Discrediting Teachers & Lashing Out

If you receive our Newsletter &/or frequent ISR, you know International Schools Review is all about providing a safe space for International Educators to anonymously keep each other in the loop about schools around the world.

ISR’s mantra, International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed, sometimes involves sharing information that’s not of a positive nature. This can often motivate various school Admin or their appointed “attorney” to contact & even threaten ISR.

The tone of such communications is usually aggressive, making it perfectly clear why teachers are dissatisfied, choose to stay anonymous & are motivated to Share their grievances, thus warning colleagues before accepting a Contract at such a school.

Refusing to recognize any degree of credibility in the Comments of the professionals they interviewed & hired, some admin go so far as to conduct witch hunts in an attempt to ferret out the author of negative Comments. More than just a few ISR School Reviews document teachers being called in & interrogated by a school attorney. Some admin claim they know who wrote the objectionable Review & offer leniency in exchange for a confession.

ISR recently received a letter typical of letters we receive from admin who take the stance an author of a negative School Review is merely a dissenter who failed to fall in line. Lashing out at ISR & attempting to discredit the author/s of Comments considered objectionable solves nothing, & may help substantiate the Comments in question. For example:

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“To the Team at ISR,

I have been recently acquainted with a review of the school that I work at (The xxxx School). In the review that I read, the school and two of the administrators (who were named) were subject to a very nasty rendering of things conducted at the school. Judging by the way it was written and the subject matter, I know exactly who wrote the review. I was the anonymous writer’s head of department.

Though I was not mentioned, the review is offensive beyond measure. The review is ridiculous and literally outright lies from top to bottom. So I’m wondering, is this what your website is about, giving a platform to sub-standard educators who have emotional voids they are misguidedly trying to fill or simply for individuals to slander institutions?


The reason I ask is because this is all I can see on your website. Additionally, if one, or an institution wanted to reply, they would need to pay $30 [sic] for the privilege to do so. So your value to the world of international school teaching is what exactly?” (ISR Note: It does not cost to post Reviews to ISR. And, the non-member section has numerous links to do so.)

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When dialogue isn’t immediately possible, negative School Reviews stand as a warning to other educators. If issues get resolved, succeeding Reviews may say so & it is quite common to see progress made using ISR as a basis of communication. But not always. Schools with a stack of poor Reviews still exist.

There’s a wide variety of schools out there. It’s always wise to research & learn from educators who have first-hand experience at a school you are considering. ISR, with its thousands of Members is here to help YOU find the right school.

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

41 thoughts on “Discrediting Teachers & Lashing Out

  1. The following post is most obviously written by an admin attempting to do damage control. His question: “Does ISR have any real value?” is ridiculous. If you refuse to change your ways and you know your staff hates you, the only avenue open is to criticize the people that point out your shortcomings. And, the comment that school and directors have no opportunity to reply shows how little he knows about ISR.

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    1. Your reply clearly demonstrates my point – you don’t know me, I may or not be admin, so why use such a demeaning tone? And what ‘damage control’ are you referring to?
      My point about the value of ISR was that how can prospective faculty make any objective judgment about a school when posts are so often personal grievances?

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  2. Unfortunately it is the sad case that some schools and school leaders are particularly ineffective in curriculum delivery, pastoral care, faculty well-being, professional development and honoring teacher contracts. I suppose one issue is about who makes that judgement of their effectiveness and how much big picture knowledge do the assessors/ISR contributors have. There are some schools and Directors that appear constantly here and then you have to acknowledge that trend – one Director in particular has at least 42 negative reviews and so you would have to conclude that the picture painted is probably a true one.

    One-off reviews can come about because of personality clashes, unfulfilled expectations and sometimes simple unfairness or incompetence.

    ‘Revenge vents’ seem quite common and the problem is they are often factually inaccurate and usually highly-personalized and libellous. Hiding behind anonymity, posters say whatever they please without fear of retribution and that is wrong. There is no right of reply for school communities and consequently many Directors or boards that I know have little interest in following the postings.

    So does ISR have any real value?

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    1. Many teachers read the reports. Of the many that were about a school I worked at were absolutely true and the school in question are losing pupils at a huge rate ISR is a wonderful site that warns teachers of the problems they may find.

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  3. This is interesting. People with a reasonable sense of judgement should be able to see the patterns in posts, even when you take away the personal details. If you can’t, allow me to help you.

    Multiple posts about a school over a long period of time centered around one person or set of people is exactly what it looks like; a pattern of unchanged negative behavior.

    Just take away the eyerolls over the “venting”, and you can see a bad formula of behavior, exactly for what it is, about a school or admin’s behavior. It’s logical to conclude that the person, or persons, named in a review is responsible, and even more so the longer the timeline!

    It’s illogical to conclude that the astronomically low odds that so many “negative teachers” have somehow been attracted to a school amongst the thousands out there are to blame for the reviews.

    Though you may get one post about a school, it’s reasonable that there are many more with the same feelings in the staff, just not everyone goes to the same means to exhibit these observations. Again, the longer the negative behavior continues and is reported, the more you can logically conclude it’s shared on a wider basis, though not always reported.

    For admin, take it as a reflection. You’re not perfect. You made mistakes. You may not be suitable for your role. Change your hiring practices. Change your leadership practices. Make an effort to change your reputation. Admin and schools who can’t see this as a way to reflect and change are not going to get out of the pattern of behavior they’re already in.

    Hence, stay away from the school.

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  4. International schools have quit trying to “woo” their teachers. I don’t need to fly across the world to be treated like trash. And teacher pay in the U.S. is not bad. So please motivate us to come if you actually want good teachers. Otherwise we’ll not put up with being left at the airport, forgotten at the hotel and shamed in front of staff and students. We actually have other options. Thanks but no thanks. Be careful how you treat people, one day you may need that person or that person may be your superior.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree, many international schools treat incoming staff in a way which most other international corporations just wouldn’t get away with. Unfortunately there are too many staff who are just willing to put up with it all out of desperation to be away from schools in their home countries. They then wonder why the same staff go looking for alternative jobs in the region sometimes before the end of their first contract. Sad.

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  5. Agree with all of the above. It is a good starting place to check schools and spot red flags such as integrity with contracts and treatment of staff.I never wrote reviews on your site but seemed to get credit for a couple of them!
    It would be nice to see more positive reviews about the good schools.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Maybe if schools didn’t want to be known for their mistreatment, they shouldn’t mistreat their employees?

    Sure, sometimes an unhinged and unreasonable teacher posts their bizarrely specific rant, but it’s fairly easy to determine those from a more balanced review that comes from a place of well-rounded criticism. I fail to see an issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have written three reviews of international schools on this forum. All of them have been honest with good points and not so good points.

    I have read other reviews for those same schools while I was working there and you get some that are clearly disgruntled teachers often asked to leave with an axe to grind – but they are relatively easy to spot.

    I have also read the reviews of other schools in the same country I have worked, schools that I know quite well, and I have never seen one that is untrue – good or bad.

    This forum is an invaluable resource – and has been for me for many years. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A highly experienced and able colleague of mine was known for his rather scathing opinions about management but would never do anything so underhand such as write a review for this website.

    One day a long and overwhelmingly negative review popped up and eyes fell on him. ISR was never mentioned openly but it was clear over the following year that he was being falsely accused by management and he was subjected to a sustained bullying campaign.

    I was 100% sure the review had nothing to do with him, I knew him well. Post your reviews, but I suggest you consider collateral damage when you do so.

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  9. I believe it’s important to face this fact: although there are a few good international schools left in the world, most of them now are fly-by-night exploitive and mercenary institutions. In countries with good public education systems, such as European ones, the majority of international schools (the ones that don’t serve expatriate communities) exist to serve rich children who won’t submit themselves to the discipline of the national curricula. In developing countries, most international schools are now owned and managed by the oligarchs of the kleptocracy who side with repressive local governments. Gone are the days when the International Baccalaureate Organization declined to authorize schools incapable of executing their programs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I agree with some aspects of your comment, it is quite over-generalizing, e.g. “most” etc. With no supporting references. With equivalent evidentiary veracity I could say that are many, many privately managed independent international schools in “developing” countries which are exceptionally well-managed and keep student-learning and academic integrity at the forefront.

      Eric Heim,
      American School of Ulaanbaatar

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    2. What Mr. Heim says below would be true if so many international schools in developing countries weren’t owned and operated by tycoons who are being given a tax credit for operating something that can be called “a school.” Anyone thinking about being employed in such a place should do “due diligence” by finding out who operates it IN THE INTEREST of WHAT KIND OF OWNER, and, if it’s one of the local kleptocrats–as it is, in very many cases, likely to be–and then give it a pass. Otherwise, political, even police, power will readily be brought to bear on any and all school policies. I’ve seen this in Egypt and in India.

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    3. Another big problem is that even the regulatory bodies (the ones used for accreditation) are essentially bought out, my last school received accreditation a week after all the teachers were asked to fiddle the students’ grades so the education ministry didn’t get upset. Of course there are some schools which still maintain integrity but the sad truth is that the vast majority of “international schools” are all about the bottom line with little to no concern for employees or indeed students!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I have written three negative reviews and had I read the reviews of these schools before being employed I would not have gone to these schools. I only learnt about this platform after the event. The Review has helped me pick which schools to work for when I am offered a role. ISR is very useful. Incidentally I was threatened by the principal of one schools which was in denial about the pedagogy of the school. This school went on to write to the Review a very rosy picture about themselves and bad mouth Western teachers. $30.00 to my mind is a useful investment to stop future angst.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. There are times that some of the reviews on ISR are clear rants of close-minded educators who are venting because the school did not meet their myopic expectations of international teaching. However, you can usually tell when someone is angry by the things they list as problems (one of my favorite being academically struggling students because the author is elitist). I think critical thinkers can weed through the blustering verses truly representative reviews of schools. It is sad that more people don’t post when they are happy with a school, but as we are so busy, it is understandable that we prioritize our activities. ISR serves an important purpose. I do think honest reviews can be left without naming names even if you can figure it out by role.

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  12. As a department head, I once had to supervise a teacher with serious mental health issues and a
    pathological hatred of anyone in SLT. This individual wrote two extremely nasty reviews about me that were a pack of distorted lies and quickly refuted by other staff members. Very damaging. There are
    hateful crazies out there. In return, she was reported to the agency that employed her and blacklisted. Her own embassy deemed her crazy as she screamed outside their gates. However, another unfortunate school picked her up that wasn’t fussy about references and she created chaos there as well. Nasty experience.

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    1. I really think this is very rare and actually undermines genuine reviews on this site. I also think you had grounds to have the reviews removed if you could prove she was mentally ill, rather than ‘crazy’. She clearly needed some help.
      I had an horrific experience and in the circumstances wrote a very balanced review, alluding to events, rather than naming and shaming. Somebody else wrote a much more scathing and direct review about the school and the many issues it was experiencing. It is not always the disgruntled ones, it is sometimes just people with integrity who get the word out there.

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    2. Person Unknown. Actually, it is not that rare. Spite and “getting back” at a supervisor because a teacher does not get their own way and feels entitled is not so unusual.

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  13. Some good schools I worked at did get reviews that they didn’t deserve, so I’m always aware there’s a fair amount of axe grinding going on. I know some teachers that have been let go, and often they blame their exit on others, where usually they only have themselves to blame. More than once, a dishonest review appeared not long after. Then again some bad schools are getting what they deserve with a bad review. It’s hard to tell what a review is worth sometimes.
    It would be great if ISR would make some sort of effort to get ALL educators to review their school, so we get a better idea of what a school is really like, since now most reviews are clearly posted by disgruntled staff. As someone else said: now it seems there are almost no good schools to be found, which is simply not true, and ISR would be more useful for the teaching community if they could present us with a more accurate and balanced picture.

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  14. As yet I have not done a review on the school I worked in. There were numerous negative letters about it which I know are all true. I still live and work in the country and know if I were to write something negative I could be in danger.

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  15. A school who like to lash out and attack teachers is British International School Ukraine.
    David Cole, the principal, openly seeks the people who have reviewed the school and in his words “I will destroy them and never allow them to work again”.
    When people leave (which is many and frequently!) he will call all previous references and claim safeguarding issues against you. Luckily, most international heads are aware what a buffoon he is and pay no attention to him as they are aware what good quality teachers they have employed in the past. If he discredits innocent teachers what else is there to stop other teachers making the unfortunate mistake of joining BISU?
    ISR is a safe space for teachers to support each other in this International Teaching Community and ensure we all see our worth and don’t make career mistakes. Even though most heads warn you of avoiding the man and his reputation!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Have you ever tried to ask a school for references? Some reference letter from teachers (present and past)… They will immediately dismiss you from the recruitment process. So which other option do we have to check if that school is good or not? I know that a lot of reviews in ISR are bad. But if you find the same problems in 3 reviews of a school, then you can make quite a good idea that it is right.

    There are schools that are asking me for 3 and 4 reference letters BEFORE even the interview. You need to demonstrate that you are so good. But then the school is not obliged to provide you with any. So which other choice do we have apart from rely on the opinions from colleagues in ISR?

    So, I am happy that ISR exists. I have dismissed many schools because other teachers have been reviewing them (and as I say: if 3 reviews say the same it means that there is something there), and considering the investment that you do in your life going to an international school, I think it is more than necessary. Furthermore considering that the school will not give you references or put you in touch with leaving teachers…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I myself was subject to a threatening and abusive e-mail because I wrote an accurate account of a temporary “manager” in northern China, telling me I was a weak character, should blow my nose and that any further comments about him would result in my “ass cruising for a bruisin”. [sic] Charming. It transpires that this individual was described by a subsequent Chinese principal as leaving a trail of destruction. ISR had to reject the false account he gave of his relationship with that school. I am actually an experienced school administrator and epartmental head with over 35 years of overseas school experience/ Just stay accurate and objective.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. While I admit I have a love/hate relationship with ISR (It can be seriously depressing sifting through the reviews and makes you think there are no good schools anywhere, which is obviously no true). Having said that, it provides a forum not otherwise available to teachers. Heads have a network where they can regularly comment on teachers to which we have no way to respond, or even know what’s said. This is our equivalent. Yes, there are a LOT of disgruntled people out there, but it’s fairly easy (with some experience) to recognize the valid complaints among the axe-grinders. It’s also pretty easy to tell when admin are writing the reviews! I worked at in Egypt several years ago, for which I wrote an honest review and just described some of what was going on. I’ve enjoyed over the years watching the negative reviews pile up, and then the occasional glowing review casting all the nay-sayers as a lazy, a poor fit and bad teachers who just can’t rise to the standard. Right….

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  19. I often read comments about the schools I have taught in and currently teach in. Not all comments about these schools were reflective of the majority – they were comments from those that I know should not be teachers or were released due to performance issues. Some comments were constructive for the schools to take-on board and address. What I do think needs to addressed by ISR and screened is the use of peoples full names in comments – in my years of International teaching we have always educated our students on using social media in a respectful way and naming and shaming is not acceptable for students so I hope ISR can consider looking into this. Words can be used in a way that provides constructive feedback rather than anger and hatred – which is what I have seen lately in lots of different schools reviews. I would like to see some positive comments as I know they are out there somewhere in the reviews! I just see negatives on all schools listed so far.

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    1. In the land of international teaching when your contract often does not stand up under local employment laws, if you lose your contract, you often have to leave the country, there are no trade unions etc etc. I think many schools deserve to be named and shamed for shoddy behaviour. Let us also not forget the whole big boys club that still exists, NDAs and many cultures doing pretty much everything not to lose face and their precious reputation. It is a recipe for some pretty horrible treatment.

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    2. Yes, I am not suggesting to ISR to not name schools I am suggesting that ISR review the use of using full names of individuals both teachers and leaders and do not permit it in the reviews. I find it difficult to understand it is allowed considering most educators teach students this is not appropriate to do. This is just my own thoughts. I don’t expect others to agree. I just prefer to model what I teach my students.

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    3. Bobby, in response to your last comment I really do think some managers need to be named as schools will go to great lengths to preserve a reputation or cover a scandal. Even if they move on to a lesser school, it still does not mean that school deserves them. Again, with little accountability, these people need to be exposed. I have seen it happen.

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  20. I’ve worked at several schools across China. I read the reviews on ISR. It is usually fairly easy to see beyond just “disgruntled” to the things of real concern. And it’s especially interesting when reviews toggle between several negative reviews and then glowing rebuttals. I know that administrators get involved to try to modify the damage caused by bad reviews. There is a toxic culture in a lot of international schools (obviously not all). It is an unfortunate fact of teaching abroad. And bullying of teachers is a common issue. Yes, an unfair review would be upsetting to read, especially if you’re named and shamed. However, if you have more than one “unfair” review, perhaps there is an actual issue at hand that needs to be dealt with effectively and without punitive witchhunts.

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  21. Currently Head of three departments in a school in Egypt, I actually ignored a couple of ISR reviews coming to this school, thinking they were just moaning, disgruntled teachers and that I could handled it – but no, they were right and the place is dreadful. I have to leave after one year, which now makes me look bad on my cv… Beware indeed.
    I will encourage every teacher to leave reviews in all schools I work at, and now feel a responsibility to tell fellow educators the truth, whatever that may be.
    I will also post positive reviews for anywhere deserving, as I want to support good practice, schools and administration as much as possible..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I commend you for this post and I think it is worthwhile. Sorry for the current situation that you are in.

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    2. Thanks for your comment, and the lesson! I am heading to Egypt next year. Do you mind naming the school?

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    3. I don’t think you need to worry about how it looks on your CV. Bad Middle-Eastern schools are well-known on the circuit, and everyone understands breaking a contract at the end of the year–as long as you don’t leave mid-year and leave the school/kids in the lurch. I worked at a school in Cairo I now call the hell-hole. Arrived with 15 new teachers and everyone else left after two weeks. I stuck out the year and then left. Have never had a problem with that and have subsequently been hired by “top tier” schools.

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  22. ISR is a platform for educators of all standards. It may sometimes be a way of someone “venting their spleen”, but why do they need to do that! Any good manager, who has an unhappy member of staff, would want to know why they are unhappy.

    I was head hunted for one job. I was unhappy in my school, so I accepted the offer. The school I was unhappy in was a state school. I was disappointed that I was not given an exit interview. I think that any school that really cares about its staff should give exit interviews.

    In reality, school leaders are often not prepared to face up to facts. They fear hearing the truth. They can be very judgemental about others as indicated by the quotation in bold, but do not welcome honest, heartfelt feedback. It is a case of being able to give others a hard time but they cannot take it themselves. These people are often cowardly bullies who arrogantly believe in their superior expertise in teaching.

    When I have read other reviewers comments on the schools I have worked in, I have never read anything false. Some things may be a matter of opinion and sometimes people are not very specific as they want to hide their identities.

    As far as good and bad educators are concerned, any individual teacher may flourish in one school while the same teacher may experience a rough ride in another. I have received good feedback from OFSTED and I have had students email me after their examination results thanking me for the ways I helped them and making very kind comments. I have also had a COBIS inspector be very aggressive towards me and name me in the feedback session at the end of the inspection. Of course, this was totally contrary to the COBIS rules and guidelines. The unfortunate truth is that even the best, most conscientious and most caring teachers among us sometimes sadly find themselves on the wrong side of their senior management, leaving them feeling unfairly treated. As international teachers, we usually have no union to go to and the conduct of senior staff goes unchecked. Very few schools offer exit interviews. I would suggest that ISR (and friends?) is the only way that they can share their experiences. This may be therapeutic, but we should not dismiss how invaluable the information can be to people considering employment in a particular school.

    Thank you ISR.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great Post. If they do get found out, they often go onto to lesser school, to mess them up, too. I know of one such person, because the Board could not admit they had messed up and employed a loser. They also did not want their ‘reputation’ damaged. Seriosly, no school deserves this manager.

      Like

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