Dr. Spilchuk – A Lebanese School ‘Black-Balled’ Me in The U.S…2017-06-02T14:25:39+00:00
Dear Dr. Spilchuk…

July, 2008

A Lebanese School ‘BlackBalled’ Me in The U.S.

Dear Dr. Spilchuk,

I am writing you today after more than six months of sheer desperation, in a struggle to revive my career as an educator. What suggestions or possible legal recourse do you have for a teacher who has been unable to get a job in the US due to ‘blackballing’? I read your articles on ISR, and while they are informative, I’m still stuck.

I was hired on at an overseas school to teach fifth grade. I was clear during the interview what my abilities were (as a teacher finishing his second year), as well as my limitations. There were some curriculum items the headmaster mentioned that were foreign to me, and I made sure he knew this. He assured me I would receive all the professional development I needed to get up to speed with their program.

By June, my grade level had been switched from 5th to 3rd (which I am not qualified to teach) to 4th (a grade level I’d turned down from other prospective employers). I’d requested on multiple occasions samples of the curriculum, but the administrators assured me it would all be taken care of upon my arrival. These events should have been red flags, but Search Associates recommended I suck it up, and think happy thoughts.

The next five months were a nightmare. My teaching team refused to assist me in adjusting to the grade level, instead taking every opportunity to belittle and discredit me. The professional development never happened, and all my requests for help from my principal went unresolved; she usually gave me a stack of books to read over the weekend, only to tell me the following week that the information was obsolete or “the wrong thing to be reading.” Parents were unrelenting in their assaults on my abilities and character, and the administration did little to buffer such assaults. By November, I was given an ultimatum from the same man who’d hired me: shape up or ship out. He gave me no tangible information on what “shaping up” should look like, so it was no surprise, after many sleepless nights of attempting to achieve whatever these people wanted, that I was cut.

To their credit, the school admitted fault in changing my job description and not delivering on the needed professional development. For this, they gave me a plane ticket and a severance check. They even said they would help me with a reference for my future endeavors. With this, I left Lebanon with no regrets or hard feelings.

But the nightmare came home to the US with me. The reference that was promised by the school turned out to be an ugly black mark. I would only learn this months later, after being denied clearance for hiring in two state school districts, that my former overseas employers had very few nice things to say about me. Though I’ve written them off as a reference since then, I am unable to get a job in two states because of what is on my record. I have glowing references from every other past employer, and my interview skills are bona fide, but this reference has been enough to put a stench on my application that no administrator will come near. On more than one occasion now, I’ve been offered positions, tentative upon a reference check. Because my references are a permanent record with the state, I cannot simply erase them. I have gone broke searching for work throughout the region, so checking in with other states is not yet an option.

Any ideas?

Disparaged in America

Hello Disparaged in America,

What I find absolutely amazing is that school boards in the U.S. would even consider writing you off as a teacher based upon your experience in Lebanon as a novice. This is ridiculous! Obviously these School Districts have no idea about the difficulties involved in International Teaching.

I’m unclear as to your eligibility to teach 3rd vs 4th vs 5th Grade. From my experience, if you are Elementary trained, you should be ‘good to go’ at any elementary grade with the exception, perhaps of Grade 1. At any rate, a new teacher should expect assistance from their school. International schools do not always have strong learning communities, however.

I’m thinking that you should simply write this international experience out of your resume and place yourself out there as a novice teacher without a ‘black’ background. This is my best advice to you. To try to change the position of the school in Lebanon at this point is a dollar short and a dime too late.

I’m forwarding this to the editor of ISR so he also can give you his best advice.

Keep me informed as to your options.

Best,

Barbara

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