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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Gag Order: Silence Isn’t Golden at Our School

October 4, 2018

At Monday’s faculty meeting our school director gave us his anticipated, well-worn pep talk on what a great school we have and how lucky we should feel to be here. He started off with the usual dribble we’ve come to expect from this “educational specialist” who doesn’t have a college education but money enough to own a “school.” Today’s discourse was, however, startlingly different.

He 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. He went on to warn us that teachers suspected of reviewing our wonderful bastion of learning on ISR would be fired and duly prosecuted to the full extent that the laws of the country provide. End of discussion!! He had imposed a gag order. My hunch was a new review of the school had been posted.

When I joined ISR some years ago I was perplexed why various schools had reviews no more recent than three or four years back. Why hadn’t more up-to-date reviews been posted? Did things suddenly get better? Unhappy teachers do tend to be more motivated to post reviews than contented teachers. After Friday’s faculty meeting I’m certain that when reviews of a school suddenly stop, it may be a sign something is wrong. Thirty-two reviews and then Nothing? I get it now!

I’m gearing up to go recruiting this recruiting season and leave this “school” behind. I’m tired of rich parents who negotiate top grades for their lazy kids. I’m tired of being considered another form of servant by students/parents and admin. Most of all, I don’t like compromising my sense of right and wrong for a paycheck. Will I be posting a review? You can bet I will, when I’m safely away.


Keeping quiet for now

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New Head Asks Teachers to Evaluate Colleagues

August 23, 2018

The following comments recently appeared on the ISR Open Forum. We find the content worrisome and thought to share these comments with the greater International Schools Review Community. Your reaction is invited.

(From the ISR Open Forum)

Identifying Good Teachers & Bad Teachers

by Doctor » Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:48 pm

“I would like to get some feedback from other IS teachers about a question our new head of school has asked.

I’m working at a school in Asia which has been going through some turmoil over the last 2 years. We have gone through 3 heads, and a new head has been appointed for this school year. We are losing students and the projection is that only 75% of our current student body will be returning.

Even before his tenure began, the new head of school paid a visit to the school. He met with the foreign-hire staff and asked us to respond to 2 questions:

Q1. What is good about the school and what is bad about the school?
Q2. Name 3 teachers whom have had a positive effect on the school and name 3 teachers who have not lived up to expectations.

I’d like feedback on the second part of the second question.

I should add, other than that question, everything about the new head is fine: experienced, articulate, professional, but the “name 3 bad teachers” question is really worrying me especially since this is a country that takes all contracts with a grain of salt. It honestly seems inappropriate and the beginnings of a witch hunt.”

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Survey: Have YOU Worked at a School that Failed to Honor Its Contract?

July 19, 2018

It’s common knowledge that International Schools Review hosts far more than just a few Reviews for Schools that fail to honor their Contracts.

 Horror stories of schools that substitute poor housing for promised housing, fail to reimburse travel/shipping allowances, renege on health insurance, refuse to reimburse (as promised) for classroom expenses and, in general, engage in deceptive Contract practices, serve as warnings about schools that are not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination.

Unethical operators have been known to require newly arrived, and still naive teachers to sign a local-language version of their Contract, supposedly for Visa procurement. The unsuspecting educators later learn the local-language Contract (the only one enforceable in courts) has stripped them of valuable, promised benefits and left them defenseless.

If you’ve been/are in such a situation where your school has failed to live up to its Contract, you already know it’s not so easy to pack up and go home! With a host of factors to take into consideration (such as financial responsibilities dependent on your job) you may be forced to stay.

.Have you worked at an International School that failed to honor its Contract?

Take our Short Survey


Select one:

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We ask that you not review schools on this Discussion Board. If you would like to name and review a school, please use the “send a review” link on the home page