Agreements: Contractual & Otherwise

It’s probably safe to say most teachers believe the majority of International Schools have every intention of honoring their contractual agreements, as well as noncontractual/verbal promises. If this was not the case, no one would leave home.

But what of schools whose Contracts turn out to be worth little more than the paper they’re written on? Legal recourse is expensive, and shady schools know few teachers have the financial resources to follow through. Additionally, many developing countries have extremely weak labor laws, giving the school the upper hand in almost all instances. Yes, teachers have successfully sued their schools, but who wants to find themselves in this unenviable position?

Sometimes, even before leaving home for a new school, subtleties in emails between you and your new Director or HR department send up a red flag signaling a possible lack of commitment to promises both contractual and verbal. Is this a glimpse into what is to come? Do you listen to your gut feelings, break Contract and conclude you fortunately dodged a bullet? Or, do you go on to fulfill your Contract and take your chances? It’s a tough decision.

A recent, real life situation facing an ISR Member:

I accepted and signed a Contract a few months ago. At the time I queried certain aspects of that Contract and received assurance that the school is flexible and accommodating where possible and does its best for the staff.

Now some changes have become evident and it seems that, precisely in the key areas I asked about, there is not so much flexibility at all. At the moment there is intransigence and this is being blamed on having already put in place certain arrangements which I had raised concerns and doubts about at recruiting time. Had my concerns been taken into account, those arrangements would not have been made and the current situation would have an easy solution.

I feel like this is a ‘Big Red Flag.’ Maybe I will feel differently in a day or two but right now I feel as though travelling across the globe to work for a company which promises one thing and delivers another, which ignores concerns raised, would be a huge mistake, particularly in Covid times when moving on or moving out might not be so easy.

If I back out now, I will feel very bad about it. On the other hand, if I get there and find this is typical behavior, I will feel bad for not having heeded warning signs before travelling and may be, or will be, stuck there.

ISR hosts a great many School Reviews written by teachers at schools that have failed to honor their Contracts and their word. From contractual agreements like housing, health insurance, travel, and shipping, to noncontractual promises like specific classroom supplies to support your program, the COVID crisis has made a very convenient scapegoat for both written and verbal promises clearly not met. Now, more than ever, it’s important to consider carefully before accepting a position at a school with ISR Reviews pointing to a history of Contract discrepancies.

The bottom line: Contractual and noncontractual agreements are only worth the integrity of the school behind them. Stay safe! Research, research, and more research is the key to a successful career in International Education.

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Who ARE Some of These Directors?

In a perfect world, all International Schools would be created with the admirable intent to provide a top-quality education for children of expats and host-country nationals, alike. If, however, you’ve been on the circuit for any length of time, you know this is not always the case. Created with an eye on pure profit, some International Schools are not what they have been deviously crafted to look like.

Ask any veteran of a purely for-profit school to relate the experience of teaching under a school owner hellbent on extracting every last penny from the business, and you’ll understand why teachers post some extremely negative School Reviews on ISR. Education and a purely-for-profit motive do not mix.

The question is: Who directs these so-called schools? Who among us is a sell-out? To complete the façade needed to look like an International School, a greedy school owner may install in the leadership position an individual from the West with some impressive letters following his/her name, a helmsman, so to speak, who steers the ship to profitability strictly following the captain’s orders. Some teachers may prefer to refer to this person as the ‘henchman.’

Dedicated educational leaders have found themselves tricked into these positions. As such, all they can do is the best they can to protect teachers and students. On the other hand, and to their discredit, some School Directors seem to delight in rough-riding their teachers in exchange for a hefty salary. They are obviously not educators at heart. And they are certainly complicit in the charade.

ISR asks: Why are some school Directors, specifically those who’ve been identified multiple times on ISR as someone complicit in robbing teachers of integrity and students of education, exempt from the same rigorous scrutiny as teachers? How is it that some Directors, who with a litany of poor Reviews, are still able to move from school to school to school so easily? Should recruiting agencies require schools to demonstrate their Director meets certain academic standards along with a favorable work history before being allowed to recruit teachers?

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Teachers Most In Demand

Math and science teachers appear to be the most in demand teachers at Recruiting Fairs. Every school needs at least one or more, so it’s not uncommon at Recruiting Fairs to hear teachers of these disciplines sharing the news of the many interviews they have lined up. 

The good news for those of us who teach in the liberal arts is we, too, are in demand. If you didn’t already know, many countries require International Schools to hire expats who hold an actual degree in the subject they’re hired to teach.  In other words, an art teacher is required to not only hold a teaching credential but also at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject designated on their Contract. This measure is meant to protect host-country teachers who could otherwise fill the position, as in this instance, without an art degree.

An ISR member tells us that when she was in college, family and friends asked, “What in the world will you do with a music degree?” Was everyone in for a surprise! With so few teachers having majored in music, she found herself in high demand among International Schools required to hire subject-degreed teachers. Twenty years and six schools later she’s in even higher demand. She believes the trend in universities towards technical-oriented majors has created a shortage of teachers to fill liberal arts positions.

Teachers of core subjects may do well targeting large and small schools alike. For liberal arts teachers, keep in mind that larger schools offer extensive curriculums. If you’re a librarian or philosophy teacher, for example, your chances of landing a job in a small school are not as great as your technical-credentialed colleagues. In a larger school with an extensive array of classes your specialty will be in demand. Schools ARE looking for you. It’s just a matter of letting them know you’re available.

No matter what you teach, it’s all about finding the right school. There may be a higher demand for teachers of some subjects because every school must have at least one or more or them, but for the right school, we’re all in demand.

ISR invites you to Share recruiting experiences relating to the subject you teach

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A Brief History of Recruiting & the Future of COVID-Driven Virtual Fairs

Back in the day, if you wanted to quickly get your resume into the hands of a school Director in a far off land, fax was the only way to go. In 1989, faxing my 2-page resume from a school in Thailand to a school I hoped would hire me in South America cost a hefty $45 U.S in long distance phone charges. And that’s only because I got lucky and the document “transmitted” successfully on the first try over decaying old phone lines suffering from the usual heat and humidity of Thailand. Faxing could get frustrating and expensive, and very quickly!

Fortunately, that’s all changed. Whomever got the idea to use email and “Skype” to successfully land an International Teaching position is unknown, but as early as 2007 teachers were sharing news of successful virtual recruiting experiences on the ISR Forum. The trend was catching on! After all, it was virtually free (pun intended) as compared to fax and/or in-person Recruiting Fairs.

Recruiters, realizing hordes of teachers were landing jobs without them, began organizing virtual Recruiting Fairs to take the place of their high-priced, in-person venues. Their efforts, however, came years after schools and educators had been going it alone on “Skype” and other platforms. Were the agencies too late? It appeared that way.

Then came COVID. Large gatherings in close quarters were off-limits and without a doubt the global pandemic helped increase the popularity of online recruiting. As such, schools and teachers who had relied on in-person recruiting at the large agency-sponsored Fairs were now forced to rely on technology. Naturally they turned to online Fairs organized by the same agencies sponsoring the brick-and-mortar venues they had once attended.

ISR asks: Did COVID put Recruiting agencies at the right place, at the right time to make a success of their virtual recruiting platforms? Will the current popularity of virtual Recruiting Fairs fade along with COVID, or are they the trend of the future? How do you see the future of going it alone on “Skype” and other venues if brick-and-mortar venues become extinct?

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COVID Conflict: Breaking My New Contract

Last week I received confirmation my work Visa had been approved and processed. This news, from my new school in India, came with a reminder telling me the report date for new staff was set for late August, less than 2 short months away. But with daily world health news blaring negatively, I feel apprehensive to say the least. Yesterday, 46,000+ new COVID cases were reported in India, not including the thousands of cases health officials say go unreported each day.

In truth, my conscience doesn’t want to leave the school hanging, but if the new COVID case count stays the same or gets even worse, I’m planning to bail on the Contract. What else can I conceivably do? We all know that the school would not have any hesitation whatsoever letting me go at the the very, very last minute if it was faltering. Yet, still I’m feeling conflicted. Should I tell them what I’m thinking?

A sprinkling of ISR School Reviews report schools still rescinding Contracts due to the unforeseen rise of the COVID variant. If schools can break Contract at this late date due to COVID, so should teachers have the right to do the same. My feeling is, schools, along with recruiting agencies, don’t see it this way. My Contract contains a force majeure clause to cover unforeseen circumstances. However, on close examination, the wording implies only the school can exercise that right. No surprise there!

My question is: If I don’t get on the plane in August, will I be killing all subsequent chances to teach overseas? Will future potential employers and the big recruiters understand why I did not go, or will I be banned forever? Anyone else in this predicament? To quote a member of the ISR Forum: A Contract is not a suicide pact.

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How Do You Get Paid…or Not?

Getting your monthly paycheck from an International School can be as easy as 1, 2, 3, or a cliff hanger you’ve come to dread. Most schools pay like clockwork, others a bit late & still others always have one excuse followed by another for why the money is not appearing in your bank account.

Granted, unforeseen political situations, changing banking regulations & poor technological infrastructures can make transferring money into your personal bank account a difficult task for even the most well-intended schools. However, the good ones always find a way to get it done! Excuses are of little consolation for teachers with loans &/or mortgages to pay.

International Schools have a responsibility to pay on time so schools situated in politically unstable areas of the world may ensure they meet this responsibility by parking the bulk of their finances in a country with stable political/economic foundations. They then simply wire-transfer salaries from these accounts into teachers’ accounts. The only excuse for failure to pay on time is poor planning, a hidden agenda, or both. Which brings me to my next point…

As a result of Covid-19, droves of International Educators returned home for health/safety reasons & continued teaching their students remotely. With foreign-hire teaching staff now thousands of miles away from campus, there’s few repercussions for a school that sends out an email saying, “We’ll TRY to get your money to you next week,” as did a school just recently in Myanmar. If a school has a history of late paying or cheating its teachers out of money, ISR School Reviews & the ISR Member Forum are where to find out!

ISR Asks: How do YOU get paid….or Not? Wire transfer, cash, local bank account or combination of local & your back-home account? Do you get your salary on time each month? Does your school owe you money? Please scroll down, NAME YOUR SCHOOL & Share your experience with colleagues who may be considering your school for a career move.

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Beyond School Reviews

Sometimes you need unique information about a school or administrator that you’re not finding in the comprehensive School Reviews section of ISR. No worries! For just such situations, ISR offers a Member Only Forum that’s just a click away.

Ask detailed School-Review type questions & get replies from Educators in the know, join a candid conversation about the good, the bad & the ugly of a school on your radar, search through 100s of current topics of interest to International Educators, name & praise or name & shame, the ISR Member Forum is an important part of your ISR Membership.

When you need information outside the scope of the tens of thousands of School Reviews hosted on ISR, look beyond to the ISR Member Forum for information you need to make the best career decisions for YOU.

Don’t leave your career to chance.

What About Professional Development?

From educational reimbursement programs to attendance at job-specific conferences and multi-day regional events hosting 100s of educators from various schools, professional development (PD) is one of many benefits included in most every International Teaching Contract.

In case you haven’t attended a multi-day PD event, you’ll be interested to know they host well known keynote speakers, presenters, workshops, demonstrations, subject-focused group discussions and an opportunity to connect with other educators from around the region, many in your subject field. Along with the energizing effect comradery has on us all, nothing can replace these events for introducing educators to cutting edge practices and ideas that can be used immediately in the classroom.

COVID, of course, put a crimp on conferences and regional PD events, leaving many of us feeling isolated and unfulfilled in this department. In the face of COVID some schools even broke Contract and abandoned PD all together. Teachers are quoted as saying such contractual responsibilities could have been fulfilled but were abandoned altogether using COVID as an excuse. The fact remains, many of us missed the PD opportunity this past year.

ISR asks: When considering a school for your next career move, how important is a contractual promise of school-supported attendance for teachers at a multi-day, regional PD event? Is a lack of an educational reimbursement programs and/or stipends a deal breaker? Would you accept a position at a school that offered only in-school PD by a colleague? What about no PD at all?

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Reverse Culture Shock: Home for the Summer

I’m home for the first time since I left for overseas 2 years ago. It’s not important where home is, but I’ll tell you it’s considered a “first world” nation. It must be because you can get anything and everything you want here, any time day or night. There’s more than 30 varieties of cold cereal and no less than 52 assorted chocolate bars gracing the shelves of my local 24/7 supermarket. Cars, furniture, appliances, clothes… It can all be had in an instant, no money down with 36 months to pay. My brain is on overload!

Everyone is overweight here, getting fat and fatter. They keep their eyes straight forward as if saying “hello” as we pass would be a breach of privacy. Shootings, mass and small are no big deal. It’s just how it is. Maybe that’s why they keep a distance. It sure isn’t because of COVID.

Capitalism has triumphed in this place called home. TV and radio pound away at psyches, insisting on what I need to be happy, what I need to find love. A shiny new car I can’t afford is a good start. Accumulated objects here have replaced friends, family, a feeling of connectedness. It’s business as usual, everyone kept satiated with what they have been programmed to buy with money they have not yet earned.

This corporate-created/managed reality of my home nation must have crept over me so subtly when I lived here that I hadn’t noticed until I looked through new eyes, eyes that have seen something better in a far-off land that my government’s travel alerts and broadcast news make look unsafe. It’s all part of an effort to keep dollars at home, feeding the corporate machine that owns our politicians and pays big money for broadcast advertising.

I’ve been living these past years in what was once termed a “third-world country,” now relabeled, “developing nation.” People here don’t rent storage lockers to squirrel away excess possessions they didn’t need in the first place. Designer clothes aren’t a thing. Labels don’t make the wo/man. Life unfolds here at a reasonable pace. Less tense. Less strained. And people smile. They say hello and nod in recognition of each other. You’re part of something. Friends, family and neighbors count. It’s not just me, me, me, with more stuff, more money.

If the country where I’ve been living is a “developing” nation and my home country is considered “developed,” something is terribly, terribly wrong with the goal. I, for one, can’t wait to get back to my “developing” nation. Am I the only one who feels this way?

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Covid Vaccinated Status on Your CV?

Could including a Covid Vaccination statement on YOUR CV be a boost to your candidacy as an International Educator? We can’t predict the future, but it may be wise to stay one step ahead of what appears to be on the horizon.

Before you dismiss the idea, Consider the following:

  • More and more countries are instituting quarantine requirements for unvaccinated arrivals. As such, we could soon see an addendum to teaching Contracts that reads, “If not fully vaccinated upon arrival, teacher will assume all quarantine-associated costs.”
  • It has been rumored job descriptions may soon include a Vaccination requirement. Although a COVID Vaccination may not yet be a school requirement, countries could begin rejecting Visa applications of unvaccinated foreign educators.
  • The effort and expense associated with finding a teacher to replace an unvaccinated teacher, one who could fall sick after arrival, will surely lead schools to begin giving preference to vaccinated candidates.
  • For marketing reasons, schools may decide to advertise their staff as 100% vaccinated.

Considering schools receive hundreds of applications for posted positions, ISR asks: At this point in the COVID pandemic, would a COVID Vaccinated statement on your CV help support your desirability as a teaching candidate in upcoming recruiting seasons? Could proof of vaccination help assure continued employment at your current school?

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When Do You Know It’s Time to Move On?

No one ever said an International School teaching position is a forever job. Quite to the contrary, it’s understood International Educators move around the globe experiencing different cultures and bringing that experience to their next school. There are, however, motivating factors to Move On. Oftentimes, sooner rather than later. For example:

  • Some schools withdraw foreign-hire benefits from teachers who stay longer than a few years. “Overstayers” essentially go from foreign-hire to local-hire status overnight. Housing allowance, health insurance and flights home disappear from the Contract. Time to Move On?
  • Some countries levy hefty taxes on teachers who stay past a set deadline. The start date of this tax burden will, for most teachers, dictate a Moving On date. Of course, you could stay on if 40% lobbed off your check is acceptable. Time to Move On?
  • Aging out of the ability to obtain a work Visa often motivates older teachers to Move On and experience different locations while they still qualify for a Visa.
  • COVID, and how admin dealt with the situation, changed many educators’ outlook on their school. A “perfect fit” suddenly turned into a desire to Move On.

It’s been said, “International schools are great…until they are not.” Disenchantment can come in many forms and strike within weeks, months, or even years after arrival. There can be many reasons to Move On beyond those mentioned here. ISR asks: When do YOU know it’s time to Move On?

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Single, Female & Going It Alone

Hello ISR,
Maybe you can help?

Recently singled from a partner with zero wanderlust, I’ve decided it’s high time to go International. Yes! I have asked myself the big question: Is my motive to pursue a career in International education a form of simply running away, or am I consciously making a move towards a bright new horizon?

After much soul searching, I’ve concluded it’s the latter. I’m ready but do feel that I need some advice on schools and locations.

To start with, I eliminated from consideration those countries notorious for systematically suppressing women with, for example, prohibitions on or discouragement of dancing, drinking, driving and traveling solo. It just seems some parts of the world have a ban on enjoying life in general, you know? For me that pretty much means avoiding the whole of the Middle East. I also deleted from my list: Turkey, Morocco, India, Egypt, Colombia and other places where men have a documented reputation for groping, incessant catcalls, and even following single woman back to homes and hotels.

Jumping into a new relationship holds no interest for me at the moment. On the other hand, I would like to have a social life that extends beyond my immediate colleagues. Parts of the world where I always have to be on high alert obviously do not appeal to me. Could I be wrong about my impressions of these areas of the world? Or, have I been accurately forewarned?

If you would be so kind as to include my comments in one of your newsletters and ask readers to recommend schools and areas of the world which are suitable for a single woman, I would be much appreciative, as will other women in my position, I’m sure.

Best Regards to the staff at ISR,
(name withheld)

ISR asks: Based on personal experience and/or observation, which schools/locations would you recommend for a single, female teacher?

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A Positive Side to Negative Reviews

Dear ISR. I have a unique way of looking at ISR School Reviews that I believe your readers will find interesting. I’ll explain in terms of a short history…

Some years ago, I interviewed for a secondary position in Ecuador. After telling me the job was mine, the interviewer, the school director, said he wanted me to know exactly what I would be committing to as far as living in Guayaquil, a port city where the school is located, is concerned. Words like ‘hot, humid, dirty, dusty, little cultural redemption, aggressive drivers, greasy food, not very friendly citizenry’ were among the adjectives that stuck out. Yet, I accepted the position.

Weeks into the school year I realized the director was spot on, but just partially. There was still plenty to enjoy about Guayaquil. In many respects it was better than described. And having been prepped for the worst, I had no rude awakenings. No let downs. No feelings of being deceived by a smooth talker telling me some BS like ‘it was once the Paris of South America.’ I hit the ground running and shrugged off what otherwise may have felt like a deal breaker and found a lifestyle that fit me perfectly.

I think of ISR School Reviews in much the same way I do the director of the school in Ecuador: They both tell it like it is! As an ISR Member, I’m privy to the inside story on schools and locations. If I accept a position, I go in eyes wide open. Surprises don’t taint the experience. I’m prepared for them and I deal with them. It’s when, as in past jobs, I’ve been deceived that countless hours are wasted wondering: Is it just me? Is what I think happening here actually the reality? Frustration and resentment soon follow.

I’ve relied on ISR for 11 years and counting. I accept there is no school with 100% positive reviews. I don’t, however, think negative reviews are a red flag that screams, Don’t go! In the same way the honesty of the director in Guayaquil helped afford me a great experience in Ecuador, I find that same positive aspect to negative Reviews. Knowing before you go can make ALL the difference in the world. It does for me!

All the best and thanks for the great service ISR provides,

(name withheld)

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Survey: Your School’s Reaction to a Poor Review

At ISR, we believe the majority of International Schools take the concerns of their teachers to heart. After all, when teachers feel valued they exude a positive attitude & work to their highest potential. Everyone benefits: students, staff, admin & parents, alike.

A supportive school, confronted with a negative Review, sees an opportunity to improve. They may call a staff meeting. They collaborate with teachers. Together, as a team of educated professionals, they change for the better good of all. This process is what you would expect from an institution dedicated to education. Such schools are well represented on the ISR website.

Given the opportunity to improve, however, not all schools act in accordance with how you would imagine an educational institution to proceed. Discovering one or more negative Reviews, some schools summarily brand the author/s as disgruntled malcontents & launch extensive witch hunts to ferret out the culprits. Calling in an attorney to interrogate teachers has been the tactic of more than one school, as revealed in ISR School Reviews. Some schools simply jump to sending attorney-written letters to ISR, threatening legal action if said Reviews are not removed in X number of days.

When schools threaten teachers, they are often acting in accord with the Review/s they find objectionable, essentially validating teachers’ comments. Subsequent Reviews submitted by teaching staff frequently speak to this unprofessional reaction to criticism in all aspects of administering the school.

ISR asks: If your school has received a negative Review, how did they react? Take our short Survey:

Upon becoming aware of negative Reviews,
my school did one or more of the following:

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Health Insurance Gamble, USA

If you’re moving back to the States following an overseas teaching gig, or just planning a short visit, think health insurance! Without it, a freak accident or sudden illness could leave you burdened with a debt that makes a student loan from Yale University look like a bargain. On the other hand, the sky-high premiums insurance companies charge those of us returning from extended periods overseas could tempt you to risk going uninsured. It’s a gamble.

With no recent State-side medical records to help insurers assess current health status, International Educators are a statistical risk. A teacher who not long ago returned to the States on a permanent basis tells ISR she pays a stiff monthly premium, with all health conditions exempted from coverage for 2 years, except accidental injury which carries a deductible of $4000 along with a 30/70 split until her 30% of any bills reaches 5k out-of-pocket. Do the math…

Exasperating the situation is the practice of charging those individuals seeking coverage a higher premium than someone who is part of a collective of individuals applying as a group. Interestingly, when insurance companies raise your premium each year they base the increase on total claims in your area, not your personal claims. You’re part of a group only when it’s convenient for them.

Consider the following: The CEO of Humana makes $16M a year. Anthem’s CEO takes home a cool $15M. I make $45K. The best policy I could find upon my return to the States was $950 a month (just over 20% of my income) with a $5200 deductible. I’m not willing to go uninsured, putting my house and financial future in jeopardy. This feels like extortion, not a safety net in case of illness or accident.

To cut to the chase: An International Educator returning to the USA pays high health insurance premiums simply due to circumstances and insurance company greed, not health status.

ISR asks: What’s the solution? Forego health insurance, putting your financial future at risk? Head to a country with reasonably priced health care if it’s just for a couple of months while you’re between schools? What about a family of 4 returning home who are living on savings while job hunting? Any advice or experiences to Share?

Comments? Something to Add?
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Retirement Goals

When you move from school to school, country to country, there’s no district office to tie a career in International Education into a sponsored retirement plan. If, for conversation’s sake, individual International Schools did offer retirement plans, how would it realistically work to have a small pension set up for you in 4 or 5 foreign counties, depending on how much you moved around?

Retirement after a career in International Education will be what each of us creates for ourselves. The best advice is: “Make a plan, start early & diversify.” Volatile markets, unforeseen global events & worldwide pandemics, as recently witnessed, can put a serious crease in the best-laid plans. The more financial irons in the fire, the more secure your plan will be. At least that’s what we hear from the economic gurus of our day.

ISR asks: What do YOU consider your retirement goal to be? What are you currently doing or plan to do to meet that goal? Naturally, goals will differ depending on what age you are now & what age you’d like to be when retiring, your current & future financial responsibilities, where in the world you plan to retire, & how extravagantly you’d like to live — a beer & bread budget or a caviar & champagne budget? Sharing plans, ideas & concerns, we can help each other to make informed, forward-thinking decisions on this important topic. We hope you’ll join in the conversation!

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Throwing Stones from My Glass House

Is their a point at which human rights violations dictate that I won’t let myself live and teach in a particular country? China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Myanmar, Israel, Russia, Venezuela top the list of human rights violators, and each hosts International Schools. As an Educator, how do I feel about teaching the children of the host country monied elite, and in some cases, the children of those oppressing the masses?

I ask myself:  Does the opportunity to influence and possibly plant the seeds of change in children of the rich and powerful outweigh the fact that in some way I may be actually supporting the wrong people by educating their children? I choose to believe I’ve been given the opportunity to change history by influencing future leaders of industry and government. It’s a tremendous responsibility and one I’ve chosen to accept. And in exchange I’m willing to accept certain realities.

As an American you might ask if I have the right to throw stones from my ‘glass house.’ To call out other countries on human rights violations could be considered hypocritical while America holds thousands of immigrant children in cages,  peaceful protesters are scattered by force as an ex-President’s security personnel facilitates a photo opt, and more than 2,000,000 Americans (mostly minorities) are being held in for-profit prisons, while communities in some states/areas are also losing their free speech, voting rights and even their lives on a all-too frequent basis.

I’m aware I live in a ‘glass house.’ My country is not above reproach for past and present actions. Does this mean I can’t, as an educator, strive to not only make my country a better place but also other countries of the world? In the words of the Dalai Lama: “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.”

What about you? What are your feelings about teaching in countries with Human Rights violations?


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Tattooed & Pierced Educators Overseas

What we in the West have come to accept as a simple body adornment may well create the wrong impression on the first day at an International School in a foreign land. Over the years ISR has visited the topic of tattoos. We revisit the topic here with the addition of the ever more popular body piercings.

Cultural norms die hard. Ingrained perceptions of the types of people who wear tattoos & body piercings don’t change in an instant. Adornments in some societies can & will be interpreted as the mark of an unsavory class, not the type of person parents want exposed to their kids. In other societies, piercings & tattoos may be perfectly acceptable.

As an adorned educator, making a poor first impression is the last thing any of us need. Depending on where in the world you’re teaching, it could be wise to first earn the respect of students/parents & later reveal your “artistic side.” This approach should go further to assuring acceptance than simply strutting your stuff on day one & thinking you’ll transcend cultural norms because you’re “the educator from the West.” This approach has worked for more than one educator.

ISR asks: What’s the current level of acceptance of tattoos & piercings in the International School arena? If you’re an educator with body adornments, How did YOU approach revealing them to parents & students, if at all?

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“Check Your Own Damn Privilege”

Minimizing the Influence of Wokeness and Identity Politics
at International Schools Worldwide

The following Article does not reflect the views of ISR. Written and submitted by an ISR site member who requested anonymity, we open the following Article to discussion.

The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukinoff outlines three great untruths in their seminal book that have stunted university students in the last several years. The first untruth is that whatever does not kill you makes you weaker. The second is that your feelings should always be trusted and validated. The final untruth is that life is a morality struggle between good and evil.

Coming of age in the 1980s and1990s when political correctness first began, I recall that phase as being primarily instigated by administrators at universities. A few students were involved, but most were indifferent. Now political correctness has gone into hyperdrive, and a minority of vocal students are now demanding that they be protected from other people who see the world differently. Think of all the terminology and ideas associated with the illiberal desire to demand conformity to certain ideas: social justice, wokeness, identity politics, critical race theory, intersectionality, equitable spaces, safe spaces, triggering, trigger warning, microaggressions, cancel culture. The list goes on and on…..

The ideas they bring with them are starting to affect all institutions, but international schools in particular have been disproportionately affected. The result is inevitable: emotional excess, moral vanity and exhibitionism, and avoidable conflicts that should be molehills but become mountains because of the greater proclivity for younger teachers to seek out reasons to be outraged and offended.

Does your lunchroom have young teachers who feel the need to correct the language that others use? Are you or your students taught to adopt identity politics, which means the most important thing about you is your race and gender? Are there ideological litmus tests where one must accept these ideas at trainings and seminars? Have you ever been afraid to speak out against a policy that seems wrong to you but has been justified under the guise of diversity, equity and inclusion?

All ideas have a heritage and a past. These ideas have an unseemly past, rooted in two major schools of thought. The first is Marxism, which was supposed to usher in a grand new age in the 20th century, only to fail in every single culture across the planet and lead to, oh let’s see here, over 100 million deaths. It seems that the suffering and failure that Marxism produced has not changed its adherence from many intellectuals, even though one would think these people are supposed to care about empirical realities.

The second school is postmodernism. I remember being attracted to this worldview at first, because it seems to offer a view of freedom and emancipation from old assumptions. But that’s not what postmodernism is. Postmodernism, rather, is the believe that we are nothing more than representations of power of our unchosen groups (race and gender), and life is nothing more than a power struggle, as there is no other reality to the world than power.

These ideas have stunted the emotional and intellectual development of a whole generation of students, and now many of these younger students have now entered the workforce and seek to impose the worldview they learned in college on the rest of society, and of course, international schools.

They are not appealing or accurate ideas. They have a lot of surface appeal, but it does not take much time to see these ideas inevitably lead to a totalitarian dystopia They represent all of reality in a two-dimensional (dare I say binary?) way where there are only good people and bad people, and all people should think of themselves as merely a member of a group in order to be considered “good.” At a time in their lives when their own personal development is so critical, students are now taught that who they are doesn’t matter; feeling the right way and settling for the role as victim.

To the extent that my views are political, I am doing nothing more than impugning and insulting the totalitarian left, because a world without free speech, free expression and individualism can never be compromised, both at international schools or anywhere else. As educators, open and free inquiry and self-expression have to be the cornerstones of our practice, free from ideological and social coercion.

Any argument that this article promotes white nationalism in the slightest is libelous. But I expect and welcome strong dissent to what is written here. I am challenging the core beliefs of many people, so I welcome criticism.

But can I make a request? Please, pretty please, with sugar on top, don’t proclaim your precious privilege. All of us are fortunate by almost any standard to have careers in international schools. But that is gratitude, not privilege. My experience is that those who proclaim their privilege are doing the following: aligning themselves with the oppressed on the cheap, proclaiming their moral superiority on that basis, and then using this unearned virtue as a means of telling other people what to do.

Which is why when I hear someone announce how privileged they are, I can only say, “You’re right.”

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Recruiting With 4-Legged Friends

Are your chances of landing an overseas teaching gig diminished if your travel companion is a full-sized poodle? How about an 8-pound Siamese cat? Most everyone loves cats & dogs but that doesn’t mean they are always invited. Going international with a 4-legged friend requires extensive planning. Travel arrangements, documentation, vaccinations, dietary needs & visits to the vet are just the tip of the iceberg. An obstacle you may not be able to overcome is a destination that considers dogs & cats ‘unclean’ animals, not to be touched.

At interview, pets could be seen as a complication that might keep you from showing up for the job. Extremes in weather have prompted airlines to restrict pet-travel months for animals shipped in the cargo hold. Oftentimes the start of school & airline pet-travel restrictions conflict. Also consider that in this time of pandemic concerns, it’s hard enough to enter most countries as a human; a pet in tow could complicate matters beyond resolution. Are you ready to leave your companion behind? Are you prepared to answer that question at an interview?

The key to a successful recruiting experience with pets is to know the laws related to bringing your pet into the country you’re considering for a career move. Showing the interviewer you’ve done your homework & see no obstacles to your pet coming along goes a long way to making the topic a non-issue. Loads of educators live overseas with their pets & even travel with them through an array of countries during school vacations. The key is Research & Planning.

ISR asks: Were you a teaching candidate this recruiting season with a pet in tow? How did that experience play out? If you’re already overseas with your pet, what advice do you have to Share? Is Covid playing a factor in recruiting with a pet? Would you leave your pet behind if it meant that’d be the only way to get the job?

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