Too Frazzled to Go Back

July 28, 2016

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..Hello ISR, I’ve noticed you post teachers’ letters from time to time and open them up for discussion. The situation I’m in is literally making me physically ill from stressing over what to do. I’m just frazzled at this point and could use some advice and support from other teachers. Maybe someone out there has been in the same situation? Here goes, I hope you post this:

..This past school year, I (a single woman in my early 30s) was teaching in the Middle East and can honestly say the place I’m in is disgusting beyond words. I do take care to cover up very well, yet I literally can’t walk 10 steps on the street without some jackass ogling me or making disgusting sounds. Men have even lewdly touched me in crowded situations. From the city to the the school, just the thought of the place sickens me.

..The final straw was when I turned to walk away from a little kiosk and glimpsed the driver of a parked taxi eyeing me with his hand down his pants — you can fill in the rest. The entire scene is repulsive and oppressive and I feel like I’m trapped inside a nightmare. The school is no gem either. I won’t go into it but it’s definitely a candidate for a seething ISR School Review.

..The point is, I hate my life at this school so much that I am seriously considering not returning after the summer. Actually, I don’t know if I can face another moment of it. When I left for the summer I took everything of any value with me. Any ideas, anyone? I really need some advice. Sincerely, Stressed to the Max

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Breaking Contract for an Offer You Really Want

March 10, 2016

contract107782763greyMore than one school has hired teachers at a recruiting fair, only to later discover their staffing needs changed between the time of the fair and the start of the school year. As a result, these schools broke contract with some or all of their newly contracted teachers, leaving these educators unemployed and without compensation. International Schools Review shows such unfortunate events do happen. Fortunately, not often!

A current post to the ISR Open Forum outlines the exact opposite scene in which  a teacher signed a contract, received a signing bonus, and is now considering breaking contract for a “better” offer.

Some, but not many,  International Educators feel recruiting is an “every man for himself” affair. They consider it okay to continue looking for something better even after signing a contract.  At the other extreme the majority belief is that just because schools have dropped teachers prior to the start of an academic year, it doesn’t make it right for teachers to break recruiting-fair contracts without extenuating circumstance. Here’s an excerpt from the ISR Forum post that sparked this discussion. You be the judge:

Pluke » Sat Mar 05, 2016 1:43 amI was wondering what the possible ramifications might be if I took the European position after already signing a contract for another school for next year? From what I read of the contract and had a lawyer friend read I would just forfeit the bonus. I realize people do this all the time. I do not like to go back on contracts or my word in general but life is short so what would be the best move?

Here’s a sampling of reactions to the post:

Wrldtrvlr123 » Sat Mar 05, 2016 3:20 am…Worst case, jilted school raises a fuss, it gets back to your preferred school, they withdraw their offer and you are left with nothing. Or possibly something in between where there is some rancor but you still end up with the better job/school.

Clio » Sat Mar 05, 2016 9:23 am…Grab what you can now because you could be dead soon? …Lie because you don’t have the guts to be honest? Do you permit students the same sort of latitude?

PsyGuy » Sat Mar 05, 2016 3:52 am…I would wait until the EU IS actually has an appointment or offer for you. Then you have to look at the connections between you, the agency and the ISs and then determine your level of risk. If there are a lot of connections and you have a low tolerance for going bust, then you might have to sigh, and wait until next time. If they were impressed with you once you are likely marketable again. If there are few or no connections or you are a maximizer then you go for it, and hope you have enough karma in the cosmic bank of luck.

Shadowjack » Sun Mar 06, 2016 9:19 am…if you take a job, to me, you take a job. You have given your word, especially when a signing bonus has already been paid. If you wanted a “better” school in Europe, you should have said no. End of story. And keeping the money IS stealing. You can try to use logic and rationalize all you want, but taking money to do something and then NOT doing it and not paying it back is theft, pure and simple.

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No Contract? No Deal!

February 11, 2016

contract104860520final“Your word is your bond” has long been a favorite slogan among recruiting agencies. What this jargon means, however, to you as a recruiting candidate is this: You’re expected to accept a verbal-only offer of employment at a recruiting fair as if it were an actual signed contract & then stick, indefinitely, to your word. With your future up in the air you’re told to wait for an actual contract to materialize. Unfortunately, sometimes it never does.

Finding yourself jobless as a result of a broken recruiting promise, with no recourse, should not be an option. In the opinion of ISR, schools that participate in recruiting fairs without a prepared contract to offer are either too disorganized to work for, hiding something, at odds with their school board, or consider International Educators just another commodity required to ‘outfit’ an International School.

The world functions on formal contracts. Why should an International School be the exception? When financial institutions lend money, all parties guarantee their commitment to the terms of the deal with a signature – No contract? No Deal! The same is true of a job offer in the corporate world as each party affirms their agreement/commitment with signatures on a contract – No contract? No Deal! It follows then that based solely on a mere verbal promise of employment from a school located in a foreign country, NO rational International School recruiter should expect an educator to reject another solid opportunity/contract that may come their way while waiting for a promised contract that may never materialize. Yet international educators are often blackballed after waiting indefinitely for a verbal offer to become a signed contract & finally, in desperation, accepting a contract from a different school, one that is organized & prepared to offer them a real deal – Deal Done!

We don’t deny teachers have verbally agreed to job offers, only to continue looking for a “better” offer. Likewise, schools have made verbal commitments with the best of intentions & later encountered circumstances or a “better” candidate that led them to not honor their word. There can be extenuating circumstances & as such, if a school cannot offer a written contract at a recruiting fair, ISR believes a legally binding Letter of Intent should be issued with a financial penalty clearly stated if either party defaults. Put your money where your mouth is!

Enforcing a Letter of Intent & even a signed contract is difficult when the parties involved are located in different countries. That’s where the recruiting agencies come in. Based on their concern for the well-being of both the teachers & schools they “invite” to recruit through their venues, the agencies should accept responsibility for a pay-out if it becomes necessary due to default by either a teacher or school. As such, recruiters would act as an insurance company of sorts, keeping both schools & educators protected. Might some schools, directors & educators find themselves uninsurable based on past records? How recruiters choose to deal with schools or teachers after covering a default would be up to them & the fine details remain to be worked out. Until that time, our position is – No contract? No Deal!

What’s Your Take on this Topic?


BLINDSIDED!

December 10, 2015

Definition: to attack critically where a person is vulnerable

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..Directors who blindside staff are far and away the most despicable sort of people to pollute the international teaching arena. If you’ve ever been blindsided by your school Director, you know just how devastating an attack can be. The modus operandi is to deliver the knock-out punch the day before a long school vacation, thus ruining their victims’ holiday while instilling a sense of insecurity, frustration and anger. Here’s some examples of blindsiding as excerpted from the ISR web site:

I had a sucker punch incident at a school in Thailand. The director left me feeling vulnerable and insecure, asking, “Are you happy here? You seem very negative sometimes. Many of the faculty don’t like you.”

I got a call into the office and was told several parents complained about ‘something’ I had done. The Director would not tell me what I was being accused of doing or which parents complained. He was very, very vague about what they were unhappy about. I left his office confused and angry.

It seems I’m not ‘warm and fuzzy’ enough for the parents at my school. My principal called me in and basically said it could be a potential deal breaker down the line if I don’t fix it.

He said, “I’m getting complaints about you from your colleagues who shall remain unnamed. They’re telling me you don’t make an effort to know them and cultivate their friendship. Some parents complain you are a bit distant.”

ISR wants to know why worthless comments of this type are sprung on teachers who, up to the moment of blindsiding, felt good about their contributions to the school. Do directors blindside teachers to keep them feeling insecure and thus make them yes-men to an inept administration? Is it an underhanded way to get teachers to work harder? Or is it merely an insecure “leader” keeping experienced educators off-balance so they won’t question an obvious inability to carry out their admin duties?

We all welcome the type of criticism from which we can grow as educators. Well intended criticism structured in a way that promotes positive growth is a good thing. But nebulous, vague, unfounded comments that cannot be qualified and intend only to wound, belittle and/or create anxiety have no place in any setting, least of all in an educational institution.

If you work for a blindsider, you have either experienced or witnessed the devastation that lies in their wake. What has your experience been with Directors who blindside educators? How did you deal with it? What advice do you have for teachers who have been blindsided?


Witch Hunt

November 19, 2015

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..Hello ISR – I am writing to relate to you an experience I had at my previous school which left me feeling ‘shell shocked.’ I’ve been long-gone from that snake pit for some time now and finally feel safe in sharing with you what amounted to an inquisition which left me feeling emotionally abused and violated. I’m certain there are teachers out there who had a similar such experience as mine. If you could provide a place where we could communicate and support each other that would be wonderful. Thanks for your kind consideration. Here’s what happened:

..On a Friday morning I was called into the main office during my prep period and asked to take a seat on the ‘visitors’ side of the director’s desk. After a brief exchange of small talk he turned his computer screen my way, and there, illuminated in all its glory, was a review of our school on ISR. I could hardly hold back a smile and somehow managed to look at him inquisitively as he let loose with accusations — “I know you wrote this….make this easy for both of us and confess.” Assuming a puzzled look with my head wagging subtlety back and forth, I replied with a deeply offended tone of voice, that it was not me who wrote the review. I knew who did and I was glad she did.

..The next person to enter was the school’s attorney. He threatened me with a civil suit for defamation and/or deportation or maybe something even worse. I stuck to my position of innocence. At lunch I learned from other teachers that some of them had been called into the office and given the same third-degree routine. The director was on a ‘witch hunt.’ By Monday, 3 new reviews were residing on ISR, each warning the international teaching world about this hellhole.

..Angered, the director called the entire faculty to an after-school meeting. More threats were hurled and we learned he had written a letter to ISR demanding the reviews be removed and the authors’ names revealed or a lawsuit would ensue against your web site. To his dismay, ISR posted the letter along with the reviews! It was a nasty piece of work, which only served to prove the reviews were fair representations of him and his school.

..Tuesday morning we were greeted with a memo telling us that one of the principals was good friends with an ISR staff member who would send him the names of the authors. The memo concluded with a statement telling us that if the authors turned themselves in all would be forgiven and they would simply need to request that ISR remove the reviews.

..Feeling paranoid, I wrote to you guys and asked if it was possible for the principal to get any names. I don’t know if you remember as this was some years ago. You assured me that when you say reviews are received anonymously, it means that even you don’t know who submitted them. I knew the principal was lying to us but it felt good to hear you say you have security measures in place to completely protect our anonymity. I spread the word to the faculty. It was clear to all of us — the director had nothing on anyone and was bluffing.

..Things quieted down and the school year progressed with no further incidents. But, as recruiting season approached, the majority of us decided not to extend our contract. The director then announced he would not be writing any letters of reference this year, nor would he return phone calls to any schools calling to inquire about those of us applying for positions. His excuse was it took up ‘precious time he could devote to managing the school.’ If you call toting around a cell phone on a golf course on mid-Wednesday morning ‘managing a school,’ then so be it.

..I have since found a position at a wonderful school where teachers are valued and supported. I couldn’t be happier here. I’m so glad I didn’t just up and leave international teaching. Still, to this day I carry with me the residual fallout of that awful experience. I find it hard to shake off. Being in a foreign country where I had no rights and was completely subject to the whims of someone I considered to be off-balance was a frightening experience, particularly since that person was accusing me of something that could land me in deep, deep, trouble.

..Based on reviews I read on ISR and the threatening letters you have posted from directors, I’m certain there are teachers out there who had similar such abusive experiences as mine. A place where we could communicate and support each other would be wonderful. Once again, thanks for your kind consideration. there are teachers out there who had similar such abusive experiences as mine. A place where we could communicate and support each other would be wonderful. Once again, thanks for your kind consideration.

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If I Only Knew Then What I know Now

October 8, 2015

Handsome young man in shirt and tie writing something in note pad and looking over shoulder while sitting at his working place

…..No one will dispute that “hindsight is 20/20.” As such, looking back on your International Teaching career (assuming you’re already teaching overseas), what important lessons have you learned through experience that you wish you knew about at the beginning of your career? To put it another way, if you had it do over again, what would you do differently?

…..From colleagues in the “newbie” stages of International Teaching to seasoned veterans with years of overseas experience, we’ve all had revaluations & experiences that led us to say, “Oh, if only I had known!” All of us can profit from lessons learned. We invite you take a few minutes to share with colleagues something you know today that you truly wish you knew earlier in your career. International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is All About!


When Should Breaking Contract Be Consequence-Free?

September 17, 2015

breakingcontract81919928Dear Dr. Spilchuk,  I’ve had to resign my contract at an international school due to an emergency situation at home. I was only able to give them very short notice, which upsets me, too, as I’m always so responsible. I will also try to help with the transition to another teacher by providing lesson plans for 1-2 weeks after I’m gone.

The admin at my school have been threatening me with blacklisting at Search Associates. I understand that I might need to pay a Search Associates penalty fee, and I can live with that. I can also live with being blacklisted by Search Associates. However, another person in admin has been saying things like I’ll be blacklisted from ALL organizations, ALL recruiters for international schools.

I won’t be looking for another job for a while as I have to help a family member at home anyways, but I don’t want to try to find something in a year and be blacklisted everywhere. Is this a real possibility? Is my worry justified?

Sincerely,
Worried Teacher

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Dear Worried Teacher,

You are correct. You may very well find yourself blackballed at Search and other agencies, depending on how your school responds.

Best of luck to you.

Barbara

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ISR Asks:  Under what circumstances, if any, do you personally feel it’s acceptable for an International Teacher to break contract?

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you just can’t stand your school or location, you know it can be a depressing time in your life. But is this grounds to jump ship? It has been said, “life is what happens to us while we’re busy making plans.” In this vein, the best intended and most dedicated teacher may suddenly find themselves having to decide between family and career, as in the letter to Dr. Spilchuk  —  A real “catch 22” situation.

Certainly the majority of us would choose to return home for a family emergency; no matter what the professional consequences of our decision. Do you feel schools are justified in severely penalizing a teacher that chooses family over contractual responsibilities? If schools are truly in the business of “nurturing,” shouldn’t they extend equal support to those individuals doing the nurturing, in this case the teaching staff. Is there a double standard?

Asking for repayment of recruiting fees and other expenses associated with an international  school bringing a teacher into a country seems well within reason. But when a contract is broken under extenuating circumstance, is this reason to put a teacher out of the running for the remainder of their teaching career?

The overriding question is…..under what, if any, circumstances do you feel a teacher should be able to beak contract without sever consequences to their overseas career. And, if consequences are levied, what should those consequences be?

Where do you stand on this issue?