Dear Dr. Spilchuk…
To Cut and Run or Stick it Out?
Dear Dr. Spilchuk,
There is new Director this year at my school. This person said they had an open door policy and to feel comfortable talking about anything. I am teaching a number of different courses and have a very heavy prep load because of this. I finally asked if we could look at my schedule to see how it could be made more manageable. The Director said “Your job is to teach and you need to teach or leave in December. Then thd Director lied about saying this when I talked about it some days later and tried to accuse me of saying things that I did not. Since then I have endured constant criticism, reprimands, etc. Maybe I should leave at Christmas break, what do you think?
I’m responding to your email forwarded to me by the Editor ISR. I understand that it is difficult to work in a relationship that starts with these circumstances; however, I would suggest that you hang in there for the rest of the school year at the very least. You would not be doing yourself any justice by cutting and running so soon into the year. My suggestion is that you lie low, do your teaching and make friends with the staff in the school. Take time to enjoy the country your school is located in. Make school only one part of your life and travel the other. If you can diversify, you will find that this problem will minimize in your life over time. If at the end of the year, you still feel the same way, you can reconsider at that point.
The problem with breaking contract is that your reputation often follows you in the International teaching world. A reputation of ‘breaking contract’ when things get tough could minimize your choice in schools in the future. If you received this contract through a hiring agency, you will also be responsible to pay back a large bond set upon your hiring to that agency. The school might even sue you for failing to fulfill your contract. The list of issues goes on and on.
I have learned over time that while I love teaching, I should teach to travel not travel to teach. By reversing my priorities, I am less likely to give up a job that will keep me exploring what lies beyond the shores of safety in my home country because of a conflict at work. Here’s a metaphor you might want to think about:
Eagles fly long distances to explore the world; sometimes they crash as a result of their explorations but what they see is amazing! When they crash, eagles take time to recover then get back up there and fly again. Sparrows stay at home and twitter on the telephone lines. It’s a safer experience and they never crash, but it is an experience filled with much less excitement and adventure. Decide if you want to be an eagle or a sparrow.
It’s always nice to know there is a friend out there tracking your experiences, listening to your stories and helping you make wise choices. All the best and stay in touch to let me/us know how things are progressing for you. I am here…ISR is here for you.
All the Best,
Responses to This Column
Dear Dr Spilchuk,
I read (and contribute to) ISR and I would like to respond to your column on “To cut and Run or Stick it Out”
Overall the advice is sound, however I would hedge my bets if I were Gee. With the director already demonstrating ease with lying, and targeting Gee in a punitive manner, He/She may well be getting set up for dismissal or forced resignation at the end of the year as it is. I speak from experience, and in this situation there is little you can do about it except proffer the demanded letter and GO (with a poor recommendation to be sure). Admin will always be able to “construct” a stronger case than you, the classroom teacher, and no matter how well you document things there is no hope of winning against a host of administrators and a school board that has made a decision prior to your walking into a meeting.
I would suggest that whilst “lying low” Gee look discreetly for another job, and foster relationships where a letter of rec can be secured without any problem (dept head, academic dean, IB coordinator, etc) in Lieu of a director who may very well make decisions based on personal opinions not professional observations. Unfortunately, there are all too many of these sort out there, and teachers need to remain one step ahead of them.
Dear Dr. Spilchuk,
Never trust it when they say they have an open door policy or tell you that you can come to the office to vent or scream…rarely do they mean it. it makes an administrator look good when they say they have an open door policy even if it’s just lip service…careful, most will throw it in you face or use it against you. Always be extremely cautious with whom you can trust; especially with those who appear nice and caring. You could be dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Always wait and feel it out first.