Holding Teachers’ Careers Hostage

February 7, 2019

When school directors write to ISR asking us to remove a specific Review from the web site, they often try to severely discredit the individual they believe wrote the Review in question. They obviously feel their poor opinion of a suspect teacher should be cause enough to eradicate a Review from ISR, an attitude that speaks volumes.

In response to these emails, ISR explains: “From your position as school Director things may look quite different than from the perspective of a member of your teaching staff.'” We then stress that, “Not everyone has the same experience at your school. Everyone is entitled to share the truth as they know it.”

Soon realizing that discrediting a suspect teacher will not yield their desired results, some (most?) directors quickly resort to threatening ISR with legal action. These individuals treat ISR in the same bullying manner portrayed in the Reviews to which they object.

A Disturbing Trend

In an underhanded attempt to get Reviews removed from ISR, some directors are now refusing to write teachers Letters of Reference until specific Reviews are, in their words, “taken down.” Essentially, an administrator tells a teacher (or teachers), “We know one of you wrote the review.” Get it removed and we’ll then write your Letters of Reference.” Some directors have even gone so far as to refuse to verify employment!! ISR condemns this and believes it amounts to holding teachers’ careers hostage. 

Apparently, just how low some directors will go to squelch dissenting voices is yet to be seen. You can rest assured, however, if you are the author of a school Review that’s upsetting your school director, no one, not even ISR, knows you wrote it, unless you say so. Don’t be fooled by school personnel and/or their attorneys who will say and do anything to get a ‘confession.’

Fortunately, not all directors who disagree with a Review of themselves or their school will resort to holding teachers’ careers hostage. Most are in favor of ISR, support free speech and use information gleaned from Reviews to improve their schools. These school directors normally write to ask us what steps they can take to publicly contest a Review. ISR salutes these schools!!! THESE are the schools we’d all like to work for!


How Much Do Administrators Earn?

January 31, 2019

If you’ve been contemplating a move into administration, you already know a Google search yields little information in regards to what international school admins earn. That is, except for the obvious, “Administrators earn more than teachers.” How much more? is our question… 

ISR is asking for your help in attaching a general $$ amount to Director and/or Principal positions around the globe.

With at least a ballpark dollar figure to work with, teachers, with an eye on becoming an admin, can decide if the effort and monetary outlay to earn an admin credential will be worth the investment. Additionally, a more strenuous job search, plus additional responsibilities and work hours will need to be weighed against the potential pay hike.

If you have knowledge of admin salaries at your current, or previous schools, please Share that information here and help those colleagues who are contemplating a move into administration make an informed decision. You can also post requests for admin salary levels at specific schools and check back later for a reply.

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Bait & Switch: When the Job Isn’t As Promised

January 17, 2019

I’m currently in what I call a classic bait & switch situation. I was hired to teach high-school chemistry/physics & was “reassigned” to middle-school math with a bunch of kids who should be studying basic arithmetic.

To rub salt into my wound, the school does not even have a chemistry lab! The promise of a chem/physics position was nothing more than an under-handed ploy to lure me (or simply any warm-bodied human being) to stand in front of a classroom. Now? I live for the weekends. I detest these spoiled rotten, poorly behaved middle-school kids (and their parents) who academically & emotionally belong in elementary school. More than anything, the admin disgusts me. Worse, I’m not the only one they did this to.

Okay….my contract gives admin the right to reassign me as needed, but this? This is not a reassignment — this is premeditated deception. Naturally my complaints fall on the deaf ears of my recruiter who tells me, “It’s only for two years.” LOL! He won’t be laughing, though, when he sees I’m also naming him in my school review.

I thought about leaving on a weekend & never coming back. It’s a nice fantasy, yes. But, how can I bail when I’m thousands of miles from home & dependent on my paycheck to pay off student loans, among other financial obligations?

That’s my story. Anyone else have the same experience? I could almost accept it if the school had a chem lab & not enough kids to fill the course. But this? No!!

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Is The Recruiter Trying Too Hard? Are YOU?

January 10, 2019

Recruiting day: You’re ON! Expensive new suit…Check! Designer tie & pocket square…Check! Wing-tip shoes freshly buffed & a $100 haircut…Double check! You feel as though you’ve definitely put your best (Gucci) foot forward, yet notice a distinct hesitation from Recruiters as you approach their tables, hoping you’ll get a slot on their interview schedule.

The problem may be this:  Aren’t you trying a bit too hard? Teachers who go recruiting looking as though they belong in a well-appointed NYC Corporate boardroom may be making the wrong first impression on a Recruiter who’s looking for educators who can succeed in the classroom with a bunch of rowdy kids. Recruiters also need new hires to professionally represent the school despite extreme heat & humidity, funky roads, roaming packs of dogs, tiny accommodations & possibly an unspoken severe lack of basic amenities at their school.

Over-dressing, exaggerating, boasting, grandstanding & the like could easily send the message you’re trying too hard. The Recruiter may be wondering, Could you possibly be a self-indulged, high-maintenance type who won’t pitch in & get his/her hands dirty? Will this person handle it well when the going gets rough?

What about RECRUITERS who try too hard? Does he/she seem desperate to hire any warm body willing to consider their school? Is a Recruiter telling you a place (like the D.R. Congo) is a gourmet’s paradise when a documentary you recently saw showed local, hungry people eating palm grubs for food & locals with amputated limbs & machete scars begging at every, single market stall? Statements like, “It’s the best kept secret” should bYOUR clue to do some serious due diligence! Someone is trying too hard.

Google can, of course, be your best ally when researching a locale. Keep in mind, close-ups of smiling kids, tightly cropped images of school facilities, shots of tree frogs & egg-laying turtles, plates of tropical fruit & vegetation with a few people in traditional clothing can signal:  Someone trying hard to make a boring place or hardship post look good.

Recruiters may try so hard they purposely misrepresent their schools. Case in point:  A PE coach was shown an aerial shot of a school & its facilities at her interview. The photo included an Olympic-size swimming pool. As her specialty was swimming, she was excited at the job prospect. Upon arrival to the school, however, the pool turned out to be a blue rectangle painted on the ground. “Oh,” said the local-hire PE assistant, “didn’t he tell you that you were looking at the architect’s rendering of where the pool will be installed, someday?

A final word on trying too hard:  Recruiting is about educators trying to find schools & schools trying to find educators. Everyone has on their best smile & endeavors to make a success of the experience. There’s is, however, a marked difference between trying too hard and just plain trying. Don’t fall into the trap of trying too hard. And, most of all, proceed with caution when you suspect an interviewer is trying too hard. 





More Than Just a Slogan: Go Paperless this Recruiting Season

December 20, 2018

Dear International Teaching Community of Organizers, Administrators, Recruiters, Fair-Attendees,

..My name is Michael Brown, an overseas educator, soon to be attending his fourth Recruiting Fair. I am writing with a singular purpose in mind:  I am asking you to GO PAPERLESS THIS RECRUITING SEASON for the sake of Mother Earth.

Okay, maybe we cannot go completely paperless in one fell swoop, but we can commit to taking positive steps in that direction. With the future of our planet at stake, we all have the responsibility to help effect positive change.

As it stands, we create a huge carbon footprint when we fly off to a distant locale for a three-day Recruiting Fair. Compared to Skype, Face Time and other digital venues, it’s plain to see Fairs have a powerful negative effect on the environment. This assault on Mother Earth is only compounded by the tremendous quantity of paper consumed in preparation for these Fairs. Teachers and administrators alike promote Earth Day and a “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mindset in the classroom, yet continue to print out multiple resumes (or expect to receive them). Why not post resumes and all other print material online?

Still ‘hanging around’ and exacerbating the situation is another dinosaur of the past known as the hanging file. I beg recruiters and candidates to not use them as resume drop-offs. Instead, a small note could suffice to attract attention or communicate outside the multitude of virtual options such as email, Messenger, WhatsApp and/or the organizer’s Fair portal. We, collectively, should no longer need printed communication at this point in our digital evolution.

To be direct, paper-heavy Recruiting Fairs rely on an outdated system we should change immediately. We can all promote electronic communication as the sole avenue of organizing interviews and end the expectation to receive a printed, full-page resume and cover letter.  Small note cards, (or better yet, none at all) are all that’s needed. Smart phones all have a Notes App — let’s use them!

I’m not bringing paper copies of my resume this year, which I also did not do at my last Fair in 2012. If you haven’t printed off copies yet, please don’t.  Our resumes are on the recruiter’s site, readily accessible.

I ask organizers and administrators:  Whom would you rather have teaching at your school? An educator who ‘talks the talk’ or one that ‘walks the walk?’ The answer is clear! Going paperless says,  ‘I’m about more than just slogans.

Michael Brown

ISR Note: The Sierra Club tells us one tree, depending on its size,  yields from 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper. We’ll use 15,000 as the medium figure for this example: Teachers generally print at least 15 resumes, plus cover letters, to total a minimum of 30-sheets of paper per fair attendee. Multiplied by 300 attendees, we’re looking at a minimum of 9000 sheets of paper per fair. Multiplied  by 20 or so fairs, we find that 180,000 sheets of paper ,or 12 trees or more per recruiting season, are sacrificed for resumes and cover letters alone. 

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Between the Lines: Your Cover Letter

November 15, 2018

..Recruiting season is underway and International Educators are asking age-old questions about Cover Letters. “How long should it be? Where does my contact info go? Should I include this? Do I leave out that?” ISR asks:  Why would anyone want their cover letter to be like all the others? 

Without a doubt, your cover letter must be well-organized, concise, and succinctly contain information to spark interest in finding out more about how perfect a candidate you are. Most importantly, to be successful your cover letter should reflect WHO YOU ARE beyond diplomas and work experience. A truly great cover letter will leave a school Director with a favorable impression of YOU, while simultaneously filling them in on the facts.

In a profession where “fit” is everything, it can be that what you say between the lines of your cover letter is more important than the actual words themselves. An excerpt from a long-time contributor to the ISR Open Forum sums it up:

PsyGuy: Most International Teachers are very indistinguishable from one another, there isn’t really much in their backgrounds or experiences that differentiates them from one another, and, as a result, very minor, even trivial differences often mean the difference between the IT who gets the appointment and the ones that don’t. Recruiters aren’t really looking for the greatest IT. They already know you can teach and so can every IT that came before and after you. What they are looking for is “fit,”….. that the IT candidate is going to harmonize with students, parents, the other staff, the curriculum, the ethos, the mission, etc.”

The ‘take-away’ message:  Your cover letter may say you’re a creative, flexible educator who’ll be an asset to the team, but all that is meaningless if it’s filled with clichéd, boring, dry verbage. Landing an overseas teaching position is not just about SAYING you’re creative, flexible, adaptive and a good fit. You need to show it!

The 4-Part Cover Letter

Part 1:  Introduce yourself, succinctly . Save the juicy, interesting tidbits for Part 3. State the position for which you are applying plus the date on which you are first available to fill it.
Part 2:  Match your professional/educational experiences with the stated job requirements.
Part 3:  Highlight some personal information about yourself and how you will “fit” into the school’s overall atmosphere. Illustrate how you will be an asset to the school beyond merely filling the position.
Part 4:  Express excitement about the position. Encourage the reader to review/critique your resume.

Your challenge:  Get creative! Step out of the confines of the typical, uninspired cover letter. Mix in some personality. Choose words that fulfill the basics requirements, while at the same time illustrating your unique personality. Show a Director that beyond qualifications, buttons and badges, you’re the best fit for the job. 

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What’s Hiding in International School Websites?

November 1, 2018

At ISR, we spend considerable time reading School Reviews and looking at corresponding school websites to verify certain information.  After viewing thousands of school websites, we’ve concluded that schools with multiple poor Reviews on ISR have websites that share similar characteristics. As we head into recruiting season, we thought now would be the perfect time to share what we’ve learned:


Under Construction, 404 Pages, No Website at All!
An International School with a poorly functioning website is unacceptable and shows a distinct lack of investment in technology, an antiquated business model and/or an inability to keep pace with the modern world. A poorly functioning, or non-existent website can signal low transparency and a purposeful lack of communication with the school community at large. ISR advises you to proceed with caution.

English-Version Website Non-Existent
Schools catering to an International community should, and must, have an English-version website. Lack of one suggests a school that caters to locals only and lacks an International/diverse population.

Welcome letter not signed by Director. No Staff Directory
Websites lacking a personalized Director/Principal welcome letter should send up a red flag. Be wary of school sites with generic welcome letters or mission statements signed with, simply, “School Principal.”  These schools are frequently represented on ISR by School Reviews that tell of excessive staff/admin turn-over.  

Well-established, well-run schools not only display a photo of the person in charge, a brief run-down of their qualifications, and a signed letter, but also a directory of staff. Admittedly, some schools do not name their staff and/or admin team to protect their identity. As such, this may be a sign of anti-American or anti-European sentiment in the community. ISR recommends you exercise caution when considering schools without admin/staff transparency.

The Same Few Expat Kids Are All Over the Website
Alarms should be going off in your head when you spot the same few expat kids in multiple photos. Chances are the school is trying to look international when in reality it’s made up of a predominately local population. The few expat kids scattered throughout the website are usually the children of the international teaching staff. On the other hand, if you are looking to teach in a school that caters to mostly host nationals, this could be a good sign.

Facilities and Canned Photos Galore
School websites with lots of cropped photos of facilities and stock close-ups of individual kids may have something to hide. Teachers often review such schools by saying they have unfinished construction, unopened sections of the campus, issues with student population, run-down facilities, poorly constructed buildings and/or a non-international student body.

Accreditation Badges Missing
Last but not least is an item we think of as a Yellow Flag. If you see a school website without Accreditation badges, or that does not mention the agency that accredited the school, it’s an indicator further research is needed on your part. Lack of Accreditation badges can mean the school lost its Accreditation for failure to meet standards. In such cases, Reviews of the school usually reflect this point. Many never-accredited schools do, however, receive perfectly fine Reviews.

As always, we remind you:

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