Coping w/ Negative Colleagues

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

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


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

..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.

Sincerely,

Duped big time

Teachers with Foreign Accents Need Not Apply!

“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!

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.

Dos & Don’ts of Successful International School Directors

Dos: The role of an international school Director requires unique and varied personal  and professional attributes. To define these, The Academy of International School Heads (AISH) offers agreed upon Standards of Excellence for the successful international school Director. These encompass 10 qualities such as: “Inspires faculty and staff to the highest expectations” and “Continuously refreshes professional skills and knowledge.” The expectations are high! How does your school Director compare with the Standards of Excellence?  Blog this topic.

Don’ts: Some of the Worst Mistakes School Heads Make is an AISH offering that considers Director traits from the opposite perspective by outlining actions and attitudes school Directors should avoid. Failing to ask for help and Being afraid to say ‘I do not know’ head up the list. Blog this topic.

PLEASE DO NOT NAME INDIVIDUALS ON THIS BLOG. If you would like to post a  School Review or Director Report Card on ISR click here.

Schools Can Change

Is your heart set on teaching at a particular international school but poor reviews have put you off? Despair not!

Most international teachers agree that schools assume an atmosphere and ambiance reflective of the leadership qualities of the man or woman at the top. Schools can change,  and usually do as a result of a quality director. A change at the top can make all the difference.

If reviews of your selected school were poor the last time you went recruiting, check again. Schools can evolve into quality institutions or dissolve into disrepute. Change is not always  for the better—be sure to do your homework and gather all the information you can about a school before making a decision.

School leaders come and go, with change and improvement the usual result. How have you experienced changes that take place as the result of an incoming director? Share your experience

More Director Talk About ISR

Last week we listened in as school heads discussed ISR. Here’s more from that 2007 conversation, when the topic turned to seeking revenge for potentially being ‘hurt’ by negative reviews:

“Many teachers obviously support the notion of an anonymous forum whereby institutions and individuals are slandered and criticized. Being fair minded and rational there would surely be no objection to Heads circulating information (about teachers) along the lines of “don’t touch with a barge pole”, prior to recruitment fairs…”

“In fact, anonymous, vicious rumors do hurt us personally, however much we try to dismiss them…”

“My Lancastrian soul tells me to fire and let loose the legal dogs of war on both the teacher concerned (one who wrote a negative review) and the ISR site. Then again, my inclination is akin to Shakespeare’s where the legal profession is concerned: “First, let’s kill all the lawyers”, firstly because they will ultimately not be our salvation in this area – and secondly because, well, they are lawyers…”

—–comments from original article—–

This web site has been a constant concern for many of us and it is well known among the International Teaching Community

….what is certain (after a negative school review) is that there will follow dozens more entries to International Schools Review trashing the school and the head and talking of petty and despotic behavior, of the suppression of free speech, of vindictiveness, and their agony aunt, Dr. Spilchuk, will blazon this as yet another example of how we run our schools as private fiefdoms.

….aren’t we at risk of being just a tad hypocritical? (As directors, we have) strong demands for confidential references (i.e. unseen by the candidates) to be brutally honest (i.e. dish the dirt as the director sees it).  Isn’t that what the ISR reviews are doing, with the exception that we get to know what’s been written about us?

Suppression is rarely an effective response to criticism…

Our lives might be easier if the ISR site did not exist, and if we did not have some disaffected teachers who have a very jaundiced view of our schools and ourselves. But it does, and we do. We have to learn to live with reality, and to react in a way that demonstrates the inaccuracy of the vitriol posted. We also have to trust the good sense of the people we hope will come to work in our schools.

None of us know what drove him/her to write what they did. Definitely, we should look at all the details. And more importantly look at the root cause of the teacher’s behavior…is this simply one bad teacher or is there some kind of problem in the school system that is going to produce more disgruntled teachers?

We have all met teachers who openly lie in a negative way about a school, but in my experience there has always been a good reason (whether acceptable or not).

(We’ve) been examining this website situation for a while and I suspect each of us shares the concern….there can’t be a single head who has not, in pushing their school forward, made enemies. In the end, we can anticipate derogatory garbage about each of us to be posted for public consumption.  I guess we get paid to have the skin of a rhino, but, despite their hides, rhinos are endangered species.

I had the immediate instant reaction (to a negative review) to take revenge!  However, I did take some time to think about it and rather than take direct action I asked some staff to look at the comments and decide what they would do. Some staff posted supportive comments and the issue did fade away….

I believe it is in a school’s best interest to ensure staff know about these sites (such as ISR), look at comments about their own school (if there are any), and make their own posts. The majority of comments currently posted are negative, so it is in our interest to encourage more balanced contributions. We ignore this site at our peril and maybe they could be useful to us.

I think the response to incidents (of poor reviews) does need to be quite measured and does need to take into account the possibility that the comment has some truth and that you need to have at look at what caused it (god forbid).

The issue is much broader than occasionally defamatory teachers on a scurrilous website.  At the heart of this issue is a need for a shared set of professional ethics for international educators.

Do we fight each case (of negative reviews) to the death… thereby chancing assault from our respective communities as silencers of dissent?

….I would try to be alert to the grain of truth sometimes hidden in such messages (of negative reviews). Reflection never hurts, I believe….

If people choose not to go to a school because of an opinion they read on a website, first they have not likely done their homework on the school and second, do we really want them working for us? Not me.

Until today, I had never actually read any of the comments on the International Schools Review website. I have interviewed candidates that have mentioned they were concerned about things they read on the site…. If most of the negative reviews are written with the same venomous, ranting style that I read today, I might question the teacher, especially a seasoned one, that takes it to heart. It seems akin to trusting someone who thinks the National Enquirer gives the real story. Of course, when the day comes that my name and school are slandered there, I may be little less calm and rational about it.

I would take no contractual action against anyone for anything written on International Schools Review since any action would be hard to defend because of anonymity on the site; and since not continuing with a “contractual agreement” with a specific teacher without proof of misbehavior is very hard to defend to the faculty at large.

….I would try to disable the International Schools Review by flooding it with positive write ups…everyday by numerous people.  However, what I have found is that International Schools Review is very selective about what they post…they don’t post all positive comments but they do post negative ones. Interesting!

…. an anonymous contribution does not equate to publicly ‘trashing’ the school and its leaders.

We are giving credence to International School Review.com whenever we even acknowledge its existence because of an anonymous contribution to ISR.  My suggestion is to ignore the comments….

Can we limit US Constitutionally guaranteed free speech in our contract clauses (without) damaging the reputation of the school?

The issue of this “organization” and the vile information that is posted anonymously is a major concern for some of us. I only hope that there is something that we are able to do to stop this from happening but I am not very confident that it can be done. It may be that we should gather some of our supportive teachers, pay for their membership, and have them write very positive “reviews” of our schools to balance those that are less than complimentary. This may be an expense that we don’t want but….Although this may be seen as a “back door” effort and would need to be conducted on the Q.T. and done gradually it would be much easier than bringing more light to this group of rather nasty and mean spirited people. I also think that any public battle would be just what they want, free publicity. Their defense would be simple—the big bad school administrators are, once again, being mean to the poor defenseless teachers….

Add YOUR Comments Below


Listen in as heads of international schools discussed the ISR site in 2007.

This web site has been a constant concern for many of us and it is well known among the

international teaching community.

….what is certain (After a negative school review) is that there will follow dozens more entries to International Schools Review trashing the school and the head and talking of petty and despotic behavior, of the suppression of free speech, of vindictiveness, and their agony aunt, Dr Spilchuk, will blazon this as yet another example of how we run our schools as private fiefdoms.

….aren’t we at risk of being just a tad hypocritical? (As directors, we have) strong demands for confidential references (i.e. unseen by the candidates) to be brutally honest (i.e, dish the dirt as the director sees it).  Isn’t that what the ISR reviews are doing, with the exception that we get to know what’s been written about us?

Suppression is rarely an effective response to criticism…

Our lives might be easier if the ISR site did not exist, and if we did not have some

disaffected teachers who have a very jaundiced view of our schools and ourselves. But it

does, and we do. We have to learn to live with reality, and to react in a way that demonstrates the inaccuracy of the vitriol posted. We also have to trust the good sense of the people we hope will come to work in our schools.

None of us know what drove him/her to write what they did. Definitely, we should look at all the details. And more importantly look at the root cause of the teacher’s behavior…is this simply one bad teacher or is there some kind of problem in the school system that is going to produce more disgruntled teachers?

We have all met teachers who openly lie in a negative way about a school, but in my experience there has always been a good reason (whether acceptable or not).

(We’ve) been examining this website situation for a while and I suspect each of us shares the concern….there can’t be a single head who has not, in pushing their school forward, made enemies. In the end, we can anticipate derogatory garbage about each of us to be posted for public consumption.  I guess we get paid to have the skin of a rhino, but, despite their hides, rhinos are endangered species.

I had the immediate instant reaction (to a negative review) to take revenge!  However, I did take some time to think about it and rather than take direct action I asked some staff to look at the comments and decide what they would do. Some staff posted supportive comments and the issue did fade away….

I believe it is in a school’s best interest to ensure staff know about these sites (such as ISR), look at comments about their own school (if there are any), and make their own posts. The majority of comments currently posted are negative, so it is in our interest to encourage more balanced contributions. We ignore this site at our peril and maybe they could be useful to us.

I think the response to incidents (of poor reviews) does need to be quite measured and does need to take into account the possibility that the comment has some truth and that you need to have at look at what caused it (god forbid).

The issue is much broader than occasionally defamatory teachers on a scurrilous website.

At the heart of this issue is a need for a shared set of professional ethics for international

educators.

Do we fight each case (of a negative reviews) to the death… thereby chancing assault from our respective communities as silencers of dissent?

….I would try to be alert to the grain of truth sometimes hidden in such messages (of negative reviews). Reflection never hurts, I believe….

If people choose not to go to a school because of an opinion they read on a website, first

they have not likely done their homework on the school and second, do we really want

them working for us? Not me.

Until today, I had never actually read any of the comments on the International Schools

Review website. I have interviewed candidates that have mentioned they were

concerned about things they read on the site…. If most of the negative reviews are

written with the same venomous, ranting style that I read today, I might question the

teacher, especially a seasoned one, that takes it to heart. It seems akin to trusting someone

who thinks the National Enquirer gives the real story. Of course, when the day comes that

my name and school are slandered there, I may be little less calm and rational about it

I would take no contractual action against anyone for anything written on International

Schools Review since any action would be hard to defend because of anonymity on the site; and since not continuing with a “contractual agreement” with a specific teacher without proof of misbehavior is very hard to defend to the faculty at large.

….I would try to disable the International Schools Review by flooding it with positive

write ups…everyday by numerous people. However, what I have found is that International

Schools Review is very selective about what they post…they don’t post all positive comments but they do post negative ones. Interesting!

…. an anonymous contribution does not equate to publicly ‘trashing’ the school and its leaders.

We are giving credence to the International School Review whenever we even acknowledge its existence because of an anonymous contribution to ISR.  My suggestion is to ignore the comments….

Can we limit (US Constitutionally guaranteed) free speech in our contract clauses (without) damaging the reputation of the school?

The issue of this “organization” and the vile information that is posted anonymously is a

major concern for some of us. I only hope that there is something that we are able to do to

stop this from happening but I am not very confident that it can be done. It may be that we

should gather some of our supportive teachers, pay for their membership, and have them

write very positive “reviews” of our schools to balance those that are less than complimentary. This may be an expense that we don’t want but….Although this may be seen as a “back door” effort and would need to be conducted on the Q.T. and done gradually it would be much easier than bringing more light to this group of rather nasty and mean spirited people. I also think that any public battle would be just what they want, free publicity. Their defense would be simple—the big bad school administrators are, once again, being mean to the poor defenseless teachers….

Directors Who Badmouth Teachers

Badmouthing can take many forms and what is not said about you to a prospective school can be just as detrimental as a negative comment. Speaking in a flat, dull tone or making remarks that hint at a less than stellar performance can paint a negative picture of you. “I’d rather not comment” could be the most damaging obstacle to your chances of landing a new teaching position. You can do something to stop a badmouther.  Read Complete Article