Adaptive Schools – Collaboration or Something Else?

I had started my fourth year at an international school in SE Asia. For the previous 3 years, I had deferred leadership of the Secondary School committee to an aspiring administrator we’ll call ‘Bryan.’ The first committee meeting commenced…

For more than an hour ‘Bryan’ explained, in great detail, his version of the 7 Norms of Collaboration, the cornerstone of Adaptive Schools. When I pointed out that leadership of the committee should rotate between individuals within the department, he replied that he  alone was the one who would set the agenda, because, as he put it, he had to “promote student learning.”

The Principal, new to the school, gave ‘Bryan’ authority over the entire Secondary School committee for the next 4 meetings, where he talked for hour upon hour about these Norms, and how this was going to become the basis for the entire school year.

What are the 7 Norms of Collaboration that fall under the umbrella of Adaptive Schools? And why do they require so many hours of explanation?

  • The 7 Norms of Collaboration
    1. Pausing before responding to others.
    2. Paraphrase what other people say to promote understanding.
    3. Ask questions to figure out what people are thinking.
    4. Put ideas on the table.
    5. Use data to create shared understandings.
    6. Pay attention to what you say, how it is perceived, and what others say.
    7. Assume that the intentions of other people are positive.

Are these not skills normal adults are expected to have? Listening, paying attention to others, asking questions…..why do educators need a framework for these things? Moreover, why are multi-day seminars and/or hours and hours used to discuss this dreck?

I understand needing programs related to curriculum or classroom management or other kinds of best practices. But this is nothing but behavior modification. It is based on the assumption teachers can’t hack it as professionals, and need to be told what to do and how to think, talk and act. It is also based upon the idea that behavioral modification will usher in a better era. This is the thinking of cults, not the open inquiry that true education requires.

Some may say, “Just go along to get along and stop making waves. Don’t take any of this too seriously.  It’s all just small requests.”  As for me, it’s not a small thing if you are treated like you’re incapable of functioning in a group. Also, consider it will suck the life out of you and hurt you as being a source of strength in the classroom, and in your life. Life is too short to be treated like a dorky automaton!

I welcome any defense of Adaptive Schools and/or the 7 Norms of Collaboration and I accept any criticism of the views expressed here. Open discussion is welcomed because that kind of discussion is almost impossible in a school environment where one is forced to toe the line with Adaptive Schools.

(Note: The views expressed in this Article are those of the guest author and not necessarily the views of ISR.)

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion

High-Tech Cheating

If you’ve ever suspected cheating may be responsible for some uncommonly high test scores, Cheat-Tech may be the culprit. Not surprisingly, an entire tech industry has grown up around helping students cheat on exams in ways impossible to detect, and just as difficult to prove.

Is Cheat-Tech prevalent in International Schools? We’re not in a position to say. Except one thing is for certain, privileged students have the financial resources to purchase any or all Cheat-Tech devices.

If you believe your exams are falling victim to technology, here’s some helpful insight into how students use Cheat-Tech in, and outside the classroom, and what you can do to deter offenders.

IN the Classroom

Smartwatches – So-called smartwatches are the perfect device for streaming test answers sent by an accomplice in a remote location. Special screens can make a smartwatch appear to be turned off to all but the user who is wearing special lenses. Solution:  In late 2019 the Independent Commission on Examination Malpractice in the UK recommended all watches be banned from exam halls, even what appears to be normal watches which may be a smartwatch in disguise.

Smartphones – Would-be cheaters have gone beyond the obvious, using tiny earbuds to listen to prerecorded information transmitted from their smartphones hidden away in their purse or pocket. Solution:  Signal Jammer

Spy Cam Glasses – This may seem extreme, yet students have been caught cheating with spy cameras hidden in eyeglass frames. These micro cameras read and transmit exam questions to an off-site helper who sends back the answers to a smartwatch.  Solution:  No watches allowed in exam hall

Invisible Ink Pens – Perfect for creating cheat sheets, invisible ink pens have a special light at the tip of the pen that makes otherwise invisible ink, visible to the user. Solution:  Pass out easily identifiable pencils/pens and erasers. Prohibit the use of any other writing device.

Electronic Erasers – Like spy glasses, this device can transmit questions and receive answers. Solution:  Permit cross-outs. No erasing.

Calculators – We’re talking calculators that look just like ordinary scientific calculators but can stream answers from an offsite accomplice, store and retrieve information and connect to the internet for a quick Google search. A push of the right key instantly puts the device into calculator-only mode – a handy feature if the user thinks the teacher is watching. A code is needed to return the device to Cheat-Tech mode, making it impossible to prove the device was used for cheating. Solution:  Insist on the use of school-supplied calculators during exams.

Fake Fingerprints – Although we’ll never encounter this form of cheating in our classrooms, it’s interesting to note that students in China have been caught using fake fingerprints to appear to be another student for whom they had planned take a college entrance exam. Chinese education authorities now have taken to using facial recognition systems, fingerprint verification, metal detectors, drones, and signal jammers in a bid to thwart unscrupulous pupils.


OUTSIDE the Classroom

Auto-summarize – The latest trend in student cheating involves students using auto-summarize features in programs like Microsoft Word that extracts the most important information from a large piece of writing and generates a much shorter version that anti-plagiarism software has difficulty detecting. Summarizing software is easily found online. Solution:  On the first day of class, get a writing sample from every student. A few paragraphs, handwritten, on an impromptu topic should be enough.

Have something to add? Please scroll down to join the Discussion.

Sex Education in International Schools

Hello ISR, I know this suggestion for a discussion topic is a bit off-key to those you usually address. With that in mind, I’m submitting my comments & asking if you would please consider taking them live. I believe there are many parents of international students who will find this conversation beneficial. Here goes:

Predictably, when Samantha, my 16-year-old daughter, tells us about her day at school, her comments follow a well-worn path. She talks about the state of affairs of her friends, excessive homework, the goofy science teacher & so on.  This evening was different as she went on to mention that the P.E. teacher (who’s also the Sex Ed. teacher) demonstrated the proper use of a condom. “Miss Wiggins gave us each a banana & a condom & said, ‘Now it’s your turn.'” What!?I exclaimed, trying my best not to overreact.

I’m good with the school including Sex Education, but I had no idea they were taking it this far. I’m not so sure I’m ready to think about the possibility of Sam soon jumping into the sack with her boyfriend. I’m wondering if Sex Ed. (emphasizing “sex”) may even be encouraging her to experiment? Or is Sex Ed. (emphasizing “education”) informing and helping her to mature with knowledge & safety in the forefront of her mind? That surely gave me something to ponder…

My first reaction, admittedly, was to lay the abstinence routine on her, but my conservative parents tried that approach with me & well….it didn’t work, as evidenced by Sam. So, I decided to ask Sam to what extent she & her boyfriend have taken their relationship. “NO,” she answered. “We don’t have intercourse, but we do other things.” I thought I’d better leave it at that & not probe for details (no pun intended).

After some days I decided to call the PE teacher. I thanked her for having the courage to tell it like it is regarding contraception. Miss Wiggins said she felt like she was making a positive difference in her students’ lives. I told her I had brought up the topic of maturity, consent & mutual respect with a partner, and Sam’s response was: “You think Mrs. Wiggins hasn’t taught us all about that, too? She definitely has!” Thank you, Miss Wiggins!

My question for the ISR Community is this:  Are all international schools like our school here in Brazil? Do international schools generally take a liberal view of sex education & prepare teens to act responsibly on their sexual desires? Or is this school an exception to the rule? I know for a fact that in my Midwest hometown they only teach abstinence, which, by the large number of teen mothers, is not working. I’m wondering how different things might be for Sam if we had not gone overseas…

Any parents, teachers, or admin out there who want to expand on this conversation &/or share their experience with teens & sex education in international schools? I’d love to hear from you!


ISS VP Looks Back to the Future of International Education

   On the cusp of retirement, vice president of ISS, Rob Ambrogi, recently published a thought-provoking article entitled, “Looking Back to the Future.” In Rob’s own words, “As I approach full-time retirement this July, I can’t help but examine and reflect upon my 47 years as an educator with both retrospective and prospective lenses…”  

In regards to Rob’s prospective lenses, one of International Schools Review original members forwarded us an excerpt from Rob’s article, along with a personal critique and a pressing question, Is the future Rob outlines, now?

Excerpt from Rob’s Article:

   It is clear to me that the future of this arm of our organization will depend on the development of school start-up and business models that acknowledge lower tuition price points, larger class sizes, lower salary and benefit packages, a greater number of locally sourced teachers with necessary professional development, and a higher rate of expat teacher turnover. I am convinced that careful management of these realities will produce very credible and valuable learning opportunities that will be sustainable and will serve students well. There is nothing in our mission that says we only serve young people in highly subsidized, expensive international schools. We need to change the negative narrative about these newly emerging schools and continue to find ways to directly and indirectly extend enthusiastic support to them. (complete Article)

ISR Member’s comments: 

   Rob describes the ‘international’ school where I work very accurately. I’m currently working with more local students, often requiring SEN and/or EAL support, more local staff hires, some qualified, some not, more turnover from ‘overseas’ hires (1-2 years) with a salary base that has not changed in over 10 years. If this is the ‘new reality,’ as described by Ambrogi, are some of us living/working, or at least aspiring to work, in schools, where the future is now?

As Ambrogi is retiring from his influential ISS position, he is, at least, acknowledging that the bottom-feeder schools are growing in number, and that more established international schools are feeling the pinch with the increase in competition. Some schools have opted to lower their standards (alongside other considerations) in order to remain competitive. How ISS, and other organizations, intend to support these start-up and business/schools, as he states, ‘directly and indirectly,’ remains to be seen, but it is a situation which needs to be addressed.

Agencies such as ISS are in the position to help, and I think they should, given that teachers are also starting to abandon some of their services (job fair, anyone?) as these agencies become less relevant in the hiring process.

It is a win/win when standards are raised, rather than the bar continuously lowered. And, at some future point, if these schools improve, with better support and more supervision, we might begin to see many more positive Reviews on ISR!
Comments? Please scroll down

Local Methodologies vs Western Pedagogy

Open Letter from an ISR Reader

..Dear ISR, There’s a situation that’s been on my mind for some time and I’d like to hear how colleagues in various parts of the world are dealing with this sensitive topic. Here goes:

..I am sure everyone is aware that teaching styles around the world vary greatly. While international schools claim to be employing western-style educational practices, we can all agree that this may not always be the case, particularly when it comes to local-hire teaching staff.

..At my last school (in the Middle East) my assistant was a host national with a locally issued teaching credential.  She was a hard worker and an immense help, but when it came to classroom management she was hampered by the social hierarchy of her homeland. Sadly, the wealthy, over-indulged, entitled students treated her as a member of the janitorial staff instead of an education professional. 

..It got to the point I was hesitant to run out to the restroom or the copier because I could trust that I would return to utter classroom chaos. My assistant was not alone in these difficulties as I witnessed nearly all other local staff experiencing the same disrespect and mistreatment. 

One solution that worked was to have her deliver the lecture, during which I would leave the room for 10 minutes. Shortly after my return I would administer a prepared test on the material she had covered. Of course, this backfired on me to a degree because the parade of earned “D” and “F” grades brought the parents to my door to complain. I stood my ground and although I explained the situation, most parents were not sympathetic to local teachers.

..I’m currently at a wonderful school in Southeast Asia and although I love it here, I find myself faced with a new teaching dilemma. At this school we have local co-teachers and we are supposed to work as a team. But, our teaching styles are so different I am not sure it’s possible. The local teachers’ focus on rote memorization and fact regurgitation is utterly against my standards, as modern pedagogy is ignored for the most part.  To date I’ve found the local teacher only seems ‘in her element’ while conducting drills of before-test review. I have been preparing some lesson plans for her but I feel she resents me trying to influence her ideas on effective teaching. 

..I would bet that the situations I have described are just the tip of the iceberg. So, I ask you: How do you reconcile local teacher methodologies with western pedagogy, and do so without sacrificing education quality, upsetting the local-hire teacher or alienating your students or their families? 

Excused Absences Galore

..School’s well under way here in South America (I’ll leave out the name of my school) and in the few months I’ve been here we’ve had four activity days that kept kids out of class. Worse yet, kids regularly come and go with admin passes to participate in this event, that rehearsal, an important soccer practice, and even a hamster race (yes, you read correctly…science, I’m told). The list of reasons for kids to miss class just keeps on going. It’s clear I’m working at an entertainment center for the children of a privileged class, where education takes a back seat to fun.

..The latest incident which brings me to write to ISR is in regards to canceling my unit math exam due to an unplanned soccer match. Here’s what happened: A rival team challenged our school to a Friday afternoon soccer match at the last minute. The word went out Thursday afternoon over the intranet. I had been preparing my class for a big exam which I then had to postpone until Monday. When Monday rolled around it seemed unfair to have them walk into class “cold” and take the exam. So, we spent that class session reviewing and took the exam on Tuesday. This put us two days behind the scheduled curriculum.

..The teacher in the room next to mine told me last year they her called into the Counselor’s office to meet with the parent of a student who was failing her class. She knew the boy was failing because he had missed too many days of class, even though they were excused absences. It really jolted this teacher when she was accused of being a bad teacher and told that she had better get busy and see that this boy did well in her class. When she pointed out that he had missed an excessive amount of classes, she was told his failure was because she’s a boring teacher. How do you deal with this? She confided in me that she ultimately gave the kid a “B” grade to protect her job, but later the parent complained that her son would have earned an “A” if she had been a better teacher.

..My plan is to teach to the best of my ability, give these kids what they really earn and be done with it. I will either establish myself as a teaching professional and be accepted as such or will gladly leave when asked to. Has anyone experienced a school like this one?



Duped & Ready to Walk

A couple of weeks  into every academic year I begin seeing a sprinkling of School Reviews that claim a slick school director duped the reviewer into accepting a job at their lousy school. My reaction to such comments has always been the same: stick it out, stop whining. YOU signed the contract. I couldn’t imagine that any school would be half as bad as what these teachers were describing…

Well, the tables have turned and I stand corrected. I now find that I am the victim of severe duping by a fast-talking director at a school not reviewed on ISR.

Everything here is contrary to what I saw (on the school’s website) and was told during my online interview. There’s no disciplinary support with known disruptive kids, and believe me, there’s plenty of real “prizes” at this school. There are no classroom supplies — not even pencils. The internet connection is so sketchy it might as well be shut down. There is no AC in the classrooms — it’s like a sauna in my room. Textbooks are all photo copied from one purchased edition. Software is boot-legged and glitches to a standstill constantly. To top it off, the director has proven himself to be an egocentric, buffoon who lacks any semblance to an educator.

I might be able to bite the bullet and put up with everything wrong with this place, but the crowning assault on my sanity is that the majority of students are local kids with poor, to non-existent, English skills. Try teaching high school Literature to a classroom of students who can barely muster enough English to ask to use the restroom, let alone read and discuss a story by Edgar Alan Poe. It’s like a bad joke.

The job was advertised online and not through a recruiting fair. So, if I walk out and don’t put this job on my resume, what might be the long term consequences, if any, of doing so? Also, what is the best way to bail? Should I give the school notice that I plan to leave ASAP or send them an email once I’m safely away and out of the country? I’m leaning towards the ‘wait until I’m safely away’ idea…

To those of you who have suffered the disastrous consequences of being mislead by a slick website and/or a fast-talking director, please accept my sincere apologies for having doubted you and thereafter posted such to the ISR Forum or Blog. Once I’m out of here, I’ll post a lengthy review of this place on ISR. Any advice would really comfort and reassure me at this time.


Duped big time

Did You Choose the Right School?

Your first days at a new school can be a window into the year ahead.  From airport arrival to help transitioning into the school and community,  how your school treats you right from the start speaks volumes about the experience to follow. Which of the following describes your arrival?

Scenario 1. You knew you were off to a terrific start when the Director met you at the airport, escorting you to a waiting apartment replete with fresh linens, a few staples, plus a bottle of chilled wine. City tours, sampling local cuisine and organized shopping trips are just some of the things your school did to welcome arriving teachers. You’re looking forward to meeting your students and colleagues. You had a good feeling about this school when you signed the contract!

Scenario 2. You found yourself (and your luggage) left standing at the arrival gate. You called the school and no one answered. Hours later you took an unmarked taxi to an unknown hotel, hoping beyond hope that you’d still  be alive the next morning. You began to think that maybe coming here wasn’t such a wise idea. This thought was confirmed when you had to find your own apartment in a community you knew nothing about. Worse yet, no one seems to even have time to show you to your classroom! Yikes!

Tell us about your experience / Name your school (optional)
International Educators keeping each other informed is what ISR is about!

  • How did your expectations compare with the reality of coming to your new school?
  • Did the school and admin support you and your colleagues in settling into the community and school? Did you feel welcomed?
  • Did you ever have that funny feeling about working for this school and wish you’d listened to your instincts?
  • Are you just thrilled and pleased as punch to be embarking on a whole new international teaching adventure?
  • Do you agree that the first few days at a new school are very reflective of how the school will treat you later on?

(based & reprinted from an earlier ISR article)

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion.
We ask that you stick to the topic and not review your school.
If you wish to write a Review, click here.

Don’t Bring Me Down

..Some teachers love to complain. We’ve all experienced them. It’s who they are! They thrive on conflict, turmoil, discontent and worst of all, endlessly talking about administrators/colleagues in a negative context. I term these people “Downers” and do my best to avoid them.

Based on the School Reviews that grace the pages of ISR, I’d say it’s safe to say we all have something to complain about. And complain we should, but in a constructive manner, with a proposed solution and to someone who can do something about our concern. But, please…not to me, at least not more than once.

Downers” are never satisfied with how things are going. They’ll continue to gripe even when admin agrees to remedy a situation. They moan about how the problem is being tackled and grumble about the speed at which progress towards a solution is being made. Without fail, they always manage to intone their prediction for failure.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some schools are oppressive, top-down institutions which fail in every sense of the word to adhere to the principles of the International Educators’ Bill of Rights.  At these schools, going to admin with a concern or complaint, even in a constructive manner, would most likely put an educator on the list of trouble makers and probably result in retaliatory measures. On the other hand, constant complaining to colleagues only serves to put an educator into the”Downer” category, making him/her just another thorn in the side of a faculty already trying to cope with a bad situation. No one needs a constant reminder of unpleasant circumstances.

I do my best to contribute to making my school and the environment for my colleagues a more pleasant place. We all know what’s wrong here and we all know the admin here couldn’t care less what we think. Constant bitching and moaning solves nothing and I wish I could make some of my more negative colleagues realize they bring me and their colleagues down! Maybe this short article I’ve composed for ISR will have that effect on them. Here’s hoping!

ISR Asks: How do you deal with “downer” types at your school, besides just trying to avoid them? Please scroll down to participate in this conversation:

(This article was inspired by a recent post to the ISR Open Forum)

Admin w/ Fake Credentials

..If you’ve ever suspected your School Director or Principal hadn’t actually earned the degrees and credentials prominently displayed on their office wall, you’re not alone. When journalism students at Pittsburgh High School (Kansas, USA) decided to look into the background of their new Head of School, Amy Robertson, their suspicions proved legitimate. Miss Robertson, who had spent the past 19 years involved in International Education in the UAE, joined Pittsburgh High School in early 2017.

.. The journalism class began investigation into Miss Robertson by looking at her advanced degrees and credentials. Her Master’s degree and PhD were both from Corllins University. The students soon learned, however, that Corllins is a school characterized by many critics as strictly a diploma mill — a place where you buy advanced degrees. The school board thereafter asked Miss Robinson to produce transcripts to substantiate her undergraduate degree from a well-known American university. She was unable to do so. She did state that Corllins University lost its accreditation after she had graduated. Miss Robertson resigned the $93,000-a-year position, stating it was “in the best interest of the district.”

..Fortunately for International Educators, as far back as 2012, teachers working under Amy Robertson at Dubai American Scientific School had their own concerns and shared them with International Schools Review Members. Fourteen ISR Reviews of Dubai American Scientific School make references to Amy Robertson and include links to news articles covering Miss Robertson’s problems with the Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which said she was not authorized to head the school. All educational permits associated with Dubai American Scientific School were later suspended. The school had failed inspection every year from 2008 to 2012 and was closed in September of 2013.

See the following links for articles related to the incident

The Kansas City Star:

ABC News:


..Amy Robertson’s case is not unique. International Schools Review hosts more than just a few Reviews in which teachers, based on their personal experience with administrators, question the authenticity of an individual’s degrees and credentials. Of course, school administrators are human and surely not everyone will agree with their decisions; but when an admin has a full alphabet of acronyms following their name but does not, nor cannot, display insight into curriculum, best practices, current trends in education and/or basic organizational/management skills, one can only wonder about the authenticity of their degrees. Trust your intuition!

..When in doubt, follow the lead of the journalism students at Pittsburgh High School and research, research, research! Then Share your findings with colleagues here on International Schools Review. International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what International Schools Review is ALL about!

Comments? Please scroll down to Post



Professional Boundaries: Should teachers befriend students on Facebook?

A Letter to ISR:

Dear ISR,  I’ve noticed that some teachers think it’s “cool” to befriend students on Facebook and post social pics and personal messages online. I think there should be boundaries between a teacher’s personal life and how much private information they allow students to access. I’ve seen some teachers posting pics of themselves with students at parties and in restaurants, and of course, students post social pics with their teachers.

Apart from being unprofessional, I feel it creates jealousy and a perception of ‘favored treatment’ among other students. Some teachers use this to manipulate their students and gain popularity through being overly friendly. Many professionals regard communicating with students on personal social media websites as inappropriate.

It would be interesting to know teachers’ opinion on this topic: How many schools have a policy on social media posting? Does your school monitor such activities?

(name withheld)

Please Scroll Down to Participate in the Conversation

One Lying Director…

..If things don’t go well between a teacher and a school director, historically we’ve seen directors who’ve used their position to destroy the teacher’s International Teaching career. Of course, there are two sides to every story, but when recruiting agencies automatically choose to consider only one side of the disagreement, that of the bigger-of-the-two paying-customers, it’s always to the teacher’s detriment.

..International Schools Review is the result of just such an incident. A teacher had a misunderstanding with his director. The director told his own version of the ‘truth’ and had the teacher blackballed. Letters of protest and explanation from the teacher were met by the recruiting agency’s standard phrase: “We weren’t there to witness the events which took place.” Translation? Your word isn’t worth a damn! Teacher’s response? We need a site to inform and support teachers. Translation? Welcome to International Educators keeping each other informed at International Schools Review!

..Today, fourteen years since the inception of ISR, we still find isolated cases of teachers being blackballed, based on a vindictive director’s claims. Here’s a case in point:

from the ISR Forum

  Hello All, Our first international job landed us working for a terrible director and the relationship between us ended badly (as in we really did not like each other). When we tried to sign up with Search she outright lied about us, saying something to the extent that we were let go before the end of our contract for “conduct unbecoming of a teacher.” Based on her feedback, Search denied our application. From this same school we have SEVERAL outstanding peer and parent references.

Since that time we’ve had two other positions, completed contracts, and have great references from our administrators. So, we tried to apply to Search once again, only to be told that because of what this first woman said they can NEVER take us on as candidates.

I am upset that the words of one lying director can outweigh the multitude of positive words of other administrators. This seems wildly unfair!

Is our only recourse to go with ISS? Have you heard of a situation such as ours, and what did people do? Cheers and thanks for any feedback

..Beyond helping International Educators make the right choice of schools, ISR helps Recruiters to know what’s going on at various schools, and to realize that some schools and school leaders are literally a menace to educators’ careers.  We have witnessed, since the inception of ISR, that when a conflict arises Recruiters are now more likely to take a fair and unbiased approach to reaching a resolution.

..Some people just aren’t cut out to be International Educators; but, when a vindictive director uses their position to punish Educators with whom they’ve had a disagreement, there’s a problem. Fortunately, teachers in such a position have taken it upon themselves to Share their experiences on ISR so others can avoid making the same errors. Don’t let a school director be a menace to YOUR career, or that of colleagues!

..Comments? Please scroll down


Making a Difference in Students’ Lives


  In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the recruiting season, ISR proposes we step back to take stock in the role that WE, as International Educators, play in shaping the future. In the words of the Dalai Lama: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

  Teacher-isms, concise statements about teaching that get right to the essence of the profession, are the perfect medium to express how Teachers make a difference. We’re sharing a few of our favorite Teacher-isms to get things started. Please join us and add your favorite words of wisdom to this growing compendium. Then, refer to these when you want to feel extra good about your choice to become an educator!

Our Favorite Teacher-isms

Teachers affect eternity; No one can tell where their influence stops.

The test of a good teacher is not how many questions s/he can ask pupils that they can answer readily, but how many questions s/he inspires them to ask which are hard to answer.

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.

If kids come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.

I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.

Now it’s your turn. Scroll down to share your favorites 

Who’s Looking Out for Teachers at YOUR School?

looking-out-for-teachers-160670873-blog..Thanks to the many teachers who post in-depth School Reviews to ISR, we’re all well aware of which schools treat teachers right and which schools stoop to despicably low practices. The good news is, the majority of International Schools honor their Contracts and look out for their teachers!

..In schools that are focused on the well-being of their staff, Parent-Teacher Associations and faculty representatives to the Board are commonplace and give voice to teachers’ concerns. In many Reviews, teachers report that their PTA is quite effective. School Boards can also be beneficial when it comes to looking out for teachers. Embassies can be an ally.

..There are, however, schools that have banned Parent-Teacher Associations, and often times, school Boards are composed of local parents, many of whom will not speak out in defense of teachers for fear of retribution from an influential school owner. Reviews show that embassies may also be hesitant to get involved in looking out for teachers, even when Contracts have not been honored. This is probably because embassy employees need a place to school their children and don’t want to make waves.

..Ultimately, how teachers are treated appears to boil down to the attitude of a school owner and the Head of School. If an owner is driven by profits at all cost, and sees education as strictly a business, teachers suffer. At such schools, the only one looking out for teachers are the teachers themselves.

..International Schools are not static entities. They are regularly bought and sold, or taken over, by large management companies. This makes it important that you keep current on behind-the-scene dealings at schools you may be interested in. A change in management can mean no one is looking out for teachers, or hopefully, quite the opposite.

..ISR asks: Is YOUR school looking out for International Educators? Do you have a Parent/Teacher organization? Is it effective? Is the school Board responsive to teachers’ input? Could you depend on your embassy in a legal dispute, if needed? Or, is it every teacher for him/herself? If your school has banned Teacher Councils or Parent/Teacher organizations, ISR is a good place to spread the word!

Please scroll down to Comment

Please stick to the topic: Feel free to name your school. This Blog is expressly for sharing information on what schools are doing to look out for teachers. If you wish to otherwise Review your school, please submit a School Review.  

Sexism in International Schools

An ISR member recently made a request. She had been suffering under a Director who regularly made sexist remarks and wanted to know if her situation was an isolated one.

..In response, we discovered 61 School Reviews/Admin Reports that contain the term “sexist.” Of the 10,000+ Reviews hosted on International Schools Review, this figure represents less than 1% of all Reviews. Although the percentage is thankfully low, it does sound an alarm that something is terribly wrong at some International Schools, as exemplified by the following excerpt from an ISR Director Report:

The Director continuously shouted, threatened, belittled and publicly humiliated me and other female teachers throughout the period I was under contract. After I left the school in June, 2016, I received this abusive email from the Director when I requested money due me…

“Your advice is meaningless. You are beneath me in every possible way so your opinion matters as much to me as mine does to Mr. Obama. You are old and you probably don’t have many years left before you return to hell and we have gotten enough laughs out of you already. (Leather mini skirt for someone as old as you, really?!? LOL) Please just die or quit emailing…or both.”  Members can sign in to read entire Review

..ISR asks: In what universe is harassment such as this not a prosecutable offense? Unfortunately, in some lawless voids, individuals who would otherwise find themselves on the losing end of a lawsuit, consider themselves free to abuse defenseless teachers.

Excerpts from other Reviews increase our cause for alarm:

  This director needs to be investigated for his sexist remarks that are completely inappropriate

  Unsupportive, judgmental, unapproachable, dishonest, lacks integrity, poor leadership skills, intimidating towards staff and students, sexist (hates women)

  His lack of knowledge results in a complex environment that prevents him from acknowledging good work completed by competent teachers, but instead valuing those that serve as his yes-men (men being the operative word, as his sexism is blatant)

  His sexist (sometimes racist) remarks were a constant. No racial minorities are represented amongst staff

  Once again, good ole boys’ drinking culture, racism, sexism, reserved and restricted privileges and practices which often define “international schools”

  He is a pathological liar and extremely unprofessional. He is sexist and racist. He dresses in very inappropriate clothing and is embarrassing to work for

  Mid-management is very sexist and your status is dependent on how much time you spend in the office complimenting each other on how great you are…and I am a man saying this

  Did his best to make this even more of a hardship post than it already was. He’s a sexist who grunts and acts like a caveman and chooses favorite teachers to be in his “inner circle.” Absolutely no focus on creative, progressive ideas. VERY sexist! Huge double standard and outrageous amount of males in senior staff positions

..It goes without saying that sexism goes hand-in-hand with other undesirable qualities. And although it may be difficult, if not impossible, to stop school sexism in countries that lack anti-harassment laws, it IS possible to avoid signing on to work in such schools, thus motivating school boards and school owners to re-evaluate their choice of administrative individuals. The teacher who requested ISR query our database for occurrences of the term “sexist” is most certainly not alone.

Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed is what International Schools is All About.  


Why Keep Salary Levels Hidden from Candidates?

salaries Dedicating your life to educating children is highly commendable, but few among us can make this commitment without a salary that covers life’s necessities: student loans, food, heat, transportation, decent housing, etc.

While public schools in the West almost always include a disclosure of salary and benefits when advertising for teaching personnel, many International Schools have been accused of purposely keeping salaries undisclosed right up to the face-to-face interview with candidates. Even then there can be hidden variables that alter the quoted salary, and not for the better. Here’s an example:

Assume you hold a Master’s degree plus 9-years teaching experience. At ABC School the pay scale puts you at $52,000. “Pretty good,” you say. But there’s a catch: The contract you haven’t yet seen states that incoming teachers will be credited for up to a maximum of 5-years experience on the pay scale. Additional pay-scale years will be earned while at the school.  This puts you, an incoming teacher, at the level of a Masters plus 5, which translates to $46,000.

Teachers have been quoted saying it’s a waste of time to interview with schools that keep salaries hidden. Some complain schools inflate their salaries on the web sites of the ‘big’ recruiters, only to offer far less at interview, as in the above example. A generally held belief among many International educators is that any school which hides its salary scale is a school that does not respect teachers and, thus, a school to be avoided.

ISR advocates for salary-scale transparency and our School Review evaluation rubric incorporates a field that clearly displays salary ranges. Still, things do change and some schools have even been known to make behind-the-scenes negotiations with teachers. So, ISR recommends you always verify your salary level and have it stated clearly on your Contract.

ISR asks: What has YOUR experience been in regards to schools that keep salary scales hidden? What advice to YOU have for colleagues?


Survey: How Connected to the World is Your School?

Not too long ago technology was considered an accessory to existing communication, teaching methods and procedures. Today, thanks to a slew of advancements, technology has transitioned into the core around which curriculum and extensive learning programs are built. With this in mind, and to help you make your best-informed decision about schools you’re considering for a career move, ISR is working to integrate a technology rating into our popular International School Evaluation rubric. Look for it soon! Our thanks to the ISR member who sent us this suggestion.

If you’ve been on the International School circuit for any length of time, you’re aware that “technology” for some schools means having a barely functioning internet with a couple of “connected” computers in the faculty room. Such a school may or may not be for you. At the opposite end of the spectrum, more and more international schools have gone far beyond the bare-bones basics and employ systems that support advanced features. One such feature is Cloud Computing. With access to the Cloud, worldwide collaboration, file storage, virtualization and hundreds of applications become available to teachers and students — an entire universe becomes available. The International School of Manila, for example, has transitioned to a Cloud-based system with more than 3,000 students and faculty using/storing data in Google Apps. At Sunway International School in Malaysia, students can access education applications through the school’s Cloud network that supports more than 12,000 users. The focus in education today has shifted to how we learn and less on what we learn.

As teachers, we are expected to be proficient with technology-based approaches to education. Content delivery, learner support/assessment, collaboration with other teachers, digital strategies to work with students and the need to comply with admin-requested documentation/reporting requirements have become routine expectations. The world has significantly changed in a short span of time. If you are technology-adept, these are welcome changes; not so much if you’re technologically “impaired.”

In an effort to help each other identify the technology level of various schools around the world we invite you to scroll down and ask about specific schools and/or to tell us about the current status of technology at your school.

International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed
is what International Schools Review is all about!

Rate Your School – Then Scroll Down to Share Its Name and Status

Is a Sense of Entitlement Hurting International Students? by Steven E. Hudson

The academic year is coming to a close and ‘of course’ students are concerned about their grades.  This is normal, but obsessing over “an A” is not normal.  On ‘international school campuses’ world-wide students are ‘claiming’ I must have an “A”, I paid money (actually their parents or their parents’ company paid) and I deserve an “A”, I won’t get into ____ unless I have an “A”, I did all my work you have to give me an “A”, et cetera and ad nauseam.

 The experiences of many teachers are similar to those of Dr. Grossman …

 Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

 Since the majority of students attending international campuses aspire to attend major, world class universities we find from a 2008 study conducted by Ellen Greenberger, et al. at the University of California, Irvine and quoted in Student Incivility, Intimidation, and Entitlement in Academia, Barb Holdcroft that among university students…

  • 2 percent of students believe that “trying hard” should result in a good grade;
  • 7 percent believe that completing most of the reading for a course should result in a B grade;
  • 5 percent believe that a professor should respond to an e-mail the same day it was sent; and
  • 5 percent believe that students should be allowed to take calls during class.

When one adds to this some facts concerning some, but not all, students attending an international campus we find …

  • that they feel that amount they pay in tuition ‘entitles’ them to high grades;
  • they feel that they are entitled to use their ‘technological devices’ when and where they desire, and that consequences do not apply to them;
  • they feel that classroom rules, due the status their family has in the community and/or corporate structure, entitles them to special consideration;
  • they feel that they have the right, due the status their family has in the community and/or corporate structure, to arrive or leave as they wish without consequences;
  • that they feel they should be given ‘credit’, in the form of a grade, when they prepare for a class;
  • that they feel entitled to certain grades, regardless of whether or not they have earned them; and,
  • they should receive the highest grade possible for plagiarizing material for a presentation, project, research paper and not face penalties.

When one considers the average, and or mathematical mean, of the numbers from 1 to 100 one finds that the average and/or mean is 50 or 50%.  When one considers the normal grading scale we find that ‘average; is half-way between an “F” and an “A” or a grade of “C”.

In her blog posted on Prep Scholar Samantha Lindsey states the following …

 “The overall average GPA nationally is a 3.0, but this may be deceptive.  The average in core subject areas is actually a bit lower.  The average GPA is brought up to a 3.0 by the higher grades that students receive in courses that are not part of the core curriculum  The core curriculum in the data that I looked at was considered to be math, science, English, and social studies courses.  The average GPAs for these different types of courses were the following:

Math: 2.6

Science: 2.70

English: 2.85

Social studies: 2.89

“This shows that students tend to have lower average GPAs in math and science courses compared to English and social studies courses.”

 So, since the scores, as Ms. Lindsey, states them are well within the rage of scores from 2.0 to 2.9, which is defined as a “C” then one has to arrive at the understanding that the ‘average student performance in the core subjects’ is a “C average.  How then, is it possible, that it seems as if the majority of students feel they are entitled to a grade of an “A” or a “B” when they only do average or below average work.

The real questions go even deeper …

  • Are education professionals – teachers, administrators, etc. in the business of making students feel good or are we in the business of preparing student for their future?
  • Is it more important to tell the truth and prepare a student for the ‘possible failures and/or shortcomings they may/will face in their future or is it the role of the school do help students feel good about themselves and not tell the truth?
  • Are we, as professionals, doing a ‘service’ or a disservice when we inflate grades or allow students to feel entitled?

A last thought … it has been my privilege since 1982 to teach in a variety of settings, environments, countries and levels of educational institutions and for this I am extremely grateful.  However, it seems as if this “sense of entitlement” which appears to prevail across societies has grown in the recent decades.

Is it only me or are you too concerned about the quality of the product that we, as professionals, are placing into society when we allow the concept of ‘entitlement’ to cloud our judgement … are we really protecting the child from having low self-esteem, confidence, etc. or are we protecting ourselves from those who practice arrogance by virtue of ignorance … in simple words, if we lie, and that is exactly what it is, when we “adjust and/or modify” grades, are we really serving the interests of society or are we serving our own interests, which may verge on being selfish to avoid conflict, not be liked, avoiding having parents pounding on your classroom/office door, etc.?

Comments? Please Scroll Down



Roosevelt, Max (2009) Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes. Feb 17, New York Times (

Holdcroft, Barb.  Student Incivility, Intimidation, and Entitlement in Academia in American Association of College Professors, May – June 2014 ( academia)

Paslay Christopher (2012)  Why Students Feel Entitled to( Grades they Haven’t Earned in Chalk and Talk, November 14.  (

Lindsay Samantha (2015) SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips:  What’s the Average High School GPA? In PrepScholar, Aug 7.  (


Powerful Bully-Parents Can Be Dangerous

bullied-on-computer-76082840If you’ve been in the classroom for any length of time you’re no doubt all too familiar with parents who bully teachers and schools. A parent, one you would never suspect could act in such an aggressive manner, can suddenly behave like a mama bear protecting her cub.

We’ve all experienced or heard horror stories about powerful parents who toss their weight around, insisting exceptions be made for their child in the form of grade inflation or dismissal of consequences for poor behavior. The parent-bully married to a board member, like the wealthy and/or powerful parent, is equally threatening because they, too, see themselves on the inside track to receiving special consideration for their child’s behavior problems or deficient academic performance. Today, with the popularity of social media, we’re faced with a new plague: the parent-bully with no clout or status but who uses social media to smear teachers/schools they believe have wronged their child, who in their eyes can do no wrong.

In 2015 the NASUWT, which represents teachers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, reported that 60% of the 1500 teachers they interviewed said abusive comments had been posted about them on social media by parents and/or students. This was a sharp increase from the 20% figure reported in 2014. The rise in bullying incidents has been  attributed to an increase in parents bashing teachers and schools on line. Teachers report posts calling them “bitch,” “slime ball” and even expressing hope they develop cancer and die.

In the United States the same 60% abuse statistic has been calculated, the prime offenders being “helicopter parents” named as such because they constantly hover over their children, blaming their child’s shortcomings on schools and teachers. A number of teachers report physical threats from such parents.

If you’re currently teaching in an International School you know firsthand that these schools are not exempt from parents who bully. A disproportionate number of ISR School Reviews contain accounts that tell us “the kids make the rules.” Or, as one Review aptly put it, “the inmates are running the asylum.” When admin refuses to stand up to bully-parents, the kids take the upper hand.

A particularly distressing bullying episode outlined in an ISR School Review relates how a teacher was disciplined after giving an “honor” student an “F” grade. This student rarely attended class and the teacher had reported to admin on various occasions that this student was seen in the school parking lot smoking cigarettes with her boyfriend during class time. Her influential parents at this South American school had intimidated the school director into “massaging” the girls grades to honor roll level. The “F” grade did not stick and the girl remained on the honor roll. The teacher was placed on probationary status at the request of the girl’s parents.

Another upsetting instance demonstrating what a powerful parent-bully is capable of is illustrated in a startling ISR School Review. This particular Review tells how the author of the Review sent a high school boy to in-school detention. Then, months later, found herself detained at immigration due to a previously unknown, yet pending, court case levied by the child’s parent. The parent in this Middle Eastern country claimed in-school suspension was excessive punishment for fighting on campus. Powerful bully-parents can be dangerous in unforeseen, far-reaching ways.

It’s clear bullying parents who pressure teachers and administrators into backing down and compromising their principles are doing their children severe harm. The sad reality is they are setting their kids up for an extremely hard fall. This is especially true when a bully-parent takes their child’s “A” grades won through intimidation, and parlays them into acceptance at a prestigious university. Unable to do the work, the kid returns home after one or two semesters, a complete failure. Unearned academic status comes with a price and unfortunately it’s the child who ultimately pays the toll.

There are methods for dealing with bully-parents, but to date no approach (that ISR has seen) has been successful in helping such parents realize this:  The use of force to make a child appear, on paper, to be something they clearly are not, is simply setting the child up for failure in all aspects of life.

ISR encourages you to Share how you and/or your school cope with parent-bullies. Have you found any techniques or conversations that help a parent-bully accept that their child hasn’t been singled-out for punishment? Has being a good listener and allowing a parent to vent, with no resistance, served as the cathartic experience they needed to come to terms with the reality of the situation?  We all have different ways of dealing with tough parents. Here’s your opportunity to Share what works!

Please scroll down to Post 

Compromise: The Key to Success Overseas

alter-avoid-accept-116651054In this brief article composed expressly for ISR, I hope to offer some timely advice that should be of help to teachers deterred from teaching overseas due to the many negative reviews found on ISR. Likewise, my words may be of assistance to teachers already overseas and dissatisfied with their current situation.

To begin, let me say that I am fairly certain most of us began our teaching careers in the public schools of the Western world. Funded 100% by tax payer money, these schools are free to focus their energies completely on education with no need to compromise their ideals to raise money needed to pay salaries. Private overseas schools by contrast, to survive, be they For-Profit or Non-Profit, raise funds through tuition and are therefore forced to walk the line between being both a profitable business and a School.  If you are going overseas or teaching in a private institution in your home country, you would do well to accept the fact that when you cross a business with a school there are going to be practices that fly in the face of what a true educationalist would consider best practices.

Accepting a student half-way through the school year who speaks little English can be par for the course in a tuition-funded school. You may even be expected to “move” this student on with a better than passing grade. An administration that refuses to discipline unruly students may also be the norm in a private school where a gossipy parent who feels their child has been unduly singled out has the power to organize parents to leave the school. Mixing business with education has its undeniable draw backs. In any business it’s important to cater to the customers. The question is, at what point does such catering conflict with your own sense of ethics as a Western trained educator?

I’m not suggesting I agree with much of what I have seen go on in International Schools. As a school director I have had to compromise some of my ideals for the continued existence of a school and the continued opportunity to serve students, teachers and parents to the best of my abilities under the circumstances. Where I draw the line is when I see a school owner reaping bountiful financial rewards and neglecting to fund the necessities of the school. I don’t expect any school owner to sacrifice their well-being or that of their family for a school – philanthropists are few and far between. When I found myself a pawn in a host national’s plan to get rich at the expense of children’s educations, I made every effort to get everything I felt the students needed. I was later “released from duty” and immediately posted the truth about this school as I knew it to be – or better stated, how the situation exceeded what I was willing to compromise.

We each have a threshold for what we can and cannot accept. One thing is for certain though, when you immerse yourself in an overseas culture and tuitions are needed to fund a school, some form of compromise will have to be made on your part. The same will hold true in a private school in your own country. I highly recommend teachers read between the lines of ISR reviews with an eye to deciphering what sort of compromise on the part of the author could have made the situation a better experience. If the compromises needed to succeed at the institution are within your realm of acceptance, this could be a school for you. If not, and you consider yourself a pure educationalist, you may never be happy in an overseas school.

Comments Anyone?