Schools that Throw Teachers Under the School Bus

July 11, 2013

schoolbus1685625You assume that when you’re teaching in a foreign country, your school will take some responsibility for your well-being. We believe most schools will. But, history shows some schools will throw you under the school bus for the “good of the organization.” As despicable as it sounds, there are International Schools and Directors who will sacrifice your well-being to placate wealthy parents and protect the school image they’ve worked so hard to create.

Recently, at Qatar Academy, Qatar, Dorje Gurung (science teacher) was misquoted by a group of twelve-year olds. Based on Dorje’s account of the incident, it appears the school, headed by Eric Sands, threw him under the school bus when he was accused of insulting Islam and thereafter jailed for ten days.

From the Dorje Gurung Blog:
  The (third) meeting with the Director (Eric Sands) was held on Sunday, April 21. Both the Director and the Principal (Mike Hitchman) were there. The Director started the meeting by asking me if I had anything to say. I realized then that whatever I said would make very little difference to the decision he appeared to have already made. So I said, “No.” The Director told me I was dismissed. Furthermore, he told me, I would lose out on five-month equivalent of salary-cum-benefits. I was a little disappointed, not for being dismissed, but for losing the money. I asked if he could do anything about the monies, adding how I had been counting on them. He couldn’t.

Dorje’s story is not unique. On June 13, 2007, the middle school principal at Al-Bayan Bilingual School, Kuwait (under the direction of Dr. Brian McCauly) was on her way home to spend the summer months with family. At airport immigration, however, Kuwaiti officials detained her, enforcing a travel ban placed on her by the wealthy parent of a student. By court order she had been banned from leaving the country. The powerful Kuwaiti man who had initiated the travel ban later threatened he would “destroy” her, all because she had sent his son to in-school suspension for fighting on campus. To this parent, an in-school suspension and Guantanamo Bay were one and the same. On her own in Kuwait with no one to turn to, she contacted ISR’s Dr. Spilchuk who, with the full support of ISR, came to her aid and helped her secure safe passage out of Kuwait.

You might be tempted to say, These incidents are just isolated cases. The truth is they are not! A teacher who worked in Guatemala shared the following story with ISR:

  I was teaching in Guatemala when an unfortunate incident took place. I had turned my back to write on the white-board when a middle school boy took advantage of the moment to crawl under the table with scissors in hand, stabbing another student in the leg. I was later called into the office to meet with the director and the boy’s dad (a very prominent military man and big-wig). The first question out of the director’s mouth was, “What is it about you that incites children in your class to act this way?” Needless to say this conversation was the beginning of the end for me at this school.

A teacher who worked in Thailand relates a similar story of betrayal by his School Director:

I was told that I would “take the fall” if anything came of a particular incident…. I had pointed my finger at a 3rd grade boy, saying in a stern voice to stop what he was doing (tapping & poking another student). The child began to cry. When the classroom teacher came to pick up her class, she noticed the boy’s red eyes and asked me, “What has he been up to now!?”
  This 3rd grade teacher reported that I had traumatized the child. I requested a Korean translator (The school had a large Korean student body) so the child could relate exactly what had happened. The director refused the request saying he wanted to keep this “hush, hush” from the Korean community. He also told the me that if anything came of it, I would be fired.
  As it turned out, the boy related the entire event to his mother who came to school to set the record straight about this misunderstanding. The director later told me I was lucky to have kept my job.

It appears we have the makings of a problem when you put wealthy parents with clout together with a school Director bent on keeping them happy at any cost to their faculty. That’s not to say all schools and Directors will sacrifice teachers for the “good” of the organization. Many will stand up for you when you’re in the right, and ease the blow when you’re in the wrong. They run the place like an institution of learning and not a country club for spoiled children. As we see it, a PhD does not make a leader–Leading is about character, vision and integrity, respect and a sense of right and wrong. These things can’t be taught in a course. Some people have it. Others not so much.

When you go overseas to teach you’re immersing yourself in a culture with rules, customs, procedures, expectations and a legal system beyond the scope of your immediate understanding. It’s easy to lull yourself into thinking you’re safe and sound when you’re not. It’s important to know who you are working for and if you can count on them. ISR hosts many reviews from teachers that say their Director/Principal always sides with the parents and the kids. We encourage you to share your experiences with colleagues. If you are comfortable in naming the School and Director feel free to do so. The two teachers in our example of Guatemala and Thailand asked their names and the school names to be removed.

Have something to share? Please scroll to post.


Qatar Academy Teacher Jailed Over Alleged Insults to Islam

May 9, 2013

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


Let’s Talk: Legal Matters

May 2, 2013

hammerIt can be stressful here at ISR when a school or attorney threatens us. Usually they express outrage over a poor Review or a critical Comment and want it removed. These schools would like us to prune Reviews to represent their school as they think they should be seen rather than as Reviewed by their teachers on ISR.

Some excerpts from recent mail:

We consider this as an abuse from an unethical few teachers. And you as professionals, we expect you to take action towards these reviews, or at least remove their posts. Otherwise, unfortunately we have to take a legal action towards the owners of the web site.

If all libellous comments are not removed within 31 days of this notice, or libels are repeated in the future, legal action will be taken in the US, UK and Malaysia, and substantial compensation will be sought.

What has been posted on your web site is a pack of lies by people who failed to do their jobs and were let go during the two month probation period. Also please note, that what’s written under Director Report is personal slander and libel. If you don’t remove the post immediately you will hear from the school lawyer. (see blog for more letters)

You will be receiving a letter shortly from our attorney.

I hope you will see the wisdom of this request as if not I am authorised to begin legal proceedings against your company as we consider you to have been complicit in this libel. If the material is deleted we will consider the matter closed.

I formally request that all comments that are personally related to myself (and totally inaccurate) are removed before I decide to take legal action. I await your confirmation of removal of the slanderous / libelous comments…

We should add that in light of the nature of the violating content and your refusal to cooperate the damages could be substaintial….You should take legal advice if you are in any doubt abut the seriousness of this matter. Please confirm if you have instructed lawyers and, if so, ask them to confirm they are authorized to accept proceedings on your behalf.

Of course, we take these letters seriously. Still, we’re waiting for someone to call and lavishly praise ISR for the outstanding reviews we host of  their school and leadership.

ISR would like to confirm that when you join ISR you become a member of a global network of International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed. ISR does NOT remove Reviews. Although at times it would be an easy way out, we will not allow overbearing individuals to force ISR into hiding the stark truth of poor schools and/or leadership, as reported by teachers in the field.

An ISR member sums up the situation succinctly: “If these directors only worried about why so many people leave their schools and address the problems, rather than blaming others, they might actually begin to solve some problems and improve their schools in the process.”

We invite you to Scroll Down & Comment :


136 Countries Where U.S. Teachers Have Their Human Rights Violated

April 11, 2013

gary_sanford by Gary Sanford

More than 7,000 U.S. citizens teach in 195 schools in 136 countries. Many, if not most, of these schools are accredited by U.S. accrediting agencies, private organizations that are legitimized by the U.S. Department of Education and receive financial assistance from the Department of State’s Office of Overseas Schools.

I taught abroad for 13 years in four different countries and I can testify that teachers are treated in ways that would not be tolerated in stateside schools: Administrators routinely bully and lie to teachers, fire teachers without due process, violate contracts, withhold salaries, and engage in many forms of discrimination. Obviously, my experiences alone cannot adequately support my claims; however, I have crossed paths with many teachers in the milieu of international education and I can say…..read more

Scroll down to comment


Is Teaching Abroad Right for ME as a New Teacher? by: Dr. Barbara Spilchuk, ISR On line Teacher Consultant

March 28, 2013

choice41516506Each year more and more university students are choosing to go abroad after they’ve finished their Education degree. Many come to me asking the question: “Is international teaching the right choice for me?” This is not a question I can easily answer for young people choosing to make their first teaching experience an international one. All I can do is tell the students to consider the following three questions:

Have you traveled abroad before? The answer to this question may seem unimportant; however, young teachers who have international experiences, even travel experiences with their families, have a greater understanding of the cultural differences they might experience when they go abroad. This greater understanding will set them up for a better chance of success in a country where the life experience is significantly different from what they are used to.

Are you LEAVING or GOING? The answer to this question is pretty critical. If a young teacher simply cannot find work in his/her own country, and s/he feels that an international teaching experience is the only option left to begin a teaching career, this is not the best reason for going abroad. Why do I say this? I say this because when you make a decision about your career, you should make the decision to GO to someplace, not LEAVE some place, for whatever reason. Every time I’ve made a decision to LEAVE some place, it has not been as productive for me as when I have made a decision to GO to a specific place. It is all in the mind-set. Let me explain:

If I am leaving some place for a reason that is not positive (i.e.: I cannot get a job, I’ve had an argument with my family or friend, I’m trying to escape an existing poor work situation), then my mind is not on the future….It is on the past because I have not reconciled myself with whatever the issue was that has prompted me to LEAVE. I have learned that it is better for me to be at peace with whatever situation is at ‘home’ before I decide to GO to a new place. This way my mind is fully situated in the future and I have a better chance of success with no regrets for my past. An exception to this rule is if    the situation ‘at home’ is a dangerous one that you need to remove yourself    from.

Do you have a specific place in mind where you would like to GO?  Have you done your homework on the host country’s people, customs, environment, politics? Not every international teaching location is good for every young teacher…or for every seasoned teacher, for that matter! Knowing something about the country you may be going to BEFORE you accept a contract can help you stay out of difficulty. Customs, traditions, religious beliefs, gender or racial issues or biases, economic demographics, attitude towards foreigners, health and safety issues, just to name a few considerations, should be explored BEFORE you sign a contract!

I shake my head when I get a letter from a young teacher that says s/he feels isolated or unwelcome within their community and they want to break contract. Did you check to see what the situation was in that community BEFORE you agreed to sign the contract? How did you check? Did you ask to speak to teachers already there? Did you talk to someone from your embassy? Did you research online? Did you read the ISR reviews of the school you would be going to BEFORE you signed your contract? Better yet, did you try to find a travel partner to go with? I always recommend that new international teachers go in pairs, either with their spouse or with another ‘newbie’. That way there is a built-in support system in the new location to help with the cultural and isolation transition.

There are so many things to consider when choosing International Education as your first choice when moving into your education career after completing university. I encourage you to think things over carefully and if you have questions or comments, just scroll down and post your thoughts. I’ll be keeping an eye on this Blog and will be more than happy to help you with your decision-making! 


Are International School Directors Above the Law?

March 7, 2013

constitution19624112From the ISR Forum: “I find it difficult to understand how Americans who head International schools think they have the right to ignore American laws. I guess it’s just because they can!

“Our new Director states in job ads that he is looking for teachers under a certain age. Bingo, age discrimination! There is no retirement age here and the school’s former Director hired qualified teachers and did not care about age. There is a fairly large exodus happening at the end of this year which suits our new Director just fine. Now he can hire all the ‘little Miss Sunshines’ he wants who will bow and scrape and worship his ‘vision’.

“This year I tried to form a Teachers’ Association. Over sixty teachers and staff members signed up, but our new Director is trying to shut us down. He can barely contain his resentment and arrogance even though the American Constitution gives us the right to convene as stated in the Bill of Rights. He wants me to produce ‘data’ for the Talent Committee to submit to the Action Committee which is made up of administrators who get the final vote on whether or not a TA will be allowed. Ridiculous! In the US he would certainly be facing a law suit.

“I don’t understand how an American, one who heads an “American School” with students from the US embassy, is able to completely put aside US law, leaving us all vulnerable to his whims. I was toldcriminal that an American who breaks US constitutional law is subject to legal proceedings in the US, even though his actions took place on foreign soil. I’m not saying I am going to start a law suit, but I would like very much to hear from International educators on the topic of International Teachers’ Associations and teachers’ rights.”

Scroll to Blog YOUR Comments

Retaliatory & Off Topic Comments are Removed
We reserve the right to block offenders


Are Internat’l Recruiting Fairs the Place to Get a Job?

February 21, 2013

survey_red37427809

Note: This Article & Survey published on February 21, 2013


We  asked all of you who attended a Recruiting Fair this season to take our short Poll & respond about YOUR recruiting experiences.

We’re thrilled to say over 50% of International teachers report: . YES! I got a job!

This school finally decided to have a look at me after they considered my vast international experience & what I’d save them in airfares.

I had 8 interviews, 6 offers & accepted a great offer from an A-List school. Now that I have gone through one fair, I am much more confident about the process.

Equally exciting is the result from nearly one-fifth of those polled:

NO! I didn’t attend a Recruiting Fair. I got a job ON MY OWN! How exciting! Are we sensing a trend for recruiting teachers who wish to avoid the time, money, frustration, weather difficulties & overall complications of flying thousands of miles around the world to a Recruiting Fair where hundreds of colleagues are vying for the same small pool of jobs?

I did some research & applied directly at a small school where I am enjoying myself immensely–staying for another year!

The two International jobs I have had since 2010 I received via SKYPE interviews. My resolve was to NEVER again attend a Fair.

Others report they are disillusioned with traditional Recruiting Fairs:

I spent over $5000 of my own money & neither fair gave me a good job offer. Seriously, would you wager $5000 with no guarantee of return of investment? I am kicking myself, asking why I did!

These fairs are nothing more than a chance for Search, ISS & others to make a lot of money at our expense & for the chance for school administrators to network & enjoy the perks of traveling. Let’s reduce our carbon footprint & at the same time send Search & school administrators a message.

The Recruiting Fairs are ongoing for a few more months. Be sure to add YOUR Vote to the Poll & share observations /comments with your colleagues. What do YOU have to add about your Recruiting Fair experience?

survey-2013
This survey is closed

Click here for our 2015 Recruiting Fair Survey