what is going on in the school BUT make sure to back it up with hard facts.

    3) Ask the host(ess) to hand out the document you created (but don’t provide any identifying information or sign it). Once the parents have read it, ask the hostess to take the names of those who are interested in knowing more. The hostess should not leave any document with the p[arents since there is always the chance that it will fall into unwelcome hands.

    4) If there are enough parents incensed and ready to act, offer to meet them outside school grounds to explain in detail what is going on and what they can do about it. At this point, you are exposing yourself to discovery but that is the risk you take in doing any of this.

    5) Once everyone is up to steam, ask them to form a parents committee or movement and encourage them to confront the owner(s) with specific points and demands. Your part in this drama should now be over and if your identity has been successfully hidden, then you can rest easy, having done all you can to shine a light of truth in that den of vipers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Before you do any of that, check your local countries laws on defamation/libel as well. You need to know how they can retaliate beyond firing you.

      Getting the parents onside and angry is one thing, but maintaining that anger is another, when selecting parents to speak with, don’t forget the parent that you hate the most to be included, the one who complains at the drop of a pin, who blames the school for everything, weaponise that parent.

      If you are concerned with the copied books, contact the publishers and send them photographic evidence of the books – they will send through a cease and desist to the school, putting it on their radar. If the school doesn’t act, follow up again, and again, 2-3 times in it will be a local law firm contacting the school.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dr L’s doctorate earned in two weeks: no surprise there. I knew a school head who had two doctorates: a PhD by correspondence course from a fruit-diet college in Austin, Texas, which in one version of his CV he claimed was from the University of Texas, and a DLitt from Knightsbridge Universty in Denmark, which is not recognized by the Danish Ministry of Education, because Knightsbridge value their “independence”. There is a chairman of an education group in Malaysia who has a doctorate from a bogus university based in the Republic of Ireland, and a chief executive of an education group who has an honorary doctorate from a “prestigious” bottom-rate UK university with which his group has a commercial arrangement. Fake and honorary doctors are everywhere in international education, as are crooked school owners who pay late or not at all and egomaniac corporate chief executives who would rather invest in second-hand computers than experienced teachers. I subscribe to ISR mainly to enjoy the hilarious discordance between ISR school reviews and the glowing websites and brochures extolling the alleged extensive facilities and the alleged highly qualified staff, usually with the obligatory white principal or director centre stage.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Too many schools around the world are mere diploma mills, nothing more , nothing less. I grew tired of focusing on pleasing the parents ( customers). It seems more often now than ever, parents run everything. Everything! From what and how things are taught in the classroom to the grading policy.
    I am back in the U.S., and while there is some grade inflation, the head of school has no reservations expelling disruptive students.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve worked at a school where the public image came undone so to speak, and parents started to become aware of the disarray of the school. The lack of trust in the school ended up being a lack of trust in teachers too, and it was a terrible place to work. Unfortunately, public trust in a school… even if it’s a facade… is important.


    1. Anonymous…..what a ridiculous proposition you’ve excrete!. Continue the charade and lying to “preserve” parental “trust” is your advice? That concept is both an oxymoron AND insulting to teachers who don’t want to participate in the lie. Your type keep such facade schools in existence.

      Liked by 1 person

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