Has ISR Helped You Make a Wise Decision?

stop-think-act44641327Letters from International Schools Review members telling us how we helped them avoid a “landmine-school” enforces our belief that we’re helping colleagues to make the best career moves. With more and more entrepreneurs creating for-profit, cash-cow schools, and employing Westerners to help complete the artificial image, it’s ever more important to be vigilant in vetting a school before making a commitment.

ISR makes the same strong, school-vetting recommendations every year. And then, about three months into the academic year, we begin getting emails saying, “I wish I would have read the Reviews before I came here!”

A teacher recently wrote to tell ISR she would have made a tragic error had she signed with a school, a school the Director was touting as being on the ‘cutting edge of educational practices’. ISReviews, to the contrary, painted an accurate picture of every classroom, across all grade levels, teaching in lock-step from a textbook–a photocopied, ancient textbook, at that!

Last week we heard from teacher who told us he attended a school’s presentation at the recruiting fair and was immensely impressed with the school’s size, architectural presence and resources. Consulting ISR he discovered the photos were of a local university that rents a small wing of one building to a local enterprise that call this space an ‘International School’.  He passed on the offer.

ISReviews are rife with reports of schools that don’t make their payroll, or don’t procure work visas for  teachers, who then find themselves working illegally in a country where they could be jailed if discovered. Worse yet are those that switch-up contracts upon a teacher’s arrival, withdraw health benefits and/or suddenly expect teachers to share housing. The list goes on and on.

There are a great many schools around the world that fulfill our expectations of what the international teaching experience should be. But, as with every industry, there are imposters with financially-oriented motives who masquerade as the real thing, waiting to ensnare the uninformed. International Schools Review hopes our efforts will spare you that experience.

Has ISR helped you avoid a landmine? Has ISR helped you step into a rewarding International teaching situation? We invite you to share your experiences!

Arrest of India’s U.S. Deputy Consul Brings Repercussions for American Teachers in India

police29853509Americans teaching in India’s International schools may soon feel strong repercussions from the arrest, strip search and jailing of India’s Deputy Consul General, Devyani Khobragade, by New York police. Mrs. Khobragade has been charged with creating false documents, falsifying a visa application and mistreating her domestic servant. She claimed to be paying her Indian maid $4200 monthly when in fact she was paying her $3.31 an hour.

The Indian government claims the manner in which the arrest was carried out is inhumane and barbaric. In response, they have revoked all diplomatic privileges for American Embassy personnel and removed protective barriers protecting the U.S. embassy. The Indian government says it will now examine what the American Embassy pays its Indian help and how much domestic help is paid by U.S. government Diplomats. It was also announced that India plans to review the salaries, bank accounts and tax status of all American teachers working in International Schools throughout the country.

In response to India’s claims of mistreatment, the U.S. Attorney’s office concurs that the diplomat was “fully searched by a female Deputy Marshal — in a private setting” It was further clarified that the search is “standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not, in order to make sure that no prisoner keeps anything on his person that could harm anyone, including himself.”

The attorney’s office reports that agents arrested Mrs. Khobragade in the most discreet way possible, and unlike most defendants she was not handcuffed. The office maintains the diplomat was extended courtesies that go well beyond what others receive, such as allowing her to sit in a squad car and use her cell phone to arrange for child care for her children. They claim to have even delivered coffee to her. A New York based organization, Safe Horizon, representing the maid, has disclosed that she is in the U.S. under ‘Continued Presence’, a temporary immigration status for victims of human trafficking.

Indian diplomats seem most incensed by the strip search procedure. In retaliation, one angry diplomat has called for the revocation of visas issued to the LGBT partners of American embassy employees, followed by a jail sentence for being in contempt of Indian law.

It appears both countries have, up-to-now, followed a policy of turning a blind eye to each others’ practices. The arrest of Deputy Council Khobragade has obviously severed that unspoken agreement.

Comments? How will this incident affect recruiting?
Please Scroll Down to Post

Philippines School Information Exchange

typhoon12116309Many International Educators are searching for information on the status of colleagues who were teaching in the Philippines when typhoon Yolanda hit. Additionally, teachers who have been recruited to teach in the Philippines in the upcoming school year have questions about the future of their  schools.

Focusing on the possible loss of a job is certainly trivial when compared to the magnitude of the catastrophic events that took place in the Philippines. ISR in no manner means to diminish in any way the tragedy that took place, however, for teachers whose livelihood is their job, this is a topic that merits attention.

To ask questions and share information with colleagues on all topics related to the Philippines Typhoon incident,  please scroll down to post.

Click here to visit web site of
International School Manilla, Philippines,
and contribute to their relief efforts

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When Safety Comes First

danger-2-50398103..When I lived in Guatemala City, military helicopters landed on my street one afternoon. On another day, two cops were shot dead just down the block from my house. In October, students protested for a week by firebombing buses, causing businesses to shut-down. When things got really bad, the embassy evacuated and that was my signal to leave the capital. I headed for the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, Livingston. Surprisingly, people in Livingston had no idea anything of consequence was happening in the capital.

..In Pakistan, I learned a friend who lived in Karachi never went grocery shopping without a school-supplied bodyguard. In Lahore where I lived, it was the opposite. Things were calm around the clock. At least until 9/11, and even then I felt no impending threat.

I think we’ll all agree that just because one area of a country goes off-kilter, it’s more than likely other areas will be safe and sane, at least relatively so. Were travel advisories issued for the whole of California during the Los Angeles riots?

ISR readers recently wrote:

I’m wondering about safety. Not petty crime (which you can find in any large city in one form or another), but safety as in “you have an actual chance of getting killed”. I suppose with the recent events such as those in Kenya and Nigeria it is important to evaluate this. So, off the top of your head, what are some places international teachers should probably avoid due to safety?

Keep in mind that I’m talking about “you might get killed” safety, and not “you might get mugged” safety, which happens in my hometown in the US all the time.

Is Egypt safe? What about countries like Bahrain? Bangladesh? Which countries in Middle East can be dubbed as “safe”? Which African nations are safe? What about Asia? Latin America?

..It could be possible for an entire country to be unsafe for foreigners, but I’ve yet to visit one. Before relocating to Kinshasa in the D. R. Congo, friends and family conjured up visions of Rwanda. Everyone warned me of the dangers to which I would be subjecting myself. Kinshasa turned out to be a wonderful experience, except for the school director, but that’s a different story.

..Given that entire countries or continents don’t normally drop into chaos, we invite ISR readers to take advantage of our When Safety Comes First Blog to ask questions and share information related to safety at various International School locations around the globe. Stay safe!

International Educators Keeping Each Other
Informed is what ISR is All About!

Qatar Academy Teacher Jailed Over Alleged Insults to Islam

Doha News  reports on May 9, 2013:

“Dorje Gurung, a chemistry teacher at Qatar Academy, was seen this morning leaving the court in handcuffs. If convicted, Article 256 of the Penal Code dictates that he could face up to seven years in jail.

“On Monday, April 22, Gurung said he had a sit-down chat with three 12-year-old boys who were making fun of him. Among other things, the seventh graders poked fun at his appearance, calling him ‘Jackie Chan.’ On Tuesday, April 23, the mocking again began in earnest while Gurung was in line for lunch. At first, he said the teasing was light-hearted, but then one student put his hand on Gurung’s shoulder and a finger up his nose. At this point, Gurung grew agitated and said remarks to the effect of ‘How would you like to be stereotyped i.e. called a terrorist?'”

The Qatar Academy confirms that after formal complaints were made ‘appropriate’ action was taken. Doha News reports: “On Wednesday, April 24, Gurung had a meeting with school management. On Thursday, April 25, he submitted his account of what happened and was told to go home. On Sunday, April 28, he was fired.”

A Qatar Academy colleague, who asked to remain anonymous, told Doha News that the ordeal has had a ‘chilling effect’ on faculty members:

“A lot of teachers are very nervous about their own jobs. If they reprimand or discipline students, what’s going to happen to them?

“It’s all very unfortunate. These 12-year-olds have really spun it out. Almost every year, a teacher has been let go for obscure reasons. Everyone is really upset and anxious.”


See ISR’s Letter to Eric Sands (Director of Qatar Academy)

Scroll Down to Share Thoughts  & Comments

Sign the Petition to Release Dorje Gurung

What’s It Really Like to Live Here?

What’s It Really Like to Live In The Middle East

mosque Whether you hope to explore the ancient city of Petra or rock the night life of Tel Aviv, we’d love to hear what you have to say about living in The Middle East.

Do YOU have comments & insights to share  with colleagues regarding the pleasures & challenges of life in The Middle East? Please do! International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about!

Share your thoughts with colleagues:
• What is the BEST & the WORST of living in The MIddle East?
• Do you recommend living in The M.E. or are you counting the days?

What’s It Really Like to Live in The Middle East?
Scroll down to JOIN the Conversation!


See all the continents included in the
What’s it Really like to Live Here Series
Asia / Africa / the Americas / Europe / Middle East


What’s It Really Like to Live in The Americas?

americas6842230What’s It Really Like to Live in the AMERICAS? expands  the conversation to the continents of the Americas. Do you live in North, Central or South AMERICA?

Do YOU have comments & insights to share with colleagues regarding the pleasures & challenges of life in the Americas? Please do! International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about!

• What is the BEST & the WORST of living in the AMERICAS?
• Do you recommend living in the AMERICAS or are you counting the days?

What’s It Really Like to Live in the AMERICAS? JOIN the Conversation HERE!


See all the continents included in the
What’s it Really like to Live Here Series
Asia / Africa / The Americas /Europe / Middle East



What’s It Really Like to Live in EUROPE?

europe_13741541What’s It Really Like to Live in EUROPE? expands the conversation to the European continent Do you have comments/insights/tips to share with colleagues regarding the pleasures & challenges of life in EUROPE? Please do! TELL us your thoughts: International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about!

What is the BEST & the WORST of living in EUROPE?
Do you recommend living in EUROPE or are you counting the days?

What’s It Really Like to Live in EUROPE? JOIN the Conversation HERE!


See all the continents included in the
What’s it Really like to Live Here Series
Asia / Africa / the Americas / Europe /
Middle East


What’s It Really Like to Live in Asia?


What’s It Really Like to Live in ASIA? expands the conversation to the continent of ASIA. Do you live in the Far East, southern or western Asian nations?

Do YOU Have comments & insights to share with colleagues regarding the pleasures & challenges of life in ASIA? Please do! International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about!

TELL us your thoughts:
• What is the BEST & the WORST of living in ASIA?
• Do you recommend living in ASIA OR are you counting the days

Scroll down to Join In the Conversation!


See all the continents included in the
What’s it Really like to Live Here Series
Asia / Africa / the  Americas /Europe / Middle East


What Is It Really Like to Live in Africa?


You’ve done your research & picked a school or locale for the main focus of your recruiting efforts. But, WAIT! You’re not just recruiting for a job, but, more importantly, for the overseas adventure of a lifetime! We know you want your social/cultural immersion/home life to be equally as rewarding & fulfilling as your in-school life. After all, as international educators we go overseas for a life-enriching experience, don’t we?

If you live & teach in an African country, we hope you’ll share with colleagues–What is it really like to live in your area?

TELL us your thoughts:
• What is the BEST & the WORST of living in Africa?

• Do you Recommend living in Africa
OR are you counting  the days?

Have a QUESTION about lifestyle in the nations of the African continent? ASK them here! There’s no substitute for candid, first-hand information from teachers in the city where you, too, may soon be living & working!

International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about! In the upcoming weeks ISR will explore the lifestyle of Asia, Latin America & Europe.

Scroll down to JOIN the Conversation!


See all the continents included in the
What’s it Really like to Live Here Series
Asia / Africa / the  Americas /Europe / Middle East


My Favorite International Teacher Blog

Blogging is now the preferred medium of International Educators for sharing overseas travel and teaching adventures with friends and family. With plenty of space for commentary, Blogs also provide ample room for photos, and even home-made video clips. Best of all, Blogs are designed for interaction between reader and Blog owner. Taking just minutes to set up a personal Blog, it’s small wonder Blogging has become so popular among international educators.

Blogs are actually more than a great way to share experiences with folks back home and can be of tremendous value to other International Teachers, especially those new to the international teaching adventure and looking for information. Reading about the experiences of overseas educators, particularly those in a region we may be considering for our next career move, helps immensely with the decision-making process.

International Teachers’ Blogs usually provide a first-hand look at what life is really like in various locations. A family Blog displaying a rewarding time for both parents and children can signal a family-friendly location. Photos strictly of fern and fauna may point to little available cultural activity. But, the real beauty of a Blog is that we can ask questions of the Blog owner, who can then personalize the information just for us.

We invite you to join us on My Favorite International Teacher Blog to share information about, and links to, Blogs of interest to International Educators.

What Was Your Ah-Ha Moment?

Hindsight is 20/20, and when you’re smack in the middle of a situation you may not realize that your present actions may open unforeseen doors in the future. You might not reap the fruits of your actions for years to come, and it may be only in retrospect that you put 2 & 2 together and say, “ah-ha”…it’s that which led to this. If only I had known back then.

Yes, we grow from our mistakes, or at least I’ve been told, but I think I’ve grown the most from realizations that took place in those few and far-between “ah-ha” moments. We’ve all had such moments as international educators, the moments when a light comes on and suddenly we’re wiser, more savvy and more worldly concerning our chosen career.

Have you had an “ah-ha” moment in regards to some aspect of your international teaching career that you would like to share with colleagues? We can all learn from each others’ experiences. We invite you to share your experiences and realizations..

A Pedestrian’s Tale from Kuwait

Although the author of this adventure has changed some facts to achieve what he calls “fictional accuracy,” he reports that the “hallucinations are real” in this fanciful narration of walking to work through the streets of Hawally, Kuwait. A tale by international teacher, Marty Rempel:

“…Moses had it easy with the Red Sea. Having the ability to part a sea is not actually a level playing field. Knowing full well I could not part the traffic and realizing the force is not with me, nor seldom is, I tentatively walked on the sidewalk parallel to the constant flow of TATA buses, scooters, trucks, taxis and foul smelling diesel engines…
…I was about to go for it, cross Tunis Street that is, when to my utter surprise, and partial satisfaction, my pants started to vibrate…”  Continue

Us and Them – A Redneck Muslim Teacher’s Perspective on Racism in International Schools

This article is part of an earlier Blog. We feature it here for your comment.

Let me begin by stating that I am a full-blooded Texan with redneck roots (not to say that I’m proud of that latter part of the description).  Despite that, I am a convert to Islam and fairly observant in my faith.  Outwardly, this is apparent in my groomed beard and head-covering in addition to the combination of my first name, which is Arabic, with my last name, which is from England.

I entered into teaching to make a contribution to my community. My first administrator in Texas public schools was African-American and, ironically, about the most bigoted person you can imagine. He had once made a comment that a district initiative, one that  people were grumbling about, was “Like Islam, out to get you.” He also had numerous grievances leveled against him with the union from other minorities and women.

I entered into teaching in international schools in the Middle East in hopes that I might work in a quality institution where I assumed employees and students would be more open to diversity. To some extent this has proven true. But generally I have found that, perhaps more than the host culture, expatriot parents at schools in the Middle East are racist, n0uveau-riche elitists whose extreme distaste for the places in which they live lead them to live lives in a bubble where they move compound, to work/school, to mega-mall, to compound. When they have to engage with locals or non-Western expats outside of these contexts, one never hears an end to the complaints. I actually heard a colleague in Qatar describe her shady Indian repair man as “having a very foreign look.” When I replied, “Aren’t 75% of us here foreigners?” she said with a look and tone that could freeze mercury, “You know what I mean.”

The fact of the matter is, despite mission statements that hope to “draw upon our diverse community” and “honor our status as guests in the host culture,” many expat parents want more from an American or British school than a quality education; they want to preserve the bubble, exemplified in many schools’ celebration of traditional Western holidays to the neglect or total avoidance of local ones important to their significant national student populations. My experience as a White American Muslim is that I represent an intrusion into that bubble. I read a post which commented about having every comment and action scrutinized. That is what has happened to me.

I have been accused of denying the holocaust, despite being proud of my grandfather that was at Normandy and a great-great grandfather who was an Orthodox Jew. I have been accused of promoting my faith in the classroom, despite  another group of teachers taking a field trip to a visiting sea-faring missionary organization aboard the Duolos. Parents with a McCarthy-style paranoia complained about a comment in my International Relations class that China is no longer a purely communist country. And finally, I was fired with 6 weeks left in the school year for discussing both Western and Muslim radicalism in my Middle Eastern studies class, a discussion which offended the daughter of a senior military officer in the Iraq war, and was given the rest of my package through August on condition that I did not attempt to contact parents or students for support (because there were many who did express their support).

I have often heard and read on this site a great many complaints about Middle Eastern schools and host cultures. I too am disgusted by the racism one sees from Arabs, all the more so because I am a coreligionist with most of them. Nevertheless, I think those of us living in this situation should use it as an opportunity to reflect upon our own cultural biases. Racism is intolerable anywhere from anyone. But how often have I heard my American and Canadian colleagues refer to a male domestic servant as a house-boy, a term which is reminiscent of derogatory names for house slaves? How often have I seen expats criticize legitimate but different cultural practices in East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East? Why are they living in these places if they find these differences so intolerable?

Bigotry is rampant in international schools, even in monocultural ones, like the one where I currently teach in Egypt. I think it comes with the views predominant in affluent, particularly newly affluent, families. I remember when I saw my second African-American teacher in an international school setting (the first was introduced to a school in Saudi Arabia) my me, at a conference in China. That this sticks out is noteworthy. My experience indicates that it is likely due to discrimination in hiring practices, but my African-American colleague in Saudi suggested that many African-Americans (and probably Latinos) desire to work within their communities to help these groups cope with the problems that prevent them from accessing the American dream.

What I do know, is that bigotry is an issue. I have seen it; my colleagues have seen it. Still, it exists everywhere, as evident from my experience in the States. Ethnic, religious, and other minorities must often make tough choices. We should not see ourselves victims but as ambassadors. If people don’t wish to give you the chance to make a difference, find people who will; there always are.