Teachers’ Bill of Rights Snubbed by Some
Not everyone agrees with the concept of a Bill of Rights for IS teachers.
We have posted their comments and ISR’s response for your review and comments.
Please, before calling this a final draft, try working with some of the established int’l agencies, like CIS, ISS, IB, etc, consult some lawyers, get some prominent school leadership types to work on it, etc… In its current state, it is hopeless, starting with the first section. In some countries, there is a legal requirement that the only legal contract be in the host country language. Schools work around this by providing an English version, but there is no way that these schools can say there is no other contract. They’d be lying.
ISR Replies- Please note, we have made mention and provision for the fact that some countries require a contract in the host language.
Other aspects may not apply to all schools and contracts. Stating that if broken, the school will provide flight and goods’ shipment home? What if that was never in the original contract? What if the staff member was a local hire? If this is a statement of rights, everything in it must apply to all teachers in any int’l school anywhere. A fair bit of what you have does apply to everyone, or could with some wordsmithing, but the statement must be adjusted before it is ready.
ISR Replies – Local hires would not receive this benefit because, as you say, their home is the host country.
What about schools’ rights? Every story has two sides, and every right has a responsibility. Contracts cover many of schools’ rights, but not all, and not to the extreme that this statement does for teachers. Stating that if any part of the statement is broken, the teacher gets to quit, end of story, with a golden handshake? Where’s the part where the school gets to do that to a teacher, as in send them away with nothing if the teacher has misrepresented themselves at all, or fails to live up to expectation in any way? To be fair, this statement must be fair to both sides. As written, it’s very arbitrary, and could be interpreted contrary to its intent. A school can’t prevent students from trying to bully teachers, for example, nor stop parents behaving badly. They can deal with such situations appropriately, but not prevent them entirely.
ISR Replies – With, or without, a written statement guaranteeing schools such rights, it appears more than a hand-full have fired and expelled teachers on a whim or a personality conflict. We see no reason to enhance an already misused power by recognizing it in a Bill of Rights for Teachers. Remember, this document is intended to protect teachers from just such actions.
Other things, like housing and neighborhood meeting basic standards of safety, are just impossible to interpret. Just one example, Doha and Dubai are basically large construction sites. Some teachers I know consider it unsafe to live across the street from a building site–too many scary workers (racist, I know, but the statement as written does not define what safe means, and some teachers are scared), too much construction equipment, fences that children could get through if sent out to play by themselves. This is all normal for these cities, and there’s almost nowhere to live that doesn’t have such issues. The housing itself is fine, but the neighborhood? How can schools control that? Putting people in a slum is not ok, of course not, with the loose terminology you’ve got, teachers could claim a school violated their rights by putting them near a construction site or a fast highway.
ISR Replies – You are absolutely right, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. However, with today’s technology it would certainly be easy to snap a series of digital photos or create a Power Point presentation to be shown at recruiting time. Unless, of course, there is something to hide. We assume any school would be willing to make such a minor effort to ensure they have the right candidate for the position. After all, we’re talking about making a two-year commitment.
Another thing to consider would be a statement of responsibilities for int’l teachers. Things like taking responsibility for asking questions before they come regarding things which are important to them. Things like not misrepresenting their background to get a job. (No, you don’t have IB training if you attended a one-hour session at an ECIS conference.) Things like having done research into the vicissitudes and realities of living overseas, and careful consideration as to whether they have the personality for it. Things like never saying ‘that’s not the way it’s done in the US/UK/Canada.’ Things like not expecting all students to be fluent in English or subjecting them to a grade 3 unit about ‘winter wonderland’ when they live in a hot desert. This may sound tongue in cheek, but if you want this idea to be accepted, adding a statement of responsibilities might be a good idea.
ISR Replies – We are not aware of teachers misrepresenting themselves and have always understood that ISS, Search and the rest of the Recruiters are guaranteeing a teacher’s credentials to prospective employers. The high fees charged to teaching candidates surely can’t just be to book fancy 5-star hotels and buff out recruiters with food and other benefits. We are hard pressed to believe bogus resumes are slipping by the scrutiny of any recruiting agency, and it seems you are asking teachers to do the schools’ home work as well as their own. By the same token, accreditation agencies appear to be willing to grant U.S. accreditation to ANY school that will pay their fees and sponsor a trip for the “team”. All the more reason for an IT Bill of Rights.
As a school administrator and teacher with international experience of 15 years, I like the idea of the statement, but it is tragically flawed at the moment. It could never reasonably be used in any of the schools I’ve worked in, for different reasons by each school, and those were overall good schools (bar one) who behaved ethically with staff. That tells me that the document is not talking about universal rights, but about preferences and desires.
ISR Replies – We’re sorry to hear you feel that way. You are obviously missing the point, or wish to ignore it. It sounds like you have forgotten your teaching-roots and now see things from the point of view of an administrator who needs to be reminded of your teachers’ needs.
The way it is written, the document looks as if it is supposed to be signed by schools and presented to teachers. That means that schools would have to adopt it. If you want that to happen, you’ll have to get them involved in developing it. Doing that could help to ameliorate the sometimes antagonistic relationship that ISR has with schools.
ISR Replies – Actually, schools endorsing fair treatment of teachers would sign the document and display it at recruiting time as well as place the Logo (under development) in their ads. They would also give a signed copy to candidates and teachers. Attesting to forthright and appropriate behavior shouldn’t require any consideration.
Before you take it to schools, try tightening it up yourselves. Schools will take it more seriously if it has already fixed things like I’ve mentioned, things that can’t possibly work as universal rights/truths. If you leave it as is, I regretfully predict it will be doomed to failure. Schools can’t adopt it as is, vague, over-reaching and one-sided. It would be a shame to see such a good idea lost….
ISR Replies – We don’t know how to make statements such as, “contracts will be honored without exception” any more specific. From our point of view, schools that won’t take a positive stand on such basic concepts are the ones doomed to failure. See our current article: International Teaching -Candidate Shortage Solved.
I would like to see the document edited for content and stripped of much of the detail included in this current “contractual” form. As it stands, it is NOT an affirmation of rights but a laundry list of complaints from disgruntled (even if rightly so) teachers. There is no school admin perspective.
ISR Replies – The entire document is from the perspective of a school administration that supports its teachers. Have a second look!
I find this version amateurish and would grade this a “C” – at a middle school level. Besides this, ISR does not have the right to represent this as something that ALL teachers want or desire and to hold schools “hostage” to the juvenile-worded demands of a few is ridiculous.
ISR Replies – The people being held hostage are teachers who find themselves at schools that have required them to sign disadvantagous, replacement contracts upon arrival. Going so far as to call the tenets of the document juvenile is rather telling!
Robert Hulse, educator
Concordia International School Shanghai
The Bill of Rights is a good idea but must be agreed with all the major international school associations (ECIS,CIS, NAIS, etc. etc.) otherwise it might become a ‘wish list’ of absurd demands that school owners, etc. can simply ignore.
ISR Replies – We welcome all contributions and have not heard from any of these groups.
I believe that this is an interesting endeavor, but I don’t have any faith in it. Directors will do whatever they want to do, seeking whatever means they deem expedient to interact with employees as there are no legal or ethical constraints on them (and this ‘bill of rights’ will not change undermine director power). Due process is something, I have discovered, that US (or British, or other nationality) directors/heads, happily left behind in their home countries. I have heard several directors, principals, and/or heads verbalize how they are ‘so glad’ to have rid their lives of unions and legal constraints. As long as school boards do not fully realize how demoralizing unethical practices are on the teachers who work daily with their children and as long as school board members do not hold heads’/directors’ feet to the fire to uphold ‘fair and professional’ contractual obligations–I believe I represent the voice of a 15-year international teaching realist–no substantive changes will be made. Any bill of rights is simply a futile exercise by the ‘underdogs’ to wrest power from the upper hand. Personally–I will work to pursue unionizing movements under the auspices of the ILO or any other entity when I have nothing to left to lose (e.g. when I retire). In the 4 international schools in which I have worked as a teacher, there has been only one ethical administrator (and he was an assistant director without direct power to change the director’s decision). What is the difference between being unjustly fired and unjustly ‘non-renewed’? A bill of rights is only as good as the legal apparatus to enforce it.
ISR Replies – Please refer to our article, You Can Sue Your School and Director. Here’s How.