ISS VP Looks Back to the Future of International Education

April 5, 2018

   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!
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Local Methodologies vs Western Pedagogy

December 14, 2017


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

October 26, 2017

..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

August 31, 2017

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.

Sincerely,

Duped big time


Did You Choose the Right School?

August 23, 2017

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

May 4, 2017

..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

April 13, 2017

..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:
http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article142682464.html

ABC News:
 http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/principal-resigns-student-reporters-raise-concerns-46594320

CNBC:
http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/06/these-high-school-journalists-uncovered-a-principals-resume-lie.html

..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!

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