What You Need to Know about Recruiting in the Age of Covid

If you’re contemplating or planning on recruiting during these unprecedented times, you’re probably searching for answers to some pressing questions:

    • Is it worth recruiting this season?
    • Should I stay put in my current position for job security?
    • Do virtual Recruiting Fairs hold a candle to the real thing?
    • Is the job market glutted with teachers who lost their jobs to Covid? 
    • Are schools hiring or being super picky because jobs are at a premium?

As a Community of International Educators, we collectively have answers to these questions, and MORE. ISR invites YOU to take a minute and share YOUR experiences and insights regarding today’s recruiting climate. Together we can piece together the information each of us needs to make informed career decisions in the age of Covid-19.

International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed
is what International Schools Review is All About!

Please scroll down to Share your experiences & insights

Adaptive Schools – Collaboration or Something Else?

I had started my fourth year at an international school in SE Asia. For the previous 3 years, I had deferred leadership of the Secondary School committee to an aspiring administrator we’ll call ‘Bryan.’ The first committee meeting commenced…

For more than an hour ‘Bryan’ explained, in great detail, his version of the 7 Norms of Collaboration, the cornerstone of Adaptive Schools. When I pointed out that leadership of the committee should rotate between individuals within the department, he replied that he  alone was the one who would set the agenda, because, as he put it, he had to “promote student learning.”

The Principal, new to the school, gave ‘Bryan’ authority over the entire Secondary School committee for the next 4 meetings, where he talked for hour upon hour about these Norms, and how this was going to become the basis for the entire school year.

What are the 7 Norms of Collaboration that fall under the umbrella of Adaptive Schools? And why do they require so many hours of explanation?

  • The 7 Norms of Collaboration
    1. Pausing before responding to others.
    2. Paraphrase what other people say to promote understanding.
    3. Ask questions to figure out what people are thinking.
    4. Put ideas on the table.
    5. Use data to create shared understandings.
    6. Pay attention to what you say, how it is perceived, and what others say.
    7. Assume that the intentions of other people are positive.

Are these not skills normal adults are expected to have? Listening, paying attention to others, asking questions…..why do educators need a framework for these things? Moreover, why are multi-day seminars and/or hours and hours used to discuss this dreck?

I understand needing programs related to curriculum or classroom management or other kinds of best practices. But this is nothing but behavior modification. It is based on the assumption teachers can’t hack it as professionals, and need to be told what to do and how to think, talk and act. It is also based upon the idea that behavioral modification will usher in a better era. This is the thinking of cults, not the open inquiry that true education requires.

Some may say, “Just go along to get along and stop making waves. Don’t take any of this too seriously.  It’s all just small requests.”  As for me, it’s not a small thing if you are treated like you’re incapable of functioning in a group. Also, consider it will suck the life out of you and hurt you as being a source of strength in the classroom, and in your life. Life is too short to be treated like a dorky automaton!

I welcome any defense of Adaptive Schools and/or the 7 Norms of Collaboration and I accept any criticism of the views expressed here. Open discussion is welcomed because that kind of discussion is almost impossible in a school environment where one is forced to toe the line with Adaptive Schools.

(Note: The views expressed in this Article are those of the guest author and not necessarily the views of ISR.)

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Schools w/ Highest Savings Potential, 2020

Read this first:  Please do not evaluate schools or Directors on this Discussion Board or pose questions that solicit such responses. Do not hijack the topic of this Discussion Board. If your wish to ask questions about your suitability for employment, please use our Open Forum.

High salaries don’t always mean high savings potential. What could sound like a high-dollar job offer based on where you currently live, might, in fact, turn out to be bare subsistence living in another part of the world.

I learned this lesson when I came onboard at the American School of Kinshasa, DR Congo.  The year was 2002. Food, gasoline, and everything in-between was triple the price I was accustomed to paying. I’d been duped by a sly-talking school Director. Hidden taxes and cost-of-living expenses quickly turned what appeared to be a wonderful salary, into peanuts. ‘Buyer’ beware! 

Speaking rhetorically, does anyone enter the teaching profession to become rich? We all, however, want to live a comfortable lifestyle and sock away some coin for the future. With that in mind, it’s highly suspect when International Schools neglect to make salaries readily known. And, what of schools that stall right up to the night before a Recruiting Fair to make pay scales available? You can be sure they’re not waiting to wow you with a spectacular salary!

ISR asks:  Which schools, in your experience, provide salaries that allow for a lifestyle we’d all like to become accustomed to while also saving for the future? Which schools pay enough to kinda enjoy life but not enough to save a cent? Which schools keep you just above the poverty level?

Please scroll down. Name your School. Then, tell colleagues about the standard-of-living and savings potential inherent in the salary at your school.

 If you wish to go beyond the scope of this topic and compose an in-depth look at your school,  Click HERE to send a School Review


Taipei American School, Stranger than Fiction

Taipei American School has issues to address: bloated administrative salaries and a Board that unilaterally gave their Head of School the power to expel students and fire teachers at will are among the questions for which large groups of parents are calling for immediate transparency.

According to a 2018 tax filing, TAS held close to US$120,000,000 in net assets at that time. The highest earner on payroll, Head of School Sharon Hennessy, reportedly took home US$768,000. Director of PE, Health and Sports, Ryan Mueller (brought onboard by Hennessy to fill the newly created position, with reportedly no experience in education), earned a whopping US$1,000,000 in total compensation in four years, and then abruptly left. Questions, anyone?

Beyond financial concerns, a school counselor, accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student, abruptly left TAS to later be accused of sexual misconduct by two students at his next school. In a different incident, the rape of a minor by a 17 year-old student was settled out of court (the age of consent in Taiwan is 16), leaving TAS with more unanswered questions.

TAS appears to have all the trappings of a “who-done-it” movie. For an extensive, startling, behind-the-scenes look at life at TAS, GO to Tricky Taipei, a read well worth the time.

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Teachers, Students, Selfies & Social Media

It’s the last day of school and a high school student just asked you to pose with them for a selfie. Years ago you would have gladly leaned in and smiled for the camera. Today, maybe not! With teachers fired or disciplined for tweets and photos on social media becoming commonplace, it’s understandable why you might want to stay out of the “picture.”

Beyond selfies, it should go without saying that teachers ‘friending’ students on social media could be, and has been seen as inappropriate. Allowing students into your personal life is anything but professional. Imagine a last-day-of-school selfie appearing on a ‘friended’ student’s Facebook page with a caption you may never have imagined.

Do students who have already graduated fall into a different category? Hypothetically, taken by a classmate, the photo example shown below is of Mr. Y critiquing Mary’s creative writing assignment. After graduation, excited to share her multiple successes as a published author, Mary (not her real name) sends Mr. Y a ‘friend’ request.

Teacher tutoring high school girl with writing assignment

Recalling her school days in Mr. Y’s class, Mary posts this photo to Mr. Y’s Facebook page with a short “thank you” caption. Could a malicious parent or a student with a grudge, through recaptioning and Photoshop, turn this photo into something it is not, particularly since Mr. Y and Mary are social media friends? Keeping personal and professional interactions exclusive may be the best policy in all cases.

Public schools, for the most part, have rules in place for teacher/student social media relationships and selfies. Not all International Schools have done the same. ISR asks: Does your International School have selfie and social media rules in place? What do they entail? What are your personal feelings on the subject? Is it ever appropriate to ‘friend’ your students?

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China, a Bad Bet?

International Schools in China are dominating upcoming virtual Recruiting Fairs, practically outnumbering schools from all other countries, combined. Is this simply because China has more International Schools? Maybe not…

In the words of an ISR member:   China is becoming more belligerent. Teachers over there are included in the Communist Party’s massive database to say whether or not you’re a ‘good’ citizen. Scary. Arbitrary arrests without trial or reason are common. Do you think the UK or US would be bothered about a teacher, especially if the Chinese added some ‘sexual safeguarding’ concerns to their charge sheet? With a 99% conviction rate, a malicious parent with an issue against you could get you locked up, convicted of a sexual offence.

“This couldn’t happen to me” is an unrealistic attitude. International Educators on the circuit for some years are all too familiar with the case of Neil Bantleman, an International Educator in Indonesia who spent 5 years in an Indonesian prison after being falsely accused of sexual misconduct by a local, influential parent. EU, US and citizens of other countries are NOT exempt from what life may bring in a foreign country. Fact is, they may be seen as a prize to be paraded in front of the cameras.

China’s new “security” policies enacted in June, 2020 give unprecedented powers to the government. The US and UK, as a result, updated travel advisories. The State Department of the US has warned that Beijing is enacting a propaganda campaign to “falsely” accuse US citizens of “fomenting unrest in Hong Kong.”

Is one or more of the many International School in China soliciting for teachers on your radar? If so, ISR strongly encourages you read the attached Article. There may be more than just the Coronavirus causing International Educators to give China a pass.

US & UK warn travelers of risk of arbitrary arrest in China & Hong Kong

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Virtual Recruiting Fairs – Too Little, Too Late?

Back in the day, long before broadband, landing an International Teacher position was dependent on finicky, old fax machines and land-line phones. Faxing a 1-page resume plus a cover letter from my school in Thailand to a prospective school in South America in 1989, cost me a hefty $45 U.S. and that’s because I got lucky and the document “transmitted” successfully down the tired old phone lines on the first try. 

Brick and mortar recruiting venues made sense at that time. We sent our documents to one of the big recruiters and they acted as a central clearing house of sorts, putting teachers and schools together for a frantic three-day, face-to-face event known as a Recruiting Fair (often referred to as a “cattle call”). You finagled time off from your current job, plunked down thousands of dollars on airfare, accommodations and fair attendance fees, and hoped for the best.

Today, all that’s ancient history. Thanks to modern technology the need for a recruiting venue has all but disappeared. Whoever got the idea to “Skype” for an International Teaching position had the right idea. As early as 2009 “Skypeing” for teaching jobs was already happening and being talked about on ISR Discussion Boards. Here is a glimpse into the past:

2009Will Skype Replace the  Fairs?  2012Skype Your Way into an Overseas Teaching Position.  2019Survey: Are  Recruiting Fairs Headed for extinction?

Less than 10% of 447 educators surveyed in 2019 found positions at Recruiting Fairs

Slow to get with the trend, recruiting agencies have recently organized virtual Fairs. A great many schools and educators, however, have already been successfully recruiting for years using Skype-type venues, without the need for a high priced middleman. Are virtual Fairs too little, too late? 

ISR Asks:   Have YOU participated in a virtual Recruiting Fair? Were you hired at the Fair or was the event basically a ‘meet and greet’? Is there any advantage to recruiting through an online Fair as opposed to going it alone? Considering we are living in the age of social distancing with large gatherings at the top of the list of taboos, what effect do you think coming late to the virtual recruiting arena will have on the future of recruiting agencies?

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Teachers of Color Overseas – What’s Changed?

In our 2009 ISR Discussion Board, Teachers of Color Overseas, we asked International Educators to comment on life as a teacher of color in the arena of international education. We posed the following questions in September, 11 years ago:

International Schools teach diversity. Are ‘minority’ teachers well-accepted in the International teaching arena?

Do non-Caucasians find it more difficult to enter the profession? Are ‘minority’ teachers treated differently by parents and/or students?

It has been reported that some schools are just looking for a ‘white’ face to sell the image of an American / British education. Have you found this to be true?

Educators across the globe responded. Hundreds of teachers shared experiences and perceptions, and offered advice. Some even shared email addresses, inviting private conversations. The overall atmosphere of the 2009 Teachers of Color Overseas Discussion Board was supportive and informative.

Skip forward to 2020 and ISR began noticing hate-type speech creeping into Teachers of Color Overseas and other similarly related ISR Discussion Boards. A handful of lurkers had unfortunately begun to post spiteful, prejudiced comments in response to Discussion Board participants with whom they disagreed. Considering the recent global protests for racial equality, we would expect to see the opposite. We, of course, removed all such comments.

What’s changed since 2009? Why has 2020 taken on such a different persona? Is today’s proliferation of social media providing a platform for cowardly haters to hide behind? Do haters feel more emboldened in the shadow of the current US ‘president?’ As an International Educator, do you feel the profession is becoming more diverse or succumbing to negative forces? Are parents and students realizing a ‘white’ face is not a prerequisite to be a teacher?

ISR invites YOU to revisit the topic of Teachers of Color Overseas 
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Masks OFF

I am a French citizen teaching at an International Bilingual School in the U.S.A. (I’ll keep my identity and location confidential to not put my job in jeopardy.) I’m writing today because the overreaction  among a group of parents regarding students being required to wear face masks is something I never would have imagined from Americans. I’m disillusioned. Here’s a little background:

Last week we had what you call a “town hall.”  About 20% of the parents came without masks. They argued it’s their constitutional right to potentially infect the rest of us with the Covid virus. They didn’t say it quite like that, but that’s the takeaway. One parent said something about God protecting their child. The mask-wearing group tried to stress civic responsibility, children’s’ safety and respect. A few angry parents shouted them down. It was like they literally and figuratively removed their masks. It was ugly.

This degree of a sense of entitlement, lack of empathy and responsibility is something I haven’t seen before in America. I don’t understand why putting a piece of cloth over the mouth to help stop the spread of a deadly disease is too much to ask. You would think parents were being asked to sacrifice their first-born, which in the end they may be doing by denying them masks. The U.S. Constitution grants its citizens rights, but using those rights in a way that could cause the death of other citizens is inconsistent with what I know of America.

I would like to ask how teachers feel about mask requirements and what the situation is at schools that have opened during the pandemic? Are students and parents wearing masks, social distancing and doing their part to help keep everyone safe, in and out of school?  Or is the personal freedom group endangering the school community and the community at large?

Thanks ISR,

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Taking a Year Off

A year gap on your resume can be an unwanted stain that’s sure to prompt an interviewing school Director to ask for an explanation:  Were you just hanging out? Traveling? Did an emotional overload dictate a break? Is there an ailing parent in the picture? How did you keep up your teaching skills? Are you sure you’re still interested in International education? Or, maybe you’re in some type of legal or financial trouble?

If you have been forced to spend a year away from International Teaching because Covid wiped out your position, or you autonomously decided to stay/go home and play it safe, there should be little worry about this explainable gap in your resume. However, ISR definitely does recommend you document your explanation with a letter from your previous school explaining the consequences of the Covid Virus on your previous school and position.

Do, and we encourage you, be prepared for this next question:  How did you spend your year off? Killing time vegging in front of YouTube isn’t going to win you stature as a candidate. On the other hand, cultural experiences, personal development or an addition to your credentials will paint a much better image of you and say something positive about what you’ll contribute to the school atmosphere. Again, documentation is important and helps a school Director choose the best candidate.

If YOU decided to take a year off due to the Covid crisis, or your school decided for you, ISR invites you to ask Questions about and Share thoughts on how YOU will incorporate this gap into your resume.  Of equal interest is your impressions on how a year away during the Covid crisis may affect future job seeking efforts and how YOU show you utilized the time to make yourself a better and more desirable International Education candidate.

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Kuwait International School Defies ALL Logic

An email to ISR from an Educator in Kuwait:

    “It’s been a strange few months and the Coronavirus has certainly brought to the forefront the position to which International Educators are relegated in Kuwait’s International Schools. Some of us have lost our jobs, some have had our salaries cut, and some have had annual leaves magically shifted by a month. More recently, some staff at my school were told their future Contracts for the next academic year were ‘null and void.’

The Ministry of Education (MOE) have been quite clear about when and how government-run schools will operate in the face of the Coronavirus. By contrast, the procedures for those of us at private International Schools have been sabotaged by miscommunication followed by misinterpretation. From the very beginning, my school refused to follow MOE Covid-19 guidelines:  “No! We are in the private sector! These regulations don’t apply to us!” Fortunately, the Minister appeared on TV to inform private institutions that they, too, are subject to MOE rules.

Kuwait is in Phase 3 of the lock-down. Salons and restaurants remain closed, yet private schools are considered ‘safe.’ Always ready to take advantage of a situation, my school has ordered teachers back on campus to commence online teaching! The logic defies all reason! We must E-teach from campus buildings, which under normal circumstances have some questionable hygiene practices, or ‘risk not being paid.’

Why on EARTH would administrators want teachers in school buildings in the middle of a full-blown pandemic to do EXACTLY what we can do from the safety of our homes and, in fact, have been doing for many months? Government teachers have been at home this whole time. They did no teaching at all and received pay. Something is not right with this picture.

What about teachers who are out of country? What about those who will return midway through the month and be required to remain in captivity … sorry, quarantine? It’s understood their ability to E-teach from home will not be hindered by their inability to cross the threshold of the hallowed school buildings. None of this make sense to me.
One colleague surmised that at a time when school owners may be considering trimming the fat, administrators might be feeling vulnerable and looking for ways to appear essential to the operation of their schools. It’s far easier to appear essential when buildings are full of teachers.    

Whatever happens, in the short-term, teachers will remember who had their backs, who was honest, who was humble and who was understanding. And who was not! Thanks for your earlier newsletter Name Your School & Comment on their Response to Covid-19. A number of my colleagues, including myself, have named and shamed our school.


Disillusioned Educator 


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Norwegian Data Protection Authority Calls Out IB / Survey

The Norwegian Data Authority (NDA) has concluded the method used by the IB to calculate students’ final grades in 2020 was not accurate. As such, the NDA has sent notification they intend to order a re-do of the awarding of grades. (See entire NDA statement)

If you missed ISR’s previous Newsletter, the controversy over the IB grading system erupted after the IB cancelled final exams and, instead, calculated final grades based on the following 3 criteria:  Historical data, Teacher-predicted final test score, and Coursework.

“Unfair, inaccurate and obscure” is how the Norwegian Data Authority described the IB scoring system. A brief look at the 3 components of the assessment system reveals subjectivity and room for error:

Historical Data:  Relying on the final test scores of students previously at a particular school as a means to predicting the performance of current and future students fails to take into account the abilities of the individual, and rewards poorer students while penalizing harder-working students. With college acceptance at top universities contingent on final grades, many students have had their college dreams shattered due to a lowering of expected grades.

Teacher-Predicted Grade:  Teacher bias, prejudice, and a shaded view of students whose behavior may be less than stellar can easily influence a  prediction.

Coursework:  Using coursework as a means to estimate final scores is not a problem for those students earning 100% on all assignments. The system fails to work for students with lesser coursework results who may still still score high on the final exam.

As with any controversy, there are two opposing camps regarding the IB’s actions.

Get over it:

Yes, getting a lower score than expected may mean students not getting into the university of choice. It won’t affect their careers, though.

 Sounds like pushy parents who are used to getting their way and not respecting their children’s limitations. They’ve probably prided themselves on years of inflated grades in their children’s report cards. Not everybody can get a special sticker.

An injustice has been done:

So its fine for a student who has worked for 4+ years to get into a university of their choice and to have their higher education plans scuttled by a large, for-profit organisation who couldn’t really care? The parents might disagree with you but what the hell, they’re just pushy, entitled, helicopter parents, right? While I agree it might not impact their careers as much as they think, who are you to pontificate on their futures?

While there are always complainers, tell me in what logical world it’s reasonable to base an individual student’s score on the school’s historical data? The IB, as it so often does, is being disingenuous and needs to own up to its inadequacy here and rectify the problem.


What’s YOUR position on the IB controversy?

Take our short Survey:  Should the IB be required to re-score all 2020 final grades?


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To ALL Parties Interested in the IB 2020 Results


A concerned IB parent has brought this situation to our attention: 

In response to the Coronavirus, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) canceled all 2020 final examinations. In their place, a logarithm was substituted which assigned students their final course scores based on teacher-predicted grades, coursework, and historical data.

The results of this logarithmic grading system have sparked cries of injustice as many graduating students across the globe claim to have received surprisingly unexpected, lowered grades, putting their university plans in jeopardy.

A parent reports:  “It has been an ongoing, harrowing situation for students who have been left shell-shocked and ‘lost’ in an already chaotic Covid-19 environment. Look beyond the higher-global average grades boasted on some school websites and you will find individual stories that warrant investigation.”

The major contention by dissatisfied IB school coordinators is that the IBO calculated grades in a manner focused on maintaining global statistical trends at the expense of individual students and did so with a lack of transparency. In other words, in the midst of a global pandemic it is alleged the IBO put their own image above the future of IB students.

A parent reports:  “As a parent who has entrusted the assessment of my children’s academic potential to the IBO, I am particularly troubled by the fact that the IBO has prioritized the needs of institutions over individuals in the methods it has used for generating final grades for students this year.

The IBO needs to stop hiding its inadequacies and uncertainties behind a questionable algorithm which has clearly failed to recognize the individual achievements of thousands upon thousands of students. None of us should be satisfied by the assertion that “many” or “most” candidates did receive grades that they consider to be fair, because that is simply not good enough.

EVERY IB diploma candidate deserves fair grades – or at least, they deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to grades which can make or break their future careers. Parents all over the world have sacrificed the best years of their lives trying to provide what they believe are the best educational opportunities for their children. The IBO has a moral responsibility to families who have trusted and supported the IB Diploma Program and IB World Schools throughout the years.

The IBO needs to publicly acknowledge its own mistakes so that universities can officially and systematically make the necessary adjustments to their conditional offers to M20 IB candidates. This may involve sacrificing some of the credibility of the IB this year, but that would still be better than destroying the futures of thousands of students and their families. Here in Switzerland, schools are appealing to the IBO. Some schools are openly stating their disappointment. My school, The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) is one such school. A Look at the 2020 IB Assessments.”

A concerned parent

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Keeping My Fingers Crossed

The news that Covid-19 had significantly declined in the area where my new International teaching position is located was a real cause to celebrate. Yes, I would have a job in September. But, wait, not so fast! The following week, American passport holders were banned from entering what was to be my new destination!

Someone once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making plans.” Truthfully, it feels like life just sneaked up and bit me on the behind. As an American currently in Texas, it’s unfathomable we handled the Covid-19 situation so incredibly poorly that developing nations have now closed their borders to Americans.

I had read on the ISR Forum that schools can pull strings to get teachers in, but haven’t heard anything about this from MY school. To date, the answer to any and all questions has been, “We’ll have to wait and see.” Well, we just can’t wait much longer with the academic year about to begin! I think my school should be able to offer some information, one way or the other.

At times I dwell on possible outcomes to this uncertainty and even have some severe emotional reactions to these imagined outcomes — not good for my attitude or health. So, I formulated 3 potential positive paths for my future and focus on them rather than on events I cannot control. Of course, everything could change in a heartbeat — just look at the hurricane that struck Texas last week! Yikes!

Well ISR, I do have my fingers crossed for a positive outcome. I’m sure my feelings are not unique. If you would post my letter and open up a community discussion on this topic of uncertainty, we as international educators could use our energy to support each other in these trying times.


Ms B.

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Last-Minute Overseas Teaching Positions

If you’ve been contemplating a move overseas but haven’t yet taken the leap, now may be a good time to make yourself available. Sure, recruiting season is well over, but Covid-19 is causing some newbies, as well as seasoned International Educators, to reconsider travelling to certain areas of the globe during what appears to be a worsening pandemic. The result:  unexpected job openings.

We all have different thresholds for what we consider dangerous and ISR is not advocating that you ignore travel warnings. If, however, you’re comfortable moving and teaching overseas at this time, there may be some last-minute opportunities on the horizon.

Here’s 12 popular ISR Articles sure to help you make an informed decision:

A Recipe for Disaster

With the spread of the Coronavirus far more severe than when distance learning was substituted for the dangers of classroom instruction, ISR can’t help but question the wisdom of International Schools summoning kids and teachers back to the classroom.

Are YOU ready to go back? Beyond some parents’ resistance to their kids wearing masks and a noted lack of social distancing internationally, there is much to take into account when deciding whether it’s wise to reunite with your students:

Can Your School Admin Answer the Following Questions?

• What happens if a teacher tests positive? Will they need to self isolate for 14 days. Is that time off covered? Will every student the teachers have been in contact with need to do the same?

• What happens if someone living in or working in the same home as a teacher (spouse, child, housekeeper) tests positive? Does that teacher need to take 14 days off to quarantine?

• If the need arises, how will the school find a substitute teacher willing to work in a classroom full of exposed, possibly infected students?

• What if a substitute teacher is diagnosed with COVID-19? Does each student in each class they were in have to quarantine and get tested? Who is going to pay for that?

• What if a student tests positive? Does every other student and teacher they have been around quarantine? Does every parent get notified who is infected and when? Or will schools just send “may have been in contact” emails all year long?

• What is this stress going to do to teachers? How does it affect their health and well-being? How does it affect their ability to teach? How does it affect the quality of education they provide? What are the long-term effects on students and teachers of consistently being stressed out?

• How will students and faculty be affected when the first teacher in their school dies from Covid-19? The first parent of a student who brought it home? The first child?

Just like politicians, an administrator may employ broad, sweeping statements to garner confidence, yet fail to demonstrate an executable plan for achieving the stated objective. Imagine an administrator telling parents that the safety of their children is a top priority, yet no emergency evacuation plan is in place. Telling students to “run for safety when a siren blows” is not a plan for safety and certainly won’t be helpful in a pandemic. Likewise, there is no substitute for a solid plan in the face of Covid-19. Hoping for the BEST and failing to prepare for probable eventualities is a surefire recipe for disaster. Can your school admin answer these important questions?

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Taking a Breather

With our heads wheeling from a barrage of constant global crises, we’re taking a breather from our  usual Weekly Discussion Topic. Of course, this does not mean we’ve stopped religiously wearing masks or practicing safe, sanitary measures to protect ourselves and others. We are, rest assured…

In the meantime, you, too, may be inclined to take a breather. Or, conversely, you may wish to participate in one of the many spirited ISR discussions of personal and/or professional interest in progress. Scroll down the right-hand column to find and join a wide variety of conversations on timely topics. There’s many more Articles and Forum topics of interest to International Educators throughout the ISR website. Remember: Teachers keeping each other informed is what ISR is ALL about!

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Summer Travels

If you’d asked me about my summer travel plans last year, I’d have told you about my itinerary for a Thailand dive-trip followed by a brief detour to see the folks back home. But…that was last summer. This summer, in the shadow of COVID-19, there’s so much more to consider than just how much traveling I can afford.

On the bright side, borders have been reopening. This should be encouraging except…a growing refusal to wear masks and an obvious failure to social distance is causing a serious COVID resurgence. With borders sure to reclose, I’m concerned about being banned from entering my host country if I leave for the summer, thereby putting my job at risk. The EU just blocked entry to US citizens due to the virtually unbridled spread of the virus in America. Other countries seem likely to follow suit.

Watching TV news I was disappointed to see airlines failing to enforce social distancing or the wearing of masks. I don’t want to unknowingly become an asymptomatic COVID carrier, infecting friends, family and everyone else around me, let alone becoming ill myself. I’m thinking that my best plans for the summer may be no travel at all.

As much as I’d love to take full advantage of the remaining summer months, a nagging little voice inside my head is telling me differently. I’m sure International Educators around the world are facing the same dilemma. It would be much appreciated if ISR could provide a place for us to share thoughts about making plans for the remaining summer months, and the reasoning that led to their final decision.

Travel Bug blues

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I was an International Schools Recruiter – The Industry is Racist

For some time, I was a placement consultant at an American recruitment agency for international schools, mainly in China. The anti-Black racism that I was complicit in and benefited from while working there is something I’m ashamed of; more shameful would be not speaking out so that others can understand how this industry wo
rks from the inside, the practices that are commonplace, so that we can begin to dismantle it. The individuals I worked alongside were largely well-meaning white people. However, I hope to explain here the practices that made my former employer complicit in racism and discrimination, and by shining a light on the industry, I hope to encourage recruitment agencies to do better and work for change.

At my former employer, the majority of placement consultants were young twenty-somethings, mostly white. We each started out making a small salary that wasn’t enough to live on in our city, but were given a commission for every person we placed in a school. Once you had made a certain amount of money for the company, you were moved up a level as a placement consultant, which led you to make a higher commission.

Recruitment agencies are complicit participants in the racism in the teach-abroad industry, and it’s time to do something about it.

The company was paid a percentage of the salary of the hired teacher, which would motivate placement consultants to spend more time working with teachers who would make more money. We were actively encouraged
not to ‘waste our time’ working with candidates for whom it would be difficult to find a job. A principal position at a large international school in a major city would bring in more money for the company than a placement at an English-language training center, which are the types of schools where you could typically place Black candidates. Even there, Black candidates would be offered jobs less often than their white counterparts, and would make less money.

Schools are significantly more likely to hire white or light-skinned candidates. Many schools will reject any Black candidates they receive.

A quick detour to lay some groundwork on how we worked with each candidate:  first, we would receive their resume, which was randomly assigned to a placement consultant. Each individual consultant would review it and decide to either reach out to them or not. If we wanted to work with them, we would interview them and then send them some positions we felt they’d be qualified for. If they were interested we’d apply on their behalf by passing their information to the colleague who managed the relationship with that school, who would further vet the candidate by reviewing their information and then either passing them on to the school or deciding not to. We had agreements with all of the schools we worked with and they were able to specify what they were looking for in a candidate. They were allowed to tell us they would not consider Black candidates. They were also allowed to change their minds — if they told us they were no longer considering Black candidates, we would stop sending them.

Internally, we were made to refer to candidates as either Level 1 or Level 2. Level 1 candidates were white or light-skinned. Level 2 candidates were Black or Asian. In the recruitment system we used to track candidates and schools, each candidate had to be labeled as Level 1 or 2, and each school was labeled as either accepting Level 2 candidates or not accepting Level 2 candidates.

Often, the internal employees who managed relationships with the schools would impose a limit on sending Black or Asian candidates for a position. I would receive responses along the lines of, “Sorry, I’ve already sent a few Level 2 candidates for this one and want to send some Level 1s now.” It was treated as if all Black candidates were the same. The thought was that the schools would be displeased if we sent them too many Black candidates, no matter their qualifications, even if they would technically consider them. And so, in order to preserve the relationship with the school over the success of our candidates and the Black teachers we worked with, we did not. Within the company, we were gatekeepers, barring qualified candidates of any opportunity to interview with a school.

It was especially difficult for Black South Africans. Despite their status as native English language speakers (often bi- or tri-lingual), schools were heavily prejudiced against hiring them. One of my supervisors told me that if the person had a ‘tribal-sounding name’ they would be harder to place and we should consider not working with them, as it would be a ‘waste of time.’

Multiple times, I would have two South African applicants together — friends who had met at school, usually, and wanted to teach abroad. One would be white and the other, Black. They’d have the same qualifications and same amount of experience. The white teacher would typically be given an interview and an offer within 2–3 weeks. Her Black counterpart would be passed up time and again, either by those within our company or by the school itself.

I could typically place a white candidate at any level within a few weeks. There were many times I worked with Black candidates for months, sending them to every school who would consider them and some who would not, and raked in rejections in the dozens. Most of the time, I was able to ultimately place them, but it was often not for the salary or at the level they deserved. It usually took months and tenacity on the part of the candidate not to stop applying for jobs and interviewing. It was incredibly disheartening. Myself and many of my fellow placement consultants worked tirelessly to get our Black candidates hired, but were actively discouraged by management from spending this much time on a single candidate, especially on a Black candidate. We were often told to just cut ties. At the end of the day, our time affected the bottom line because of the commission-based model of the company.

Recruitment companies benefit directly from the racist hiring practices of these schools. Just before I quit my job, we were advised internally to no longer work with Black South Africans at all, as schools were rarely hiring them at that point. There was no attempt to push back at these hiring practices. Management was beholden to earnings and success. There was a focus on how we could save our own skin, how we could use our own time to make more money. There was no discussion about cutting ties with schools that racially discriminated throughout the entire time I was there.

Recruitment companies benefit directly from the racist hiring practices of these schools. They have no incentive to change, and have monetary incentive to institute racist practices of their own.

What comes next, I don’t know. Change needs to happen at many levels. But it can start with the individual, with hiring managers, placement consultants, and recruitment companies refusing to go along with and benefit from discriminatory practices. If you aren’t actively working against discrimination, you’re complicit in it. Your money is dirty. Your success has come at the expense of qualified Black teachers and administrators around the world who were not given a chance, of students who, year after year, learn only from white teachers, many of whom are less qualified than Black applicants who were passed up for the job. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to the racism you perpetuate. It’s time to fight against it.

Note: I originally planned on writing and posting this with my name as well as the name of the company attached. I don’t think we’re in a place now nationally in the U.S. or globally to be hiding people’s bad deeds for the sake of their privacy and comfort. This being said, I could not open myself up to any potential legal action that my former employer could have taken against me by attaching either my name or their name to this. Further, while these practices are common at my particular former company, I’m certain they’re in place at others as well. No one should be off the hook. The focus shouldn’t be on one company: let’s focus on them all.


Anonymous Ex-Recruiter

(This Article was condensed and reproduced with permission from the author, Anonymous Ex-Recruiter)

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The Times They Are a-Changin’


Bob Dylan 1964

Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times, they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times, they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times, they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times, they are a-changin’

The line, it is drawn, the curse, it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
For the times, they are a-changin’