Dr. Spilchuk – I’m Still Waiting for the Actual Contract with Details!2017-06-02T14:25:39+00:00
Dear Dr. Spilchuk…

March, 2011

I’m Still Waiting for the Actual Contract with Details!

Dear Dr. Spilchuk,

I attended a reputable fair this year and was a successful candidate who received several job offers.  I believe that my background as a ” third culture kid “, my prior international teaching experience and excellent results at University attracted the heads of the schools I interviewed with.
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I have been offered a position in the Middle East.  The position I was offered was for to teach in the IB curriculum. I have not formally accepted the offer as I am still waiting on the actual contract with all the details. During the interview, I was not given a piece of paper with details of the salary and benefits; a week later I still have not received these details.
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My questions are these:

a) Is it normal for heads of international schools to offer teachers without IB experience a position that requires them to teach a full fair of classes in this program?  I know that the school is just in its first year of IB curriculum, so this might be the case for all the teachers hired.

b) Based on your experience and knowledge, what could be some reasons for a Director to delay sending details of a formal offer via e-mail?

Any advice is appreciated!

Thank you!
Concerned

Hello Concerned,

You have asked two very interesting questions.  I’ll try to answer them here:

First, my understanding from some of the teachers who have been communicating with me this year is that they have seen a trend toward International schools hiring either couples or younger teachers.  The first hire is obvious; it is less likely that a school will lose a couple than it is a single teacher to culture shock in the first year in a new region.  1st year or younger teachers being chosen is an interesting situation. I think, however, that many international schools may be feeling a money crunch so hiring new or younger teachers would partly relieve financial issues at a school.  This latter situation may partially account for you being offered an IB position in this particular school. It also appears that your credentials are excellent but of more interest than even your academic prowess to a School Head will be your international teaching experience and the fact that you are a product of International schools.  These two attributes demonstrate that you have the ability to be flexible in an international situation rather than experiencing the out-of-North-America culture shock that many 1st time teachers abroad may have that would cause them to rush back to their safety net at home.

Second, generally speaking, IB schools are well run simply because there is a continuous monitoring process by International Baccalaureate to ensure that their specific accreditation criteria are met in an on-going basis.  As this is the first year of the IB Program at this school, there is no doubt that the school and teachers will undergo strenuous supervision of curriculum as the school approaches accreditation.  There will be a huge amount of pressure placed on staff during the lead-up years and the accreditation year! You may be fodder for the cannon or the Head may sincerely see you as a potential IB teacher or it may be that experienced IB teachers are difficult to come by right now.  Whatever the reason, receiving an offer in an IB school will not hurt your CV!

Anther point to note would be that the G8 countries are not the best place for any new teacher to cut their teeth in International teaching from my experience.  Having said that, however, of the G8, the country where you have been offered a position seems to be one of the countries with the fewest problems. Please do check into the culture of this country to see if you believe as a young woman you can handle a Middle East appointment.

I haven’t heard of the Director and that is not a bad thing!  However, you might want to ask him to have a teacher at the school who is an expat and who has been there for a couple of years contact you so that you can make discrete inquiries about the school and community you are heading into.

Finally, if you give a verbal or written agreement to a position, you will be bound to that agreement and may have to pay a large penalty to get out of it. I would be firm about wanting to see the contract and conditions first before you agree to anything.  Take the contract to a local lawyer or someone you trust who is qualified to review the contract and ask them to have a look at it. If all looks good, then you can sign and happily go on your way into international education.

Hopefully this answers your questions.

Best and Good Luck
Barbara

Responses to This Column

Dr. Spilchuk: Let me respond to the second question first. If you do no have a signed contract or letter with specific obligations/responsibilities, you do not have a job. Reputable schools don’t do this. This kind of behavior in a school is a HUGE RED FLAG that you are about to be abused by an unethical, exploitative organization. Immediately send them a letter declining their verbal offer, then keep looking until you find a real school and a real job.

The IB details confirm this somewhat. Hiring a teacher to teach IB without training is sometimes done when specific training is actually arranged in the first year, and this is usually mentioned in the contract. But as above, you have no contract. And while Dr. Spilchuck states correctly that the IBO has a regulatory effect on its subscriber schools, that often takes a few years to kick in. If this school has only recently adopted IB, it could be exploiting the IBO name just as it exploits teachers, and this will take a couple of years to surface. Don’t be naive. Scream and run.


The best advice you could give this candidate is to look elsewhere for work. If the Director does not have the professional courtesy to a. give you something in writing in the first place and b. keeps you waiting for a week or more (and still nothing), be very wary of the place! Funny how many schools expect prospective and incumbent teachers to be 101% professional in all they do, yet completely lack a sense of professional reciprocity when it comes to their obligations.


It seems a bit over-reactive to suggest that this teacher take a contract (I assume it was acquired at a job fair) to a lawyer for review. The trusted person should be one of the fair advisors. If this was not acquired via a job fair, then certainly I agree with the other responders…do not accept the contract. Or thoroughly ask for other contacts at the school to talk to.


Interestingly, guess what? At university level, we are routinely told the contract will be waiting for us on arrival! Well, when the airline ticket arrives, I get on the plane and voila! They do come through! The major universities in the Gulf region also usually provide a salary advance and help with transportation until you’ve settled in. (I’ve worked in Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi)

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