I was an International Schools Recruiter – The Industry is Racist

June 25, 2020


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.

Sincerely,

Anonymous Ex-Recruiter

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

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A Moment of Silence

June 4, 2020


ISR condemns racial inequality in all its hideous forms. In solidarity with the protesters in America & around the globe, ISR is observing a Moment of Silence in support of the fight against inequality.

Take a deep breath. Join us. Get involved.

“Moment of Silence”: A period of silent introspection & contemplation. Like flying a flag at half-mast, a moment of silence is a gesture of respect for those who have recently died or in response to a tragic event of historical proportions.

Support the Fight Against Inequality:  Resources & Ways to Act


Could This Be Normal?

May 7, 2020

A month into the COVID pandemic, with still no concrete ‘start date’ for the upcoming academic year, I telephoned the principal at what was soon to be my new school in Italy. I was simply looking for a little reassurance before officially resigning my teaching job in the States.

The principal was sympathetic. She understood my predicament. At least that’s what I thought….until she told me in no uncertain terms:

“If you fail to show up for school when we decide to open, you will be responsible for all expenses associated with hiring you, plus penalties. On the other hand, if we decide we don’t need you due to reduced enrollment, your Contract can be nullified with no financial compensation. Of course, in this situation you owe us nothing….”

It was painfully obvious I wasn’t going to get the reassurance I was looking for. I did, however, get the information needed to make a firm, much-needed decision. Jeopardizing my health and financial security for an organization that obviously could not give a damn about me was not about to happen! My final words to the principal? ‘Find yourself another teacher….I’m out!’

I realize I’m one of the fortunate ones. At least I still have a job. What if I had resigned my position here in the States? Worse yet, what if I was already working at the school prior to the pandemic, only to find myself put in the position of becoming a disposable commodity?

My Questions: Is it normal for International Schools to take such a hard-line stance, especially right now? Who in their right mind would expect educators to put their future in limbo with no assurance they won’t be left high and dry? Can this school really collect their recruiting fees from me?

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Suing Our School Over Coronavirus Policy

March 18, 2020

In a knee jerk reaction to the Coronavirus, our school director unilaterally decided to change the dates of our spring break. Threatening us with loss of job, he ordered all teachers to stay in-country during the rescheduled vacation. The faculty is pissed!!

As a faculty we feel he should have at least had a plan in mind to help teachers obtain reimbursement for money already spent on travel plans – airfare / hotels, etc. He did not! I asked him why leaving the country would result in loss of job and was told it’s because we may face quarantine upon reentry, leaving the school short on teachers. As usual there was no concern for our needs, such as flying home to visit an aging parent.

Had Mr. School Director thought to organize a whole-school faculty meeting and present a valid reason for the date change he may have united us as a team working for a common cause.  Instead, he sent out an email to parents and teachers alike and then made himself unavailable.

There is no question we all need to act responsibly and do our part to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. However, our director’s interest in changing the dates of our Spring break had nothing to do with public safety or stopping the spread of the virus. His sole focus was on the school’s profit margin. And… I have proof because I tracked him down and have the recording of our meeting to prove it. His attitude is quite revealing!

Our contracts clearly spell out vacation dates. That portion of our contracts has now been breached and the director refuses to address the issue or help us in any way.  As a faculty we have decided to seek legal representation in an effort to receive reimbursement for all lost monies. After all, his decision to suddenly change the dates of our spring break was based on a concern for profits with no regard to the teachers’ wellbeing of public safety.

I’d like to know how other schools have been treating their teachers during the Coronavirus pandemic. Surely the treatment we are receiving is not representative of international Schools as a group.

Thanks for all you do for International Teachers,
(name withheld on request)

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Beyond the School Gates

December 12, 2019

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

•••••

  If you frequent our Discussion Boards, you’re well aware our recent Survey revealed that nearly 50% of 650 surveyed teachers would break Contract if they could do so, consequence-free.

If you are ready to take the next flight out, it may help to know that seasoned International Educators will sometimes accept positions at poorly reviewed schools solely for the opportunity to experience a culture and country of great interest to them. It’s a bold move, but it is done all the time. If you’re unhappy with your current school situation, take pause. ISR encourages you to look outside the school gates to all your host country has to offer.

No one says it’s easy to rise above a school when everything about it flies in your face. Your objective, however, for going overseas was far more than to just be part of a school — you could have done that without leaving home. It’s YOUR choice:  You can wallow in the dissatisfaction of being at a lousy school and let negative feelings destroy the incredible overseas adventure you’ve worked so hard to earn, or…you can just let it be and do like seasoned International Educators and focus on, and savor, all that’s happening outside those school gates.

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“Disgruntled Teacher” Propaganda Disproved

December 5, 2019

   When ISR asked International Educators what they would do if given the opportunity to break their current Contract, consequence-free, our projected figure for contract breakers was somewhere in the range of 10%, maximum. However, 46% of 683 Survey respondents said they would be on the next flight out. Wow! That’s not what we expected!

Survey results: Consequence-Free Early Departure

Certainly, no school is perfect and we all have to accept a certain amount of dissatisfaction to make things work. However, a desire to bail on their current school by such a high number of those surveyed is extremely alarming, but does make it abundantly clear that negative School Reviews are written by far more than just a few disgruntled teachers,”a derogatory term some admin use in an attempt to belittle authors of negative Reviews.

Frequent deal breakers mentioned by so-called “disgruntled teachers” include:

Overbearing, micro-managing admin who bow to parents’ demands
Unqualified colleagues (admin favorites) in positions of authority
Parents that expect top grades & admin makes sure they get them
Students with strong sense of entitlement & lack of discipline/motivation
Admin offers little to no support. Kids running the show
Procedures reek of an overall distrust of the teaching staff
Low pay, poor housing, demanding hours, worthless benefits package

ISR Asks:  How is it that so many teachers have ended up at unbearably lousy schools when the Reviews of such schools clearly spell out major problems ahead? ISR concludes it may be because uninitiated educators buy into the “disgruntled teacher” propaganda, ignoring the words of their colleagues already teaching in these schools. Coming from the West, teachers new to International Education may find some School Reviews simply hard to fathom.

Don’t allow yourself to become a statistic. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH & then RESEARCH SOME MORE! There are plenty of good schools out there, as evidenced by the fact that over 50% of our Survey respondents plan to complete their Contracts and maybe even renew. Our goal at ISR is to help YOU to find a school that’s right for YOU.

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

——-

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Is ‘No Housing’ a Deal Breaker?

October 24, 2019

Caught up in the excitement of an overseas job offer, educators may be willing to overlook the inherent expenses and disadvantages of accepting an International teaching position that does not include furnished housing in the deal.

Security deposits add up fast! Think: apartment, utilities and internet. Shopping for household items such as a bed, couches, lamps, tables, and all the small stuff we take for granted back home (can opener, knives, forks, etc.) is not cheap. Before you know it you spent a full month’s salary, or more!

Schools know full well the costs associated with setting up complete households from scratch. They also know the legal and financial problems that often arise when dealing with local landlords who refuse to return security deposits and/or refuse to maintain their properties. Schools that choose to place the entire housing burden on teachers new to a country are schools that ISR feels take advantage of unsuspecting educators. As such, this may be a very telling indicator of what, if any, support you can or cannot count on from your school in the future, both in the classroom and outside of school.

The situation is further compounded when schools only pay a 10-month housing allowance, forcing teachers to pay out-of-pocket for the summer months or move out of their apartments. Apparently such schools place profit over the well-being of teachers. Additionally, teachers preoccupied with finding a place to live are not in a position to give 100% to their students. Everyone loses, except the school, which, of course, profits.

Is a lack of school-supplied housing a deal breaker? ISR recommends that teachers carefully weigh the pros, and especially the cons, of accepting a Contract that does not include furnished housing, or at least a stipend to cover deposits, furnishings and a school-trusted agent to personally help you find an apartment. Getting picked up at the airport upon arrival into your new country, dropped off at a hotel and told, “We’ll see you the first day of school,” has prompted many an educator to take the next available flight out.

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Academic ‘Participation Trophies’ – Good or Bad?

October 17, 2019

Diane Tirado, an eighth-grade history teacher at Westgate K-8 School in Port St. Lucie, Florida, gave her students two weeks to complete an assignment. Students who failed to turn in any work received a zero in her grade book.

Diane, who had been teaching for 17 years prior to starting at Port St. Lucie in 2018, believes she was fired for refusing to comply with the school’s alleged policy of no grade lower than a 50%. Admin claims, however, that Diane was released from her duties for substandard performance.

A school spokesperson said the school’s grading policy does not prohibit a teacher from recording a zero for work not turned in. However, a document to the contrary, alleged to be taken from the school handbook, later surfaced:

 

Whether or not Diane was fired due to poor job performance or simply for refusing to comply with a No Zero policy is beyond the scope/focus of this Discussion Board. The incident, however, does illustrate two distinctly polarized philosophies…

Awarding kids credit for just showing up to class is an example of a trend known as the Participation Trophy. The premise claims that rewarding kids for participating on any level will boost their self-esteem and self-confidence. Those who support Participation Trophies believe zeros contribute to a “loser” stigma, while Participation Trophies allow kids the recognition needed to foster motivation to improve. Opponents of Participation Trophies maintain that giving credit for just showing up sends a message contrary to how the real world works, and furthermore unfavorably dishonors those students who do the honest work to earn grades.

ISR asks:  What’s YOUR take on Participation Trophies in regard to academic achievement? In your opinion, do Participation Trophies for simply occupying a classroom seat, foster self-esteem and future motivation? Or do they demotivate kids into doing little to no work? Showing up and participating in a 5-K run comes with a T-shirt and/or a Participation Trophy, and rightly so. Should sitting idle in a classroom, refusing to do any work at all, fall into the same category?

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Trashed!

October 10, 2019

Imagine this: You recently attended your first-ever International Teacher recruiting fair and walked away with a rather attractive Contract. But months later, after resigning your public-school teaching position, renting out your house and putting cars and furniture into storage….the phone rings. Your job offer has been withdrawn!

The voice on the other end of the line offers nothing more than a meager explanation such as insufficient enrollment, but no monetary compensation. Your life has been trashed! 

Incidents such as this are admittedly few and far between, but they do occur as evidenced by a smattering of alarming ISR School Reviews. The most recent such event can be read by logging onto ISR  and then returning to this page and clicking Here

As teachers, we unfortunately have little or no recourse when it comes to dealing with schools that treat us like disposable commodities. Few of us could afford to pursue legal compensation, and the schools know it! Do you have the resources to wage a lawsuit against a school in Malaysia when you’re physically in Wisconsin and unemployed?

Recruiters assert they provide a venue or conduit between schools and teachers and cannot be held responsible for unpredictable actions of their various school clients. That said, why are teachers blacklisted and held responsible by recruiters when they fail to live up to the terms of a Contract — even when an abusive school makes breaking that Contract necessary for self-preservation?

ISR asks: Why are there no safeguards in place to assure educators’ security? Why aren’t schools required to post a substantial bond with recruiting agencies (or a third-party agency) to assure teachers are compensated should a school renege on their Contract? ISR believes recruiters can and should put safeguards into place to ensure schools are held accountable when they trash the future for unsuspecting International Teaching candidates.

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Admin w/Phony Credentials

September 26, 2019

Ever get the feeling your school director, principal or another key figure at your International School lacks the credentials they claim to have earned? A group of students at a prestigious International School had that exact feeling about their incoming Head of School and set out to find the truth.

Quite possibly the impostor could have successfully flown under the radar, but his aggressive attitude and relentless obsession with severe consequences for minor school-rule infractions motivated students to look into his history.  They had had enough!

An exhaustive internet search finally revealed Mr. X was not who he claimed to be.  In fact, Mr. X was not even his real name! Having been fired from a school in Canada for falsified credentials, Mr. X was now masquerading as Mr. Y. Needless to say he was gone from his new International School in just a few days’ time.

If you have evidence that an administrator at your school does not hold the credentials required for his/her position, be aware of potential consequences. Proceed with caution! Openly demonstrating you know what he or she is hiding could be detrimental to your job. You never know who’s friends with whom. Plus, the Board may already know what’s going on and not even care and/or be hiding that information.

A prudent approach to exposing an impostor may be to alert Board members using an anonymous email address, or by dropping a physical letter into their home mailbox. Be wise and protect yourself from unscrupulous revenge seekers.

Enrolling in a couple of singing classes does not make a vocalist. Likewise, a principal training class or leadership workshop does not make a leader. As with every industry, the International School circuit has its fair share of upper management who DO have valid degrees/admin credentials but lack the true strength of character, vision and fairness to be leaders. So, before you jump to conclusions and stick your neck out, consider you may simply be dealing with pure incompetence.

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Rejecting a Job Offer Got Me Banned From Mexico!

August 29, 2019

Hello ISR, I have a unique situation I hope your readers can help me with:

In 2012, I applied to teach at a handful of international schools and accepted a position at a school in Mexico. When the school later contacted me, it was explained that I would have to book my own flight and upon arrival, arrange to find and rent my own apartment! That said, I backed out of the job.

 Had the details of the job been made clear in the beginning, I would have declined the Mexico offer right then and there. Some time later, I accepted a job at a school in the Middle East where everything was arranged in advance of my arrival.

At the time, I didn’t think much about turning down the school in Mexico. After all, I had no reason to give it another thought. That was, until I recently traveled to Mexico on vacation and was denied entry into the country!

Upon consulting with the Mexican embassy in the United States I learned I had been put on a blacklist of sorts, all due to rejecting the Mexico school offer. It seems so insane someone actually had the power to do this to me!

I just wanted to check in with ISR:  Have you heard of this happening to anyone else before? This would be helpful information.

I appreciate your time.
T.

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School Not as Described

August 22, 2019

Educators who rely solely on the word of an interviewer may soon find they committed to two years in a city hard-pressed to offer enough points of interest to even fill an afternoon stopover.

Alarm bells should clang if an interviewer makes statements such as:  “It’s the best kept secret.” Or, “It was once the Paris of the East.”

Sadly, there ARE school Directors who will say just about anything to lure unsuspecting educators to their poorly located schools, knowing full well that once they’re there it’s not so easy to leave.

What’s your options when you arrive at a new school, only to find things are 180 degrees out from how they were described? In other words, What do you do when you’ve fallen prey to a con man?

Possible solutions:

A) If you’re financially solvent and can afford to walk out, consider taking the next flight home. The financial consequences of such actions are something not many of us are able to absorb, so this option may be off the table.

B) Hang in there and collect a few paychecks. Then, jump ship at the first long vacation. This way, you’ll have a few bucks under your belt and no one will wonder why you’re headed to the airport with a couple of big suitcases in hand.

C) Do as many (most?) of us would do:  Suck it up and make the best of it. Walking out on a Contract could do irreparable damage to your career. But then again, it IS your life we’re talking about.

It’s your career. It’s your future. There should be consequences for Directors who deceive educators into accepting positions that are far different than represented. As it stands, deceiving people out of their money can be a punishable offense, yet there are no consequences for deceiving educators into spending years of their life in some hellhole of a location.

With the school year getting underway, we’re seeing some recent ISR School Reviews exposing Directors who purposely misled educators into a lousy location. If you find yourself in such a situation, ISR encourages you to submit a School Review to warn your colleagues.  International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is What ISR is All About!   Send a School Review

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Do The Pluses Still Outweigh the Negatives?

August 8, 2019

I grew up in International Schools. Today, with a teaching credential and 3 years classroom experience under my belt, I’m preparing for my first ever International Teacher recruiting fair. I’m ready to get back overseas where life feels so much more authentic to me!

I recently discovered ISR and have been reading Reviews of schools I attended as a student (grades 4-12 in 4 different international schools). In my teen years I was well aware some stressful stuff was going on for the teachers, but not to the degree or magnitude of what I’m now seeing on ISR.

My question:  Do ISR readers who’re currently overseas think the positive aspects of living internationally as an educator outweigh the negatives, especially the really harsh stuff I’m reading on ISR?  Memories of life overseas are among my most treasured possessions and I’m willing to take the bad with the good….to a reasonable extent, that is!

Sincerely,
Grace

Survey:

 

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My Point of No Return

July 31, 2019

I’ve reached the point of no return. That is, I’ve reached the point where I’ve decided not to go back to my school after summer break.

My reason? I’ve had all I can tolerate of being used as a pawn in a high-priced diploma mill where white-faced teachers are strictly valued for our ability to complete the facade. I’m done being used by this business enterprise masquerading as an International School.

Okay….I could deal with the school scene if I had to. But, the final straw in my decision not to go back is the fact I cannot walk down the street without some ASS making a sexual comment, lewd gesture or “accidentally” bumping/rubbing into me. I must be some special sort of gullible to let a school director convince me I would love Egypt and this hell-hole of a school.

I did read all the reviews and seriously thought nothing could be as bad as portrayed on ISR. Some of the stuff sounded too far-fetched for me. I was wrong! My seething school review is now on ISR and truthfully, now that I’ve experienced the place first-hand I think some of the reviewers before me went too easy on the place. That’s my opinion.

So….now what? I’m in uncharted territory, living under my parents’ roof with no car, no job and soon without health insurance. I’m starting over at 31 years of age. My plan to stay 2 years in Egypt and then move on to new international schools has hit a roadblock.

For me, this episode in Egypt is just a blip on the radar or as you might say, a slight stumble out of the gate. Fortunately, I found “the job” without the help of a recruiter, so I’ll sign on with one of the big agencies and leave this school in Egypt off my resume.

That’s my story. Any advice anyone? Am I missing something here? I’m all ears!

Thanks in advance.
C.

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IS Educator Freed After 5 Years in Indonesian Prison

July 25, 2019


Imagine being falsely convicted of child molestation in Indonesia and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Then, 1 year later, allowed to walk free, only to have the court later reinstate the conviction and return you to prison! Such was the plight of International Educator, Neil Bantleman, who found himself the victim of a wealthy Jakarta International School parent with an evil agenda.

A brief history

In 2014, Neil Bantleman and his teaching aide, Ferdinant Tjiong were unjustly imprisoned for allegedly molesting a student at Jakarta International School, Indonesia. As the case unfolded, however, it became apparent there was little to no substance to the charges. No matter! Lacking concrete evidence the prosecution succeeded in getting a conviction. The sentence: 10 years in prison.

At the time, Neil’s case called into question the integrity of the Indonesian legal system. How was a wealthy, influential parent able to thoroughly manipulate a country’s judicial system and severely impact the lives of innocent people?

Miraculously, In August of 2015, after 1 year in prison, the conviction was overturned. It appeared justice had been served. Neil and Ferdinant were free men; but, not for long. In 2016 Indonesia’s Supreme Court reinstated the conviction and added another year to the sentence. Neil was returned to prison.

In June, 2019, after serving 5 years in prison, Neil was granted clemency by the government of Indonesia. Working behind the scenes to make Neil’s release a reality, the Canadian government, Jakarta International School and Neil’s brother and wife all worked tirelessly. Ferdinant Tjiong, and five school janitors, who also maintained their innocence, have not been granted clemency, though one was released on parole this year after serving half of his sentence.

Welcome home Neil!

A history of the Neil Bantleman Case with ISR Member Comments
♦International Educators Imprisoned on Insufficient Evidence
♦Hidden Agendas in Indonesia
♦INDONESIA, Where International Teachers are imprisoned on insufficient evidence and convicted terrorists are set free for ‘good behavior’
♦JIS Teacher Neil Bantleman Freed from Prison


Thinking About Teaching in Dubai? Read This First

July 18, 2019

     It wouldn’t be fair to say all schools in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are represented by the comments that follow. However, one thing is certain, all Dubai schools are subject to the requirements of Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the consequences of which can seem archaic in relation to Western educational standards. If Dubai is on your list of places to live and teach, the following commentary from an ISR Member is something to consider.

_____________________________________


…..The first and obvious thing you should realize before coming to Dubai is that it is an authoritarian state. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that schools in the UAE are also authoritarian in outlook.

If you decide to come here, do not expect open, confident, consultative organizations that value your input or expertise on decisions or matters that impact your teaching/approaches to learning. Your role is to shut up and accept whatever latest BS initiative comes from the Ministry of Truth (head office). At least that’s how it is at my school…

A huge concern about teaching in Dubai is the need to satisfy the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) inspectors. They come around EVERY YEAR to rate schools. A good inspection grade attracts parents and means fees can be raised. As you can imagine, the impact of this annual inspection is brutal on the teaching staff. Teachers at my school teaching core subjects are prepared to work a 60-70-hour week with most of that time spent preparing detailed lesson plans and gathering data to support/validate their teaching and assessment. This emphasis on data is suffocating, not least because the majority of it is spurious.

Indeed, almost every department at my school is, to my knowledge, manipulating data to show progress amongst its students. This is encouraged by management through a policy that requires staff to provide re-takes of summative assessments until a student reaches their target level. As the head of Secondary at my school told staff recently: “No student has the right fail.” What his obfuscating edu-speak doesn’t appreciate is that if a student submits something of poor quality, the teacher MUST have the right to fail the student. It is very hard to convince someone of something when it is in their interests to not understand.

Besides overwhelming staff in terms of the volume of work, this no-fail system creates, even worse it encourages students to be lazier than normal because they will always have another chance to do well and the teacher will be forced to mark it until the requisite grade is reached. If a student fails to meet their target at my school, the teacher will, regardless of the student’s effort or work ethic, be held accountable. The result is that teachers are now simply front-loading by inflating grades to mitigate the possibility of any comeback against them.

As a result of such relentless pressure to justify and make visible every aspect of your practice to satisfy external organizations and parents, the outcome is a toxic culture and work environment. This is the only way to describe the bullying that is rife within certain departments as heads are put under pressure to provide evidence of student progress. If you value your autonomy and you have a modicum of self-respect and/or dignity, then this school is not the school for you.

Dubai itself is a place where people go to live life without actually living. Paradoxically, all life is here, but every experience is mediated through the artificial spectacle of consumerism and status. If that’s your thing, you will love it; if not you’ll hate every moment in this manufactured oasis. Good luck!

(The preceding is a redacted excerpt from a School Review added to ISR on 7/16/2019. ISR Members wishing to read the entire School Review can sign in and locate this UAE school on the Most Recent Reviews page. Then scroll to Review #11.) 

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Same Ole Crappy School, Same Ole Lousy Reviews

June 27, 2019

Hello Team at ISR, I’m perplexed as to why teachers continue accepting jobs at schools with scads of bad reviews that reflect a history of poor treatment of educators by admin and school owners.

In 2008 when I first joined ISR I was sure that honest reviews of truly awful schools would eventually force them to straighten up and fly right. But 35 reviews and 10+ years later, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the dreadful school where I first taught. The most current reviews of that place actually reinforce the review I posted back in 2008. Nothing has changed! What does it take for educators to finally say:  “Hey, this place looks like it’s been awful for a long time. I think I’ll take a pass.”

Red flags should go up when multiple reviews of a school talk about inferior health insurance, severe lack of teaching materials, insufficient shipping allowance, unclear discipline procedures, rampant cheating with no consequences, overindulged students and/or entitled parents, and no support from admin, etc. I avoid such schools. Apparently some teachers don’t!

Educators new to international teaching may refuse to believe schools could really be as bad as portrayed in ISR reviews. Little do they know! Experienced overseas educators may think, “This won’t happen to me.  But, obviously it can and it does!

My question for ISR: Why do so many educators ignore the words of their colleagues who went (and suffered) before them? Why do they continue to sign on with schools that clearly have a long history of abusing teachers? Anyone wish to comment?

Sincerely,
LP


Back-Stabbing Director As My Confidential Reference

June 20, 2019

After what seemed like an endless chain of rejections it finally struck me that one of my confidential references had been stabbing me in the back. Problem is, what can I do about it, if anything?

My resume reflects a heavy math/science background, so I’m used to a good bit of positive interest in my candidacy at recruiting fairs. But this year, unlike in years past, that enthusiasm had screeched to a halt. I was dumbfounded.

At first I thought the wane in interest was due to younger, better qualified candidates who were possibly better “fits.” But through a series of events, I came to realize my most recent confidential reference was spitefully destroying my overseas teaching career. 

All fingers pointed to the director of my latest school! Some years ago I read an ISR article in which a school director confessed he had purposely written poor confidential references for outstanding teachers, and even played down their talents over the phone to inquiring schools. Why? Because he wanted to keep certain key staff from leaving his school. Ouch!

In accord with the ISR article, my recent director had offered me a handsome resigning bonus if I would commit to a 4th year. I had, however, been planning to move on for some time and when I announced my intentions I sensed an immediate change in attitude on his part. I can’t exactly explain it, but suddenly I felt I was on the outside looking in. For the remainder of the school year I got the cold shoulder instead of the usual “bro” treatment. 

My question is this: Can I do anything about this situation? Am I doomed to the wrath of a school director taking out his frustrations on me, and certainly other departing teachers? My letters of reference, along with whatever my current director wrote about me, are all online with the big recruiters and I seriously doubt I can get them to remove the latest one. Any advice? Anyone?

Please keep my name confidential.

Best Regards to the staff at ISR,
G.


A Hard-Learned Lesson

May 2, 2019

Nearing the end of 3 satisfying years at my current school I eagerly & naively signed on for a fourth. Not surprisingly, it came as a shock when a couple of months later our beloved Director announced he would not be returning.

My future had been cast into limbo. I would have to live with whoever showed up to take our Director’s place. The Board assured us they had made an excellent choice. I could only hope for the best.

As the new school year got underway the “excellent choice” quickly revealed himself to be everything I loathed in a leader. I classify him as an arrogant, insecure, under-qualified, know-it-all who views those ideas contrary to his own as personal assaults, especially if those ideas are coming from a woman. This character turned out to be 180 degrees opposite of our previous Director, for whom we all had the utmost respect.

From the git-go Mr. Excellent Choice went around singling out returning teachers. He gave us extra lunch & after-school duties & nixed most all our supply orders. He scrutinized & called us out on every insignificant thing. He even sent “coaches” in to observe our classes. These “coaches” came from his group of 10 hand-picked sycophants he had recruited on his own. It was clear he was working towards getting rid of those of us who had been here for years.

I like change, don’t get me wrong. But change for the better. Change instituted with no rhyme nor reason is nothing more than a frustrating exercise in stupidity. From day one Mr. Excellent Choice began altering each & every procedure without first observing what was already in place. School life became stressful. It was in a continuous state of flux for no apparent reason, except, of course, to stroke this little man’s ego.

One afternoon I chanced to enter the office of Mr. Excellent Choice. The new dismissal procedure for middle school was causing considerable confusion & I had an idea how we could remedy this. He told me “don’t bother.” His plan was not the problem but rather my inability to institute it. As such, he would be entering that specific “failure” into my employment file. No discussion, no clarification, no nothing. Just an ignorant, insecure bastard who held all the cards.

If the Board had had the decency to announce our former A+ Director was leaving, & if they had had the moral/ethical fiber to have done so prior to asking us to sign on for another year, I would not be here! Feels like they actually planned it this way. I feel completely screwed as do other staff who signed on for another year. And let’s not forget those teachers in the second year of their contract!

All in all, this experience has been a hard-learned lesson. The takeaway for me is that when things are good, even great, don’t take it for granted that they will continue as such. International Schools are in a constant state of personnel turnover. Here today, gone tomorrow. School Boards & owners often see teachers as mere pawns in the game, & are more than willing to sacrifice our well-being for the good of the kingdom, so to speak.

The lesson learned? Look out for Number One & always protect yourself in the International School game. We’re talking about your career here, your future. Take nothing for granted! Ask questions! Rock the boat if you have to. Just be sure you get all the information you need to make an informed decision.

(Name withheld)

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Have the Golden Years of International Teaching Come to an End?

April 25, 2019

After years of listening to my friends reminisce about their amazing experiences teaching in China, Pakistan, Romania, and even Burma, I decided to take the plunge. I quit my solid union teaching job on the West Coast and went international. I was looking forward to both an adventure and a career.

An adventure it was — a career it was NOT! The school I ended up at was nothing like what my friends had talked about. To the contrary, it was strictly a for-profit entity masquerading as a school. I can’t speak for all schools and I hope the school I landed at is the exception to the rule. But, unfortunately, I think not.

In the States I had expected and held my students to high levels of performance and accountability. Overseas, in the international teaching “business,” those same expectations were now punishable offenses. For example: When a kid felt they were not being spoon-fed, or if they were called out for academic dishonesty, they ran to their parents. Their parents in turn went directly to the school owner and lodged a complaint. As a result of this “chain of command” which functioned outside internal channels, we, the teachers, amounted to little more than grade farms.

The secondary principal literally sent out an email to teachers that read, and I quote:

“As you commit to meet the needs of all learners, and work at developing positive rapport with your students, be assured that your employment remains secure.”

Imagine if this memo were sent out in a U.S. school district: Your job is secure if you keep students and parents happy. Not if they pass the AP exam. Not if they are actually learning! It all boiled down to keeping the dollars flowing IN and the 4.0 grades flowing OUT.

After subjecting myself to abuse, manipulation, lies, and backstabbing I finally left, and I did so just like the teacher who composed the ISR Article, Slipping Out Early w/ My Possessions & My Sanity. I literally packed as much as I could carry and boarded a flight the next morning. I left with my dignity and my professional integrity intact. 

The entire experience has left me with several lingering questions: Is the title “International School” so loosely used these days that any private, overseas school can add “international” to their name and charge parents preposterous amounts of money? Are Western teachers nothing more than the props needed to sell an image? At my school I was nothing more than imported labor… 

I truly wonder if the golden years of international teaching that my friends reminisce about are over. Has the dream of living and teaching in exotic places around the world been destroyed by greedy, for-profit school owners who see white-faced international educators as nothing more than commodities in a money-making venture? Has the lure of foreign adventure that motivated so many educators to leave a promising career at home come to an end? I wonder…

Sincerely, 

(name withheld)

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