Detained in Rwanda, Seeking Your Support

The following is from Rhonda Isley:

I know this is a long post. However, it is vital to gain Mark’s freedom. A full reading is appreciated. To be clear, this is an issue with the International School Kigali (ISK) administration and Board for choosing not to do what is right. The issue is NOT with the Rwandan authorities. The Rwandan authorities have been respectful and have treated Mark extremely well.

For the past 7 months my husband, Mark Isley, has been detained in Rwanda, accused by ISK of a criminal act. In the words of ISK: 

“….your malicious act of massively deleting teaching materials, student work, college prep students’ letters of recommendation and other documents necessary for university acceptance; by so doing, you not only frustrated efforts of seamlessly undertaking the handover process to another contractor, but also jeopardized the future of your students vis-d.-vis their academic future.” 

Mark was accused of this crime on November 10, 2021 but continued to work at ISK thru January 31, 2022. The school administration never questioned Mark about missing files.

On March 1, charges were filed against Mark. He was later sentenced to 3 years in prison with 2 years suspended and a 2,000 USD fine. Fortunately, results of his trial in August determined there was no evidence of harm to students or their futures in any way and the civil suit suing him for 10,000 USD related to this was dropped. However, Mark still faces another 2-3 years of detainment while navigating the judicial system to address the deletion of files issue. The evidence shows Mark did not access any files on the day in question, however, he did use his email account.

For context

  • November 9, 2021 Mark was fired by ISK without cause 
  • November 15, 2021 Mark was rehired by ISK and worked until January 31, 2022 
  • February 4, 2022 Mark filed a labor dispute case against ISK with the Inspector General’s office 
  • March 1, 2022 Inspector General determined Mark had a valid case and moved it forward to the Labor Court
  • March 1, 2022 charges were filed against Mark indicating he committed the unlawful act on November 10, 2021. The files in question date back to 2019 and constituted old homework assignments submitted by students via Google Classroom. There were no files relating to letters of recommendation or other documents necessary for university acceptance, no students’ future was jeopardized and Mark met with his replacement teacher prior to his departure to ensure a smooth handover. Any college recommendations that were written were submitted as requested to universities
  • July 31, 2022 at midnight, a civil suit was filed against Mark suing him for 10,000 USD. 
  • August 1, 2022 (8:00 am) Mark’s criminal trial took place in which the civil suit charges were allowed to be presented as part of the case.
  • August 29 Mark was sentenced to 3 years in prison with 2 years suspended and a 2,000 USD fine 
  • August 29 the civil suit suing Mark for 10,000 USD was dismissed due to no evidence indicating students were harmed in any way

Points raised by Mark’s attorneys during the criminal proceedings on Monday, August 1 were as follows:

1. If Mark committed this act on November 10, why did ISK rehire him on November 15 and why did ISK never question Mark about any missing documents while he was employed prior to filing criminal charges 4 months later?

2. What evidence is there of malicious intent? Mark was rehired Nov 15, performed his duties without incident or complaint from ISK and was never informed there was a problem stemming from Nov 10. The first communication Mark received was on March 1 indicating there was a problem with files. 

3. There were no files deleted. All files in question were stored on the ISK server, on the student resource platform, on the College Board website and shared with students. The evidence provided was a simple spreadsheet. 

4. RIB investigation indicated there was no evidence on Mark’s personal laptop that he had accessed the files in question on November 10.

5. The spreadsheet presented as evidence did not show any documents relating to teaching materials or college letters of reference that would jeopardize a student’s future.

6. There was no evidence, or any students identified, as being harmed by the deletion of any files. On the contrary, there is evidence Mark submitted recommendations when asked and all students who applied for university received acceptances.

7. There was no evidence of “frustrated handover” of any responsibilities.

8. On November 10, 2021 other administrators had access to Mark’s email account creating a situation in which other people had access to all documents in question.

9. The timing of criminal charges being filed in March, coinciding with notification from the Labor Inspector General certifying the labor dispute case Mark had filed in early February against ISK, would be moving forward in the judicial system seemed too coincidental.

My thoughts in response to the verdict:

We were quite surprised at the verdict as again:

  • no evidence of malice was presented
  • no evidence of student harm was presented
  • no evidence that the documents in question had anything to do with student college applications or recommendations
  • no evidence that Mark’s laptop accessed the documents in question
  • no acknowledgment that the documents in question, in fact, were never missing as all documents are automatically stored in 4 places: 1. on the school server 2. with individual students in their Google Drives 3. on the school learning management system, Google Classroom 4. on the College Board AP website

Mark is being detained in Rwanda with no opportunity to work in order to support himself. As a 65-year-old man with no health insurance and no family in the country to support his medical needs we are seeking a timely resolution to this process. It is our belief the charges filed by ISK are false charges being used as an intimidation and retribution tactic against Mark because he filed a labor dispute case against ISK. 

Any support that can be provided, on behalf of Mark, is appreciated. Our goal is to have Mark return to the US to regain his health, rebuild his professional reputation, spend time with his 8-month-old grandson and reconnect with family. We are simply bewildered that a 65-year-old career educator with no history of claims against him would be sent to prison by a school for a crime so unsubstantiated.

Mark’s life remains in limbo, with no opportunity to work, no healthcare, nowhere to go, no one there for him, except a lawyer, to take his side. While he navigates the next 2-3 years, we hope your support can help gain his freedom with the charges dropped. 

Mark and I ask for your support:

  1. Contact the International School of Rwanda (Board@iskr.org dharwell@iskr.org ljones@iskr.org) to ask:
  • Why are they trying to send one of their teachers to prison in a foreign country without clear evidence of a crime when they have the ability to support Mark in his appeal to have the case dismissed?
  • How does ISK  justify sending a teacher to prison for harming students and their futures when a judge has already determined there was no harm to students, or their futures and there is no evidence of wrongdoing?
  1. Contact your international educator colleagues to raise their awareness level of how teachers are treated at this school in case they are considering recruiting at this school

As educators, we believe it is imperative to look out for each other as moving to a new school and new country requires a huge leap of faith and trust. We must all demand of ourselves, and our administrative colleagues, respect for ethical treatment so we can continue to enjoy the wonderful professional, and personal, opportunities of our international lives.

Please contact me directly (freemarkisley@gmail.com) if you have any questions as we want you to feel confident when asked to support a cause. 

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My School’s Disgusting Grading System

“As I was informed the first week at my new school, the grading policy forbids teachers giving anything less than 70% on all homework and/or tests.

Any student who earns 69%, or less, on a test or homework assignment is given 70% and the given an opportunity to improve that grade. Test takeovers are administered after school, on my time. Makeup assignments should be turned in no later than two weeks from the original due date. Good luck!

In and of itself this isn’t a bad system. However, I have high school kids who submit homework with nothing more than their name, date and the assignment title at the top of a blank page. Since they turned something in I’m required to mark it 70%.

The make-up versions of blank page submissions has so far consisted of a couple of worthless paragraphs. The students then argue they deserve a higher grade on the make-up since it’s an improvement over their first attempt. The school actually supports this idiocy.

The students’ perspective on test results is equally ‘creative.’ A student who, in real life, deserved 47% on the original attempt, and 60% on the retake, argued she improved by 13%, making her combined grade for the test 83% (the mandatory 70% + 13%). I told her to take it up with the school Director. I’ve yet to hear back.

How I plan to survive this experience is beyond me. Yes, I read the Reviews. One of them spoke to this situation and I ignored it, thinking …. in what universe does this stuff take place? Now I know! Has anyone out there had a similar experience? Any suggestions for me?”

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HRD Wants to Keep Our Passports

Our head of HRD sent a memo this morning telling all expats that we must bring our passports to the office for secure storage’ in the school safe. They claim the Ministry of Education requires all expat passports be on campus and available should a Ministry Inspector show up unannounced.

I’m new to this school. Returning teachers say this request is most probably a knee-jerk reaction to the 3 teachers who did runners last year. There were also 2 the year before, so I’m told.

From where I stand, letting the school hold my passport would be a mistake, giving them final say over all out-of-country travel. This would include potential medical emergency evacuation and even evacuating under conditions of extreme political unrest. No way will I give this school that kind of control over my life! They already have a signed copy of my passport. That should do it.

As you can imagine, the faculty room has been buzzing with conversation. Except for a couple of teachers, we have decided to stand united against this request. They can’t fire all of us!

Does anyone have experience at a school that requires teachers to turn over their passports for “safe keeping?” How did that work out? Am I just being paranoid?

Thanks ISR for sharing this,
Mr. G

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Suspected, Accused, Fired & Assaulted

Nola Formentin, fired for allegedly emailing parents a reportedly ‘School Review type’ memo, later returned to campus to bid farewell to her students and colleagues. In a knee-jerk reaction, the management of St. Andrews International Primary School, Malawi, sent security to have her removed.

Overreacting, the G4S security guards, in full tactical garb, knocked Nola to the ground, bloodying her mouth. She has since left the country. However, witnesses will testify on her behalf in a pending court case against the guards, all of whom were jailed following the incident.

A ‘forensic investigation team’ contracted by the school later identified the campus computer used to compose and distribute the email. The team concluded it was composed and sent by a previous staff member, proving Nola had been falsely accused.

The Board of Governors, however, in the face of the forensic team’s findings as well as the court absolving Nola of all guilt, continues to hold her responsible for the email and apparently feels justified in their actions.

Westerners often feel a false sense of immunity from these types of injustices. Nevertheless, upon touchdown on a host country’s runway, we’re playing by their rules. The injustices such as those Nola experienced often go unreported and are kept under wraps by schools, Boards and Administrators, all acting on a hunch, out on a witch hunt.

ISR invites you to READ the complete Article that follows. Then return to this page to Comment. Parts of the Article are disturbing.

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Your Director Doesn’t Know ANYone at ISR

International Schools Review occasionally receives emails from teachers asking if their school Director really has a ‘friend’ at ISR, a ‘friend’ who will reveal the identity of the person who wrote a negative School Review.

Fact: Your School Director does not know ANYONE at ISR

For starters, claiming to have a ‘contact at ISR’ is a hollow bluff. Secondly, all School Reviews on ISR come to us through our anonymous Review form. We don’t know the source of any given Review. Nor do we care to know! When we say your anonymity is guaranteed, we mean it!

Administrators and school owners, however, have gone so far as to not only claim they have a ‘friend’ at ISR, but to actually bring in an attorney whose job it is to extract a ‘confession’ from suspect teachers. Fortunately, no matter what a school Admin or attorney may claim, unless information in a Review points directly to themselves as the author, an author’s identity is completely anonymous. That being said, it does go without saying that using a school computer or the school’s WIFI to compose a School Review is certainly not advisable in protecting one’s anonymity.

ISR encourages schools to respond to any Review they find objectionable. Their reply and/or rebuttal is then attached to the conclusion of the designated Review. Teachers tell us they find ISR a safe place to have an open dialogue with their school. Confronted with one or more poor Reviews, some schools welcome that information as a basis for making positive changes. There’s lots to be gained by ALL parties when schools and teachers work together for the greater good.

Conversely, from excerpts of a letter sent to ISR, below, a site Member shows us what can happen when communication falls short:

6/30/22
Dear ISR, Your readers should know what’s going on here at Seoul International School. Last week, in reaction to some not-so-good reviews that appeared on ISR, our Director, Michael Colaianni, sent out a memo saying he has involved the “Cyber Police” in an investigation into possible cyber crimes against SIS. He says they will be teaming up with “US Authorities” to find the source of these posts and feel confident they can find and prosecute the people who wrote the reviews….

Have you ever heard of such a thing as the “Cyber Police?” Why would US authorities team up with Korean Police in a matter that concerns a school in Korea? I don’t know what to think!


Sincerely,
xxxxxx

It takes courage to contribute a School Review to ISR when the school in question has a history of trying to ferret out and punish Review writers. For this very reason, some teachers wait until they are well away from their school before composing their Review. International Schools Review is ALL About International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed!

Rest Assured:
Your Director does not know anyone at ISR.
ISR is unable to identify the author of any Review.


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Conscience Telling You to Stay or Go?

When unforeseen events collide with your core beliefs, then what?

Every country in the world is in some way, shape or form, abusing human rights. Some to a greater extent, some lesser, some hardly at all. At what point does your conscience dictate that being part of your host country is simply wrong for you?

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. At the time of this writing, innocent citizens are being displaced and murdered. Entire cities are being destroyed. Russian citizens protesting this atrocity are jailed, even tortured. Putin’s current invasion of Ukraine is an extreme example of Human Rights violations.

If you’re currently in a Russian-based International School and conflicted about aiding a regime that violates your core beliefs, Do you pack up and leave? After all, we are educating the children of the privileged class, i.e. kids whose parents are potentially profiting from and supporting the invasion. Alternatively, however, you may be motivated to stay. Why?

Think of it this way: Each of us has the attention of the children of the elite class for hours each day. Herein lies the opportunity to instill seeds of humanity and compassionate thinking, which, when nurtured through years of a Western-style education, may blossom forth and positively influence decision making in the future, for the better of their community and the broader world in general.

Leaving may be what’s best best for you. Staying could mean potentially changing the course of history in a positive way. ISR asks: How do YOU personally feel about staying or going when your host country’s actions collide with your core beliefs?

Overseas Landlords: Deposits & Refunds Lost

Landlords come in all manner of beings. Some are honest; others, connivers poised to extract every last penny from unsuspecting renters like you. Today, our focus is on renting overseas and the landlords who own the properties.

If you’ve already rented an abode in a foreign land, you know it can be a unique experience. For the uninitiated, the myriad of ways overseas landlords can legally extract every last penny of your security deposit, and more, much more, may come as a surprise.

Overseas, it’s typical for renters to be responsible for 100% of all repairs required during their stay. Should a corroded old water heater finally go cold, it’s the tenant’s responsibility! Heater or AC on the fritz? Leaky sink? Drippy ceiling? Front door lock sticking? Refrigerator too warm? It’s all on the tenant’s dime. Unfair? Yes! But legal. In exchange for a ‘roof over your head,’ you could find yourself paying to assume the landlord’s ‘roof’ repair and further headaches.

When it’s time to move out is when things can get really interesting. Legislation in many parts of world permit landlords to summarily charge for an entire interior repaint, whether it’s needed or not. In addition, any and all items a landlord deems in need of repair or replacement can and will be charged to the security deposit, this, right down to an 8-year-old worn out toilet seat. Forget about getting reimbursed for any personal item ruined or lost due to a faulty rental component. It’ll never happen.

As opposed to a local person, when you move out, you’re gone, leaving little to no chance you’ll seek legal assistance in getting back what’s rightfully yours. With this in mind, be sure to do a thorough inspection of the property, inside and out. Leave no stone unturned. Don’t assume anything. The rules you play by at home don’t count here. ISR suggests you add an addendum to the rental Contract stating the landlord will be responsible for all repairs and you will not charged for a repainting. Having date-marked photos showing the condition of everything within the property when you moved in are helpful with exit negotiations.

Schools know local rental laws. They also know landlords can play tough. Any school that leaves you on your own to rent a house or apartment in a foreign country, in a foreign language, is likely to be a school that would not hesitate to throw you under the bus in other circumstances, too. Before signing on with an International School, find out if they provide housing. If not, will they co-sign a rental Contract, pay the deposit, assume responsibilities for repairs? Essentially, will they go to bat for you?

ISR asks: What has YOUR experience been renting overseas? What tips do you have for teachers new to the experience?

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Caught in the Shanghai Lockdown w/ Children

Shanghai, China

If you’re unaware of the recent, draconian COVID-preventative measures taken by the government of China, allow us to bring you up to speed:

In late March, 2022, the Chinese government imposed a severe lockdown on the entire city of Shanghai, an area of over 26 million residents. Going far beyond anything experienced in the U.S. or European Union, the Shanghai lockdown demands all 26 million residents stay in their homes, 24/7. This has been in effect going on 5 weeks.

Faced with outrage from citizens, Chinese health officials held to their position, reporting they will continue to separate COVID-positive babies and children from their parents. The impact on a child, especially an English-speaking, Western-born child forcibly separated from their parents and taken to a Chinese detention hospital will be profound. To compound the trauma, visitation at these facilities is prohibited unless the parent also tests COVID-positive, in which case they can remain with their child. (See Google search results for more details.)

Shanghai is home to upwards of 40 International Schools, making it home to hundreds of expat educators and their children. China, overall, hosts 600 International Schools. What’s to prevent this brand of quarantine from spreading? Communist Party officials have already announced plans to move people from their homes in Pingwang, to Zhejiang Province for no less than a week while they sanitize the city. In Beicai, residents were told to move to temporary accommodations. The relocation order requires entry doors to remain unlocked and closet doors open.

ISR asks: If you are an educator living/teaching in China and accompanied by your children, how do you cope with this situation? Why haven’t you packed up and left?

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Contracts vs Circumstances

At what point do circumstances override Contracts? Who & what should determine the circumstances under which teachers can break Contract, consequence-free?

In the aftermath of 9/11, for example, the American Embassy in Pakistan was among the first to pack up & leave, essentially telling American teachers to fend for themselves. Some International Schools in the region, however, insisted teachers continue working throughout the worldwide threat. International Teachers were expected to simply cope with the circumstances, or plan/finance their escape on their own, while also dealing with the serious long-term aftermath of breaking Contract.

Can schools legitimately expect teachers to stay through a currency collapse rendering salaries worthless? How about a civil war? Growing anti-Western sentiment? An invasion from a neighboring country? Think about an extended COVID lockdown like the one currently taking place in Shanghai, China where a stint in a detention center is imminent should you test positive during one of the almost daily COVID tests. See ISR Member Forum for more on Shanghai lockdown. Does anyone seriously believe a teacher should sacrifice physical, mental or financial well-being out of commitment to a two-year teaching Contract?

ISR believes International Schools must have a detailed plan in place outlining crisis policies & procedures, including a clearly delineated explanation of under what circumstance it is acceptable for teachers to leave, consequence-free. Recruiting agencies would do well to require a copy of this document from every one of their member schools. Ask to see this document while recruiting! As we all know, stuff happens!

ISR asks: When circumstances change for the worse, who & what should determine the point at which YOU can leave, consequence-free?

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Toxic School Avoidance

More than ever before, the success of your career as an International Educator hinges on thoroughly vetting any & all International Schools you may be considering for a career move.

In this age of corporate chain schools & entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the business of International Education, we as educators need to stick together. Knowledge is power & Sharing that knowledge in an ISR School Review can help us ALL find the great schools & avoid the Toxic ones.

ISR Members comment:

“I think a big part of what makes so many International Schools toxic work environments is that many administrators simply don’t have the qualifications or did not receive the vetting and/or training they would have had back in the US or UK.

For example: a PE teacher being suddenly promoted to Head of School simply doesn’t happen at home. Too many International Schools are run by people who are not suited or qualified for their posts, and these people have a weird kind of absolute power, without union checks or inspections.

Consequently, we have poor leaders who then similarly promote their friends or others they feel will help solidify their power and snuff out dissent. And the cycle continues. In the toxic environments I have seen, I don’t even think the leaders realized how different their management methods were from what they should or could be. Let’s not forget how dependent we all are on receiving positive references from each post, and that most schools require us to give up our job before we have secured a new one if we want to move on.”


“ISR is needed more than ever in a pandemic economic climate or sadly, war-torn. Let’s stop belittling people’s experience as negative or whinging and just plain accept that there are many practices that are unacceptable and unchallenged on our circuit.

In every other profession on our home soil, we are allowed to freely post experiences. Being far away from home, not in a union and unfamiliar with local legal practices means we are extremely vulnerable. Let’s begin to challenge and fight back a lot more and use our right to speak out, just like the rest of the workforce!”


“In my opinion it goes with the territory. International Schools are the equivalent of the Wild West, where management can act as they please with little recourse. One of the very few places we can find a little accountability for toxic management is ISR and that’s why we need to help those who request information on any schools we have details on.

Ready to Review your School? Click here
Membership not required to post a School Review.


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Diversity & Inclusion Update

In 2013, ISR became aware of the Next Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization with an admirable and worthy Mission Statement:

“We promote and protect the interests of children who learn in different ways or at different rates.  We do this by supporting schools in all aspects of their journey towards inclusion.”

Today, almost ten years since inception, the Next Frontier Inclusion website displays a Not Secure warning, which we hope in no way metaphorically reflects the current state of Diversity and Inclusion in International Schools…

Although Next Frontier Inclusion may not have become all that was hoped for, International Schools Services (ISS) has become instrumental in promoting Diversity and Inclusion through their Diversity Collaborative:

The Diversity Collaborative (DC) is committed to creating and sustaining a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and just international school community through our focus on leadership.

Here is a sample of recent Diversity Collaborative offerings:

  • Building Inclusive Learning With Brave and Brilliant Books
  • Anti racism Plan
  • Teaching for Black Lives
  • Transgender Inclusion Policies for International Schools
  • 5 Reasons Why Your School Needs a Transgender Inclusion Policy
  • Practical Strategies for Inclusion: Everyday Equity

International Schools Services Diversity Collaborative welcomes new members. Additionally, there are many organizations with which International Schools, faculty and staff can become involved in support of expanding Diversity and Inclusion in their Schools:

ISR asks: Does your school have Diversity and Inclusions goals that have been achieved? What future goals does your school have and how are they working to achieve them?

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Teaching Admin Kids

Great experience or total nightmare?

Teaching Admin kids who are strong students, great athletes or talented artists is wonderful! And even better when you’re able to build a positive relationship to support their learning and growth.

It’s tougher when Admin kids have challenges or need support. Tough conversations with Admin about their kids’ struggles can build better professional relationships, but can also lead to a nightmare of a workplace if Admin won’t accept that their children are less than perfect. Walking on eggshells to ‘keep the boss happy,’ while trying not to disservice the child, is not easy.

Most Admin kids know they’re in an awkward situation. Teachers report to their parents about them while at the same time their teachers have to answer to their parents. Every once in awhile you get that excessively entitled kid who’ll play the My mom’s your boss! card. The parent is usually on the same page.

ISR Members Comment:

So far I’ve been lucky. I’ve taught the admin’s kids, but they were mostly well-behaved and academically ok. At my first school, however, admin always tried to make excuses instead of apologies for their two kids’ awful and disrespectful behavior. I was never their teacher. The admin didn’t go as far as to pressure the teachers to treat them differently, but it was very annoying and uncomfortable for their teachers, to say the least.

Almost all the admin and teacher kids I’ve taught have been a delight. I can only think of one who had any issues. He wasn’t a bad student – just very quiet and terrified of his dad who was a terrible admin and kind of an ass to everyone, staff and students alike. I might have brought it up with the guy if I felt like he was responsive to any criticism at all, but nope...

It depends on the admin. In my experience they’ve almost always been great. I’ve only once ever seen a nightmare case, and I thankfully wasn’t involved. Considering what happened, I was really surprised that it didn’t end up on this site. Close to the most unprofessional behaviour I’ve ever seen!

ISR asks: Have YOU personally navigated teaching Admin kids? What do YOU do when you see an Admin kid really struggling emotionally and their ‘chin up’ parent has low or no EQ? SHARE some stories so we can all learn.

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Topic & text by LastToKnow & transplanted from ISR Member FORUM.
Teacher’s Comments from ISR Member FORUM.

Aggressive-Student Policy

March, 2022, Pines Lakes Elementary School, Florida: Police were called on campus after a 5-year-old boy reportedly attacked his classroom teacher. The incident started when two children, ages 4 & 5, began throwing things & knocking over chairs.

Once separated, with help from facility members, the classroom teacher escorted the 5-year-old student to a time-out room where he reportedly threw his body weight against her, causing her to fall & hit her head. Losing consciousness, she was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Pines Lakes Elementary soon thereafter released a statement stressing: Safety of staff & students is a top priority. The injured teacher says, Their actions did not show that.

International Schools, by comparison, report far fewer incidences of student-on-student violence &/or aggression directed towards teachers than do public schools. Yet, violence happens & often without a clear-cut policy for how to deal with it. An ISR Member tells us:

***

I am a teacher at a Tier-1 school where admin is reluctant to create a “policy” for violent behavior, student-to-student or student-to-teacher. Unfortunately, I have seen an uptick in dysregulated children. Teachers feel unsupported and have to tolerate being hit, kicked, etc. We recently raised this issue in a meeting with our HOS and received a reluctant response. Again, this is a reputable, high-profile school!

***

Is it fear of losing a well-paying customer, or fear of retaliatory measures from an influential parent that cowers some International Schools into hesitancy in enacting a violent-behavior policy? More than a few School Reviews hosted on ISR go so far as to say: The inmates are running the asylum.

Some years ago ISR documented a situation in which the parent of a high school student, sent to time-out for fighting, used his influence to invalidate the exit Visa of the teacher who dared to reprimand his over-indulged teenage son. Not aware of the situation, the teacher was detained at Immigration & prevented from leaving the country. The boy’s father equated a simple time out with putting his son in the Abu Ghraib prison! Weeks later the teacher managed to exit the country, never to return.

ISR asks: Does YOUR International School have documented consequences for violent, aggressive behavior? If so, ISR asks you to Share the details of that policy in an effort to help schools with no policy create one of their own. No one deserves to be hit, kicked, or detained for doing their job.

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Discrediting Teachers & Lashing Out

If you receive our Newsletter &/or frequent ISR, you know International Schools Review is all about providing a safe space for International Educators to anonymously keep each other in the loop about schools around the world.

ISR’s mantra, International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed, sometimes involves sharing information that’s not of a positive nature. This can often motivate various school Admin or their appointed “attorney” to contact & even threaten ISR.

The tone of such communications is usually aggressive, making it perfectly clear why teachers are dissatisfied, choose to stay anonymous & are motivated to Share their grievances, thus warning colleagues before accepting a Contract at such a school.

Refusing to recognize any degree of credibility in the Comments of the professionals they interviewed & hired, some admin go so far as to conduct witch hunts in an attempt to ferret out the author of negative Comments. More than just a few ISR School Reviews document teachers being called in & interrogated by a school attorney. Some admin claim they know who wrote the objectionable Review & offer leniency in exchange for a confession.

ISR recently received a letter typical of letters we receive from admin who take the stance an author of a negative School Review is merely a dissenter who failed to fall in line. Lashing out at ISR & attempting to discredit the author/s of Comments considered objectionable solves nothing, & may help substantiate the Comments in question. For example:

***

“To the Team at ISR,

I have been recently acquainted with a review of the school that I work at (The xxxx School). In the review that I read, the school and two of the administrators (who were named) were subject to a very nasty rendering of things conducted at the school. Judging by the way it was written and the subject matter, I know exactly who wrote the review. I was the anonymous writer’s head of department.

Though I was not mentioned, the review is offensive beyond measure. The review is ridiculous and literally outright lies from top to bottom. So I’m wondering, is this what your website is about, giving a platform to sub-standard educators who have emotional voids they are misguidedly trying to fill or simply for individuals to slander institutions?


The reason I ask is because this is all I can see on your website. Additionally, if one, or an institution wanted to reply, they would need to pay $30 [sic] for the privilege to do so. So your value to the world of international school teaching is what exactly?” (ISR Note: It does not cost to post Reviews to ISR. And, the non-member section has numerous links to do so.)

***

When dialogue isn’t immediately possible, negative School Reviews stand as a warning to other educators. If issues get resolved, succeeding Reviews may say so & it is quite common to see progress made using ISR as a basis of communication. But not always. Schools with a stack of poor Reviews still exist.

There’s a wide variety of schools out there. It’s always wise to research & learn from educators who have first-hand experience at a school you are considering. ISR, with its thousands of Members is here to help YOU find the right school.

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Could Book Banning Spread to International Schools?

U.S.A. in the Book Banning Spotlight

In Virginia, a mother is petitioning the Board of Education to remove Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Beloved, from the A.P. English curriculum. She insists that revealing the horrors of slavery is upsetting and not appropriate for young adults.

In Kansas, a school district removed 29 books from its curriculum, claiming they contain material that might make students feel guilt simply because of their race (white) or sex (male). Award winners like Confessions of Nat Turner head the list of banned books, as does The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

In Texas, a school district informed teachers that if they include a book on the Holocaust, they must also provide a book with an “opposing” view. In December of 2021, Texas state representative Matt Krause further pushed for the banning of 850 books.

In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster threatened to send police to seize offensive books. And possibly even arrest school librarians who have not yet removed banned books from shelves.

Banned Books share one thing in common — almost all have received universally recognized awards from respected literary organizations. For example: the Newberry Medal, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award for Young People, American Library Association Best Young Adults Books, Barnes & Noble – Top 10 Best Books for Teens, and the California Book Award.

What’s being banned? Here’s an example:

Laurie Halse Anderson, whose books for young people have been challenged on numerous occasions, articulates the situation: By attacking these books, by attacking the authors, by attacking the subject matter, what they are doing is removing the possibility for conversation. You are laying the groundwork for increased bullying, disrespect, violence and attacks.

Advocates of book banning claim they are ‘protecting children.’ Fact is, it’s really about hiding the truth and rewriting a history of which the parents of students, grandparents and great-grandparents are the authors. It’s about discrimination, politics, conservatism, race, gender and anti-intellectualism. At a recent public school board meeting, a strong advocate for banning a specific book admitted he had not read the book.

Could book banning spread to International Schools offering a U.S. curriculum? It may seem unlikely, but so did the level at which parents, activists, school boards and lawmakers in America are currently challenging outstanding Young Adult and Children’s literature. What are your thoughts?

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Deceiving Parents & Feeling Guilty

Every morning, as if she were the maître d’ at a 5-star restaurant, Dr. L, as she likes to be called, plants herself right in the middle of the school’s impressive Romanesque, arched entryway, welcoming all who pass through with a hearty “Bienvenidos!” If you didn’t teach here, you’d get the impression you were entering a school to be proud of.

Dr. L’s office completes the charade. With its over-sized CEO-style mahogany desk and shelf after shelf of classroom textbooks, there’s an air of substance, longevity and high academia. Behind her desk, just far enough away so they can’t be easily read, an array of diplomas from foreign universities proudly grace the meticulously painted wall, each adorned with a shiny gold- or silver-embossed emblem.

In the classrooms it’s a far different story: Students share outdated texts and photocopies of workbooks. There is no curriculum, at all. We do our own thing here. Continuity from one grade level to the next is non-existent. Disciplinary support is an illusion. And, if a parent should ever ask to review the curriculum or the associated textbook, they are met with “The document is currently under revision.”

Looking a bit deeper: Parents have no idea the school’s software is of the glitchy, bootleg version. There is an intranet of sorts, but it’s down more than up. With a sketchy, slow internet, high school students bring laptops to class and use cell phones as hot-spots to connect to the internet through cell towers. The school is literally still in the dial-up age of technology.

If only parents knew the books in Dr. L’s office are promotional samples and that her diplomas come from online universities, as in, “Earn your doctorate in only 2 weeks” type universities.

Not included in the ‘potential client tour‘ of the school is the one old photo copy machine intended for use by the entire teaching staff. I’m allotted only “x” number of photocopies per month. After that, each copy is deducted from my paycheck (which, by the way, rarely arrives on time). Working here is like having one hand tied behind your back. If parents only knew…

At what point does professionalism cross the line into deception? I feel guilty hiding the truth about this place. I feel myself complicit in cheating kids out of a well-deserved education. This is my second year of a two-year contract (there will not be a third year). Colleagues and I have posted seething, yet truthful reviews to ISR but this only warns teachers, not parents. How do I warn parents?

Searching the web, I found sites hosting reviews of schools written by parents, for parents. It came as no surprise to find that from a parent’s point of view my school looks okay, if not pretty good. Parents comment on the professionalism of teachers and how supportive and accessible they find us. They talk about after-school activities and the tasty cafeteria food (an extra cost). They are impressed by the high marks their kids “earn.” If they ever found out they had been inflated by admin they would scream.

How do I get the word out to parents about this “hell hole,” short of telling them to read the reviews on ISR? How do teachers at a school like mine alert parents to the fact that what they think they are paying for and what they are getting are two different things?

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Would YOU Teach in a Country w/ Ongoing Human Rights Violations?

Hello ISR,


My conscience won’t allow me to teach where persons with political beliefs contrary to that of their government are imprisoned, even tortured. Likewise, I’m opposed to teaching in a country that suppresses freedom of speech, woman, and select religions. Countries that block and censor websites, including Google, are also not a ‘good fit’ for me. For example, friends tell me they need a VPN just to view ISR in China.

China tops my list of places to avoid, as does Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Turkey. Would I visit these countries? Of course. Would I teach there? No! I was recently offered a position in Saudi and turned it down. I cannot be party to paving the future for the overly entitled kids of oppressors. As teachers, we are not there to effect societal change, and trying to do so only frustrates you and your students. At least that’s been my experience.

I’ve talked to teachers who feel teaching in a country, one which is actively violating the human rights of its citizens, provides them an opportunity to implant the seeds of democracy and humanity in those kids destined to become persons of influence in their societies. To the contrary, from my point of view, teaching children of the privileged cohorts of a suppressive regime clearly qualifies as aiding and abetting an enemy of democracy and human decency.

I did find a teaching position in Costa Rica. That’s after three unsolicited offers from schools in countries with politics that conflict with my values. It appears such schools have a difficult time finding teachers.

It would be much appreciated if you could open my comments up for discussion. I would love to hear opinions, personal experiences, and the stance of educators regarding this aspect of International Teaching.

Best Regards and Thank You,

Ms G. (ISR member since 2010)

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China: New Taxes & Negotiating New Contracts

Adapted from ISR Member FORUM

With new tax regulations set to go into effect January 1, my school in China will begin TAXING benefits as if it were regular salary. Housing allowance, child tuition & yearly travel reimbursement could be taxed at a rate of 30% or more. That’s a solid hit on my paycheck!

Teachers were surprised to say the least. Due to China’s new tax regulations, contracts signed in March will soon have us earning less take-home than 2-3 years ago, despite raises. Our school is desperate to keep teachers, but many are moving on.

The non-taxable tuition for dependents & housing allowance was a BIG benefits package incentive. With that missing, along with continued border restrictions & the related insanity of government rhetoric, many of us feel the contracts for next year aren’t as attractive as they should be.

With this in mind, here’s a couple Questions for discussion:

1. What approach is your school taking to alleviate the new tax hits?
2. My school wants us all to stay, so what would be a good proposal to HR that would help keep us interested?
3. Have you heard of any bonuses or incentives other schools are offering in an effort to keep contracts attractive?

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion:

Recruiting Scams to Rob You Blind

Caught up in the excitement of thinking you’re about to land an International Teaching position can cause even the most astute of us to cast caution to the wind. Scammers who prey on unsuspecting recruiting candidates are aware of this and use it to their advantage.

Recruiting through a reputable agency doesn’t guarantee you’ll love everything about your new school. It does, however, assure you won’t be the target of an elaborate scheme to steal your money.

A school that asks YOU for money is a sure sign you’re being scammed:

The process this ‘school’ uses to ‘hook’ unsuspecting international teachers and grab their money is: 1) gather information, 2) make a bogus offer to the teacher, and 3) ask for money for two months’ rent for an apartment at their location.

ISR recommends: Avoid schools that want you to send your passport and money under the guise they are getting your work Visa and/or apartment. Avoid schools that request money to arrange and send you air tickets. Avoid schools without a web presence and physical address you can verify on Google maps.

“Thank you to a fellow teacher who visited the school’s address and found NO school. It’s a good thing there is always someone out there who is looking after others.

A Classic Scam

Here’s how it goes: A thief purchases a URL (web address) easily mistaken for that of a well-known school. The next step is to clone the real school’s website onto the imposter site and wait to snare unsuspecting educators who apply for advertised jobs. Always do your due diligence no matter how legitimate a job offer may seem.

If you’re going it alone this recruiting season, keep your guard up. If your intuition tells you something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. If you’re feeling the least bit suspicious, post questions about a suspect school at the ISR Member Forum: Has anyone worked at ‘such and such’ a school?’ Word gets around fast in the International Teaching Community so someone is sure to know the bottom line. Don’t take chances with your safety and your career!

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

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What to Make of Schools with Few Reviews

Most International Schools reviewed on ISR have scores of current & historic Reviews, while some other schools are meagerly represented by old, outdated Reviews. Why are there no current Reviews of some popular schools?

One scenario could be teachers are simply not posting Reviews of these schools. This is possible but not probable. A more likely scenario would be a gag-order has been incorporated into teachers’ Contracts, or maybe the school has taken to threatening teachers with legal proceedings should they be identified as writing an ISR School Review. If you are new to International Education, this may sound far-fetched. But beware…It is not!

Witch-hunts led by school-appointed attorneys are nothing new in response to an honest, yet negative School Review. Much like an inquisition, teachers are called in one at a time, interrogated & offered a degree of leniency if they ‘confess’ to being the author. Of course, this isn’t always the case but it is a possibility as commented upon in a number of school Reviews.

The following 4 ISR Discussion Topics from previous years take an in-depth look at why Reviews stop posting. ISR invites you to join these conversations:


Why Reviews Suddenly Stop

Hello ISR, I am checking out a school in Kuwait and I see that the last posting year was 2011. Am I missing something or is this really the last entry you have about this school? Read more…


Do NO Reviews Mean It’s Okay to Go?

A school I worked at didn’t have reviews because the admin were SO powerful, teachers were scared to post their views. We would all talk about the lack of ISR reviews and about how we should have the guts to do something to let prospective teachers know the truth.  Read more…


Gag Order: Silence Isn’t Golden at Our School

He, (the director) stressed that our school supports freedom of speech. And yes, the school encourages teachers to speak the truth, but NO! … not on ISR!! … which he claimed is nothing more than a pack of lies from disgruntled losers. Read more…


Suspiciously Silent

I couldn’t find a review of a school in Myanmar that has been around awhile. When I interviewed, I should have followed my instincts that something was off with the principal. The teacher who was leaving emailed me to warn me about the place and the admin but I thought it was sour grapes. It was and still is, the most dysfunctional and unpleasant school I have ever encountered, in so many ways. Read more…