Teaching Candidate in Hijab Claims Discrimination by Kuwaiti School

October 19, 2017
Fouzia Khatun on Instagram

..When Fouzia Khatun applied to teach at the English Playgroup, Kuwait, she thought wearing a hijab and sharing common religious beliefs would help her to be a good fit for the job. To her complete dismay, she later received an email from Caroline Brooks of the HR department, saying her employment depended on a willingness to remove her hijab while teaching: “…parents do not want their children taught by covered teachers, this is an English school.” 

..On her Instagram page Fouzia displays the email from Caroline Brooks. The school denies the allegations, saying Caroline Brooks was not in their employ. Later, however, they changed their statement reporting, Caroline Brooks has been “disciplined.” The school asserts that Fouzia’s application for employment was not accepted due to her use of social media and that action has been taken against her for “slanderous comments.”

..…The English Playgroup issued the following statement:
“The English Playgroup and Primary Schools employ qualified teachers from all nationalities, religions and backgrounds who serve students as excellent and caring teachers. Allegations of discrimination against hijab-wearing staff are untrue. Our schools proudly employ many hijab wearing teachers and administrators across our schools. The allegations against the school have been disseminated by an unsuccessful overseas job applicant who was refused employment because of inappropriate behavior as illustrated on her social media platform. The opinions expressed by a new employee in the HR department are against company policy and necessary disciplinary action has been taken.”

..Fouzia is quoted as saying that her Instagram page was private before this incident, so a claim of “inappropriate behavior” on social media is unfounded. The English Playgroup later released photos on Instagram of teachers wearing a hijab while on the job. Fouzia is suing the English playgroup.

..ISR Asks: Is this an isolated incident? Was it simply a mistake on the part of an HR employee? To your knowledge, do Muslim women experience this type of discrimination in Kuwait and other Islamic countries when applying for jobs in Western-oriented schools and companies?

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Tempted to Remove a School from YOUR Resume?

October 5, 2017

Resumes are marketing tools, not legal documents and nothing says you’re obligated to list every job you’ve ever had. YOU get to decide what to include and what to leave out. But be prepared:  Gaps in your teaching history may require an explanation. Good reasons, for example, range from taking a volunteer position to spending time back home caring for an aging parent.

3 Good Reasons to Leave a School OFF Your Resume

..1)  You suspect the school Director may say something “unflattering” and/or untrue about you to a perspective employer. This is especially valid if you left on sour terms.

..2)  The school’s poor reputation may be detrimental to your career. Such schools may be characterized as “diploma mills” that guarantee top grades/university placement to parents who can meet stiff monetary requirements for their kids’ tuition. Spend too many years at such a school (where you’re considered not much more than a servant to overindulged, rich kids) and you may have trouble finding a position at an authentically “good” school.

..3)  The teaching position was for 1-year or less, or you broke contract and left early. Short stints at International Schools can draw negative attention from prospective employers. You may have had sincere, valid reasons to leave early but employers can be quick to pass judgment.

Leaving some of your teaching history OFF your resume is a personal choice and something you’ll need to consider carefully for reasons quite obvious. ISR asks:  Did you ever take a school off your resume? How did it work out for you? What’s your advice to teachers considering dropping a school from their resume?

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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


What Should You Ask During Your Interview for an Overseas Teaching Position?

September 29, 2016

While attending an ISS conference, a “home made video” convinced me a school in the Congo was the school for me. The director showed this “amateur” video at the informational session. The photographer, a parent, had cleverly made the school and surrounding areas look like paradise in the jungle. Charged with enthusiasm, I neglected to ask some important questions at my interview. Unbeknownst to me the parent who shot the video was a professional filmmaker. I had been snookered by someone with an agenda to attract top notch teachers for their children. Welcome to the Congo. Uggh!

Personal Matters

So, what should you ask when interviewing for international teaching positions? Of course each of us has our own personal interests and priorities and ISR recommends you take time to prepare questions around these topics. Your questions might range from the availability of certain products to activities such as jogging, gyms, libraries, bookstores, movies, etc. Don’t be shy. If you ask and find your interests are not going to be fulfilled in a particular location you can at least come prepared, or decline the job offer.

Directors are looking for a “good fit”. They want teachers who will integrate well with their current staff and administration. They look for teachers who are flexible and demonstrate an ability to adapt. Let’s say you ask about the availability of bookstores and the director tells you there’s only one and with very few books in English. Instead of looking distraught, you could simply say, “That’s good to know in advance. I can set up an eBook account and read books on line”. Now you’ve killed two birds with one stone. You had your question answered and demonstrated you’re flexible and a good fit.

In 2002 my wife and I interviewed for a teaching position at a mining camp in coastal Peru. After viewing the director’s photos of the school and area we realized we would be 100 miles from nowhere and dependent on seating in the company plane to get out on weekends. During our interview, the doorbell rang and the director left the table for a few minutes. My wife, who had told the director she loves art museums and ethnic crafts, took this opportunity to whisper, “No way in hell am I going there”. When the director returned he proceeded to show us the pay package. Wow…. $50,000 each, plus benefits! He looked at my wife and said. What do you think? She replied, “I’d love to come”. We weren’t offered the positions because we were obviously not a good fit. Had fishing, hiking, mountain biking, tennis been our passion we would have been right for the location. In this case no amount of flexibility was going to make the difference.

The point is, be honest and find out what you personally need to know about a location. Finding a “good fit” is a two-way street. If both you and the director are honest the chances of success at your new location will be greatly enhanced.

Contractual and Professional Matters

Topics in these categories include: health insurance, teaching load, expectation for after school activities, housing, travel expenses, and questions such as “Do teachers generally stay for more than their first two- year contract?”

In earlier ISR articles we covered these topics and more, in detail. We suggest you pick and choose questions from the following articles that reflect your needs. If you find yourself having to ask a number of questions from the 10 Tough Questions category you may want to reconsider the idea of teaching at the school in question. Here’s the line up:

• Ask the Right Questions at Your Interview

• 20 Questions You May Want to Ask

• 10 Tough Questions You May or May Not Want to Ask

Best of success this recruiting season. As always, we recommend you do your homework and check various sources for information on schools and directors.

ISR


10 Sure-Fire Ways to Blow an Interview

December 16, 2014

Plan to attend a recruiting fair? Here’s 10 sure-fire ways to blow your interview! Have a look at this list and resolve to avoid doing ANYthing you see here.

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1) Arrive late
Recruiting fairs almost always take place in high-rise hotels where elevators are not designed to handle constant heavy traffic. More than one teaching candidate has arrived late for an interview due to slow-to-arrive, over-packed elevators that stop at every. single. floor….Get an early start!

2) Show up unprepared
Failure to do your homework could be a deal-breaker. Asking questions already answered on a school’s web site or at an earlier presentation makes you look like someone who doesn’t take the initiative to get the job done. A little research will help you make the right impression.

3) Over-share
Interviewers need to see that you understand professional boundaries and discretion. Resist talking about health problems, your problems back home, an ex-boss’s propensity to frequent bars, your previous colleagues, etc. Keep conversation professional and avoid TMI!

4) Sound bitter or desperate
After a few rejections, you may be wearing a bitter attitude guaranteed to put off any interviewer. Look on the bright side, stay optimistic and imagine yourself landing this job! Do what it takes to put yourself in a positive frame of mind.

5) Fail to give specific examples
If you say you incorporate ESL training into classroom instruction, be prepared to offer a seemingly impromptu example. If you can’t give an example of what you claim you’re capable of,  you’ll come across as ‘all show and no go.’

6) Bad-mouth your previous school and/or director
No matter how bad your last international experience turned out, never talk bad about your current/previous admin.  There is plenty of information about schools and teachers’ experiences on ISR. Bad-mouthing at an interview cautions the interviewer that you may may never be happy and potentially do the same with their school.

7) Cockiness
Confidence & cockiness are two different things. You may be certain you’re the best person for the position, but a humble, yet confident attitude is what will land you the position. 

8) Don’t ask questions
School directors want to know you are interested in the details of the job an/or the culture of the country. If you don’t ask questions, you may be sending the message you’re just not that interested. Come ready with intelligent questions that show your interest in the culture of the school, the board, or some aspect of what their school and its locale is all about.

9) Interrupt
Here’s a sure-fire way to annoy the interviewer and demonstrate you’re more interested in what you have to say, rather than being an active listener and participant in the interview.

10) Have wireless devices alert you during the interview
Your ability to listen is a vital part of the recruiting interview. If your phone rings, your iPad pings, or any such indication that you’re not 100% devoted to this interview, it is one way to be seen as less than professional. Disconnect before any interviews!

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The 3 Things YOU Absolutely Must Know Before Signing On

May 29, 2014

top-threeIf you were able to know just 3 things about an International school before signing a contract, what would those 3 things be, assuming, that is, you’ll be provided with absolutely truthful answers?

Michelle, an ISR staff member, said she would want to know: Does the school consistently honor its contractual obligations? Followed by, How international is the school? She elaborated, “A classroom of 30 Pakistani boys, some with dual citizenship, does not an International school make.” And third, How adept are the kids at speaking English? “Try teaching high school English Lit (think, George Orwell) to kids who can barely ask to use the bathroom in English!”

Ben’s response was completely different: His number one question, Can I see the benefits package? You know, air fares, moving, housing, insurance, that sort of stuff. Followed by, What sort of support can I expect from Admin? In other words, are teachers supported against powerful parents? And number three, Is there 100% academic integrity?

Both Ben and Michelle agree that having no more information than completely truthful answers to their 3 questions would be enough to base a decision to commit, or not commit, to an International school. Of course, both are seasoned International teachers who expect to experience some awkward situations with specifics of a new school, admin and location.

Without a doubt, singles in search of a vibrant social life will have different top priorities than couples. Seasoned International educators will have different priorities than “newbies”, while those traveling with children or non-teaching spouses will have different criteria still.

In our effort to make ISR an ever evolving tool to help our Members make informed decisions, ISR asks: If YOU could know only 3 things about a school before you signed/or refused a contract, what would those 3 things be? To help qualify your response, please precede your answer with a status update–(i.e.: I am single/married, have children, number of schools taught at, years overseas).

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Be Prepared for Tough Interview Questions

December 5, 2013

confused44040691Credentials, enthusiasm and a burning desire to teach overseas describes nearly 100% of recruiting-fair candidates. So, how do you set yourself above the bar with so many high caliber candidates competing for the same positions?

A Director’s gut feeling about how you’ll fit into and adapt to their school and geographical location certainly plays a big part in the decision-making process. For some hardship locations, a “good fit” may be more important than actual years of teaching experience and advanced degrees. But when it comes to competing for the most desirable schools, your answers to some unexpected interview questions can easily make or break the deal:

Tell me about yourself. What’s your greatest contribution to your last school? If I walked into your classroom, what would I see? How will your past or current Director describe you when I dial them up? How would your students describe you? Teach me something right now! What’s the last article or book you read on teaching? Which educational journals do you subscribe to? Tell me about a conflict you resolved.

Answering tough interview questions is something you definitely don’t want to do impromptu. Of course, if you’re thrown a curve ball you have to swing at it, but anticipating and honing your answers to possible interview questions is obviously the best way to prepare for a successful interview. You just might be Teacher of the Year material but if you can’t convince the interviewer of that, all is for naught.

The Job Search Minute is a collection of 69 one-minute videos exploring the answers to a wide variety of tough interview questions. We highly recommend this series for all teaching candidates. For questions specific to International Teaching, we invite you to Scroll Down to post and solicit responses to interview questions you could use some help with. We encourage you to also post and answer your own questions so we all can learn from each others’ knowledge.

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