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 Your job offer has been withdrawn!

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

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

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

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

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

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Admin w/Phony Credentials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rejecting a Job Offer Got Me Banned From Mexico!

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

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

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

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

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

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

I appreciate your time.

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School Not as Described

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

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

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

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

Possible solutions:

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

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

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

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

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

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Do The Pluses Still Outweigh the Negatives?

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

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

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




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My Point of No Return

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance.

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IS Educator Freed After 5 Years in Indonesian Prison

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

A brief history

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

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

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

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

Welcome home Neil!

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

Thinking About Teaching in Dubai? Read This First

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Same Ole Crappy School, Same Ole Lousy Reviews

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

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

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

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

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


Back-Stabbing Director As My Confidential Reference

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please keep my name confidential.

Best Regards to the staff at ISR,

A Hard-Learned Lesson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Name withheld)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(name withheld)

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Will I Ever Work in an International School Again?

Dear ISR, Thank you for your enlightening article, Slipping Out Early w/ My Possessions & My Sanity. I’m about to run from a school in the ME & your article couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

A special thanks to your members who contributed a ton of practical information. I feel ever more justified in bailing on this place & so much more confident I can pull it off. My exit plan is securely in place & I no longer feel all alone.

But I do have Questions: What do you think my chances are of getting another international teaching position after I walk out on this sad excuse for a school? Can I be black-balled permanently by this vindictive money grubbing director while he’s socializing in the back rooms of directors’ socials? Can I move past my current situation & still hope to have a honest, viable future in international teaching?

Our director is a known career destroyer. I suspect Search Associates for sure won’t be interested in me after they hear from him. What about ISS & other recruiting agencies that I’m not (yet) registered with? Can this director call them & add my name to a “do not hire” list? Does such a list exist?

The most important thing right now is that I’m just about out of here & my sanity can stay intact. I truly wish I’d known about ISR before accepting this “job.” Based on what teachers have written about the place I would have turned the offer down cold…if only I’d known! My mistake was in thinking recruiters actually vet these schools.

It’s still troubling to me that recruiters allow a school like this to hire at their Fairs. Surely they must read ISR. If so, maybe they’ll understand why I’m running. But I suppose it would be naive of me to think recruiters would stray too far from the policies of the “good ole’ boys’ club.”

Thank you ISR & thank you, members, for filling me in on what future I have in international teaching. I DO appreciate your insight!

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Slipping Out Early w/ My Possessions & My Sanity

Pulling off a late-night runner with a whole lotta personal possessions is not for the faint of heart. In fact, at one point I had concluded it would be impossible to sneak myself and my possessions out of the country without attracting the suspicion of admin, nosey parents and/or sycophant teachers. But then, I just knew I had to go home, no matter what, and I wasn’t willing to leave anything I cared about behind.

The last teacher who ran had second thoughts — that was her mistake. In an effort to act responsibly she decided to inform admin she would not be returning after summer. She ended up in a world of hurt, poor girl! Within days she was fired, had her visa revoked and found that the lock had been changed on her apartment door (they did, surprisingly, return her passport). Another teacher making an unannounced early departure was detained at passport control. Someone at the school had gotten wind of his plan early on and a powerful parent had the connections to block his exit. Witnessing those 2 fiascos convinced me to keep my early escape plan completely secret.

You may think I’m a sneak, a coward, a loser and a whole host of expletives. But, I have my reasons to leave, not the least of which is the touchy, feely director. Get my drift? Feel free to judge me. Go ahead. Until you’ve been in my shoes you have no idea what it’s like to have your boss creeping you out in a country where you have no rights nor recourse. Me, myself, and my stuff ALL had to leave! My sanity required it!

That’s when I decided to kick it into high gear and have a yard sale. I like to think of my sale as “hiding in plain sight.” I sold off furniture, books, kitchen crap, and everything of no real sentimental value. Yup, a few people may have been suspicious, but everyone bought into the idea I was simply getting ready to replace my Western-style furnishings with fun, ethnic stuff I would buy during my summer travels.

With a successful yard sale (and some cash) under my belt, I began to send friends/family back home small boxes of my treasured, personal items. I was careful to use a shipping company far from school. You never know who knows who in these expat communities and the last thing I needed was for the gossip chain to foil my escape.

Early, on a Monday morning, with a few over-stuffed suitcases in hand, I flew out. I had made my reservation online and avoided using a local travel agent who could, in some way, know someone at the school. Looking down from high above the clouds, on my way home to loved ones and new adventures, my sighs of relief could be heard throughout the entire plane, I’m sure.

If you’re feeling trapped at one of these so-called “international schools,” you already know recruiters aren’t willing to do anything for you, or are not equipped to do so. If you can’t take it any longer at an abusive school, for whatever reason, don’t be a prisoner to your possessions or to the idea you have a responsibility to stick it out. You don’t. You have no responsibility to a school and/or administrator that abuses teachers and fails to honor the letter of its contract. It’s your life.


A teacher who should have done this earlier


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What Would You Do?

Dear ISR, I’ve put myself in an unsettling position, so I’m writing in hopes ISR subscribers can give me some advice. Here goes:

On lunch duty last week, I saw a lone high school girl out on the soccer field who appeared to be vaping. Smoking of any type is clearly against school rules. Initially, I planned to issue her an office summons for smoking on campus. However, as I began to approach, the smell of marijuana was subtly wafting on the wind. She looked startled when she saw me observing her. I shook my head in disbelief and decided then and there to ignore the incident and simply walked past. I was glad she’s not one of my students.

Now what? Reporting her to school officials would entangle her in a drug-related offense and would serve no beneficial purpose, in my opinion. A report would also place both of us in a ugly, awkward situation involving potential parent/admin meetings and possibly even involvement of local law officials. Things could easily spiral out of control for this girl, her family, the school and myself.  

Jeopardising a student’s future over what has become a legal, recreational substance in many parts of the world seems beyond the pale. For all involved I feel I did the right thing. But, now I’m wondering what the consequences could be if this student relates the incident to her friends and word gets around. Should I simply deny knowing anything? Or…?

Advice or thoughts on my situation would be very welcome at this point. Thank you.

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How Does Your School Treat its Maintenance People?

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

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

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

.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

….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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