I was an International Schools Recruiter – The Industry is Racist

June 25, 2020


For some time, I was a placement consultant at an American recruitment agency for international schools, mainly in China. The anti-Black racism that I was complicit in and benefited from while working there is something I’m ashamed of; more shameful would be not speaking out so that others can understand how this industry wo
rks from the inside, the practices that are commonplace, so that we can begin to dismantle it. The individuals I worked alongside were largely well-meaning white people. However, I hope to explain here the practices that made my former employer complicit in racism and discrimination, and by shining a light on the industry, I hope to encourage recruitment agencies to do better and work for change.

At my former employer, the majority of placement consultants were young twenty-somethings, mostly white. We each started out making a small salary that wasn’t enough to live on in our city, but were given a commission for every person we placed in a school. Once you had made a certain amount of money for the company, you were moved up a level as a placement consultant, which led you to make a higher commission.

Recruitment agencies are complicit participants in the racism in the teach-abroad industry, and it’s time to do something about it.


The company was paid a percentage of the salary of the hired teacher, which would motivate placement consultants to spend more time working with teachers who would make more money. We were actively encouraged
not to ‘waste our time’ working with candidates for whom it would be difficult to find a job. A principal position at a large international school in a major city would bring in more money for the company than a placement at an English-language training center, which are the types of schools where you could typically place Black candidates. Even there, Black candidates would be offered jobs less often than their white counterparts, and would make less money.

Schools are significantly more likely to hire white or light-skinned candidates. Many schools will reject any Black candidates they receive.

A quick detour to lay some groundwork on how we worked with each candidate:  first, we would receive their resume, which was randomly assigned to a placement consultant. Each individual consultant would review it and decide to either reach out to them or not. If we wanted to work with them, we would interview them and then send them some positions we felt they’d be qualified for. If they were interested we’d apply on their behalf by passing their information to the colleague who managed the relationship with that school, who would further vet the candidate by reviewing their information and then either passing them on to the school or deciding not to. We had agreements with all of the schools we worked with and they were able to specify what they were looking for in a candidate. They were allowed to tell us they would not consider Black candidates. They were also allowed to change their minds — if they told us they were no longer considering Black candidates, we would stop sending them.

Internally, we were made to refer to candidates as either Level 1 or Level 2. Level 1 candidates were white or light-skinned. Level 2 candidates were Black or Asian. In the recruitment system we used to track candidates and schools, each candidate had to be labeled as Level 1 or 2, and each school was labeled as either accepting Level 2 candidates or not accepting Level 2 candidates.

Often, the internal employees who managed relationships with the schools would impose a limit on sending Black or Asian candidates for a position. I would receive responses along the lines of, “Sorry, I’ve already sent a few Level 2 candidates for this one and want to send some Level 1s now.” It was treated as if all Black candidates were the same. The thought was that the schools would be displeased if we sent them too many Black candidates, no matter their qualifications, even if they would technically consider them. And so, in order to preserve the relationship with the school over the success of our candidates and the Black teachers we worked with, we did not. Within the company, we were gatekeepers, barring qualified candidates of any opportunity to interview with a school.

It was especially difficult for Black South Africans. Despite their status as native English language speakers (often bi- or tri-lingual), schools were heavily prejudiced against hiring them. One of my supervisors told me that if the person had a ‘tribal-sounding name’ they would be harder to place and we should consider not working with them, as it would be a ‘waste of time.’

Multiple times, I would have two South African applicants together — friends who had met at school, usually, and wanted to teach abroad. One would be white and the other, Black. They’d have the same qualifications and same amount of experience. The white teacher would typically be given an interview and an offer within 2–3 weeks. Her Black counterpart would be passed up time and again, either by those within our company or by the school itself.

I could typically place a white candidate at any level within a few weeks. There were many times I worked with Black candidates for months, sending them to every school who would consider them and some who would not, and raked in rejections in the dozens. Most of the time, I was able to ultimately place them, but it was often not for the salary or at the level they deserved. It usually took months and tenacity on the part of the candidate not to stop applying for jobs and interviewing. It was incredibly disheartening. Myself and many of my fellow placement consultants worked tirelessly to get our Black candidates hired, but were actively discouraged by management from spending this much time on a single candidate, especially on a Black candidate. We were often told to just cut ties. At the end of the day, our time affected the bottom line because of the commission-based model of the company.

Recruitment companies benefit directly from the racist hiring practices of these schools. Just before I quit my job, we were advised internally to no longer work with Black South Africans at all, as schools were rarely hiring them at that point. There was no attempt to push back at these hiring practices. Management was beholden to earnings and success. There was a focus on how we could save our own skin, how we could use our own time to make more money. There was no discussion about cutting ties with schools that racially discriminated throughout the entire time I was there.

Recruitment companies benefit directly from the racist hiring practices of these schools. They have no incentive to change, and have monetary incentive to institute racist practices of their own.

What comes next, I don’t know. Change needs to happen at many levels. But it can start with the individual, with hiring managers, placement consultants, and recruitment companies refusing to go along with and benefit from discriminatory practices. If you aren’t actively working against discrimination, you’re complicit in it. Your money is dirty. Your success has come at the expense of qualified Black teachers and administrators around the world who were not given a chance, of students who, year after year, learn only from white teachers, many of whom are less qualified than Black applicants who were passed up for the job. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to the racism you perpetuate. It’s time to fight against it.

Note: I originally planned on writing and posting this with my name as well as the name of the company attached. I don’t think we’re in a place now nationally in the U.S. or globally to be hiding people’s bad deeds for the sake of their privacy and comfort. This being said, I could not open myself up to any potential legal action that my former employer could have taken against me by attaching either my name or their name to this. Further, while these practices are common at my particular former company, I’m certain they’re in place at others as well. No one should be off the hook. The focus shouldn’t be on one company: let’s focus on them all.

Sincerely,

Anonymous Ex-Recruiter

(This Article was condensed and reproduced with permission from the author, Anonymous Ex-Recruiter)

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Has America Become TOO Dangerous for Me?

August 15, 2019

Dear Team ISR,

I’ve been struggling with the idea of accepting a position at a French International School in the United States of America. What’s stopping me? I’m afraid America has become far too dangerous.

I attended university in America and cherish the opportunity to return. However, following the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, which brings the total number of such incidents in America up to 255 this year (by August 5th), I’m thinking that returning to America could be a fatal mistake, especially for a foreigner woman of color, like me.

When I think about the tragic school shootings at Sandy Hook, Parkland and Charlotte (to name a few), I know I would never feel truly safe at school. My friends say I must be crazy to even think about living in America these days. My parents point out that it appears the police have taken a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach when it comes to black folks in America. They emphasize they also see little consequences (if any) for police brutality against minorities. Add to that a renewed presence of the KKK along with their open support of the current American president, and life seems too treacherous in the U.S. right now.

Maybe I’m overthinking this! Maybe I’m overreacting! Perhaps I’ve fallen victim to sensationalist news reporting? I’ve seen incidents in other countries grossly misinterpreted as reported by news networks with “an agenda.” I sadly don’t think this is the case in America at this time.

If you would distribute my comments in your weekly newsletter and open up this topic to your readers, I would sincerely appreciate it. Hearing their perspective and advice would be of benefit to me and other educators of color who have America on their radar for an overseas teaching position.

My Best Regards to the staff at ISR,
Joan

PS. Thank you for your good work. Keep it up. So many of us depend on you!


Au Revoir America — International Educator of Color Says Goodbye

May 31, 2018

Belgium is my home of record. I’m bilingual, biliterate, Black, and currently teaching in a French International School in America. I’ll keep the whereabouts to myself.

I’ve been at the Académie for more than 5 years and my life as teacher has been great. It’s important to note that our tuition is at the $20,000 mark. This means our parents are educated, affluent, traveled and interested in seeing their children become fluent French/English speakers who are not just accepting of, but appreciative of diversity.

Outside school, life for me has become different from when I first got here. This is because I began to experience an uneasy feeling I hadn’t known before. These days, I see news-clips of vengeful policemen harassing black men and women for what has been called “the crime of walking or driving while black,” football players sanctioned for protesting police brutality towards Black people, White supremacists marching and chanting hate speech, racist politicians and a new president who if not encouraging discrimination, is doing nothing to stop it. Some religious leaders are even making disparaging remarks.

I personally haven’t had problems and maybe I won’t, but the fact I feel uncomfortable, uneasy and even unwelcome has prompted me to submit my resignation and return to Belgium at the end of the school year. Maybe I’m paranoid? Maybe I’m over reacting? When I see a barking dog, I cross the street. In this case I’ll be crossing the ocean.

I’m aware of International Schools across America that hire bilingual teachers from around the world to come and teach in their native language. I would very much like to know if other International Educators in America are experiencing the same feelings.

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ISR Private Messaging for Questions You Shouldn’t Ask at an Interview

February 15, 2018

private messaging iconYou’ve read the school Reviews. You’ve done your homework. Things look good…except for one lingering, personal concern about the school on your radar.

You could ask the school director at the conclusion of your interview, but questions of a very personal nature might taint a director’s otherwise positive opinion of you. Likewise, it’s probably not wise to confide in the school-appointed teacher who’s been selected to field candidates’ questions by email. After all, he/she was chosen for a ‘reason.’

When you don’t want to reveal more about yourself than you should, ISR’s Private Messaging Feature is the perfect alternativeHere’s a chance to connect with teachers who may have the answers, while maintaining complete anonymity.

Here’s How it Works: Log in as usual to the Member Area. Proceed to the Member Forum. Create an anonymous user name “on the fly” and introduce your topic. As other teachers join in you’ll see the option to Private message each individual. Click the PM icon and send a private message. That’s all there is to starting a secure, behind-the-scene conversation that only the two of you can see, all while remaining anonymous.

The ISR Member Forum with PM hosts thousands of topics covering any and all aspects of International Teaching. LGBTQ concerns, personal medical/medication needs, dating, being of color, and, of course, candid discussions about specific schools are just some of the topicas already in progress. You may be able to jump straight into Private Messaging with individuals already sharing information on topics of interest to you. GO to the ISR Member Forum

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Note: ISR hosts two distinctly different Forums:

1.) The Open Forum:  The Open Forum is located in the non-member area of ISR. It does not support Private Messaging, posting on certain topics or sharing school Review information.

2.) The Member Forum with PM:  The Member Forum with Private Messaging is located within the Member area of ISR. It was specifically created so teachers could ask and share information on any and all topics in a secure environment. GO to the ISR Member Forum

Don’t Leave Your Career to Chance. International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what International Schools Review is All About!

GO to the ISR Member Forum

 

 

 


International Teachers of Color in The Wall Street Journal

August 18, 2016

hands247206A recent Article in The Wall Street Journal, “Wow, I’m the Only Black Person Here,” interviewed educators of color working in International Schools. One educator reported she applied for a job at an International School in Colombia and was told the school was worried what parents would think about employing a black teacher. Another recruiter in Egypt told her, “It could be difficult as a black woman to come to the school.” When contacted by The Wall Street Journal, several International School recruiting agencies didn’t respond to inquiries about the racial makeup of International teachers or said they did not collect racial statistics.

ISR is pleased to say that The Wall Street Journal’s article sites an International Schools Review Article/Blog titled, Teachers of Color Overseas. First published in 2009, Teachers of Color Overseas hosts 189 posts by teachers exchanging information on this important topic. Unfortunately, from our perspective, it appears not much has changed since 2009. In fact, it is looking like not much has changed in America since 1960. We invite you to revisit this timely topic.

Go to Teacher of Color Overseas / Blog


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!”


Teachers of Color Overseas

November 19, 2009

International Schools teach diversity but are minority teachers well-accepted  in the International teaching arena? Do non-Caucasians find it more difficult to enter the profession? Are minority teachers treated differently by parents and students? It has been reported that some schools are just looking for a “white” face to sell the image of an American education.  The following excerpts are from ISR readers:

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“I am an African-American female interested in teaching abroad. I am also in an interracial marriage to a non-teaching spouse who will be coming with me. We are hoping administrators can look beyond my race and focus on my credentials.”

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“I have experience in China & Japan–many people in these countries are terribly racist. I have a mixed-race child and people haven’t always been kind to her.”

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“Here in Kuwait people literally point at you when you are overweight, black or in any way look different from them.”

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“As a Mexican-American I felt I was overlooked for the position, and not because of my qualifications.”

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We invite International Teachers to shed light on this topic, share experiences, ask questions and offer advice.