How Prepared are Your Students for American Universities?

by ISR Guest Author

Although it shouldn’t be the all-consuming focus of my job, placing our graduating students in American universities has become my sole responsibility as Counselor at an “International” school in Egypt. Our board of directors and the director himself think that’s how it should be and how it is for me in my position here as Counselor.

I worry about theses kids. Grades are mostly based on family clout. Administration even goes so far as to pressure teachers into changing test and assignment due-dates if study time might conflict with attendance at a school sporting event or a major weekend party.

There are some bright, hard-working students here with the qualifications to get into any university. But there’s a problem: From what I’m starting to realize, a good percentage of our previous graduates placed in U.S. universities failed out in the first semester. This high attrition rate sent up major red flags, making admissions Counselors hesitant to continue accepting our students. I do now know why I’m having such difficulty placing even the very best of our students.

Additionally, the director, parents and students all think it’s my duty to rewrite entrance essays and fill out entire applications. As a result of this country-club style education, a number of our graduating students lack even the basic English skills to complete an application.

No doubt I’ll be fired at the end of the school year. At least that’s what I think is coming. I’ll be the scapegoat. After all, these kids have the ‘best grades money can buy.’

How prepared are YOUR students for American Universities? Anyone else in the same situation?

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Fired on Trumped-Up Charges

by ISR Guest Author

I’d bet money that just like me, experienced, well-qualified educators have been railroaded out of international schools by incompetent, inept administrators who feel threatened by teachers better qualified for their position. This is what happened to me:

Two days after our respected elementary principal walked out in utter frustration, our director, in his infinite wisdom, gave the leadership position to his good buddy and drinking partner, a guy with 3 years teaching experience. A local hire took over his now vacant 2nd grade classroom.

At the time of the buddy’s promotion, I’d been overseas for 12 years, in 4 different schools. Witnessing the new principal flounder badly at his first, full elementary faculty meeting, I felt motivated to offer assistance, in private, of course. It was obvious the guy was in way over his head. Our classrooms having been previously adjacent, I felt we had formed a professional friendship. I also thought he would welcome any help he could get. My mistake!

Point blank, he said he was now to be addressed as Mr. B. He expected to be treated with respect. And if he wanted help he would ask for it. No doubt he was feeling inadequate.

About two weeks after this encounter, I escorted a boy to the nurse’s office. As I guided him through the door to the infirmary, I placed my hand on the kid’s shoulder. Our new principal was passing by as I said good morning and walked into the nurse’s office.

That afternoon the principal called me in to see him. His buddy, the director, was waiting. I was immediately accused of ‘inappropriately touching’ a student. There was nothing I could say in my defense. The two of them had conspired to create a ‘serious’ case (as they put it) against me.

I was summarily put on suspension without pay, then fired two weeks later — effective immediately. I was told to consider myself lucky the Board of Directors or Ministry of Education hadn’t gotten wind of the issue. I packed my belongings and left the following week, at my own expense.

My crime? I had never gotten along well with the director, an insecure, inexperienced, underqualified guy hired by the school owner to be his right-hand man, his ‘heavy.’ Admittedly, I made the repeated mistake of offering suggestions at full-school faculty meetings. They went unwelcomed. I was, in effect, an independent thinker attempting to contribute to the greater good. Wasn’t that exactly what the school mission statement promised to make out of the students? Apparently they wanted that attribute practiced someplace else…

My experience is not unique, of that I am certain. International educators are strictly at the mercy of their administrators. Labor laws are minimal, if even enforced at all, leaving administrators with an agenda virtually free to exercise their unbridled will over a teaching staff. Back home these individuals would be brought up on charges, sued, prosecuted and in some cases, imprisoned.

I’ve kept the name of the school, my name and those involved out of this article because, truthfully, I’m afraid of what they are capable of if I were to name them. For obvious reasons I can’t use this school as a reference. It appears the consequence of their charade are more far-reaching than I had thought.

Is my situation an isolated incidence? Trumped-up charges, in my opinion, are a tried and true method to get rid of teachers whose advanced degrees, experience and ideas make an underqualified administrator feel inadequate.

ISR Guest Author

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How Are School Directors Chosen?

Article by a guest Author:

Early in my overseas teaching career I made a bad choice of schools. That was before I knew about ISR. To date, I’ve taught at 5 International Schools, and counting. My first school was horrible, a ‘crap hole’ as one of my colleagues most aptly described it. The director’s mind-boggling incompetence and that of his principal was staggering. They almost drove me to leave international education right from the start.

Fortunately, my subsequent schools had outstanding leadership. Thank you ISR! At one school, the soon-to-be-leaving director, in conjunction with the board, actually flew in the top 2 contenders for the position (not on the same dates). Both of them spent time being interviewed by alternating, small groups of teachers. We later voted. We all felt valued.

I depend on ISR to read and research the history of a director I could potentially end up working for. A couple of bad reviews out of many and I’m okay with it. Twenty or so reviews with 95% of them not so good, and I give the school a pass.

My question: There’s a lot of good leadership out there. I know that first-hand. That said, if a particular director has scads of ISR reviews that paint them as practicing a top-down, dictatorial, ‘my way or the highway‘ abusive style of management, how is it they seem to easily move around from school to school?

What comes to mind is this: Some schools must be looking for a person to administer the agenda of the financially invested stakeholders, or an individual stakeholder and/or owner. To put it bluntly, are some schools using ISR reviews to find a director who will suppress dissension in the ranks, maximize profits and keep parents placated? I hope not! Is it possible they just don’t know about ISR?

Anonymous Guest Author

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Reviews Written by Admin – Let’s List Them

If you’ve been following the ISR Member Forum topic, “Reviews Written by Admin – Let’s List Them,” you already have an increased insight into spotting self-praising Reviews written by Admin, themselves. Helitrope, a long-time contributor to the ISR Member Forum, brings this topic to light:

ISR Member Forum
Reviews Written by Admin – Let’s List Them
by Heliotrope » Oct 7, 2022

I’m sure everyone reading reviews will sometimes suspect a review might be written by admin, by which I mean admin or someone connected to admin, meant to boost the school’s image or to balance out a negative review. Sometimes it’s very obvious, sometimes less so.

I once suggested every review (or every school) would come with its own comment section, but since that’s unlikely to happen, let’s list all the reviews that we suspect are written by admin so people won’t be fooled (some are so stupid they’re actually amusing). Perhaps the feedback to these posts will bring to light that others might still think the review is an honest account written by an enthusiastic teacher at a great school…..

One recent school review I would add to the list: Cheltenham Muscat Oman, review #3 – I’d say it’s 99.9% sure this one is written by admin or someone connected/instructed by admin. The focus on specific admin doing a good job, the language they use and the things they focus on doesn’t remind one of how a teacher would write a review. Also, it follows two recent negative reviews.

I was thinking of also adding review #14 about Tashkent International School, but then reconsidered despite the high marks. I can see how a teacher there might have taken issue with earlier negative reviews
…..and the marks aren’t all 8s, 9s and 10s. It might be honest.

I’d like to know: What does everyone think are the telltale signs a review is written by admin?

As of this printing, 28 entries comprise “Reviews Written by Admin – Let’s List Them.” GO to ISR Member FORUM

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Schools that Ghost: Teachers Relate Ghosting Experiences w/ Specific Schools

Failing to take a moment to respond to an unsolicited resume is rude enough. But, what of schools that interview a candidate 2 or 3 times, insinuate or make promises & then go radio silent, never to be heard from again?

Despicable behavior such as this, known as ‘ghosting,’ demonstrates a complete lack of professionalism & a complete lack of respect. Most devastating, ghosting leaves candidates floundering. Imagine rejecting an offer from your second-pick school while waiting for a decision from your top-pick school, only to never hear back after 2 encouraging interviews & the promise, “We’ll be in touch.” It happens!

Teachers are sharing recent ghosting experiences on the ISR Member FORUM. They are naming schools & administrators guilty of ghosting. Excerpts from that thread appear here with names withheld. To learn the names of Directors & schools being discussed, log into the ISR Member FORUM & scroll to Schools Ghosting Candidates After Interviews.

K »Ghosting by xxx School has become the norm – even for internal candidates. The HR department is most likely to blame: With a focus on protecting the business, and a decisive voice in who is interviewed and hired, their understanding and support for individuals is woefully lacking. Any candidate applying should be aware that no answer may ever be received

Zulme »Four schools for me so far that have not replied. One even told me to start getting my paperwork together, unofficially. Never heard back! It’s distressing to not have any job prospects. 😦

sciteach12 »Like most of us here … I’ve had what I thought was great interviews and was told that ‘We will be in touch.’ I’ve contacted them after a week and got no response. This has happened both in Skype interviews and at job fairs. I flip it with this idea: If they don’t contact you now then what would it be like to work there?

member101 »Interviewed and Ghosted by 3 schools in my career so far: 1. xxx 2. xxx 3. xxx

Kim »Just thought I’d add here my most demeaning incidence of ghosting…Search Associates Bangkok Fair in 2018: I interviewed with xxx, the Head of xxx International School.

We had our initial interview, which went tremendously well….so much so that xxx rearranged the interview following my time slot so we could have more time to chat. The second Interview went just as well as the first, and at the end I was told… “You need to speak with my head of humanities, but if the conversation goes as I think it will, then our next conversation will be about the paperwork.He asked me would I be in the following day, the final day of the fair? I said I had no appointments lined up but I would, of course, be more than happy to come in. He asked me to wait in the candidate’s lounge and he would make contact by mid-morning. I waited in that lounge from 8 am to 4 pm and he made no contact whatsoever either by email or in person. I emailed him to follow up and received no reply. I never heard from the man again. So yes, Mr. xxx, Head of xxx International School….if you ever read this….%#$#!# you!

readmore »Happened to me and my spouse. We both had 2 interviews and a mini lesson with the HOS and a panel interview over 3 weeks, then nothing. I emailed them to inquire 2 weeks later. Waited another 2 weeks; still nothing. I posted a review of the HOS (I just said something like ‘FYI this school/director will ghost you’). ONE DAY after it posted, he sent me a 5 paragraph email, cc’ing my spouse, his principals, the panel and his school board where he went ON and ON about how terrible he was, how much work he had on his plate, but how that was no excuse for not replying, he should be more organized, and more kind, and more professional…seriously. It went on for 5 paragraphs. Then, in the last line, he said, “But you still shouldn’t have posted on ISR.” I never replied.

Markus »Ok, just to summarize; So far we have a list of 10 Administrators and/or schools who have been named, who have willfully ghosted candidates after interviews. They are as follows:

To learn the names of Directors & schools being discussed, log into the ISR Member FORUM. Then scroll to
Schools Ghosting Candidates After Interviews.

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For-Profit vs Non-Profit Schools

It may be an International educator’s automatic response that a non-profit school is a better career choice than one classified as for-profit. Does teaching at a non-profit assure a better overall experience? What happens when for-profits masquerade as non-profits? Deciding which type of school is best for YOU may prove things are not always what they seem.

Let’s define terms: A non-profit organization is defined as an entity that exists for charitable purposes, usually a group based on a common interest. Embassy parents, creating a school for the sole purpose of providing an education for their expat children, falls into this category. After salaries and expenses are paid, all remaining monies go back into the school. In most countries these entities do not pay taxes. Creating an overseas school with a tax home in the US, for example, would qualify for tax exemption. Non-profits are often seen as the ‘good guys.’

For-profit organizations are classified as being operated with the goal of showing a profit. They serve their customers by selling a product or service. The owner earns an income from the profits and may also pay shareholder investors from these profits. These entities are not tax exempt.

On the surface, the difference between a for-profit and a non-profit school appears to boil down to shareholders pocketing the money a non-profit would otherwise invest into bettering the school.

A close look, however, reveals a blurred line between for-profit and non-profit schools. Non-profits with a tax base in the US are required to make their tax returns public, for example. A review of these documents often reveals huge salaries and/or bonuses paid to owners, directors, principals, advisors, board members, and other ‘positions’ easily assigned (at least on paper) to family members or investors. No money is left over to better a school ‘masquerading’ as a non-profit, and there may also be no interest in developing the professional/personal interests of its hired staff.

On the other hand, many for-profit schools, operated by owners with a community consciousness, clearly outshine some non-profits. Many such school owners are not only satisfied to make a fair profit, but also glean satisfaction and pride from offering a top quality educational product to parents and students. They include fair salaries and benefits packages for teachers. ISR hosts Reviews of such school.

There’s more to a name than vernacular would have you believe. Don’t be misled by titles. As always, ISR encourages you to Research, Research, Research!

ISR asks: What has YOUR experience been with both for-profit and non-profit schools?

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China: Covid Lock-downs & Mental Health

by Anonymous International Teacher / ISR Guest Writer

On the 26th of March 2020, China instigated significantly restricted travel Visas for both exiting and entering the country. As of November, 2022, there is still no specific date set for the free flow of people into and out of the country.

As such, there has been a strong emphasis on educators’ inability to leave the country, but that is not the end of it. With the experience of living through some of the world’s most draconian lock-downs (known as ‘dynamic Covid’) in the world, what is not as clearly understood is the wide variability in people’s personal experiences in China during lock-down.

I personally know of people who have been teaching in-person safely and with the continued ability to travel around China. In contrast, there are examples where friends have had trouble getting essentials such as adequate food. This may have been due to having weak links to ‘group buying,’ common during major city lock-downs. Or, it may be due, in part, to a lack of Chinese language skills and/or little to no support from the school.

Something that I think has often been misunderstood is the chronic trauma and grief suffered by some fellow educators in China that still follows them to this day. Not being able to leave your home for months at a time can lead to major problems with social isolation. The students are also in the same boat, so our ability to look after our students was also mixed.

Administrators from outside countries, I also believe, paint teachers from China with a very broad brush stroke as “damaged goods” or have the attitude of “we went through the same in _XYZ_ country and survived, so we don’t understand your trauma as being that big of a deal.”

What would you like administrators to know about YOUR experience when they interview teachers who have been in China during Covid times? How was mental health addressed for staff in YOUR school while working in a city that experienced prolonged lock-downs? Do you feel that there is a discrimination, for or against, those educators who come from posts in China?

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Are International Schools Monotone?

Dear ISR,
I would like to know if other educators are in the same position as me. I’ll explain:

Over the past two recruiting seasons I, an American, have come to realize my slight accent stands between me and an international teaching position. Even though no recruiter has come out and said they don’t hire American teachers with ‘foreign’ accents, no matter how slight that accent may be, I’ve concluded discrimination is in fit form in the arena of international teacher recruiting.

I have evidence: After the school year for which I recently recruited got underway I visited the websites of schools that had interviewed me. Reviewing the pages introducing the new teaching staff, accompanied by their educational background and achievements, it is plainly evident that noticeably less qualified applicants are in the position I had recruited to teach. My slight ‘foreign’ accent aside, no one is a good fit for every school, but not to be a fit for any school? What else am I left to conclude?

I hold a Masters in English Literature and a K-12 teaching credential from the University of California, Los Angeles. I’ve taught IB English Literature and Theory of Knowledge in the LA City School District going on 5 years. In Los Angeles, a culturally diverse melting pot, my accent is of no consequence. Apparently international schools are, shall we say, monotone.

I would be most appreciative if I could get some feedback on this topic of concern to me and certainly many other educators.

Best wishes,

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Still in Russia?

Russian invasion of Ukraine

February 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine. As early as January, embassies had begun recommending their citizens leave Ukraine immediately. Fortunately, many did leave, motivated by the fact Russian troops were amassing on the border. International Educators in Russia, however, stayed put for the most part, some by choice and others as a result of the insistence of their schools.

Flights from Russia to the US, EU and Canada are now non-existent as Russian commercial aircraft and private jets are completely banned from the airspace of these countries. With growing tension between the US and Moscow, as well as Moscow and US allies, it’s anyone’s guess what Putin, an ex-KGB agent who threatens nuclear war, will do next. Detention in a Russian prison may not be off the table.

Beyond personal safety, ISR believes the conscientious thing to do would be to leave Russia. In other words, vote with your feet. Continuing to live and teach in a country waging unprovoked war, murder, and geopolitical piracy on the civilians of its autonomous neighbor could be construed as a silent vote of support.

ISR asks:

If YOU were teaching in Ukraine, did you evacuate before February 24th? If YOU stayed past that date, was it your own choice or your school’s requirement? Please tell us about YOUR evacuation experience.

If YOU were in Russia on or after February 24th, have you since departed? Please Share that experience. If you are still in Russia, why are YOU still there?

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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 ( 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 ( 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:

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!


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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