My Summer Reading List

With summer vacation on the horizon, I’m looking forward to some much anticipated cover-to-cover reading time instead of just glimpsing a chapter here & there as I do during the hectic school year. Nothing appeals to me more than relaxing with an inspiring book, my favorite beverage at hand & plenty of time to revel in the well chosen words of a polished author.

That said, I propose we Share the top 3 books on our summer reading List. You just never know what you’re missing!

Here’s my top 3 must-reads:

  • Trust / Hernan Diaz
  • Demon Copperhead / Barbara Kingsolver
  • Pachinko / Min Jin Lee

What’s Yours?

Please scroll to Share YOUR summer reading List!

Post-Covid Shipping Allowance Blues

Last week’s ISR Discussion Topic delved into how well, or not, schools are adhering to their Contracts in regard to end-of-Contract return flights home. A number of teachers reported their schools had found ‘clever’ ways to negate their contractual promises.

Given that increased airfares have provided some schools with a convenient excuse to legitimize reneging on the flight-home clause of their Contracts, ISR asks: How is YOUR school behaving when it comes to transporting teachers’ personal possessions back to their home of record?

Contracts are made to ensure all parties adhere to the letter of their word, no matter the unforeseen situations that present themselves. Schools which make unilateral changes to their Contracts are well aware that teachers have little to no recourse as litigation is next to impossible in many host countries. If YOUR school falls into this category, you can alert colleagues with an ISR School Review.

In addition to a flight-home allowance, were you promised a shipping allowance to your home of record? Has your school stuck to the letter of their Contract? In a worst case scenario, ISR is aware of teachers leaving all possessions behind. They’re no doubt singing the Post-Covid Shipping Allowance Blues and hopefully reviewing their School to help keep colleagues safe. Review Your School.

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Return-Flight Home Shenanigans

ISR is aware that various International Schools are reneging on the return-flight home section of their Contracts. Are YOU receiving a ticket back to your home of record, as promised?

Here are some shenanigans as reported to ISR:

My school reneged on their contract. Instead of providing a return ticket, as promised, they gave us a flight allowance. In my case it’s insufficient to cover the cost of a ticket home ... like, by almost $500!
MY school reinterpreted “home of record” to mean, “closest airport from the point of departure.” This means after touching down in Los Angeles, I’m still 2,000 miles from home (Ohio)! It’s my dime for the U.S. leg of the trip…
I should have paid closer attention to the phrase in my contract that reads: “Return trip to home of record, if possible, on a school-authorized airline.Wouldn’t you know it, the school offers a very limited choice of airlines with an even more limited choice of destinations. To get here they did pay for me to fly from my home airport on an airline not on the approved list. Now that they are done with me it’s a different story…
When I saw, “Cheapest economy flight back to the home-of-record airport” it never occurred to me they would book me on 4 airlines with connections that look impossible to make!

ISR hopes these are isolated cases, with the majority of schools honoring their Contracts and taking teachers’ wallets and sanity into mind when booking flights home. What has YOUR experience been with Contractual flights home?

ISR invites you to Name Your School and Share your return-flight home experience.

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Leaving More than Just Footprints

As the end of my 3rd year and completion of contract came into view, I wanted to leave behind something more than just my footprints. I’m not referring to an ego-driven legacy commemorated with an engraved plaque. But rather something of lasting value to my students and my host community.

At my previous school a few of us departing teachers pitched in to purchase and install some much needed software for the elementary library computers. At the school before that, 3 of us had an 8-seat custom bench built and installed on the elementary playground. As for the school I’m now leaving, well … I’ll keep my plan to myself and not spoil the surprise since I know my admin are ISR members!

For me, departing this school and not leaving something of value would color the experience of the past 3 years with an overtone of it having taken place in a vacuum. It would be as if I closed the book on a vibrant chapter of my life and that was that. Contributing lends itself to a sense of connectedness and continuity I can carry with me far into the future.

I love this school and my students here. My desire, while young, to see the world is what motivates me to experience new countries and schools. My desire to contribute to the greater good motivates me to leave behind more than just footprints.

What sort of things have YOU and your colleagues done to leave your schools and/or host communities better than when you came in?

Comments? Please scroll to participate in this ISR Discussion

Schools That Snoop

school admin spying a teacher using computer.

Is your school monitoring your online activity? Could they not only be clocking time spent online, but actually snooping into which websites you visit and what you do on those sites? Are they watching as you write a School Review?

ISR has recently noticed that within an hour of receiving a negative Review for a specific school, we sometimes also receive a positive Review for that very same school . In and of itself this could be considered normal. However, when a positive Review is submitted before the negative Review actually goes live, we have to wonder how the author of the positive Review knew exactly what to refute in a negative Review which is still in the queue.

Coincidence? Maybe! What about when the “coincidence” occurs more than once?

School PCs, laptops and campus Wi-Fi connections can leave you vulnerable to snooping. School-issued devices, even when used on campus and if equipped with key-stroker software, can make your online and offline activity an open book.

It is beyond the scope of ISR to point a finger at any one school and accuse them of snooping on teachers’ online activity, or worse. As a 3rd-party venue, ISR provides a space for International Educators to share their experiences at schools around the world. If you suspect your school is snooping, you may want to share that suspicion.

Suggested reading: Reviews written by Admin – Let’s List Them – (an ongoing ISR Member Forum thread w/75+ comments). Please login to ISR as a member and then return to use the link.

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COVID Collateral

by ISR Guest Author

Over the past few months I’ve noticed a decline in the caliber of writing gracing more than just a few ISR reviews — I’d call it a more agitated, aggressive approach, accompanied by a weaker command of written language. I hadn’t found this to be true, previously.

My theory is that this temporary literary decline is a reflection of a transition currently taking place in the international teaching community. I call it COVID Collateral. Bear with me:

When COVID was in full swing, international schools were finding it next to impossible to fill vacancies from a greatly diminished pool of experienced, qualified candidates who could/would travel to their school. As such, this situation presented an unprecedented opportunity for applicants who otherwise would not have been considered by top-tier schools. Or, tier-2 and/or -3 schools, for that matter.

Of course, every rose has its thorns and along with this unique opportunity for those less-than-qualified came the potential to be subjected to severe, extended lockdowns along with repetitive COVID screenings; this, in countries with unsophisticated medical standards and less democratic governments.

My school, out of necessity, took on some questionably-qualified teachers. I’ve come to fully appreciate why recruiters and most schools require candidates to have a minimum of 2 years teaching experience, a 4-year degree and a teaching credential.

The COVID crisis is today more or less in the rearview mirror. The pool of qualified, experienced educators is back to normal. My school is not renewing the contracts of most COVID ’emergency hires.’ The level of resentment is high. I’m guessing this is happening across the board in international schools around the globe.

It’s my opinion these educators should be grateful for the otherwise unavailable, unique experience they were afforded, knowing they can return when more qualified. The experience will hold some real weight on a resume.

To my point: I believe the recent dip in the level of writing currently populating some ISR reviews is the work of lesser qualified, COVID crisis ’emergency hires’ expressing their dissatisfaction with non contract renewal. This too shall pass. Call it COVID Collateral.

Has anyone else notice this dip in writing competency? What are your thoughts on this topic?

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Would YOU Stay for the Children?

by ISR Guest Author

I didn’t think the situation at this school could get any worse. Until it did! Last week the director got up in my face to say parents of my HS math classes are unhappy with their kids’ grades. Ms. Y (principal) made it clear: I had better find a way to ensure this never happens again! Before I got a chance to explain it’s impossible to teach kids who refuse to learn, she turned and walked off.

At this so-called ‘school’ I’m just a cog in a money-making machine deceptively masquerading as an educational institution. For example, materials are severely limited, I was told to photocopy text books, and the internet is sketchy at best. Ms. Y will happily toss you, as the teacher, under the proverbial bus to appease the paying clients. Disciplinary support is nil. Worse yet, teachers are required to create and operate game and food booths at twice-yearly fundraisers. You can bet that money goes right into you-know-whose pocket!

I really hate it here. And I’m not the only one miserable. A few of us have talked about leaving to the airport some Saturday morning, never to return. These conversations boil down to 2 camps: 1) We should stay for the kids’ sake, or, 2) These kids could not give a single damn about much of anything, so why jeopardize our sanity for them? At this point I am firmly in group two.

The school year is heading towards an end and I’m not coming back after the break. So, why not just leave now? Any way you look at it I won’t be able to put this school on a resume. I’m not sure I would want to, even if I could.

I’m throwing this out there to see how other international educators weigh in on this topic. This is my third school. I’ve had it good up to now. And Yes, I have reviewed this hell-hole on ISR.

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Born Free, Taxed to Death

by ISR Guest Author

You can distance yourself from your home country but not from the long arm of the tax man. Every year I hear the same questions from new colleagues: What’s considered ‘foreign earned income’ by the IRS? How many days must I be overseas to qualify for the ‘foreign earned income’ exclusion? What if I go home for the summer months? What happens if I just don’t file?

Over the years I’ve used different, self-proclaimed, expat ‘tax experts’ to file my taxes from overseas. I get the feeling they’re all working out of their kitchens. What one accountant told me I couldn’t do, another insisted I would be foolish not to do. I liked his attitude: “If they question you, you might have to pay it. Chances are, though, they won’t.” He was right! They have not and I’m all the better off for it financially. I’ve paid no income tax since going international!

Last year, however, I sold a property back home. Actually, a real-estate agent took care of everything. She informed me the sale has been reported to the IRS on a Form 1099-S. This puts me on the spot for capital gains tax. I’m not sure how this will affect my tax status. Can I call it ‘foreign earned income’ since I made the money from overseas?

Maybe my extensive travel expenses will offset any capital gains on the property sale. After all, as an international educator, travel expenses should be a tax write-off since visiting different countries is essentially broadening my professional horizons. Call it ‘market research.’ My tax guy knows what to do…

Back home I literally felt taxed to death. Real estate tax, sales tax, income tax, personal property tax, even a tax at the gas pump so I could get to work and pay even more taxes. Among the many advantages of international education, however, the tax advantage places high on my list.

My question: What have overseas educators experienced in regards to handling their taxes from overseas? Anyone ever been audited? Do you use an accountant or do you manage your own taxes? Do you pay any tax at all?

Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

The Eyes & Ears of Admin

"Hello, I'm the eyes and ears of admin. Anything you say will probably be used against you."

By ISR Guest Author

At my last school, the administration had eyes and ears everywhere, no thanks to a small group of sycophants who reported back to them on everything they heard and saw. I made the mistake of confiding in one of these snitches. If only he had worn an identifying name tag!

Fortunately, I hadn’t revealed any big secrets about myself (like having been an exotic dancer in college to pay my way through, or occasionally selling a little weed to make ends meet). That was all in my past and nothing anyone I met along my career path needed to know about.

So, what did I do to put me on the outs? I vented to a colleague exactly how I felt about our principal’s archaic perspective on education. In the principal’s very words: “If you don’t have true or false, right or wrong, how can you assign points and grades?” Disgusted by such a comment I said to my colleague, “Talking to him about comprehension, application, analysis and evaluation is literally like trying to teach a pig to sing.”

I came to regret this phrase, “teaching a pig to sing,” when I was called into his office and that phrase was thrown back into my face, word for word.

Before coming to this school I had read the reviews on ISR. I read about the snitches, the “eyes and ears” of administration. I thought the comments were the paranoid machinations of some disgruntled teacher. Apparently not…

From that day on I didn’t know who to trust. Who else was reporting back to admin? It was a situation that served to alienate teaching staff from each other, I came to realize. (I no longer teach at that school. The principal and the director refused to write me a letter of reference but I still found a new job.) And YES!, I have reviewed this lousy school on ISR — I’ve named the school, the principal and director. Thanks ISR for giving us a voice.

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Climate Change Made Me Change My Mind

Planet earth shown suffering the effects of climate change

by ISR Guest Author

Recent extreme flooding in the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Brazil, and India prompted me to cross these devastated countries off my list of places to consider for my foray into international education. Drought in East Africa, earthquakes in Indonesia? I crossed them off my list, too.

As for Europe, June-August saw heatwaves resulting in 20,000+ deaths, making this the deadliest meteorological occurrence of 2022. Portugal reported 47°C (116.6°F) on July 14th. February 6th, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated parts of Turkey. I hated to take these places off my list. But climate change or not, something is affecting personal safety worldwide.

Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion? Truth is, I can’t imagine myself in a foreign country, potentially also with a language barrier, finding myself in the middle of a natural disaster. I’d probably keep my passport in my pocket at all times, just in case!

So there you have it. Global natural disasters have prompted me to stay put, for now, in Colorado, one of the safest US states from natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. I suppose no place is 100% safe. But some more so than others.

My question: What have international educators experienced in regards to natural disasters? Are international schools prepared and equipped to evacuate staff, students and teachers? Do the majority of schools have a security plan in place that’s been shared with teachers? How can I find out which schools have such a plan and the means to carry it out? After reading ISR reviews, my hunch is it could be every man for himself at some of these schools.

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ISR Note: Comments intended to hijack the topic and turn it into a politically-oriented Climate Change debate will be removed and the poster moderated for all future posts.

A Promise & a Handshake

by ISR Guest Author

With a handshake and a promise from the school director, I accepted his offer of a teaching position. That was back at a December recruiting fair. Now we’re half way through March and I still have not received the contract!

In late January I contacted the school. Their reply: “We’re waiting for our board to confirm the new hires….two members of the team are out of country.” Mid-February I write again. No reply. A week later I try again. “Contracts are being revised.” I’m left hanging…

My first clue should have been the fact they care so little about their teachers they can’t be bothered to offer a finished contract at a recruiting event. It’s not 1975 for God’s sake! Scan and email candidates’ data to every board member and have them make a damn decision right then and there! Is this some kind of game to them?

Last week I contacted my recruiter. She told me, “Be patient.” I know which side her bread is buttered on. What irks me most is the director and the principal both told me to ignore the lies about their school on ISR. Up to that point I had never even heard of ISR. Since then, I’ve joined and read the reviews. At this point I’m convinced that the only liars are the characters who interviewed me. I, too, will be naming and shaming this school if they don’t come through.

Anyone else been in this position? Advice please!

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How Prepared are Your Students for American Universities?

by ISR Guest Author

Although it shouldn’t be the all-consuming focus of my job, placing our graduating students in American universities has become my sole responsibility as Counselor at an “International” school in Egypt. Our board of directors and the director himself think that’s how it should be and how it is for me in my position here as Counselor.

I worry about theses kids. Grades are mostly based on family clout. Administration even goes so far as to pressure teachers into changing test and assignment due-dates if study time might conflict with attendance at a school sporting event or a major weekend party.

There are some bright, hard-working students here with the qualifications to get into any university. But there’s a problem: From what I’m starting to realize, a good percentage of our previous graduates placed in U.S. universities failed out in the first semester. This high attrition rate sent up major red flags, making admissions Counselors hesitant to continue accepting our students. I do now know why I’m having such difficulty placing even the very best of our students.

Additionally, the director, parents and students all think it’s my duty to rewrite entrance essays and fill out entire applications. As a result of this country-club style education, a number of our graduating students lack even the basic English skills to complete an application.

No doubt I’ll be fired at the end of the school year. At least that’s what I think is coming. I’ll be the scapegoat. After all, these kids have the ‘best grades money can buy.’

How prepared are YOUR students for American Universities? Anyone else in the same situation?

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Adopting a Street Dog Overseas

by ISR Guest Author

I’m in Mexico City. To get to the point, the cutest dog started hanging around my neighborhood. He’s super well behaved, polite better describes him. When I fetch him something to eat he sits patiently and waits until I give him the go ahead. He loves being patted. I’m seriously thinking of adopting him.

I checked with the neighbors, in my broken Spanish. No one has seen him before few weeks ago. By the look of him he’s been on the street a long time. Whether or not I adopt him he is going to a vet for a checkup, bath, defleaing, deworming, shots, etc. I’m sure a certificate of health will be required to take him to the States with me.

I know someone could show up to claim him. If that happens I understand I’ll have to give him up. A colleague adopted a street dog last school year. Months after taking the dog in a woman who lives down the street came to tell her she can’t keep the dog because he belongs to the neighborhood. The woman essentially confirmed the dog has been living on the street. My colleague has chosen to ignore her. So far so good.

Do any of you pet lovers have experience adopting a street dog in a foreign country? Do these dogs adapt to being confined to a house and backyard? I would think so. If you have experience adopting a street dog in Mexico or any other country I’d love to hear about your experience.

Muchas Gracias,

Carol / ISR Guest Author

Straight from the Source

Interact with teachers at an IS you’re considering for a career move. GO to ISR Member Forum

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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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Seeking Int’l School w/Support for Special Needs Child

With the topic of inclusion on the table, International Schools have been making an effort to increase support for kids with Special Needs. The quality of these programs, however, varies greatly from school to school and year to year as teachers come and go. This revolving door of teachers in International Schools hardly lends itself to a secure environment for the Special Needs child.

Children with mild disabilities do have a good chance to find adequate support in International Schools. The majority of schools, not surprisingly, are not equipped to support children with severe disabilities, however. To complicate matters, admin often leave teachers in the dark in regards to whether a newly matriculated student is Special Needs, leaving both the child and teachers in a disadvantageous position.

Sweden, Netherlands, Canada, USA, Switzerland, UK, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany, to name a handful, have a track record for supporting Special Needs students. International Schools in these countries could possibly be the place for expat parents to find a program with the degree of support required.

A teaching couple, with a Special Needs child, comment:

“We’re about to quit our jobs at a top-tier IB school, partly due to the cost of paying for a 1-1 support teacher for our kid, who is fine at home but apparently so dysregulated as to be disruptive and unmanageable in school. The school does seem to use quite a few 1-1 support teachers and the Learning Support (LS) department is pretty small. It has not been a great experience.

I’m asking, where should we look for a school that might be a better fit — a school with the skills and knowledge to support and accommodate our kid. We’re a teaching couple, two kids altogether. We have looked at some schools recruiting in Dubai after hearing about good inclusion there, but so many schools seem a bit sketchy.”

Do YOU have experience at a school you consider to have an adequate Special Needs program? ISR encourages YOU to share that knowledge with educators seeking the right school for themselves and their Special Needs child.

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HOT Topics on ISR


You may not agree with everyone’s perspective on every topic, but that’s a good thing. Broadening our horizons makes us all better educators. You’re invited to participate in a sometimes controversial, new topic every week.

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There’s much more to explore at the ISR Discussion Boards!


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Here’s where you’ll find up-to-the-minute info about schools & Admin, straight from teachers currently at the school. Start your own thread, browse thousands in progress. No topic is off limits … Almost.

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Moments of Awakening

by ISR Guest Author

If you’ve ever had a moment of sudden inspiration, insight, or comprehension, you experienced what is commonly referred to as a moment of awakening. For me, such moments are far more frequent overseas as compared to ‘back home’ where life was mostly on auto pilot. There’s a lot to be said for the newness of everything when you go international.

Early in my overseas career a very memorable moment of awakening didn’t actually occur on foreign soil. Rather, it took place during my first trip home following 2 straight years in Thailand. For whatever reason, ‘back home’ just no longer felt like home. Friends and family were there but it felt like I no longer belonged. I was homesick for Thailand. Something in me had profoundly changed during those first 2 years overseas.

A memorable moment I’ll always remember struck in Kinshasa, DR Congo. While slowly navigating down a rutted road with the AC struggling against a hot, humid, rainy morning, I noted the many pedestrians headed for work with umbrellas overhead, pant legs rolled up and shoes safely guarded in plastic bags. The dirt shoulder of the road had turned into a muddy quagmire. That’s when it hit me how truly fortunate I was in so many ways. I let a lot of ‘stuff’ go that day.

There’s been other unforgettable moments of awareness for me along the path of international education, but now it’s your turn. I’d love to know what profound, self-realization moments other international educators have had living and teaching in far off lands. This should be enlightening.


ISR Guest Author

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How Are School Directors Chosen?

Article by a guest Author:

Early in my overseas teaching career I made a bad choice of schools. That was before I knew about ISR. To date, I’ve taught at 5 International Schools, and counting. My first school was horrible, a ‘crap hole’ as one of my colleagues most aptly described it. The director’s mind-boggling incompetence and that of his principal was staggering. They almost drove me to leave international education right from the start.

Fortunately, my subsequent schools had outstanding leadership. Thank you ISR! At one school, the soon-to-be-leaving director, in conjunction with the board, actually flew in the top 2 contenders for the position (not on the same dates). Both of them spent time being interviewed by alternating, small groups of teachers. We later voted. We all felt valued.

I depend on ISR to read and research the history of a director I could potentially end up working for. A couple of bad reviews out of many and I’m okay with it. Twenty or so reviews with 95% of them not so good, and I give the school a pass.

My question: There’s a lot of good leadership out there. I know that first-hand. That said, if a particular director has scads of ISR reviews that paint them as practicing a top-down, dictatorial, ‘my way or the highway‘ abusive style of management, how is it they seem to easily move around from school to school?

What comes to mind is this: Some schools must be looking for a person to administer the agenda of the financially invested stakeholders, or an individual stakeholder and/or owner. To put it bluntly, are some schools using ISR reviews to find a director who will suppress dissension in the ranks, maximize profits and keep parents placated? I hope not! Is it possible they just don’t know about ISR?

Anonymous Guest Author

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