Fired on Trumped-Up Charges

by ISR Guest Author

I’d bet money that just like me, experienced, well-qualified educators have been railroaded out of international schools by incompetent, inept administrators who feel threatened by teachers better qualified for their position. This is what happened to me:

Two days after our respected elementary principal walked out in utter frustration, our director, in his infinite wisdom, gave the leadership position to his good buddy and drinking partner, a guy with 3 years teaching experience. A local hire took over his now vacant 2nd grade classroom.

At the time of the buddy’s promotion, I’d been overseas for 12 years, in 4 different schools. Witnessing the new principal flounder badly at his first, full elementary faculty meeting, I felt motivated to offer assistance, in private, of course. It was obvious the guy was in way over his head. Our classrooms having been previously adjacent, I felt we had formed a professional friendship. I also thought he would welcome any help he could get. My mistake!

Point blank, he said he was now to be addressed as Mr. B. He expected to be treated with respect. And if he wanted help he would ask for it. No doubt he was feeling inadequate.

About two weeks after this encounter, I escorted a boy to the nurse’s office. As I guided him through the door to the infirmary, I placed my hand on the kid’s shoulder. Our new principal was passing by as I said good morning and walked into the nurse’s office.

That afternoon the principal called me in to see him. His buddy, the director, was waiting. I was immediately accused of ‘inappropriately touching’ a student. There was nothing I could say in my defense. The two of them had conspired to create a ‘serious’ case (as they put it) against me.

I was summarily put on suspension without pay, then fired two weeks later — effective immediately. I was told to consider myself lucky the Board of Directors or Ministry of Education hadn’t gotten wind of the issue. I packed my belongings and left the following week, at my own expense.

My crime? I had never gotten along well with the director, an insecure, inexperienced, underqualified guy hired by the school owner to be his right-hand man, his ‘heavy.’ Admittedly, I made the repeated mistake of offering suggestions at full-school faculty meetings. They went unwelcomed. I was, in effect, an independent thinker attempting to contribute to the greater good. Wasn’t that exactly what the school mission statement promised to make out of the students? Apparently they wanted that attribute practiced someplace else…

My experience is not unique, of that I am certain. International educators are strictly at the mercy of their administrators. Labor laws are minimal, if even enforced at all, leaving administrators with an agenda virtually free to exercise their unbridled will over a teaching staff. Back home these individuals would be brought up on charges, sued, prosecuted and in some cases, imprisoned.

I’ve kept the name of the school, my name and those involved out of this article because, truthfully, I’m afraid of what they are capable of if I were to name them. For obvious reasons I can’t use this school as a reference. It appears the consequence of their charade are more far-reaching than I had thought.

Is my situation an isolated incidence? Trumped-up charges, in my opinion, are a tried and true method to get rid of teachers whose advanced degrees, experience and ideas make an underqualified administrator feel inadequate.

ISR Guest Author

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31 thoughts on “Fired on Trumped-Up Charges

  1. I can well believe it. This is more common than some teachers realise. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was the vile excuse for education known as Vin Schools.


  2. Heartbreaking to hear your story. I can empathise: the same thing happened to me a full 10 years ago at a highly reputable European international school. Head wanted me to go, tried to scare me with “professional review” all year, and when the findings came in in my favour, took a minor issue and tried to turn it into “gross misconduct.”

    Of course I did what people do – got a lawyer, fought the charges, eventually agreed to resign and took a big payoff to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

    Problem is that I know this school head torpedoed at least one later job application: I’d interviewed, all great, gone in to do Visa paperwork, only to be pulled aside by a sweating recruiter who told me “principal changed his mind and by the way you should take that European school off your resume.”

    What are we supposed to do? Leave massive, inexplicable holes in our CVs? I put in ten good years at that school, was named Teacher of the Year… with all that removed, I have no experience to advertise.


    1. The school and admin at these places need to be named and shamed. This kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable.


  3. edredrosre Reading all these case histories feels like reliving my 11 years of international school teaching at 6 different schools. I fled the first because it was an admin position that I was not qualified for and my immediate boss-was a nightmare who thrived on ordering and reprimanding. I was at the second school for 3 years when my contract was abruptly not renewed and no reason given. I was at the third school for 2 years when my age became a problem for them. I taught for 3 years at the next school but then saw an ad for an admin/teaching private university position and left an outstanding international school to return to return to higher level teaching. I ended up losing that job after 2 and a half years for a combination of age, taking too long to recover from a major injury, speaking my mind at a general meeting, and my job basically being removed under new ownership. This had all happened in the same country where I had hoped to be able to retire. I only knew at the very end that this was never going to happen. I returned unwillingly to the states where an adjunct teaching job fell into my lap. After two years I left it to go teach in Spain for a year. There I had a freaky husband and wife headmaster and headmistress team, an unbearably loud school with some of the worst behaved students ever, no teaching materials for months. They ended up not renewing my contract. In the end thst was a blessing because I was able to escape Covid in Europe and fortunately resume my college position which soon went online only. A year and a half into that and I had the stroke that put an end to my teaching career at age 75, two years ago. So during my 11 years teaching abroad in international schools I experienced all the bad and inexcusable stuff that everyone has written about, but there were definitely highlights as well, wonderful classes and trips with awesome students and colleagues, and 11 years of traveling that were the highlight of my entire life. I will no longer be able to travel again and am do glad that I had 11 years of it. None of the mean and nasty behavior you have written about can take those invaluable travel experiences that international school teaching enabled away from me!!


  4. Having been an active parent at 7 international schools, I have witnessed things like this happening to teachers, to principals several times, especially in schools where transparent communication to parents is non-existent and parent questions are not welcomed/actively discouraged. If the good teachers and principals keep leaving, often without having a new job, you know there is something wrong. Often, the reason given is “to be closer with family”, a red flag especially if admin is not transparent in its communication in general.


    1. One director I know of left to be ‘closer to famil’y and very far away from the a real nasty little issue he had. Sometimes owners spare the real gruesome reality. People get fired because they are just bad.


  5. I got non renewed from my school of 5 years because of the following reasons:

    -was on my phone during a meeting
    -late to a meeting
    -missed a covid test(which I took outside of school when I missed it)
    -late lesson plan

    they also left my higher up who liked the work I was doing in my classes out of the loop so I knew they just wanted to get rid of me for any reason. it sucked being non-renewed on short notice(they told me in late march) and my coworkers were genuinely surprised I did not get renewed but it’s the school’s loss.

    I’ve been emailed by parents thanking for getting their kids in to art school and my students have told me of the impact I had on them so that’s all the matters and I’ll take my skills elsewhere and do the same wethere I’m appreciated for it or not.

    the lesson I learned is that if people want you gone, they’ll find any reason to get rid of you and all you can really do is teach till they find that reason and or leave on your own terms, either way you did your did job and you strive to do it well.


  6. This entire thread is a strong argument for being a teacher – tourist. If your mindset is “one and done” then these issues are not your issues.


  7. Never speak in staff meetings. Keep your eyes on the speaker and pretend to listen.

    I was non-renewed once for asking a question in a meeting. Insecure admin are very paranoid and see everything as a threat.

    Remember the line from the movie The Killing Fields- “the only way to stay alive is to stay silent”.


  8. Unfortunately this is one of the downsides of international teaching where there is no recourse for teachers who have been treated unfairly. Many of these schools are run by a family business and school owners don’t have clue to run their establishments.

    All they are interested in, is the false aesthetics of the school, making money and employing their friends and family members who are often ill equipped to do the job as an Administrator Principal. You come in. You’re a threat.

    In some countries it’s like the ‘Wild West’ where there is no governance. It’s up to each school to do whatever they want. It is often a shock for many western teachers who have been recruited for their ‘experience and skills’, who have come from schools which often have robust and clad iron procedures when it comes to labour and employment laws.

    I often wonder why some of these international schools even bother. They want to appear to be modernising their schools with up to date curriculum, pedagogical and technological practices, clambering to get CIS and COBIS accreditation when they don’t have the mind set, skills or professionalism to organise and plan the running of a school.
    Their mission statements are just words to make their websites look pretty.

    Many international schools pander too much to parents who think that they can run the school (the proverbial ‘the tail wagging the dog’) and any rules or procedures you try to implement will be challenged, with people going over your head, undermining your authority to talk to the school owners or governing body to overturn your decisions After all they are all buddies, family members and friends. You don’t stand a chance as the ‘foreigner’ or outsider. You won’t win.

    I see and hear these stories day in and day out. I’ve had a pretty good run of teaching internationally. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately it’s the bad and the ugly that often prevails.

    I have returned to the U.K. where I know that we have good infrastructures, and laws with a union to support me and protect my job. Though not perfect I’d rather be here in the U.K. than to be summoned to a
    Principal’s office (who is incompetent and not qualified to do their job) to have my contract terminated on trumped up and feeble charges. It’s happened to me – so I’ve experienced it first hand, because I didn’t play ball and stuck to my professional values.
    So for those of you who want to teach overseas, go with caution and an open mind. You may have to lower your expectations. You will not get the job security that you are accustomed to. One minute you’re the flavour of the month and the next day you’re out on your ears! No protection, feeble excuses for your dismissal, residential visas cancelled, no return flights home and no court that will rule in your favour.
    So on a final note, enjoy your experience whilst it lasts and go in with your eyes wide open. Don’t pick a school with a high staff turnover and do your research properly. Or you’ll end up in a school with a ‘revolving’ door.


  9. I taught for 27 years internationally in 5 countries and was sacked (not renewed} 5 times. Sometimes my fault and sometimes not. Its all part of the experience of international teaching and often leads to a better outcome as it did for me. If not for getting sacked I would never have had some great and wonderful experieces at my next destination. Just move on and enjoy the next posting. Having a sense of humour helps!


    1. It’s happened to me 4 times in 27 years of teaching.

      I’m a very good teacher as well. (Trust me, bro)

      I’m continuously amazed at the type of people who end up in leadership positions. I’ve had two competent heads in all these years. The hiring process for s enior leadership is not working.


  10. These cases are typical of overseas education, particularly if you are involved in middle or senior management, where professionally expressed judgments are a necessity. When I posted an example on this site from my experience at a school in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, I was told by the perpetrator that my “ass is cruising for a bruising” [sic]. Charming: very professional. This same character was reported here by Dr. Spilchuk in 2014 after he left a “trail of destruction” at another school in Guangzhou.

    At another school in Shenzhen I was told I had resigned without legal recourse because I had complained about the appalling unprofessional behavior of staff (including assault) and “manager”. It seems that a later teacher did successfully sue the school, and I note there has been a recent complaint about behavior at this same place under a successor. It seems this total lack of professionalism or even basic civility is built into such institutions; only rigorous national inspections could even begin to address such a widespread problem.


  11. Unless we can learn what school did this, we have to be VERY skeptical. I understand your concerns but what about other fellow educators who risk falling into the trap?


    1. “I’ve kept the name of the school, my name and those involved out of this article because, truthfully, I’m afraid of what they are capable of if I were to name them. ” I can fully understand your reticence to risk being identified by your former school, but you’ve said that they have already done some nasty bits to you. Please let us know what school so your colleagues and new teachers can avoid this career deathtrap. That is one reason among others that ISR exists…to help members and others avoid making the same mistake you did. refusing to reveal this school is helping this school’s spiderweb trap more victims.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think this one is going to take time to come out, from what I know there are a lot of legal things happening in the background and powerful families involved, so I can’t see the school name coming out anytime soon.


    3. Laurel…..naming is permitted regardless, since we are on here to protect each other and reading these posts where schools and even admin. are clearly identified is permitted. Making false or misleading accusations, unsupported by facts or events is not.


  12. Sometimes it’s not even trumped up charges. I had a “falling out” with the secondary school principal of the international school I worked at in Shanghai for 4 years. We had been friends in addition to colleagues so I thought I could trust him when I confided in him that I was having some issues with depression after a death in my immediate family; instead of supporting me he removed me from a position of responsibility that I held because he no longer thought me competent due to my mental health struggles (which did not impact my work whatsoever, I may add.) I expressed my displeasure and held him accountable and the tenor of our relationship changed entirely. While he was never outwardly aggressive towards me the next year, when contract time came around he scheduled a meeting with me at the end of day on a Friday and I knew he was going to tell me he wasn’t offering me another contract, despite my many positive contributions to the school. I resigned before I could give him the pleasure of telling me I wasn’t welcome back. I also strongly suspect that he sabotaged my efforts to find a new job, first with my reference on Search and then probably when he was called for a recommendation chat.
    This man effectively cleared out middle management that year, sending a lot of really gifted and talented teachers packing by being an absolute shit-head. I found out the next autumn that the board had sacked him and he would be gone by Christmas. I was so angry that they hadn’t seen the writing on the wall before that and allowed him to do so much damage to the staff and school.


  13. In every single international teaching job, a teacher serves at the pleasure of the administration. This will never change, because there is no governing body to change it. I spent almost 15 years teaching internationally, and have seen mistreatment of literally every educational stakeholder save the greedy SOBs that own and staff the schools with useful idiots as administrators. The accreditation agencies are just as powerless, and sometimes have perverse economic incentives to reaccredit schools that fail students and teachers horribly. Ultimately, the choice is about lifestyle. Do the benefits of being wherever it is you hang your hat outweigh all of the truly negative things that are going to happen? Then stick around. But always know that no one will ever have your back, because the system is designed to give all of the power to school owners and administrators — even in the allegedly not-for-profit schools.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said. Keep your head down. Don’t volunteer for anything and say ‘sir, yes, sir’. We are employees. I just want to be left alone to teach. And gratefully, I mostly have. Stay out of the staff room. Stay off of the booze cruise. Do your job and mind your manners. It’s worked for 15 years so far where I’ve seen multiple colleagues fired or not renewed in that time span for having big mouths and being too ‘active’. I stay away from admin as much as possible. “My goal is to be seen and not heard where they are confident I am doing my job well but occasionally forget that I work there.” Paraphrasing an art teacher I worked with who was ‘tier one’ in China for 25 years.

      Unless you are a climber, just do your job and shut up.


  14. This is truly unfortunate and I am sorry you had such a bad experience in that school. I am a male administrator and consistently welcome feedback and input from all staff as I am the first to tell you I do not know everything. While I am a very experienced educator and administrator, I feel that the school thrives when all staff are involved. It is concerning to see the amount of unqualified administrators leading schools and the horrifying stories I hear from teachers that I speak with. In the end, no one is all-knowing and should always welcome input from others. Again, I am sorry you had such a terrible experience there.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A tough experience but worth talking to a local lawyer; apart from losing your livelihood, it also impacts your reputation. 4th tier schools are full of unqualified , insecure and dodgy admin with axes to grind. Anyone decent who ends up in these scam schools does not last very long and usually gets hounded out.This recently happened to a friend of mine at the notorious Vin School in Vietnam. A few weeks in and this confident, experienced teacher who was always popular with the kids – and used to be in admin himself in the last school we worked in together, almost had a breakdown from bullying management and cheating HR. He attributes it to age discrimination and commenting on poor practices. It happens all over the world sadly..Teachers beware.


  16. I was given the option to resign or be fired because my husband at the time and I were in beginning of a divorce. The school consultant, who hired both of us told me in a meeting that I had broken my contract. I asked numerous times what part of my contract, never told. The principal at the time befriended me and then turned around and stabbed me in the back. Which of the two of us would be easiest to replace, my ex husband a math teacher or myself a literature and social studies teacher? Well, the answer was me. I feel very fortunate that I was able to leave my job and the country, return to the US and then get hired for the following school year in a matter of days. It actually worked out best for me. My ex was booted out of the country later because he was over 60 years old.


    1. There is also a lot of misogyny amongst male administrators overseas, especially if they are married to local women who massage their huge egos and treat them like little king pins. Pathetic. Glad you got something better.


  17. I left a school (Beijing) where situations like this were rife. Four members of management fired because they had accidentally seen a (completely nasty and incompetent) senior manager in a compromising position with a teacher (who was not his wife but, rather coincidently, had just been promoted). Even though they didn’t say anything, a ridiculous excuse was made to sack them on the spot. They weren’t even given time to clean out their desks – the sort of protocol appropriate for child abuse cases. Staff were then told they weren’t allowed to discuss the matter and basically threatened with “disciplinary action” if they brought it up. This led the way for a long string of “investigations” for pretty much anyone who dared query anything or showed any competence in teaching or leading effectively and empathetically. Staff on the ever-growing hitlist were either held up on ridiculous “charges” (with no evidence, no process and no right of reply) or just plain bullied and harrassed until they left. I think these trends are imported issues (not just from the US) and allowed to magnify with no real feasible options for those being victimised and no system to keep these things in check. At least in the UK there is access to a union and its services. Unfortunately, this is a very real problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. To the OP,
    I am sorry you went through such a traumatic experience. I had similar situation. I got the pink slip fir unfounded reason. The so called principal was not even a qualified teacher. He is a complete fraud. He promoted under qualified staff to a position of peer, and bullied seasoned teachers regularly. I have hunch that some schools are more for profit than actually caring about education. That said, I see it happening in the US. I might invite some criticism here by stating that some charter schools are just corrupt. It makes me wonder if the trends seen abroad are actually imported issues. Back in my expect days, I thought was just an “ international thing.” However, time and time again, I am seeing it here, too.
    Hang in there. I know you are great teacher, so don’t let greed and jealousy break you down.

    Liked by 1 person

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