What would you do if you were a school director and discovered a less than favorable review of your school on the ISR web site? Would you threaten with a lawsuit? Ferret out the teacher that submitted the review and terminate their contract? Staunchly conclude anyone unhappy is nothing more than a complainer? Or, maybe you’d even do all of these things, as a few directors have already.
Of course, there is an infinitely better way to respond. As a concerned professional you could model enlightened leadership and consider the review a signal to meet with your staff and resolve the issues. You could even initiate dialogue with other international directors and seek guidance on how to improve your leadership skills or solve particular problems at your school. Our hunch is that directors who would respond in this manner are not receiving negative reviews on ISR because they are already doing the right thing.
Since its inception in 2004, more than one international educator has lost their job after being accused of posting to the ISR web site. Most alarming, we recently reviewed a school contract that had been updated to include a clause allowing for immediate dismissal of any teacher who speaks or writes words perceived to be critical of the operation of their school – whether the words are true or false is of no concern. Another contract stated that teachers cannot, under threat of dismissal, fraternize with parents and/or members of the board. Surely such clauses are not reflective of the lofty mission statements so proudly displayed by the same schools.
It perplexes us that the very people who should be fostering and modeling the free interchange of ideas and information are the very people refusing to accept there just may be a problem or two at their schools. We conclude such people have their own agendas, be it financial or personal. Either way, hiring well-educated professionals and expecting them to settle for less than fair treatment and dedicated, professional leadership is absurd. As an international educator I encountered more than one director who promoted and endorsed all aspects of constructive dissent and freedom of expression – just not at their schools! Realizing their staff was beginning to question their agendas, these directors chose to quell and dismiss rumblings among their faculty as the rustling of a few “never happy” teachers. Of course, this personality belongs to a small minority of directors whose only toehold on leadership is the power granted them through the board of directors, who may actually support and endorse their director’s actions based on their own motives.
Fortunately, we hear of directors who, when confronted with a review that does not coincide with their opinion of themselves and their school, react like true professionals. One teacher wrote: “After reading a review that pointed out problems at our school the director sent a copy of the review to the entire staff. She asked us to read the review and, if so motivated, submit a review of our own that either defended the school or concurred with the current review, depending, of course, on how we perceived the situation.” The teacher goes on to relate how this approach afforded a balanced view of the school. The teacher states that this director modeled the very essence of the school’s mission statement, further winning the respect of her staff.
Consider the following statements taken from ISR reviews. Would you support the directors of these schools or would you encourage these schools and directors to initiate serious self-evaluation and change?
• Many teachers were yelled at, insulted, and threatened at various times throughout the year.
• Grades can be changed without the teacher’s knowledge or approval.
• This is a school with no vision for education and no rules of ethics to follow. Curriculum resources are almost completely illegally photocopied.
• If I had a problem with a student or a parent it was looked at like it was my fault.
• There is very little academic integrity because everyone is supposed to pass with a good to excellent grade.
• When we got there we were instructed to sign a new contract — a local-hire contract. Even though we were hired at a U.S. conference they said we had first approached the school for a job while vacationing in the country. The pay scale was 50% lower and had no insurance benefits. We refused. The vindictive director blackballed us at every recruiting agency he could. His move was supported and we had no recourse.
• In one situation he said to a teacher, “Who are you to question my authority?”
• High staff turnover, resource shortages and an administrative and decision making system that is mired down in paperwork and cleverly designed to lead nowhere.
• Teachers’ two-year contracts were declared null and void after one year and “new” contracts were issued with different terms of service. Teachers, who would not sign the second contract, were told they would forfeit their annual salary increase.
• Another teacher was beaten up in an alley by a group of boys. He was fired, because the kids didn’t like him. No joke.
• This is unfortunately one of those schools where the kids and their parents have all the power.
• Water was thrown on a teacher because she refused to change grades at the request of a parent and older sibling.
• I was absolutely SHOCKED at the sophisticated level of cheating and bribing amongst students. Many of us were so naive, or didn’t want to believe the reviews we read online, only to arrive and find a literal HELLHOLE, attempting to pass itself off as an educational institution.
• Why did the school owners have new cars and a grand wedding that year when I could not even get any text books?
It seems obvious that when a director says “unhappy teachers are nothing more than complainers”, they are acting very much like students who, when caught red handed, insist “It wasn’t me”. If open communication between faculty and administration is not effective, or could spell career suicide for an educator, we encourage the use of the ISR web site as a platform through which the free exchange of information can take place in an open and safe environment. Although some school directors carry on as if ruling small fiefdoms, receiving blind support by various organizations, ISR remains dedicated to supporting the rights and well being of educators. We invite you to join us.
We asked members:
Has your school been reviewed on the ISR Web Site? How did your director respond?