Being turned down for an international teaching position and suspecting, or knowing, it’s because one of your references has badmouthed you is gut wrenching. Anger, defeat, betrayal and even the feeling of having been violated describe the experience. Badmouthing can take many forms and what isn’t said can be just as detrimental as direct negative comments. Speaking in a flat, dull tone of voice, 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 to your chances of landing a teaching position.
Sooner or later you’re bound to work for a director with whom you just don’t click. Maybe the director who hired you moved on to a new school and you and the new guy don’t see eye-to-eye on basic educational philosophies. Whatever the reason, educational leaders should be beyond petty retaliation. But the fact is, some people in authority shouldn’t be in such positions and feel threatened by something as simple as a teacher who voices contrary ideas.
What can you do when you have the feeling or proof someone is badmouthing you to prospective new schools? The easiest step is to stop using that person as a reference. Of course, leaving a two- or three- year gap in your resume may attract attention. On the other hand, a letter from your principal, who is probably more familiar with your work than the director, may be sufficient to land a new teaching position.
Another approach to dealing with a badmouther is to hire a lawyer to write a cease-and-desist letter. If you’re dealing with an individual from your home country you can seek legal recourse and may even be able to do the same against a person from another country. See our article, Yes, You Can Sue Your Director.
A legal principle that applies to badmouthing is the concept of “intentional interference with economic relations.” Basically, your skills and fitness for employment are considered property rights that a bad referee is taking away from you. Just because you weren’t a good fit at one school certainly does not mean you will not be just right for your next school. Suing for lost wages is your prerogative.
A firm letter from a lawyer should make a bad reference back down. If the badmouther is currently in some lawless location and out of reach of the judicial system of your home country, chances are they will return home for the summer months, or Christmas vacation, and a pending law suit awaiting their arrival may interrupt their return travel plans
International Schools Review hosts reviews by teachers asserting their school director threatened staff with a poor, or no letter of reference if they were caught posting to the ISR web site. For Americans, this is a violation of your First Amendment Rights. Some school directors are reported to withhold letters for an entire staff as punishment for anonymous reviews posted to ISR. Imagine what these insecure “leaders” could be saying about their staff to potential new employers. It’s unfortunate such petty, small-minded individuals are in a position to hold this type of power over a teacher’s international teaching career. Fortunately, reviews found on International Schools Review can alert you to vindictive individuals.
If you suspect someone is badmouthing you, it may be advantageous to point out to a prospective employer that you just didn’t get along with your past director and suggest they refer to reviews of the individual in question on ISR and other web sites. Then drop the topic and move on.
If you feel a vindictive individual is persecuting you and destroying your chances for future employment overseas, then by all means use every available means to make this person cease and desist. If, however, in your heart, you know that statements being made about you are true, that’s an entirely different situation.
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