Quirky Admin Agendas

May 24, 2018

Dear ISR, I’ve noticed that School Reviews from all corners of the globe occasionally include descriptions of Admins who get away with quirky practices that would easily be considered taboo, even illegal, in their countries of record.

Having been on the International School circuit for a while I am able to put admin faces to many of the stories I read in the school Reviews, despite never having been to the particular school being reviewed.

We have an athletics director at my current school, bizarrely a member of the SMT, who makes personal, directed attacks on teachers. He spies on them through the security cameras and reports them to the director for anything and everything he perceives to be out of the ordinary, all the while hiding behind the mantra of, “I’m doing it for the good of the school.”

Truth be known, our athletic director has a problem that requires treatment! The director, however, listens to this bully and allows him free rein, turning a blind eye to his open criticism of school staff on social media. At best this makes the director weak; at worst, complicit.

As teachers, we are on short-term contracts, in countries where we have no safety net and we often have our own children in the school. This makes us vulnerable. That such people can “hide out” and flourish in International Schools is unacceptable.

ISR School Reviews relate all sorts of strange things going on at various schools that would be deemed unacceptable/illegal in our homes of record. Is there a way, beyond writing Reviews, to make sure these people are exposed and their activities curbed? 

Many thanks for you attention to this matter,

(name withheld)

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Job doesn’t exist? Send me home!

May 17, 2018

s…Emergency staffing can be a fact of life for International Schools. It happens all the time. For example, a 5th Grade class that unexpectedly fills to over-capacity will dictate the addition of another 5th Grade teacher. Should not enough kids show up to fill a 2nd Grade class, the teacher recruited for that class may find themselves reassigned to the new 5th Grade. Whether or not they are qualified or willing to take the class is not up for debate.

Job reassignments as the result of unpredictable changes in staffing needs are unfortunate, yet understandable, since last-minute enrollments do happen. However, schools that knowingly employ bait & switch tactics to lure unsuspecting educators are unethical & to be avoided. More than a handful of teachers have related just such instances on ISR School Reviews.

Case in point:
(from the ISR Open Forum)

…”I was hired by a school in May via Skype for an administrative role. Upon arrival to the school I’ve been told this position does not exist, but I can teach Grade 2 instead. I don’t have credentials to teach Grade 2. I tried to negotiate to receive a professional allowance stipend for formal instruction/coursework on how to teach Grade 2 & they refused. They’re also refusing to reimburse me for the flights to get here, for the money I paid to obtain my visa, for nights spent in a hotel (the apartment they assigned me was inhospitable) & for a return flight back to my home country.

I’m on a tourist visa. The contract that I signed (which is not being honored) details OSH package benefits that they are now denying me. Example:  Contract says that the school will put me up in a hotel while housing is secured, but they went ahead & finalized housing that was inhospitable, without ever consulting with me & now don’t want to pay for a hotel..I did my part. I showed up to perform the role I signed a contract for. The job doesn’t exist. If I’m not needed, so be it, but then I should be sent back on the next flight out.

I cannot legally stay here & while there might be ESOL work here, I’m at a different point in my career. I seriously need some good advice!

ISR Recommends:

Most schools are well-intended & would never employ bait & switch tactics as a means to sign educators. If you do suspect something is “up,” or have reason (based on an ISR School Review) to be suspicious, you may want to take steps insure your safety. Adding a few lines to your Contract (before you/school sign) should do it. Here’s an example of what to add:

“If the position I am being hired to teach is no longer available upon my arrival, I reserve the right to accept reassignment or consider this contract null & void, at which time I will receive full compensation for all out-of-pocket expenses & a return flight to my home of record at the school’s expense.”

Not many schools would agree to this clause because staffing needs can & do change overnight. But you can learn a lot by watching & listening carefully to an interviewer’s reaction to the suggested clause. People with hidden agendas will respond differently than those who just want to leave an option open in case of emergency staffing needs. Use your best judgement & intuition to stay safe.

When in doubt, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH & learn from those who have gone before you.

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UAE: Behind the Modernity

March 15, 2018

Planning to relocate to the UAE this upcoming school year? More than one expat has mistakenly allowed themselves to be lulled into believing the United Arab Emirates is a modern, progressive nation. Incredible architecture, modern roadways, world-class malls and high-line cars are all evocative of affluent, Western cities. 

But that may be where the comparison stops. Behind the mask of modernity, the UAE continues to adhere to a stultified, archaic system of laws that can entrap even the most savvy of travelers.

 Read on! These recent cases involving foreigners defy all logic and serve as a “heads up.” 

Teacher jailed for allegedly insulting the UAE on Facebook:  A British teacher has been locked-up in a vermin-infested jail in Abu Dhabi since October 2017. The charges? Writing an insult on Facebook. Christian Wilke, 39, was denied legal representation for 52 days after his arrest. At his hearing, conducted in Arabic, he was not told the charges against him and sentenced to one year in prison along with a stiff fine. He is reportedly being denied medical care and sufficient food. His mother fears for his life.

News articles about this case: 
British Teacher Jailed in UAE
British Teacher Sent to Hell Hole Jail in UAE

Man jailed in Dubai for WhatsApp message sent to crooked car dealer:  Yaseen Killick, 29, a British real estate agent, was jailed after sending a WhatsApp text message to the car dealer who sold him a car that broke-down just hours after driving off the lot: “How do you sleep at night knowing you’re ripping people off? I’ll see you in court.” This was enough to motivate the police to jail Yaseen as the dealer claimed he felt threatened.

News article about this case:
British Real Estate Agent Jailed After Messaging Car Dealer Who Sold Him a Lemon

British Woman Faces Jail in Dubai after Witnessing Bar Fight:  Asa Hutchinson, 21, an accounts manager for a global transport company, says she was not even there when a fight broke out between her friends and a man who was reportedly drunk. On their way out of the bar, Asa’s friends saw a man passed out on a bench. They took some selfies with the guy, who woke up and started throwing punches. It’s been reported that it is common in the United Arab Emirates for witnesses to be arrested and prosecuted just for being nearby.

News article about this case:
British Woman Faces Jail in Dubai

There’s More:  In September, a man was detained for ‘flipping the bird’ to another driver. In October a man was jailed for accidentally touching another man’s hip in a bar. In November a man was imprisoned for having smoked marijuana – before he had even arrived in Dubai. An expatriate couple was detained for 6 weeks for having sex outside of marriage.

You could take a hard stance and say all these people should have done their homework, learned the local customs and taken responsibility for themselves. Easier said than done. Some things are just unimaginable and beyond the foresight of a Westerner. Wherever in the world your next teaching assignment takes you, ISR recommend extensive research into the customs, traditions and laws.

More ISR Articles about problems for Westerners in the UAE:
Women, Rape and the Law in UAE
Collect on Everything a UAE School Owes You
Buying a Car Overseas Can Land You in Prison
Janitor at Al Rabeeh School Abu Dhabi Sentenced to Death

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ISR Private Messaging for Questions You Shouldn’t Ask at an Interview

February 15, 2018

private messaging iconYou’ve read the school Reviews. You’ve done your homework. Things look good…except for one lingering, personal concern about the school on your radar.

You could ask the school director at the conclusion of your interview, but questions of a very personal nature might taint a director’s otherwise positive opinion of you. Likewise, it’s probably not wise to confide in the school-appointed teacher who’s been selected to field candidates’ questions by email. After all, he/she was chosen for a ‘reason.’

When you don’t want to reveal more about yourself than you should, ISR’s Private Messaging Feature is the perfect alternativeHere’s a chance to connect with teachers who may have the answers, while maintaining complete anonymity.

Here’s How it Works: Log in as usual to the Member Area. Proceed to the Member Forum. Create an anonymous user name “on the fly” and introduce your topic. As other teachers join in you’ll see the option to Private message each individual. Click the PM icon and send a private message. That’s all there is to starting a secure, behind-the-scene conversation that only the two of you can see, all while remaining anonymous.

The ISR Member Forum with PM hosts thousands of topics covering any and all aspects of International Teaching. LGBTQ concerns, personal medical/medication needs, dating, being of color, and, of course, candid discussions about specific schools are just some of the topicas already in progress. You may be able to jump straight into Private Messaging with individuals already sharing information on topics of interest to you. GO to the ISR Member Forum


Note: ISR hosts two distinctly different Forums:

1.) The Open Forum:  The Open Forum is located in the non-member area of ISR. It does not support Private Messaging, posting on certain topics or sharing school Review information.

2.) The Member Forum with PM:  The Member Forum with Private Messaging is located within the Member area of ISR. It was specifically created so teachers could ask and share information on any and all topics in a secure environment. GO to the ISR Member Forum

Don’t Leave Your Career to Chance. International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what International Schools Review is All About!

GO to the ISR Member Forum




Penalties for Schools that Breach Contract

January 25, 2018

International Schools have long been known to breach teachers’ Contracts with no consequences for having done such. Fact is, it’s teachers who suffer should they stand up for what was promised, yet not received.

Schools located in countries with “loose” labor laws are well aware their Contracts  are minimally enforceable in their home land, if at all.  Offering you the “moon” at a Recruiting Fair, even in writing, is no guarantee.

Schools that withhold salaries, switch Contract terms, substitute poor housing for that promised, fail to reimburse travel and/or shipping allowances, renege on health insurance and engage in other dishonest practices are schools in beach of Contract! Yet, there is no accountability.

The majority of educators have financial responsibilities that follow them overseas. Schools know this and can feel confident most of us will tolerate a major breach of Contract because it’s just not financially possible for us to walk out. We’re essentially trapped!

ISR proposes Recruiting Agencies initiate a Contract Review Department. Penalties for schools that breach their Contracts should result in reimbursement to teachers for all costs associated with attending a Recruiting Fair, flights home, shipping of personal items, and an additional substantial compensation paid to the now-unemployed educator. As it stands, teachers have been required to reimburse schools for recruiting costs, and much more, should they break Contract for any reason.

ISR strongly believes:  It’s time International Educators receive assurance Contracts will be honored, and compensation if they are not.

Consider contacting your favorite Recruiting Agency and posing this idea.

Let us know how it goes.

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Questionable Professional Behavior

November 9, 2017

Dear ISR, A topic I have yet to see addressed on ISR is that of questionable professional behavior. In my experience, some lower-tier international schools allow teachers to behave with impunity. One such school in Myanmar is notorious for the negative behavior of its teachers. They get drunk in public, cuss and diss each other and the locals, and in general show a complete lack of cultural sensitivity.

The staff (from the school in question) talk about the deranged behavior of one of their teachers who screams and yells at colleagues in front of students. Recently, a respected math teacher at this school was physically assaulted by another male teacher who was jealous and clearly has psychiatric issues.

The rest of us (living in this close community of schools) cannot believe how teachers from our neighboring school conduct themselves in public, nor that the 2 individuals with extreme behaviors are still teaching with, apparently, no repercussions!

Offences such as drunkenness, belligerence, blatant cultural insensitivity and/or aggressive behavior toward staff and teachers should result in instant firing. How far do/should directors allow teachers to go in breaking codes of professional behavior? And, what can colleagues do, apart from quitting, such toxic places?

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Excused Absences Galore

October 26, 2017

..School’s well under way here in South America (I’ll leave out the name of my school) and in the few months I’ve been here we’ve had four activity days that kept kids out of class. Worse yet, kids regularly come and go with admin passes to participate in this event, that rehearsal, an important soccer practice, and even a hamster race (yes, you read correctly…science, I’m told). The list of reasons for kids to miss class just keeps on going. It’s clear I’m working at an entertainment center for the children of a privileged class, where education takes a back seat to fun.

..The latest incident which brings me to write to ISR is in regards to canceling my unit math exam due to an unplanned soccer match. Here’s what happened: A rival team challenged our school to a Friday afternoon soccer match at the last minute. The word went out Thursday afternoon over the intranet. I had been preparing my class for a big exam which I then had to postpone until Monday. When Monday rolled around it seemed unfair to have them walk into class “cold” and take the exam. So, we spent that class session reviewing and took the exam on Tuesday. This put us two days behind the scheduled curriculum.

..The teacher in the room next to mine told me last year they her called into the Counselor’s office to meet with the parent of a student who was failing her class. She knew the boy was failing because he had missed too many days of class, even though they were excused absences. It really jolted this teacher when she was accused of being a bad teacher and told that she had better get busy and see that this boy did well in her class. When she pointed out that he had missed an excessive amount of classes, she was told his failure was because she’s a boring teacher. How do you deal with this? She confided in me that she ultimately gave the kid a “B” grade to protect her job, but later the parent complained that her son would have earned an “A” if she had been a better teacher.

..My plan is to teach to the best of my ability, give these kids what they really earn and be done with it. I will either establish myself as a teaching professional and be accepted as such or will gladly leave when asked to. Has anyone experienced a school like this one?