How Does Your School Treat its Maintenance People?

February 14, 2019

Coming from the West, International Educators believe in treating people with respect and fairness. From the floor sweeper and the ditch digger to the doctor and the CEO, Western cultures are built on the right to fair and equal treatment. If those rights are violated, we have access to legal recourse. No one is powerless.

International school owners, on the other hand, have been widely known to exploit “powerless” workers. I’m talking about grounds keepers, maids and cleaners, cafeteria workers, maintenance men, construction personnel, guards, drivers and the like. The very schools that shortchange teachers on housing, health insurance and shipping, for example, are generally the same schools mistreating local-hire workers, in many countries with little to no recourse in the case of unfair treatment.

If you’ve experienced a wealthy parent with an over-inflated sense of entitlement, you’re no stranger to the dichotomy of money/power vs. ‘lowly teacher’ status. Now, imagine yourself a grounds keeper up against a wealthy school owner with this same self-serving attitude. If you dared to speak up you’d soon find yourself out of a job, and no doubt unable to use your current employer for a reference. With a family to feed and bills to pay you’d never rock the boat if you were this grounds keeper.

Wages for school work-staff are set by the school owner or school board, depending on the ownership structure. But that’s just the half of it. The day-to-day mistreatment of workers is almost always at the hands of the Head of Maintenance, who himself will be a local-hire. Having a bit of power bestowed upon him (and it is always a “him) by the school owner, the Head of Maintenance can summarily deny time off for doctor appointments, ignore safety concerns, demand long hours, expect unrealistic deadlines and essentially treat his staff like serfs. A little power in a society in which he, too, is powerless, has gone to his head.

School owners who underpay workers, and Heads of Maintenance who mistreat workers are a sad commentary on mankind and something we as educators have a responsibility to change. As teachers, when we see inequities we can go straight to the top and expose these injustices. If we don’t get satisfaction there, we can look outside the school. A visit to the local labor office or newspaper office may be in store. But, looking the other way is surely not the answer.

ISR asks:  How does your school treat its Maintenance people? If you, as a teacher, see injustices, what recourse do you or your colleagues have? Do you have advice for those teachers who would like to see improvements in how their school treats the local hire workers? Please SHARE!

Holding Teachers’ Careers Hostage

February 7, 2019

When school directors write to ISR asking us to remove a specific Review from the web site, they often try to severely discredit the individual they believe wrote the Review in question. They obviously feel their poor opinion of a suspect teacher should be cause enough to eradicate a Review from ISR, an attitude that speaks volumes.

In response to these emails, ISR explains: “From your position as school Director things may look quite different than from the perspective of a member of your teaching staff.'” We then stress that, “Not everyone has the same experience at your school. Everyone is entitled to share the truth as they know it.”

Soon realizing that discrediting a suspect teacher will not yield their desired results, some (most?) directors quickly resort to threatening ISR with legal action. These individuals treat ISR in the same bullying manner portrayed in the Reviews to which they object.

A Disturbing Trend

In an underhanded attempt to get Reviews removed from ISR, some directors are now refusing to write teachers Letters of Reference until specific Reviews are, in their words, “taken down.” Essentially, an administrator tells a teacher (or teachers), “We know one of you wrote the review.” Get it removed and we’ll then write your Letters of Reference.” Some directors have even gone so far as to refuse to verify employment!! ISR condemns this and believes it amounts to holding teachers’ careers hostage. 

Apparently, just how low some directors will go to squelch dissenting voices is yet to be seen. You can rest assured, however, if you are the author of a school Review that’s upsetting your school director, no one, not even ISR, knows you wrote it, unless you say so. Don’t be fooled by school personnel and/or their attorneys who will say and do anything to get a ‘confession.’

Fortunately, not all directors who disagree with a Review of themselves or their school will resort to holding teachers’ careers hostage. Most are in favor of ISR, support free speech and use information gleaned from Reviews to improve their schools. These school directors normally write to ask us what steps they can take to publicly contest a Review. ISR salutes these schools!!! THESE are the schools we’d all like to work for!


Bait & Switch: When the Job Isn’t As Promised

January 17, 2019

I’m currently in what I call a classic bait & switch situation. I was hired to teach high-school chemistry/physics & was “reassigned” to middle-school math with a bunch of kids who should be studying basic arithmetic.

To rub salt into my wound, the school does not even have a chemistry lab! The promise of a chem/physics position was nothing more than an under-handed ploy to lure me (or simply any warm-bodied human being) to stand in front of a classroom. Now? I live for the weekends. I detest these spoiled rotten, poorly behaved middle-school kids (and their parents) who academically & emotionally belong in elementary school. More than anything, the admin disgusts me. Worse, I’m not the only one they did this to.

Okay….my contract gives admin the right to reassign me as needed, but this? This is not a reassignment — this is premeditated deception. Naturally my complaints fall on the deaf ears of my recruiter who tells me, “It’s only for two years.” LOL! He won’t be laughing, though, when he sees I’m also naming him in my school review.

I thought about leaving on a weekend & never coming back. It’s a nice fantasy, yes. But, how can I bail when I’m thousands of miles from home & dependent on my paycheck to pay off student loans, among other financial obligations?

That’s my story. Anyone else have the same experience? I could almost accept it if the school had a chem lab & not enough kids to fill the course. But this? No!!

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Teacher-Turned-Principal: Pros & Cons

December 13, 2018

.If you’ve worked with a teaching colleague who later became your Principal, you know such a promotion can mean positive changes to the teaching staff. Considering that a teacher-turned-Principal has experience with the rigors and demands of the classroom, who else could be better qualified to work with and support their colleagues?

Having personally worked with teachers who went on to become outstanding administrators, the idea that a teacher-turned-Principal is a plus for the teaching staff, rings true for me. Apparently, however, this is not always true…

Based on teachers’ Comments found in ISR School Reviews, some newly crowned Principals have been guilty of setting their sights on climbing the admin ladder at the expense of their teachers. Other newcomers are reported to have become subject to the whims of greedy school owners who use them as not much more than their mouthpiece. Self-preservation and survival on the job can override administrators with even the best of intentions.

ISR Asks: Have you worked with a teacher-turned-Principal who became a champion for the teaching staff? Or, was your experience one in which this individual turned his/her back on former colleagues, all with an eye on a future directorship?

In the Words of ISR Members:

To be fair to admin, I’ve found the number one determinant to how they behave is how they, themselves, are treated in the school. If owners are money-grabbing control freaks, then they will either toe the line or end up leaving within three or so years. They might even try battling against the system for a while before realizing that it’s hopeless and therefore pick their battles. Some will try to shield their faculty as best they can, but most soon understand their role. 

Most administrators I’ve worked with had a single-point agenda of moving up the career ladder, bashing anything getting in their way.

I had a colleague that later became my principal. I know she found it difficult to suddenly be in a position of authority, with the final word. I feel like she always tried to weigh teachers’ comments  before making a final decision. Some of us continued to like her and others came to despise her. I guess you can’t please everyone. Maybe that’s why they say it’s lonely at the top.

My experience was good and continues to be so. I’m working with an excellent principal who was previously a colleague. He goes to bat for with us with the parents of over-privileged kids who complain we assign too much home work, or the test was too hard. He also acts as a buffer between our unrealistic director and us. So far so good! I hope this principal’s principles don’t preclude a long career. We need people like him!

Have you worked with a teacher-turned-Principal? How was the experience? What tips or Comments do you have for teachers on the path to becoming administrators?

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Recruiting Season Red Alerts

November 29, 2018

….Educators are reporting that some schools are treating them like mere commodities this recruiting season. Some recruiting candidates have even gone so far as to refer to the recruiting process as something akin to a “cattle drive.” Based on Comments found in ISR School Reviews, there is validity in this statement.

None of us want to feel we’re being played like a pawn on a board game. To help keep you safe, here are the 5 most often reported shenanigans engaged in by less- than-transparent schools. If you’ve been on the circuit already, you’ll recognize them. If you’re new to the game, keep your eyes open!

 Suspect Scenarios

You’ve been offered a position on a handshake  

It’s been 3 weeks since a school made you a verbal commitment and you still don’t yet have a Contract and/or follow-up emails. Worse yet, your position is still advertised on the school’s website.

This can be unnerving and a situation that demands attention. Some Directors do offer positions and then continue searching for someone more qualified. We consider this highly unethical and find it more prevalent among lower-tier schools that have trouble attracting qualified candidates.

Should you find yourself in this situation, don’t be shy. Pick up the phone, call the school. Ask to speak to the Director. Better yet, you should already have the Director’s direct cell number. In any case, don’t hold back! Your career, financial well-being and future are at stake. If the Director side-steps you, sounds wishy-washy, non-committal or vague, it’s time to start looking out for number one! Be sure to post a School Review on ISR and warn colleagues about what they can expect.

You were told you’re 2nd on the list

You haven’t heard anything for a couple of weeks. You’ve emailed the Director and he/she told you, “I’m still waiting for my first choice to get back to me.” This could be true. Like schools, highly desirable teachers have been known to stall while they wait for their 1st choice to respond. Question is, are you willing to stake your future on a string of events over which you have no control? ISR recommends you don’t shut any doors. Leave this one open as you explore other avenues. The longer you wait, the less chance you’ll have of landing a position.

Director says he/she must present you to the Board for final approval

In this situation, ask yourself 3 questions:  1) Do I want to wait weeks for a final decision that may not turn out in my favor?  2) Why would the Board feel the need to monitor this Director’s staffing choices? 3) Is this just a ploy to keep me on the back-burner while the Director searches for a more qualified/prettier/younger/older/taller/shorter candidate? At this point, keep your options open.

The Contracts aren’t ready yet

School Directors have been known to attend recruiting fairs and offer positions without a prepared Contract in hand. Comments usually include something to the effect that the Board is still finalizing next year’s Contract.

ISR Asks: What kind of school Board sends their Director half-way around the world to hire staff without a finalized Contract to offer? Certainly, they knew about the trip for at east 6 months in advance. Is the Board completely dysfunctional or just crafty? Many ISR School Reviews attest to the fact that accepting an overseas teaching position without knowing what you’re committing to can prove disastrous.

Verbal promises are not in the Contract

You want to believe everything the Director is telling you, but why does the Contract lack so many of the verbal promises made to you? If you can live with what’s in the Contract, okay. If not, think twice. There’s a reason why your Contract doesn’t contain the most appealing parts of the offer.

Stay Safe!

International Schools are not bound by the rules and regulations of the West. Most International Schools are foreign entities simply recruiting for teachers from the West. One can only hope they would be held to Western standards.

The labor laws to which you and your Contract will later be held are those of the county in which the school is located, not those of the country in which your Contract is signed. Take nothing for granted!  ISR can’t stress this point strongly enough. Those little ‘nothings not worth mentioning’ when you’re recruiting for a home-country job, need to be on the table and in the Contract when you’re going overseas. We’re not saying no schools can be trusted. There are loads of great schools out there. It’s the ones that aren’t you need watch for.

Along with the 5 scenarios we’ve outlined, there’s much more to be aware of when planning to leave it all behind for a foreign land. ISR strongly recommends you familiarize yourself with the International Teachers’ Bill of Rights. This comprehensive document, distilled from the input of 100s of International Educators, is the result of the very real experiences of teachers who were mistreated during the recruiting process, and thereafter. Each entry in the International Teachers’ Bill of Rights is included for a reason. It’s there to alert you to what to watch for and to keep you safe.

Don’t take chances with your career. Before you sign on the line, consult the International Teachers’ Bill of Rights.  You’ll be glad you did!


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Petition: Quest for Equality & Accountability for International Educators

October 18, 2018

Emily Dobson, ISR member, counselor and educator, has undertaken the admirable task of contacting recruiters and organizations profiting from International Education. In support of International Teachers, she’s asking recruiters to adopt and endorse the International Educators’ Bill of Rights.

In Emily’s own words: “We need massive changes in the international educational arena, starting with non-negotiables between hiring agencies, accrediting bodies, schools and employees.” 

Here’s one recruiter’s responses to Emily’s request:

We’d be very happy to talk to you about choosing a new school to work for, a daunting prospect. It’s imperative that what is told to you or promised by a school, is fulfilled.

We weren’t aware of the Bill of Rights – but having looked at it, the content is in the majority exactly as we would expect (and ask of) any school attending our events. I’m afraid, though, that the online forum [International Schools Review] who put this together aren’t a respected entity in the sector or authorized body, so we wouldn’t publicly endorse this…

International Schools Review has, since 2003, provided a venue for International Educators to anonymously and honestly review their experiences at International Schools. When a recruiter fails to consider ISR a “respected source,” we can only conclude they do not respect the voices of their very clients. Refusing to commit to a document, the International Educators’ Bill of Rights. that specifically outlines the rights and protections that should be afforded all International Educators, speaks volumes.

Schools that withhold salaries, switch contract terms, substitute poor housing for promised housing, fail to reimburse travel/shipping allowances, renege on health insurance, dishonestly represent their student body or facilities, and/or engage in other dishonest practices are simply not acceptable schools to work for. Such schools do not adhere to the International Educators’ Bill of Rights.

ISR asks:  Will you help support Quality and Accountability in International Education? Please go to Change.Org to sign Emily’s petition and help advance the standing of the International Educators’ Bill of Rights.

About Emily Dobson:  “I was a school counselor and educator for years –  now I am a cooperative counselor (business owner) and delegate Board member for InterACAC and NACAC.  Contextually, my daughter, my experience as an educator, my visits to 40+ schools in Brazil per year and my role as a delegate-counselor with international duties enabled me to understand that we need massive changes in the international educational arena – starting with non-negotiables between hiring agencies, accrediting bodies, schools and employees.”

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Director Writes Own Review, Then Asks ISR Why He’s Named as Author

October 11, 2018

After writing and submitting a glowing Review of his school, Bill Fishbone, school Director, panicked. “Why is my name visible at the top of my Review? This isn’t good!”

Believing ISR had taken the liberty of designating him as the author of his own Review, Bill wrote to ISR: “Hey guys! I thought all reviews were submitted anonymously. Why is my name included with the review I wrote?”

All ISR Reviews ARE submitted anonymously and ISR guarantees your anonymity. Bill, however, deeply immersed in attempting to lure teachers to his sub-par school, didn’t realize his name appeared simply because he is the Director named in the Review, and not because he wrote it. Bill had revealed his true colors, true to Comments made about him in previous Reviews.


Bill Fishbone is not his real name, of course, but the incident is entirely real. Fortunately, ISR has a warning system in place for the Bill Fishbones of the International teaching world. When you see the words Who Wrote This Review? you can be sure something ain’t right and that further investigation on your part is in order. (Click link for more information)

Occasionally a teacher will write ISR to ask: “Why are so many directors writing reviews of their schools?”  We then explain that the Director’s name appears next to the dates covered because they are the named administrator in charge during the period covered by the Review. We thought it was obvious, but maybe not.

To avoid further confusion, we decided to clarify the meaning of data that appears along with ISR School Reviews. To do so we created a page that we hope explains everything. See our Guide to Reading School Reviews

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