Coping w/ Negative Colleagues

May 10, 2018

Negativity from others is something you may experience in all walks of life, but how does one deal with negativity when it’s pervasive in a close-knit International School community?

I’m not at a particularly great International School, I’ll say that much. It’s a third-tier school but I make it work and I am happy here. The admin, however, has been making major changes which, (we’re told) will be positive in the long-run. But I feel the constant upheaval in the short-term is creating some issues, causing some teachers to develop a negative attitude. Most of those issues have to do with the admin implementing the changes all at once.

My problem is that there’s far too much negativity because of this happening. Normally I’m an optimistic, upbeat person, content to simply do my best in my classroom, contribute through extra-curricular activities & go about my workday as well as I can. However, the negative attitude by a group of teachers has really been getting to me lately. It’s impossible to ignore or to remain uninvolved.

I can feel a negative mind-set creeping in. How do seasoned teachers cope with negative colleagues that bring you down?

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The Relevancy of School Boards

March 22, 2018

I’ve experienced two distinctly different types of School Boards during my career overseas:

1) In-Name-Only Boards:  This species of School Board is common in schools owned by wealthy, host nationals who have the clout to destroy the reputation of Board members, all of whom are host nationals themselves. Powerless to do much beyond planning bake sales and the “International Fair,” this Board exists in name only. In parts of the world where prestige is more important than substance, adding a footnote to your business card that says “School Board Member” is what matters most.

2)  Rulers of the Galaxy:  At the other end of the School Board spectrum are Boards with real power. These Boards interview/hire/fire admin and teachers, make and enforce policy and may even determine curriculum. They are at the helm. They run the school. Teachers and admin follow their orders. There’s a certain amount of prestige associated with being on such a Board, usually composed of a representative from an embassy, a former graduate, and the wives of prominent expat business men with children attending the school.

Which Board is best?

Rulers of the Galaxy Boards can be efficient and exemplary, depending, of course, on Board members’ individual agendas and experience with education. If you get the right combination of people working together, an International School can become a model for International Education. It could be, however, quite the opposite. A Rulers Board may be nothing but meddlesome, misinformed, detrimental to progress and made up of one or more members with personal agendas to exercise. If you get one of these Board member’s kids in your class and the child does poorly…watch out!!

In-Name-Only Boards can mean less overall stress because no one is keeping close tabs on you, but they can also mean a less than stellar addition to your resume if everyone simply cruised through the year under an owner focused on profit at the expense of education. For a true patriot of world-class education, this dismissal of quality standards of education could provide its own type of stress.

ISR Asks:  What has been your experience with School Boards overseas? Are School Boards relevant in International Schools when Board members may have no background in the field of education? Are you more willing to deal with the stress of rules, regulations and potential dismissal and/or discipline by a School Board? Or would the stress of working for a school with all power at the top be more stress in the long run?

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Questionable Professional Behavior

November 9, 2017


Dear ISR, A topic I have yet to see addressed on ISR is that of questionable professional behavior. In my experience, some lower-tier international schools allow teachers to behave with impunity. One such school in Myanmar is notorious for the negative behavior of its teachers. They get drunk in public, cuss and diss each other and the locals, and in general show a complete lack of cultural sensitivity.

The staff (from the school in question) talk about the deranged behavior of one of their teachers who screams and yells at colleagues in front of students. Recently, a respected math teacher at this school was physically assaulted by another male teacher who was jealous and clearly has psychiatric issues.

The rest of us (living in this close community of schools) cannot believe how teachers from our neighboring school conduct themselves in public, nor that the 2 individuals with extreme behaviors are still teaching with, apparently, no repercussions!

Offences such as drunkenness, belligerence, blatant cultural insensitivity and/or aggressive behavior toward staff and teachers should result in instant firing. How far do/should directors allow teachers to go in breaking codes of professional behavior? And, what can colleagues do, apart from quitting, such toxic places?

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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


Teachers with Foreign Accents Need Not Apply!

May 5, 2011

“I never, in my wildest imagination, thought my slight foreign accent would create a problem for me. That is, until I interviewed with a school that liked me very much but had to re-think offering me a job because of my accent. Yes! That is exactly what I was told after the interview by the assistant principal! Of course, I was very disappointed and a bit offended.

I am a European-American who has been living in the US for the last 15 years. I finished my B.S. & Master’s degree in the US and have been looking for counseling jobs in international schools since October of 2010. I am a US certified school counselor with several years of counseling experience in US public schools.

After all, I am applying for jobs in international schools. How can a slight foreign accent be a problem when it has never been a problem in my professional or personal life while in the US? To make a long story short, I did have a number of interviews in Boston and via Skype, but no job offers. I cannot help but speculate that indeed, my slight accent is keeping me from getting a job in a so-called “international” school.

I would really like to hear from veteran international teachers regarding my situation. I refuse to give up pursuing an international career just because I have an accent. I am not looking to be a Reading or English teacher, but a counselor.

Thanks for your insight!”


I’m Ready to Run!

April 7, 2011

I’ve been at this school since late September and hate it. It’s completely unprofessional from the intimidating, top-down admin, to the parents and students who think I’m just another form of servant. The director is really just a puppet of the parents and he always sides with the paying customers. There are no consequences here for cheating, copying or anything!

Outside school, the city itself lacks cultural activities or interest, and people with a few dollars in their pocket are rude and pushy, believing their money buys them this right. As a single women, I have come to dread being out on the streets, even with a male colleague,  as men make incredibly crude comments. Being here is like being in hell.

I read the ISR reviews and thought the teachers on your web site were just a bunch of  whining, moaning complainers. As it turns out, they were telling the actual truth. Naturally, the school director represented the school and location to me in an entirely different light.

I’m so torn about what to do. At the forefront of my thinking is the idea to get on a plane this weekend and fly out. This may have a bad effect on my future as an international educator but this place and these kids are are not worth sacrificing any more of my life for.

If you would be so kind as to post my comments on your web site it would really help me to hear what experienced overseas teachers have to say about my situation. I need to keep my present location under wraps at this time. I hope you understand.