Apparently the ISR site is beginning to see results. The first stage in any change process is denial. The anonymous TIE editorial is just such an example — deny, then point the finger elsewhere. ISR receives generally fair and balanced reviews. NO school is perfect and NO person is not without faults. However, in reading the comments on administrators who do receive negative reviews, one finds them, for the most part, professional in their criticism. Administrators are often never held responsible for their actions. Concurrently, teachers often have no input to the boards that decide on the hiring or retention of an administrator. Furthermore, boards are generally ignorant to the weaknesses and excesses of their administrators. Such anonymity of the administrator has served them well over the years. Now, however, ISR provides a venue for an honest appraisal of administrators’ performance. Perhaps the time is now for those administrators who feel unduly and unfairly targeted, to reflect upon their actions.
Well written! As you state, ISR exists BECAUSE the need exists! Four out of five of my overseas posts have been fabulous. The fifth was intolerable, with countless violations of ethics. The 19 posts regarding that school all told the same story, and eventually, the administrator seems to have been forced out, thanks to the difficulty of recruiting teachers for a school with such bad press. ISR is providing a valuable service. No other alternative yet exists. I must say, I have checked out every single school I contemplated signing a contract with this year on the ISR web site first. It kept me from wasting a lot of time considering schools where indicators were that I might not be happy, and it ultimately resulted in my accepting a position at a school with great reviews. Good administrators will do the right thing just because it’s the right thing; mediocre ones might just have to step up to the plate now in order to make it possible to staff their schools! No matter what it takes, teachers–and ultimately, their students–are better served. Thanks, ISR!
Please do not be pressured by the anon. author and continue your wonderful work. The international scene truly needs some fixing as all of us who work in it clearly realize. Yes, schools and administrators who lie to applicants to get bodies to fill spaces will be angry. They have had complete freedom for too long to not be truthful and to take advantage of us once we arrive in the foreign posting. It will only improve when they are finely unable to get teachers due to their being more informed and better able to choose schools that care about them.
I am appalled at the TIE response including the Rosen article that you called, “open minded.” He used words such as scurrilous and pernicious to describe teacher comments. His main worry seems to be that we shouldn’t let bad news get out to the public because it may stop teachers from going overseas. The TIE articles seem much more damaging in that respect than any ISR review I’ve ever read. There is such bitter outrage in both pieces over the idea that teacher voices may damage administrator reputations as well as inform prospective teachers of undesirable working conditions. ISR simply filled a vacuum left by international school (IS) leaders who could not or would not address the serious problems that have affected many teachers over the past few decades. Most of the IS leaders are rightfully respected as the best in the world at what they do and I have had the good fortune to work for a few I would have followed to the ends of the earth. All, however, seem to be afflicted with that common administrative weakness of refusing to take an uncomfortable stand with their colleagues if there is any way to avoid it. Longevity is the most valued trait; anyone who has been a head for 20 years or more will continue for the next 20 years regardless of how much damage they cause.
Both articles are rife with faulty logic. Rosen says good teachers may change their minds after reading negative reviews. Anyone who scares that easily is unlikely to succeed in another country. That statement is not borne out by experience as the worst schools consider to hire every year no matter how many negative comments they garner. As mentioned above, the TIE articles give the impression that IS administrators don’t want teachers to talk about the problems they have–hardly an endorsement for accepting an overseas position. Finally, as concerns the reputation for overseas schools, I think far more harm has been done with teachers returning to their homes every year to tell their horror stories of overseas teaching to hundreds if not thousands of people. Wouldn’t it be better to solve the problems rather than keep them quiet? Is there an extra problem when prospective teachers mention their reading of negative reports, and IS leaders have to respond that yes, indeed, there is no solution, no recourse for those who experience severe difficulty.
It is only ISR–never the IS leadership–that has brought the most egregious cases of abusive treatment toward teachers to our attention. I read Mr. Rosen’s update where he does mention the Infantes and the administrator in Kuwait who wasn’t allowed to leave the country. He is right when he says that to date, the issue is not resolved and we haven’t heard the school’s side. Yet, he seems to have made his mind up anyway by casting aspersions on the character of the Infantes. He says they broke contract at another school before. Strange that he doesn’t also mention the history of the school in the interest of fairness. How many lawsuits have been filed against the school? In the last 50 years, I’ll bet even Mr. Rosen knows of at least one case where the school was wrong and the teacher right. Did we ever hear about any of those cases? Did the IS leadership move to help the injured party or did they just choose to look the other way?
We are talking about human lives here and professions both of which are damaged and that damage should be viewed with the same concern you have for the reputations of “honor” attributed to school heads whose professions are compromised. And of course, there’s another slur against teachers when he says some people have actually had their jobs jeopardized by “naive” school boards who actually give credence to teacher complaints. Mr. Rosen, people who listen to teachers are not necessarily “naive” and I would like to hear you just once voice some compassion for teachers who have been greatly harmed. It really would help to have administrators listen to teachers and try to solve problems rather than hide them.
The negligence of IS leaders is only surmounted by the unconscionable actions of the recruiting fairs who take the money every year from schools that they know to be unscrupulous. Schools that renege on contracts every year and are continually mired in lawsuits need not worry. They can attend every year. My first suggestion is that a new fair needs to be arranged, one that screens the schools as well as the teachers. The rest of the recruiting fairs need to be transparent and honest and issue a disclaimer to all prospective teachers saying something like,”in the event of contracts not being honored or other deceitful practices, the teacher will have no recourse whatsoever. The recruiting fairs and IS leaders in various IS organizations will do nothing for you. Further, if you go to your embassy, they will also tell you they cannot do anything and that is why they advise American citizens not to work in a foreign country.” My guess is that the fairs won’t like that option. So, are we then in a place where we must hide the truth or no one will come? Actually, there is one and only one recourse for teachers and it’s ISR. I don’t know anything about Dr. Spilchuck who has offered to help teachers in trouble. I do think it’s very sad that no one in the last 50 years ever thought it just might be a good idea to have one person who would advocate for teachers.
Rosen is correct that with a forum such as ISR, there will always be some postings from people who are just unhappy complainers. They are as easy to spot as those from overly defensive administrators. Those writings provide the humor. My favorite was from a teacher with many complaints about his terrible school but his main annoyance was that the school didn’t rehire him. There are also a few administrator responses that have the same tone as the TIE articles and those defensive if not hysterical postings say a lot more about the administrator than any teacher postings. I interviewed with one school and was tremendously impressed with the administrator precisely because of the way he responded. He admitted there were problems, said exactly what he was doing to rectify them and then offered data–a whole lot of it. I would work for him any time.
Finally, I am disturbed by Rosen’s continual call for more balance in the reviews. Which ISR site does he read? I read many positive reports and some that are balanced where the teachers lay out their complaints but also enumerate the advantages and many say it was all worth it. There are some administrators who are so good that all of the reports are rave notices of how great they are. Should we fabricate some negative reviews to provide “balance”? Some administrators are universally lambasted for the simple reason that they are that bad. They are the ones we have been hearing about for 20 years–long before ISR provided a forum. And those people do create balance by having a friend write a glowing report. They are so patently obvious, that they provide great entertainment value.
In closing, I have to say again that I am sad and disappointed in the TIE response. I always felt respected and on somewhat equal footing with the administrators for whom I’ve worked and I also felt that they were compassionate human beings. If Rosen speaks for them, I’m no longer so sure. Again, I feel that ISR is doing the job that the IS leadership should have taken up a long, long time ago.
I want to graciously THANK ISR for being here and available. Contrary to what some international school administrators are saying; teachers posting here are NOT whiners and complainers. Having served at an international school posting in which my wife was bullied and belittled by school administrators, while she worked basically a double shift, proved to me that there are hostile/incompetent administrators at some international schools and these folks need to be reported. Teachers NEED to have a source they can go to and read reviews of schools/administrators posted by teachers. Of course one has to take all reviews with a grain of salt, but I truly believe that teachers are professionals and for the most part try to convey an accurate review of their experiences. Some school administrators act like little dictators/kings of a small community and it’s those few administrators that act unprofessionally giving schools a bad name. Thank you for this opportunity.
Well done ISR. Keep up the good work. This web site is essential for the teaching community, for both teachers and administrators.
I sincerely hope that eventually the directors and administrators realize that this many teachers cannot be wrong. I believe that there is not enough protection for international teachers and I especially feel sorry for the rookies that are hired immediately at these job fairs and have not had the benefit of your web site. Consequently, they are jumping ship and end up leaving the profession thinking that they just weren’t meant for teaching. I think what I just can’t believe is the number of very sub standard international schools out there. Keep offering your service I really believe it is the ONLY way for teachers to protect themselves from these administrators who have little or no integrity!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being disgruntled. I have looked it up, it merely means that you are displeased or dissatisfied with an action. There is nothing in the word that implies that the dissatisfaction is not warranted, or that the dissatisfaction should be dismissed. The word is used by those that would like to dismiss the dissatisfaction as not elicited by genuine disapproval of a system or policy that perhaps need to be examined as benefiting from investigation and overhaul.
Kathryn Sandoval, MA Education
I have been teaching in the international schools for over 15 years. I don’t see how this site is constructive. Morally I think it’s wrong to allow individual people’s names to be used in the reviews. We teachers need to be better problem-solvers and find constructive ways to bring about positive change, rather then finger pointing and slandering people behind their backs. Shouldn’t we be practicing what we preach to our students about solving problems and being good communicators? Come on, let’s grow up!
In the international school arena,most teachers are not protected by professional unions. National laws usually do not apply to them. Thus, ISR provides an invaluable service for shared communication among international colleagues on the unprofessional, and sometimes inhumane, misdeeds of some international schools. Transparency and the fear of being exposed may keep these schools more accountable.
This article interested me greatly. I’m currently in my second international position, and so far my experience has not been particularly positive – 2 incredibly poorly run schools where in both I have seen teachers bullied, belittled, pushed around, pushed out, had their jobs changed when they arrived, been forced to sign contracts in foreign languages, live in condemned houses, failed to be paid … and the list goes on. After this contract, I will return home to a world of work place laws and protection. It would seem to me that the writer of the TIE article either has never been in an international teaching environment, or is a manager of one of those schools who receive negative reviews and simply won’t admit that changes need to be made (much like both schools I’ve been in). In the international teaching environment, teachers are given no workplace protection – when a school changes our contracts, gives us substandard housing, subjects us to bullying, fails to fulfil contractual obligations etc, we have absolutely nowhere to turn for assistance. One of our only champions is sites like ISR. If nothing else, we are at least able to warn others and perhaps prevent a repeat of our experiences. I strongly encourage everyone to join ISR (as I was encouraged to do so when I first took up international teaching) as it offers at least some insight into different work environments. If, like me, teachers are only able to contact directors when jobs are secured, we are always subject to the bias of the person who is often the cause of the problems. We are very blind when we begin work at a new school. At least ISR gives us the opportunity to find out some truths and allow us to make more informed decisions. Well done, ISR for being there for those who need you the most – the teachers who end up paying the real cost of international school mismanagement. Glenna Mason
I think ISR serves a very useful purpose indeed for any international teacher considering a position. I think you can ignore all extreme reviews and concentrate on the latest two or three. If all of these are negative it would definitely send a warning message. However if the reviewers are generally indicating a change for the better or only one out of a number of reviews is negative then its probably safe to apply. I’m not a fan of the directors reports though. There are some very experienced directors out there who are not necessarily easy to get along with but nevertheless do an excellent job of directing a school. You can’t be liked by everyone.
ISR is certainly much more balanced & responsible in the ways that it reviews schools than sites like “RateMyTeacher.com” — which allows anonymous postings by children (we don’t allow minors to drink, drive, vote, marry, smoke, etc…but we allow them to publicly trash the professional reputation of any adult working in their school???) as well as by adults (parents) who are free to post complaints based on second- or third-hand information. (After all, the parents do not attend class — so all their information is hearsay.)
I am really glad that someone has finally told you people at the so-called ISR to watch your mouthsand stop encouraging this level of online undermining and complaining, which seems to function as a deliberate ‘parallel universe’, a quasi-legitimate ‘sabotage’ of international schooling, and an undisputed ‘pressure group’ which is, on the whole, disreputable. AND which constantly claims innocence and good intentions, despite major indications to the contrary! I am sure many sincere correspondents no longer want to be associated with you. I have been surprised at the sheer emotional immaturity often displayed, and the extreme pandering of your hierarchy to ‘outraged’ teachers, , offering excessive ‘support’ to some people who just can’t learn to handle themselves in other people’s environments.
Considering the truly vicious tone of some of your ‘writers’, I am not surprised that some adverse comments from outside are anonymous; that is what you deserve and should expect. I also noticed the dearth of ‘facts’ in many cases, and the amazing approach of Dr Spilchuk, who claimed the line of defense that ‘stories are important’. This ‘narrative’ form of counseling removes almost all facts in crucial cases such as divorce, abuse etc, and may be used to obscure any given set of circumstances. Stories of course do MATTER to the one who tells them; they do NOT provide data useable for decision-making where professional expertise and responsibility are paramount in a school. I clearly recall the ISR’s attempt to trash the whole of Thailand in one month; not to mention reprinting reviews which are years old. It is high time that you people stopped glorifying your kind of under-handed power, and told some of your teachers to get used to less-than-ideal conditions; that is sad,but it is the real world. Sure, it’s a pity that schools are businesses; who is going to change that?
Parents and kids depend on reliable teachers; not every posting will be a ‘holiday’. I am sad to hear that so many parents pay highly for schools whose staff change every 2-3 years, so that ‘international’ teachers can roam the world on a good salary! Maybe this concept isn’t as healthy as it seems. I note also that ISR fully supports anonymity for teachers to heavily critique their schools, and/or make ruthless attacks on admin personnel. So how come you WON’T respond to a cogent, but anonymous critique? Does that mean you are not guilty of what they state? Why don’t you go back over all the anonymous critiques encouraged on your site? Many of them are tragically unworthy of professional teachers. Sure, conditions may be unfair, apartments may be lousy…but did they want to see the world or not?
It is way past time the so-called ISR stopped attempting to damage a very wide range of legitimate education activities, in a worldwide setting, with this mud-slinging and extreme emotionalism you have been sending out every month. I’m glad several others have made this clear to you. But I don’t think you have any intention of stopping it. You will just act like a network of ‘dealers’, and go underground, to build up groups of ‘discontents ‘who will continue to create clandestine damage to the ethos of a school. And yes, some schools do cover up a shabby profit motive with pretty words…but vicious attacks on their staff won’t help. And is a corporation any better? HA HA. Even worse, you still claim you are ‘helping’ people, even now. While I feel truly sorry for those who get a raw deal (and yes, it happens), if anyone goes around videoing school doors, meetings, interviews etc, they could expect to lose a contract! How about doing that in an office job! How long would it last? Why didn’t you remind your writers of that?
Get real, ISR. A lot of people have had enough of you. Caring teachers deserve much better representation, and should use, and expect, a truly mature approach.
Here’s how it works: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Teachers need that all important letter of reference in their file in order to successfully move on to their next job. If a teacher writes a less than glowing review of a school and adds his/her name, that teacher’s career might just be finished.
I have appreciated this web site as a resource in looking for future employment. In most cases, schools should not fear if they are doing most things right. I have seen reviews that assured me that a successful application to work there would be a good thing, even if there are a few negative comments. Life is never going to be a bowl of cherries.
On the other hand some reviews are surely written by people with an axe to grind, perhaps for good reason. And some just tell it like it is, warts, flowers and all. One school reviewed here approached me because my file was active through a placement service. The reviews helped me ‘read between the lines’ of their job offer. I asked some oblique questions, and never heard back from them. So I believe that was a good thing.
The school I am at now is not reviewed here. Will I write a review? Possibly. But I want to be away from here before doing so, even though much of what I might say is positive. Any unflattering comments would surely unmask me as the author by readers currently working at the school. That’s why I’m not sure the temporary email address would be helpful in the long run. Usually, (but not always) the problem lies with the director, head of school or head of department. Most directors have feet of clay and will probably not take kindly to criticism, even when there is a chance to resolve the basis of criticisms via anonymous email addresses.
One more thing: I don’t see a spell check option for this reply box, and in spite of winning many a spelling bee in elementary school, I make mistakes. Sigh. But when I read reviews that were written by someone with no apparent awareness of the conventions of the English language, I shudder, and think that the school reviewed by that person is lucky to be rid of him/her.
During a recent job fair, my husband and I relied on the ISR web site as the only immediate source of information about prospective schools in the rushed timeframe of interviews and offers of positions. We understood the reviews to be biased, as were the descriptions of the schools by those interviewing us. We did notice that the preponderance of postings were negative, and deduced that an unhappy teacher was more likely to post than a satisfied one, but still felt we were getting some insights from the other side of the story. I like the idea of colleagues being able to post a quick response rating, as an additional way to affirm or discount the view. I consider the ISR service very valuable, an accessible way for teachers to share their experiences and benefit their peers.
Some administrators are using ISR by posting their own evaluations and report cards anonymously. This automatically gives a bias in the direction of positive.
I must tell you that I very much regret spending money on your web site. This year I was job hunting again and after reading many of your reviews I concluded that most of them were from teachers that I usually avoid, unhappy complainers. I wish there was somewhere that people could find a reliable web site that offered a more balanced perspective on international schools. If anyone is looking to find out about a specific school my suggestion is to email individuals at that school. Any school you are looking at should be open and able to supply you with many contacts to do your research. My opinion is that you should not allow any reviews without obtaining an email address or name. If a report needs to be verified, maybe you should do the research. Finally, I love my school but will not justify your web site with a review.
High School Counselor
Korea International School
I think it’s fantastic that you provide this venue to motivate schools/ administrators to operate in a professional and ethical manner (if they aren’t already self motivated.) And it is obvious that if someone did send in an inaccurate/unfair review, even if anonymous, others from that school have the opportunity to correct and clarify the situation. This is a great forum!
Overall, what comes to mind is the use of “disgruntled” which might very well apply to administrators or teachers,as well. Relating factual experiences cannot possibly be construed as “disgruntled.” Administrators who are hoping to manipulate the system to “control” what the teachers express, appear somewhat baffled about finding themselves in a position of accountability. I think the great majority of the teachers who have chosen teaching as a profession, are quite the opposite of the picture trying to be painted by the author of both articles. Without a doubt, the aim for us is to help others through the process of teaching. Administrators who are also doing what they do out of the sheer joy at being a part of this wonderful and yes, often life changing career, more than likely have happy and satisfied teachers and a healthy learning environment. It appears that the concerns and even alarm, that comes through, particularly with the first writer, stems from a place of feeling a lack of control, which prior to this web site, teachers now have an avenue to report practices that are surely inappropriate, in some cases deceitful, and overall unprofessional behavior of despotic individuals who tend to “administer” through fear and might. Of course, history tells us that these individuals don’t welcome this freedom of speech. And certainly must cast doubt upon both the conduit (ISR) and finally on the individual teachers who now can make public, their experiences.
Of course, human nature being what it is, there may well be some “reporting” that might exaggerate or misrepresent the truth, but then those who are also teaching in the same school have the option to write dissenting opinions. However, I say with confidence that teachers as a group are truthful, helpful and honorable people. To suggest otherwise from the first writer’s point of view, is an unacceptable attitude. Perhaps, it is this kind of administrator that prompts the comments and observations we read about on the ISR site. I suggest that the writer understand that educated individuals are able to discern the truth and veracity of the comments and the follow up comments. We can also recognize organized attempts to cover up or disguise the realities through a series of exceedingly glowing reports and especially glowing reports of a parent who is neither in the classroom or who at best, is witness to a small sliver of a school’s effectiveness.
I think the review and response idea is excellent, like they do with online retailers.
The need for an impartial review of schools is very obvious. Being in this international circuit for over 17 years, my family and I have experienced extreme management issues from very good, to better leave within a month of arriving. It is also very sad indeed that the reasons we hear at job fairs to leave USA, is because of NCLB (No Child Left Behind), only to find managers and not necessarily “principals,” of this so-called improvement in American education system, now a part of what has typically exemplified superior educational systems. After further investigating some of these individuals, it is soon found out, they were asked to “retire” early from their town/city school and/or district.
My family and I still seek a what is an international school and not a national school with a mask of international education with an American curriculum. We have experienced international schools with a very open enrollment, and mixed international faculty and an international mix of international experienced administrators. These international students have gone on to very high ranked universities around the globe from MIT, Brown, Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and yes even Princeton. This particular school had more variety of learning-diploma type offering-with a balanced academic discipline policy, that was supported mutually throughout the school. Dummy-down does not work in lowering the bar to raise the achievement. And, good teachers know this as a rule. We continue our adventure, and wish ISR all the very best and continued success exposing the very good schools for those who wish to apply for a wonderful experience; to exposing those schools, and individuals who need to come to the table of educated respectful learning.
Sirs and Madams: I am currently working at a school who has demeaned the teaching profession and me as a professional, all in favor of keeping the students happy and as a consequence, the parents who pay tuition. I have not written a review as I fear my future would be stained by the possibility of a bad review from my administrator to my next administrator. I will be posting as soon as I get another job.
I would like to suggest that you put a push on accepting positive reports from teachers. Many teachers see this web site as a “I’ll get them” venue. I am guilty of not reporting a positive experience from a former school, and hope to rectify that in the near future. So, if you would encourage positive reviews with some kind of article expressing the fact that candidates at hiring fairs use your web site to a great degree. They are certainly entitled to a fair, peer review of any school that they are considering. Administrative reviews stick out like sore thumbs.
In closing, I love your site and agree with the reviews of the schools where I have taught. I went into each experience fully informed and take responsibility for my current unhappiness for not listening to the reports (oh, they must be disgruntled employees).
Please feel free to publish my comments, and again, I hope that you will expend some literary energy to encourage all reports, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Unfortunately, unsigned, due to impending employment.
Good article, thank you for it. There are some good ideas there; for example, both the ratings scale and the temporary e-mail address. The most important thing is to ensure continued confidentiality and to continue to promote an open discourse about schools and their administrators.
I am very happy to have subscribed and now re subscribed to ISR. I use the reviews to give me a feel for what a particular school might be or at least was like. This is especially useful when going to interview for a school. I can use the knowledge I have garnered to guide my questions to the directors in order to determine for myself if this school has addressed the problem or is at least willing to admit it existed.
I have recently accepted a position at a school which did not have a great review on ISR. The major complaint appeared to be with housing. I made a number of inquiries about the housing and while it was admitted to having been a problem it has been addressed in such a way that it is believable. ie the situation is improving and will take time to be perfect. This is a far more believable response than, “that was a problem but now everything is great.”
I take all opinions with a grain of salt, we all see the world through our own experiences and what I might find interesting, quaint or reasonable another might term substandard.
When moving overseas I think the most important thing to remember is that it will be different, there will be challenges that are unique and unexpected. That is a large part of the fun of it! :) If this is unacceptable then stay at home where the challenges are known and familiar.
Thanks ISR for allowing us to vent our feelings and thoughts to each other.
I am a retired international school administrator, and have not kept up my membership in the ISR. I don’t know, therefore, what complaints have been entered recently. I do know, however, that many teachers have a right to complain and to have such an avenue of complaints as you afford them is very good indeed. I wonder, however, if you know that international schools can be accredited, and by quoting what international educators have said about them in the accreditation report can quote that as a rebuttal of any false accusations. To be able to enter the accreditation process, one must join the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the annual fee on top of paying for the accreditation can be expensive. However, if a school is successful and has much to be proud of, it should not hesitate to go this route. CIS is located at 21 Lavant Street, Petersfield, Hampshire, UK. It is worth it, if the school is being maligned. However if what teachers say is true,! then perhaps you had better think again.
Although I belong to ISR and read the reviews regularly I am uncomfortable with the anonymous postings as well. I know it is dangerous to criticize a school or director openly, but at some point teachers have to stand behind their word to be credible and to show they are serious about making changes. Isn’t this what we try to teach our students?
One way to perhaps satisfy both sides of the anonymous issue would be do as many newspapers do. You must submit your name and contact information to the newspaper printing your letter, but you may ask the newspaper to withhold that information and keep it confidential. Your contact information would be privileged and therefore could not be compromised. I think such a procedure would serve two purposes:
1. This would allow ISR to track teachers that continually send in bad reviews everywhere they go. Unfortunately there are people out there that are a bad fit no matter where they are or who enjoy trashing someone who has disciplined them. It is a form of bullying and weak people enjoy bullying without getting caught.
2. By attaching contact information to any review I believe this would weed out those who love to send anonymous notes around an organization (I have worked in such a place) from those who are prepared to stand behind their words. Even if you know that your contact information is confidential, the fact that it is attached would certainly make most of us weigh our words much more carefully. I think it would help encourage an atmosphere in which the writer would want to stick to facts rather than recite mere opinions.
I think ISR provides a much needed service and I will continue to support it. The reviews certainly alerted me to potentially bad situations. At least if I decide to accept a position at one of these schools with bad reviews I am going in with my eyes wide open. And I believe most of us can read between the lines of many of the reviews. We deal with this situation every day when students come to us complaining about another student.
Hopefully we remember that reviews may not only be written by unhappy teachers, but also by disgruntled administrators either posing as teachers or who coach teachers to disparage someone in print in order to take potshots at their fellow administrators (and getting the writer to praise them!). Of course directors may write glowing anonymous reviews in order to balance out negative reviews by teachers.
In other words free speech requires intelligent reading.
Signing my name,
Very well written and numerous valid points made. Most of us wonder why administrators cannot simply be honest about the kind of school they have and the population it serves–and then recruit accordingly. There really IS a perfect fit for every school and teacher. Not all schools have stellar standards, and not all teachers are dedicated hard workers. The problems arise in two main areas (1) mismatch due to schools recruiting incorrectly for the population of students they serve and (2) schools who really are treating their faculty poorly on the whole. I think there is a fair number of these schools (they have neither any academic sense nor is their business ethos very sound) in this category, and have begun to wonder if there is any possibility of “turnover” in the “good schools”–or does one have to wait for a teacher to die or retire! :-) The stories you hear by word of mouth are, trust me, ten times worse than anything posted on your site.
Many directors and principals are in the positions they are because they are politicians first, foremost, and forever. That pretty much gives the school its ethos. It is the teachers who are dedicated to education–and politics and education, it seems, are seldom in line with each other. Two schools I taught at have been run by directors who lie as naturally as breathing comes to the rest of us, who bully teachers that refuse to lower standards or inflate grades (my current school is owned by the parents, so even IB marks are expected to be manipulated), and in both cases the schools took great pains to keep faculty unaware of labor laws and rights that we might have in legal issues. Bilingual faculty have a distinct advantage where finding things out is concerned, but native teachers are often as oblivious of their rights as expatriates are. These are just some thoughts your article provoked. I have seen nothing in any of the so called “negative” evaluations surprising or foreign ! to my experiences teaching overseas. They are, alas, all too familiar
Dr Michele Bertholf
Be careful about creating a temporary email address, especially if you are in a place like Thailand or China where the authorities will collaborate help track you down.
Funny, I was just reading some reviews last night and thinking the same thing. Sometimes you can just tell that the reviewer was shocked being out here in the “third world” or, should I say, in a LEDC? “The cows keep staring at me!” Many seem to think that they have a right to involve themselves in the political machinations of the “business” in which the wealthy person of the country is trying to make a profit. I’m sure many complaints are valid and obviously some people get into horrible situations. I would still not accept a job in Kuwait no matter what I was promised. I was just wishing more people who are satisfied and maybe even pleased with their school and the country they have chosen to live in would write reviews. I can’t. After three years here in Ethiopia and a 14% reduction in my living expenses with rising prices in everything, I’m looking for a new home because none has much hope for a raise in the salary. I’ve been away from my birth country for 27! years now and couldn’t imagine wanting to live in Canada again.
We do need a web site as ISR. Before taking my current position, I read positive articles about my school and I feel happy working here. Other colleagues of my previous job refused to read about the school they chose for 2 years and they regret because they feel that those articles reflected exactly how bad that school is.
I am lucky because my recruiter takes care of the teachers registered with him and he suggests teachers what is the best option for them. However, it does not happen too often and ISR does help to make decisions.
To write articles in a web site against another one does not help anybody. Therefore, if you are not happy with ISR or any other one, do not read them, or if you do, also add positive suggestions to improve.
Teachers that are happy and not disgruntled are just as free to write unsolicited, unforced opinions and reviews as those deemed disgruntled. American and teachers of other nationalities are equally abused and in positions of unbalanced power. Often, they are up against unseen power structures who deceive them and take advantage of their vulnerability. These power bases also have enjoyed destroying the careers of those teachers who dare speak out against their personal ill treatment. Teachers, in so many places are treated with such low regard and disrespect, often receiving the hostility of those who hate our respective countries, and have a chance to harm us, because it evens out the power imbalance the Western countries have over them.
I dare say most teachers who write in are not disgruntled, but are merely expressing some of the most abominable and dangerous circumstances that one may face in the teaching profession and in various parts of the world.
The threats of being sued are merely a means to force silence and submission, because the very worse schools can no longer recruit unsuspecting dupes and they are frustrated. If a forum such as this can be intimidated, threatened, and forced into silence, just imagine what they attempt to do and often do to coerce silence and force conformity among teachers, who are primarily female.
Considering what has happened recently to teachers in Kuwait and Mexico, I dare say, let this forum continue and anonymity be a right. Teachers seldom lie about their conditions.
This is implied terrorism against teachers and ISR and should not be allowed to continue. For the moment, until the U.S. government and other governments gets involved to protect its citizens abroad, and stop foreign nationals from forcing their children via American schools into western countries, this is the only legitimate forum available for us to warn and protect each other.
Please don’t be intimidated and keep up the good work. Obviously, someone is quite distressed at having lights shone upon their despicable behaviors which ultimately undervalues the education students receive in these many of these fake foreign educational institutions that cater primarily to the rich elite who want to transplant their children in western societies via force and intimidation.
As a reader of both the reviews and forum sponsored by ISR, it seems to me that most schools covered come under one of two categories. There are the truly egregiously offensive schools and administrators which continually employ deceptive practices to recruit and care nothing about the children in their respective schools beyond whether or not their parents’ tuition checks can be cashed. These schools are not the norm, but they are real, and ISR performs an invaluable service trying to expose these institutions and prevent teachers from making huge mistakes by signing with them. The second type of schools are the majority; the schools which do their best to achieve what they profess and are working, in a variety of ways, to achieve their purposes – the complaints one sees about these schools are mostly procedural or personality issues. Still, it’s best to know if an administrator has a significantly different style of educating than one with which one would be comfortable – in the heady atmosphere of a recruitment fair, this might not come to light. People who’ve taught at the schools, lived in the countries, these people offer valid insights on ISR that would otherwise be unavailable. One cannot help but notice that there are a fair amount of schools not covered at all, and those that only have positive reviews. One suspects that what sets these schools apart is that they routinely practice open communication and truly have transparency without fear of reprisal, so that teachers at those schools can offer their input directly without having to refer to an anonymous site such as ISR.
After teaching at two overseas schools and posting reviews on those school (both fairly positive), I believe a forum for opinions and facts on schools overseas is very important. There are definitely more negative reviews that positive which is human nature, people are more likely to write a review when the feel strongly about something than when is seems just fine. For those schools where they have been able to take advantage of staff living away from home, they need to be held accountable. I think people sharing their experiences is necessary to shed light on what goes on. However, I do wish more people with positive experiences teaching overseas would write as well. There are several well regarded schools which have never received a posting on ISR,and it would be great to see them up on this site.
As for the comment as to how unfair some of the postings may be, teachers should be given credit for being critical readers by leery administrations. When I look at postings, I look at what and why something is being said. I take what I read with a grain of salt. However, when you have several postings by different people that say exactly the same thing, maybe there is a problem. Identifying issues and dealing with them will only make for better overseas schools and teaching environments, and this should not be something we as community fear. Picking an overseas school to work at is about fit. We all need to take several things into account when accepting a position. At the UNI FAIR which I recently attended, we were all encouraged to research our schools of interest before we arrived. I called people at one of the schools I wanted to interview with and got a first hand account of the school. The person I spoke with gave me the pros and cons and I made my own decision based on, “Is this a fit for me.”
Those of us who have done this before realize, a specific school or situation which is ideal for one person is not for another. When reading the postings people should not just look at the numbers but what the person wrote regarding the country, living situation, etc. I worked in Hong Kong recently and love almost everything about that country, several of my fellow teachers disliked the big city, the weather, the lifestyle etc. To each his or her own. If we use these reviews in this manner, I don’t see that there could really be any valid complaints about it.
We as teachers do need to do our research on this end, ISR is a valuable tool for knowing what to ask at times. I would not rule out a school because of one bad review on ISR, but I would as questions in advance before accepting a position. I think most administrators would find that a fair and valid use of this web site as a tool, but not as a definitive authority on all schools.
There is an easy way for schools and directors to stop getting negative reviews: Don’t paint your school as a place without issues. I believe that many teachers would be happy to take on challenges and problems if they were made aware of their existence before they made the decision to take the job. What people find objectionable in business transactions are unpleasant surprises, misrepresentation of situations, or failure to own up to problems.
Schools and directors will find that when they are willing to tell plain truths about their schools at the interview stage, they will preempt the unhappiness that results when teachers feel duped or undervalued. For example, one of the complaints I’ve been reading about repeatedly is that some schools will take teachers’ passports and keep them. Now, to me, having a school keep my passport is unthinkable until someone explains that in some countries there are legal ramifications to having all your various IDs in your possession. Then this act on the part of the school becomes, not a sinister development, but simply one of the many challenges of living abroad. Poor housing, shared transportation, local taxes, overly-involved school boards, all these are surmountable problems if you are given the chance to anticipate them. After all, most international teachers are spirited, adventurous people who are in the field because they are risk takers.
ISR is a place I go to to look at prospective schools. We have all worked with people that just want to complain about anything and everything, and then their legitimate problems at schools. I think as professionals most of us can read a review and figure out from the tone of the which one it is. I am thrilled there is a web site like ISR.
I had my name removed from another web-site as the web-site was threatened with libel action. At first the site (TES) were interested in what I had to say as it involved a teacher making a child in his care hit another child around the side of the face. When they realized the incident happened out-side the UK they weren’t interested. When the school subsequently made this teacher the head of the school I then raised the issue again on the TES forum. My access was removed from the forum…..did TES investigate my claim……NO……was I disgruntled……too right I was…….both with the school……but more with TES……it is a UK based company which should hold true to UK (and other countries) values
Several months ago, I posted THREE reviews of my experiences with an international school and its administration. I posted THREE reviews because I wanted to be FAIR and BALANCED in my reporting of my experiences. The reviews of TWO administrators were extremely positive and supportive of the professionalism, honesty and clear communication of those TWO administrators. The THIRD administrator did not share those characteristics, and my review reflected his lack. TWO ‘positive’ reviews and ONE ‘negative’ review does not equal ‘disgruntled employee.’ If the anonymous author would spend time reading through the ISR web site s/he would find other positive reviews. ISR, you provide us with a priceless service and a communicative open forum for sharing information from around the big lovely planet. Thank you.
This is an incredibly thoughtful response to the TIE article. Every Administrator I have talked to about ISR seem to be threatened by your web site for some strange reason. And the ironic thing is that the Admin. I have worked with are largely excellent and fair! I explain it as an “exchange of information” and simply suggest that they submit their own feedback should they feel the information isn’t accurate.
I certainly hope that you send this letter to TIE to se if they have the guts and sense of fairness to publish it. I would guess that they won’t since they won’t want to give ISR more exposure. I hope I’m wrong, though!
If only I had forked over the subscription fee a year ago, things would be much different today. The reviews of one particular school on ISR would have kept me from signing their contract last year. Negative or positive, the feedback is essential to making an informed decision that will affect not only the next two years of a teacher’s career, but their reputation for years to come.
The one problem with ISR is the same problem you’ll find with similar feedback forums: people are more likely to post bad news than good news. A quick scan of the reviews on ISR will reveal few glowing reviews (save for those that read with the voice of a school administrator). So how to balance this formula?
I would suggest that every time a forum is opened on a school, send out a solicitation for teachers at that school to post their own review. I understand you need to make your subscription dollars, so they would need to pay that if they want to read all the feedback. But make it free to post a review. This would provide subscribers with a much more informed picture of that school.
Again I think it can be said that there are positive and non positive experiences. When we wanted to travel to New York I checked hotels on a travel advisory web site. Sorry you Americans out there but most of the negative comments I read about some of the hotels were made by Americans. It was the Aussies who made the most positive comments about the same hotels. We chose one and we had a great time based on what we read. I certainly think it is a seller’s market out there for international teachers and recruiters may sometimes be under the pump to secure someone with whatever means they can muster. One can almost understand why recruiters try to seal deals especially when a teacher has been unprofessional enough and has done a ‘runner’. I remember reading on ISR where NO sympathy was extended to those teachers who unethically break contracts and leave schools “in the lurch” and I think administrators need to acknowledge this and other positive things said about directors which I have certainly read on this site. A message for the directors out there who get exposed on ISR. Firstly, you should feel privileged that you can actually read what teachers say about you positive or not. We certainly don’t know what you are telling recruitment agencies and other directors if it is not positive. A privilege of the position doesn’t cut it. I am a teacher in an International School and as just one example, I firmly believe that teachers who break contract by doing ‘runners’ and leave your schools, (therefore kids) in the lurch deserve to be blacked listed and exposed. This has been mentioned on ISR before and I feel sad that I have colleagues like this. But don’t black list or make life difficult for teachers who decide to leave before their time and openly wish to discuss it with you. Be a good employer and help them if you can. The emphasis is on “if you can”. Give them the support you promised at recruitment. So what, maybe you’ll have to recruit at short notice or have a parent fill in. You’ve done it before and we all know that there are loads of teachers out there available at short notice. I didn’t say they would match what you want perfectly though. Maybe those wishing to break contract don’t get their flight and shipping. Maybe you don’t like or agree with their reason and sure, they will have to bear all the huge costs but believe me, they’ve already accepted they may have to do that. Embrace them for coming to see you about it instead of them just leaving in the dead of night. Support their life decision and they’ll sing your praises to others. I encourage all teachers who have had positive experiences with their directors to post them on ISR. But directors, if your staff member feels “shafted” they are going to post it on ISR anyway and spread the word about you and your school at recruitment and you know they will and already do. If it is fair enough that recruitment agencies are quickly informed about teachers who do unethical things and other directors are told about it at recruitment time, then it is equally fair for teachers to be informed of directors and schools that do unethical things and ISR is a way for teachers to be informed as recruitment agencies are certainly not going to tell us. Negativity sticks and ISR certainly can not be targeted by directors as positive reviews ARE made. I know a director who I will not name, whom I respect as a person, I think he is a good bloke and even a fair drinking buddy. But as a director, I think he should pack it in for a while and reflect. He was rather positive to us throughout our time at his school. He drove a bit of a hard bargain at recruitment which is fine with us but also gave us loads of time to decide and did not change any conditions of contract upon arrival. Like so many out there he opens doors to international careers and again, our experience at his school was, in the bigger picture, generally positive. However when renewal time, for example, looms he starts pushing staff to quite unacceptable and stressful limits to decide whether to renew before they are contractually obligated to, suggesting others need opportunity to apply for our jobs internally before the holidays (which is fine for promotional positions) and by not letting him know early means we are disadvantaging the school and our colleagues and the kids. What this is also saying is that we should be putting the school’s needs before our own. It is unreasonable to ask a teacher to put a school’s needs before their own or their family’s especially when it is in regards to life changing decisions. Sure if a decision is reached early then great but if people need the time allocated to them, leave them alone or remind them politely that they have a couple of days left before the christmas holidays to please decide or the school will go recruiting to replace them. Don’t flood their emails or interrupt their lunches. Whether it is intended or not, if a teacher feels pushed or too pressured, they’ll leave. And it happens in his school every year. Better still, meet with them and ask them their plans and perhaps persuade them to stay by outlining all the positive reasons for doing so. Just like you did when you hired them. Changing policies and contracts and bringing back dates earlier and earlier is not a solution to easier recruiting. Directors would have to meet with replacements anyway. It does not include extreme circumstances. But this is an example that was one of the smaller factors in our decision to leave even though we liked our director and still do. We were professional at times when he made life hard for us but he played the game and so did we. He was not perfect, he made a lot of knee jerk reactive calls and unpopular decisions and has used parent concern or heresy as an excuse for many of these, he has used students’ tuition fees to purchase unnecessary “toys” for himself, changed policies to the detriment of some of the teachers’ positive experiences, convinced the school board on a massive massive pay increase for himself and has really lost touch with his school and staff. The most important thing here is that I have not named him or the school because it actually is a nice kind of school. If he reads this, he might know it is about him, maybe not. Readers might think, how can one respect a director who does some of these things. Well, I actually think they all do in some way or another. Administrators don’t get to where they are without stepping on some toes or kissing some backsides. The point is, they play the game and so do I. It’s business and they take care of business for themselves first of all and then their schools and I take care of business for myself and my family first and foremost. I keep my nose clean, ear to the ground and enough money on my credit card for a short-notice flight home which I hope I never have to use. Lets face it, concealing your identity is just a means of avoiding retribution, being fired, targeted and certainly a way of preventing teachers avoid your school…whatever. Remember the positive as well as the negative reviews when checking out a school. I’m quite sure ISR would be great for directors wishing to change schools and can find out plenty of stuff. We did and we are very happy where we are. If our school just so happened to change it’s tune dramatically between interview and day 1 like some of the examples I have read and if a positive mutually agreed resolution, negotiation or compromise was not reached in the time we decide, then we would use that emergency fund. Without a shadow of a doubt. My well being and that of my family is infinitely more important than that of any school. I thrive on positive working relationships but it has to be said and I quote: “It’s late and a Saturday. Go home to your wife. You and your family come first. I told you that at recruitment. Don’t let me catch you back here next weekend and that’s an order from me as your director.”
I have appreciated the International Schools Review in helping me make my decisions in accepting positions overseas. Teaching overseas is difficult enough without being faced with problems such as pay issues and health issues and other kinds of issues that face the International teacher. I wonder sometimes why there aren’t reviews on schools that don’t appear here. I might have made a different decision had I read something about my school had it appeared on the reviews. I know that I am not the only one that has feelings about issues facing my present school and wondered why others who have preceded me did not make these known. Yes there are disgruntled people everywhere and anyone reading the reviews will come to their own conclusions and filter those out. My personal belief is that we should leave names out of the comments and talk about the issues. Professionalism should still prevail and along with comments on issues there should be some suggestions for solutions. It is easy to offer criticism without solutions isn’t it?
I’m surprised that you are surprised by the reaction. Some of the postings tend towards the sensational/hysterical and it is clear that disgruntled teachers are more likely to post than happy ones. If you rated each posting you’d find a high percentage of unhappy teachers. If this is representative (and I do not think it is) then there are a lot of people who should leave international school teaching. That said, this site does present an opportunity for people to air their opinions and their dissatisfaction.
I loved your response to the issue of disgruntled teachers. It was clearly balanced and tempered. Looks like I would like to read the ISR more often.
A couple quick things:
1) Teachers are rated all the time at a web site called www.ratemyteachers.com. Some overseas schools, lots from the states.
2) I have taught overseas for 17 years in 5 schools. Good schools have mostly good reviews. Bad schools have mostly bad reviews. It is as simple as that.
3) ISR does drive admin nuts, its the first time they haven’t been in the drivers seat. Its about time we the teachers have something other than word of mouth to help us out.
Keep up the good work, don’t let TIE or any other agency scare you off!!
From the ISR Forum:
I would like to contribute to the forum on the issue of Headmasters. I first would like to say that I feel this forum is long overdue as a medium for teachers to discuss international school administration. As I read the recent (Feb. 2008) TIE articles written in response to the ISR web site, there were times I had to bite my tongue. TIE is part of the root of the problem, along with ISS, Search Associates and other similar organizations. These are largely staffed/headed by previous international school heads, and due to this, are at least in some measure seeking to protect their own. Many of the people in these organizations flow in and out of international school head positions and organizations such as the aforementioned. Case in point – look at the Feb. 2008 TIE advertisement for the Principal’s Training Center (PTC). Note that it also lists the names of the school heads from member schools. Why is this? You can bet that the school heads listed didn’t pay anything out of their own pocket for their school to be a PTC member. So why in the world does TIE list their names? There is an easy answer for that. The TIE heads are in the business of making international school heads happy. You can bet my school’s head is happy every time his name shows up in the TIE. Why should it be there at all? No answer necessary.
I, personally, applaud the owner of ISR. I appreciate your willingness to offer this forum for communication of all kinds, regarding international schools. While there will undoubtedly be some dishonesty displayed in print on this site, there will likely be a whole lot more truth. Yes, isn’t it ironic that TIE can criticize ISR.com as dangerous due to the anonymous nature of most information posted, yet the writer of that particular editorial doesn’t even include a name? Indeed ironic! It is about time teachers had a forum to express their opinions. School administrators are part of a “club” who meet regularly to discuss their experiences. You can bet that the names of teachers frequently are mentioned during these encounters, especially since alcohol seems to flow quite heavily at them (yes, a few issues back my school head was in two photos, and only two photos, both of which he was holding a bottle of beer – I found that amazing). I will post again, no doubt, but let me share with you my experience of 18 years in international education and six headmasters:Head #1: This guy had no business being in education. He was a tyrant. I personally was offered under the table money by him. He frequently did special favors for people who “kissed-up” to him. After working for him for 3 years, he tried not to pay departing benefits to me and 2 other teachers, while he did pay them to teachers who had been at the school for one year or less. While we all had the same one-year contract, these short-timers had been recently hired through ISS. ISS was forcing him to pay, and even though all our contracts had this stated benefit, he tried to not pay those of us leaving who had been there longer than one year. He feared ISS, but didn’t have the integrity to honor our contracts. Amazing!
Head #2 (same school as #1): While I did not have the same experience with him as I did with #1, the following did happen. I saw it with my own eyes. He had an affair with one of the local married female teachers. I saw him, with my own eyes, sneak into the sleeping room of this female teacher while we were on a school retreat. Tell me, what is a school head doing at 12:30 AM going into a female teacher’s room? This is the same woman who just shortly thereafter, quit mid-year once her husband learned about it.
There was another story like this, and a police report to go with it, but I will save that one for another time.
Head #3 (new school): A qualified headmaster. Hired his unqualified/uncertified wife to be a principal. Had a habit of promoting uncertified friends into administrative positions. People who openly told me that they “need to stay close to Mr. X, so they can get moved up in the school.” Had the Board reverse one of his promotions, only to turn around and rewrite the job description so the friend could qualify for the job. Never mind that several other qualified candidates lost out on the position. This guy openly lied to the school board at meetings that I attended. For a while we, the teachers, were banned from attending Board meetings! He was fired. But after a couple years back home relaxing, he managed to get an even higher paying job doing what he did in his last post.
Head #4 (same school): Another tyrant. He was, and likely still is, rude and abusive. Openly gave some benefits to SOME teachers while denying them to others. Had horrible personal skills. Example: After not seeing him for weeks, and after a 3 week Christmas holiday, he came up to me and just started asking questions. Not a “hello, how was the holiday?” Nothing like that at all. He needed to take a long vacation. He did, for 2 years, then went back out to do it all again in another international school.
Head #5 (new school): A genuinely nice person. I would work for him again. Not everyone agrees with me, but I feel I am fair-minded, and this man was honest. I only had the pleasure of working for him for one year.
Head #6 (same school): Another nice person. Although, he is gone far too much and in my opinion, spends far too much of the school’s money flying business class wherever he goes! But, he is sincere and a fairly good leader. He has done well to support his teaching staff and continues to do so.
So, there you have it. Some good and some bad, but believe me, the bad ones (1-4) were pretty bad. If you take my experience as representative of what most people experience, you end up having had too many horrible school heads as your boss. Four out of six in the “really bad” category isn’t a very positive report. I am interested in what others have to say, so please feel free to add to my “report.”
To TIE, ISS, and Search Associates, isn’t it about time you hired some people who really have it in their minds to serve teachers equally as well as you serve schools (Heads)? Stop defending and start exposing, and then perhaps, all international school administrations worldwide will really do what they should do.