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Comment #1: The school's population in the lower school is about 50% Indian and in the upper school is mostly Ivorian (85% Ivorian & 10% Other African Nationality). More than 50% are currently receiving ESL support or required support within the past 4 years.
Keep in mind the statements below are a generalization, and should not be construed to be true for every teacher & student at ICSA. There are always exceptions to rules, this is no exception.
The upper school students largely come from the well to do families of Abidjan. Typically, they were doing poorly in the local Ivorian schools, so their parents transferred them to ICSA. As a result, academic performance is very low. Many of the students are English- as- a- second language (ESL) learners and they receive very little support. Many of them come to ICSA performing poorly in the French- speaking schools. Conversely, the students’ overall classroom behavior is good, but discipline is intermittent and not consistent. Academically, many of the students who should be retained are instead promoted. For example: Student A failed three core subjects and earns a D in the fourth subject and was still promoted. Meanwhile, Student B & C failed two subjects and was retained, while students D & E also failed two, but was promoted. Students seem to be arbitrarily promoted at the director's discretion. The biggest problem with the school is the culture of laziness which prevails. Good students, upon arrival, become poor performing students very quickly. This culture is only a reflection of the teaching faculty which is a result of poor leadership. It is difficult to see this changing anytime soon with the current teaching staff. Many of the current teaching staff is mostly local hire with many of them not holding current certification of any kind.
The School claims to teach a college prep American curriculum, but due to large number of ESL students, the curriculum is reduced to spoon feeding the students the information. This mean high performing/ or gifted students may suffer the low academic expectation and the negative school culture. The school was recently accredited by CIS, unfortunately the accreditation report was written like a great fiction novel.
The school has very little supplies. The school did suffer from the crisis of 2005; however, the school receives a large amount of money renting its “old” campus to the UN. Some of this money is used to pay the rent at the temporary facility (villa). In any event, the school lacks basic supplies and has out of date tech equipment, etc. It did recently purchase a new server, however. It is many on the staff belief that the director is stealing the schools funds. According to the budget, we should be receiving new supplies every year, but never do. The US Embassy also gives a $40,000 textbook grant to the school. In my years at the school, we have never ordered anywhere near $4,000 worth of books let alone $40,000 in one year. The director lacks credibility as he would outright lie to the board about our performance & activities. Another classic example of his lack of credibility: We were told we would only have to pay 18% local taxes. To our horror, we were being tax nearly 30%. After the staff complained, he revised his claim and gave us a detail breakdown of the Ivorian tax structure. Despite this, he still told an incoming OSH that she will only be responsible for 18% local taxes.
If his shady financial dealings weren’t enough, he also uses & acts inappropriately around students. He would often be seen around Abidjan with underage Ivorian women (several embassy personnel relay this story to me). He also had a long extra- marital affair with a young Ivorian woman. (2nd hand info) He supposedly (told by two different people) set fire to her bed when he was informed by his “girlfriend” that she was leaving him to marry a Frenchman. He also made inappropriate statements about female students at school. Example: “[Name omitted], she has a body and knows how to use it” He also come to school after spending all night in piano bars in and around Abidjan, and spent most of last year mentally distressed. (He was seeing a psychologist until she told him she will not see him anymore). GOOD NEWS---Recently, the board announced that school will be hiring a new director; so much of the above may change in the next few years. However, I do have my suspicions about a board member. I do not know if the shadiness will end with the departure of the director.
I suggest extreme caution if you are planning on coming to ICSA. The first year with a new director will be very difficult. Many of the teachers and students, who are a product of poor leadership, will still be there.
ABIDJAN: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
As far as the country is concern,… well if you want an adventure, you will find it. It is a developing country, but it has malls, groceries stores, great Chinese restaurants, etc,… If you don’t know any French it can be very disorienting to you. I suggest learning some phrases & words. Ivoirians are wonderful people, but they can also drive you crazy. They can be lazy one minute, and meticulous the next. The worse parts about the Ivory Coast are the police. They have check points where they will “extort” you for money. Do NOT give them your passport,… make a photo copy. Lastly, Ivoirians love Americans, but have a love hate relationship with the French. Just to let you know, I am not leaving because of the country, I am leaving because I have reach my breaking point with the school.
Despite everything, the school did graduate 4 students a year ago, with all four of them attending colleges in the US, Canada & Italy. (Comment posted Feb 29th 2008)
1.Lincoln The American International School of Buenos Aires
Comment #1: Good school with lots of ressources
Comment #1: The school was designed to only hold about 5-10 students per classroom. Most of the classrooms are simply too small to fit all the students that you are given. Ventiliation is absolutely awfull and for most of the year you feel that you are suffocating because the air does not move around at all.
Any type of teaching supplies are nearly impossible to get. Some teachers were lucky to get books this year. Basic supplies are also hard to get has the school feels that you are trying to spend all their money and therefore won't give them to you.
Technology is non-existent. The school says that technology is important but they have done absolutely something to bring the school up to date.
But the worst part is the administration. They do no support the teachers. If a parent complains about anything they are right and you are wrong. No help is given. They have no set course of study but have no problem yelling at the teachers when the teacher picks a course of study.
The head of the school Ms. Kazerooni does her best to get rid of any teachers she does not like. Then she leave the school short staffed. The elementary had a whole bunch of teachers resign and the rest of the teachers are having to cover those classes.
If all you want is money this school will give it to you. But if you want to have a job in which you feel appreciated, supported, and like you are doing something good don't even think about it.
(posted March 14th 2006)
I have read the comments about MKS school, but I think it's improving in all areas but not teachers' treatment, as I know from my colleagues they still treating teachers badly, and I am not surprised, as all private schools in Bahrain, they have this practice. They forget that teaching profession is a noble one and the most important one. They treat teachers as cheap labor or slaves and put all the responsibilities on the teachers' shoulders, as they only care about money. Most of the schools in Bahrain pressure teachers to give good marks for students in High School, as the parents paying average 3000 BHD (around 8000 USD) per year, and they are totally reassured by the management, that they will get high marks at the end of the year. (posted October 7th 2013)
1.International School Dhaka
Comment #1: I hated Dhaka as a city. It is dirty and dangerous.
The International School of Brussels
Comment #1: Great school. You need to be willing to learn French or Dutch.
1. American Cooperative School La Paz
Comment #1: Best school in Bolivia, great staff, weather cool as city is high.
2. American International School of Bolivia
Comment #1: School in Cochabamba, owned by one family, great staff and students, too bad there is no direction of school or it would be very good.
3. Cochabamba Cooperative School
Comment #1: School is improving, good director there now, will be good in a few years
4. Santa Cruz Cooperative School
Comment #1: City is nice, school is okay but not as good as La Paz
1. Escola Americano do Rio de Janeiro
Comment #1: Shared housing
2. Associacao Escola Graduada de Sao Paulo “GRADED school”
Comment #1: One of the best school’s in South America (GREAT BENEFITS) but Sao Paulo is a dump.
Comment #1: One school, two campuses. Very different feel at the two campuses. The East side is much more laid back, as opposed to a very serious, intense atmosphere at the West side.
Admissions at Shanghai American School is EXTREMELY competitive...mostly privileged, spoiled Asian kids go there... The parents of the students will nag you about their grades if it is not an A, but I'm sure that's the same for all the other schools. Most of the families who send their children to SAS are in Shanghai to stay (family businesses). Many of the students I've met are somewhat condescending. Despite all this, I assure you, the students at SAS will be the brightest of their generation you meet. These kids have no idea of the potential they've got!! Great facilities and benefits for teachers too. (posted September 2010)
2. Maple Leaf International School in Tianjin
Comment #1: I worked for Maple Leaf International School in Tianjin, China in the fall of 2012. It is a British Columbia (Canadian) offshore school, which has several campuses throughout Asia. I can't speak for the other campuses but only about the experience my friends and I had at the Tianjin campus. A teacher was fired for her perceived sexual orientation by the Canadian administrators a few weeks after she was in the hospital with severe kidney stones. The health insurance that the school provided the teachers was discovered to be fake and not accepted anywhere, so teachers had to pool their money together to cover her medical expenses. When teachers complained to the principal about it he said it was something he'd look into, and never did. The school had no textbooks, limited paper and other resources despite them promoting themselves to Chinese parents as one of the best and most modern Western schools in the world. A Canadian vice principal was seen pushing and manhandling Chinese students while "disciplining" them.
Two female teachers were sexually assaulted near the campus and a third teacher was chased home by an assailant with the same description. Another teacher was hit by a car, which broke two of his vertebrae. After one of the teachers who was sexually assaulted told her parents what was happening her father came to China from Canada and brought three of the female teachers back to Canada ensuring their safety. 1/3 of the teaching staff quit within a few short months because of the mistreatment and lack of morals. The school was reported to the Chinese Education Bureau, Chinese Foreign Expert Bureau, a Chinese lawyer, and also the American and Canadian embassies, as well as to Canadian newspapers, and the Canadian Teachers Regulation branch. The school was notorious for breaking their contracts with the teachers, not paying them according to their contract, or making them sign new contracts for lower pay once they arrived in China. They also promised housing and then didn't provide housing to every teacher they were obligated to.
When teachers began to complain about the mistreatment the principal would threaten them and became increasingly more hostile. Two of the teachers who quit in December attended a University of British Columbia job fair where the school recruits a lot of young teachers to work for them. These teachers warned students about the school and relayed their experience, as well as handed out written testimonies from other teachers about how bad the work environment is. Several of the students said they had read about the school in the newspapers and their professors used Maple Leaf as an example of what not to do when becoming a teacher or administrator.
Close to a dozen American and Canadian teachers came together to develop a blog that compiles a lot of the documents and articles about the school.
The blog is below: http://mapleleafinternationalschool.blogspot.com/
The British Columbia teachers regulation branch has made stricter regulations since the winter, but it isn't enough. There needs to be more accountability for abusive administration and teachers need to be warned to stay away from the school. (comment posted June 5th 2013)
1 . The British School of Costa Rica
Comment #1: The school is British only in that they complete the IGCSE exams in grade 10. The student body is almost entirely Costa Rican and most of them attend the school from kindergarten through to grade 11 or 12. The students are all very fluent in english and overall it is an extremely academic school. Class sizes in the high school are normally around 20 students, with slightly smaller classes in the IB program. The school facilities are quite good and resources are not an issue. There is a strong extracurricular program in place and most students get involved in some sort of activity outside of regular classes. The International Award Program has a lot of expeditions throughout the year and is a fantastic way to hike in some of the most beautiful areas of the country. The area the school is located in is lovely, with temperatures in the low to mid 20s all year round (slightly higher in the dry season). You also have easy access to the capitol, and all major bus routes. The salary is very good by local standards and you could travel quite extensively in Central America, but international travel (especially to Europe) would be something you would have to save up for.
(posted February 15th 2006)
1.Nicosia, The American International School
Comment #1: Walid Abushakra terrible Director, very rich man who doesn’t care about staff.
Comment #2: My wife and I worked in Walid's school systems for 10 years and have recently retired. The vast majority of employees I met were extremely satisfied with the schools and the administration's treatment of teachers.
1.International School of Prague
Comment #1: Beautiful city, good money, housing cheap, travel opportunities great, my top choice!
1. Int'l School of Sosua, Dominican Republic
Comment #1: Small school, small class sizes, great Caribbean climate/culture, friendly locals, lively social scene, but very low salary (one of the lowest in the world I think) and the local peso has devalued greatly so prices have risen drastically, so it's no longer affordable on the salary they give to save any money. Good for couples who want to live a Caribbean lifestyle but not so worried about money. Fun for singles as well, but the money thing can be a problem.
2. International School of Santo Domingo, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Comment #1: I worked at the International School of Santo Domingo this past school year (August 2013 to June 2014) as the high school English and Social Studies teacher. The first thing I want to tell prospective teachers is that if you want to live in the DR, there are much nicer places than the capital city. Try Puerto Plata or Santiago, for starters. If you want to live in Santo Domingo, there are many other international schools that pay better and have better resources than ISSD (try the American School, or Carol Morgan). ISSD has very few students, and the owner/director, Bernadette Blenk, has a very poor reputation in the community. Parents, students, teachers, and other people in the field think of her as being negative and a bit unstable.
The entire high school is only 28 students, and many of them are switching schools for next year. Bernadette controls everything at ISSD, and can be very difficult to work for.
As part of your employment package, you will get a free place to live. The apartment she put me in had no air conditioning (and the school itself doesn't either) and often lost power. There was one instance where the school "forgot" to pay the electricity bill, and I lost power for the better part of four days. Food can be more expensive in the DR than in the USA, and I had just gone grocery shopping. All the food I had in the fridge and freezer went bad, and I had no fans, internet, light, etc. from Friday afternoon after work until Monday afternoon. Bernadette didn't answer any of the calls I made to her, to see if she could pay the bill before the power company closed on Saturday afternoon. She neither apologized for the situation she put me in, nor acknowledged that anything had happened.
Ultimately, she is a person you cannot trust to have your best interests at heart, and due to her position as your employer and the owner of the school, she will have an unusual amount of control over your life in the Dominican Republic. There are at least a dozen other instances in which her behavior was unprofessional, inappropriate, or downright callous when it came to my living situation and the living situations of other teachers who worked for her.
At school, Bernadette usually left me alone. In her evaluation of me, she said very positive things about my teaching, which I appreciated. She is knowledgeable about education and teaching. However, in my fairly experienced opinion, she should just teach and not try to be a school director as well. She does not handle pressure well, and often speaks very harshly and inappropriately to both students and staff. She's especially nasty to the high school students, saying awful things about them and their families to the staff (Bernadette is an insatiable gossip). If you work at ISSD, you very well may have a great year.
The students are amazing, and I loved working with the other teachers! I'm writing this review to make sure that other ESL teachers go into this working situation aware of who Bernadette Blenk is. If you avoid her as much as possible, and know not to trust her, you should be fine. Take this job if you're desperate to work in the DR, but take it as a last resort. Good luck everyone! (posted September 2014)
The school website can be found here: http://www.internationalschoolsd.com/
Comment #1: Walid Abushakra, very bad schools.
Comment #2: We were very happy working in Walid's schools and would highly recommend them. If he was that bad of a Director, he wouldn't be running 8 schools employing hundreds of expats.
Comment #3: Walid, has been recently inducted into the Association for the Advancement of International Education's (AAIE) Hall of Fame. Also, our schools graduated over 100 IB diploma students this year with a graduation rate near 100%.
2. Cairo American College
Comment #1: Cairo American College pays teachers very well and it is a beautiful campus, but there is a lot of educational BS. Probably the best and most reputated school in Egypt
Comment #2: Beautiful campus, college open in 1945. Good reputation, amazing facilities set in a nice neighborhood.
3. Narmer American College
Comment #1: Great country, but this has a long way to go to meet standards. It is housed within a private Egyptian school in right on the "Metro" line. The physical building is in shambles and there is no space or grounds for physical education or sports. I would stay away from any schools which are "privately owned", especially in the Middle East!
Comment #2: I taught there for one year on sabbatical and chose not to return the second year. The north American administration has its hand in the school's pockets. It is unscrupulous; has little regard for quality education; and no concept of the value of quality educators, nor how to effectivelyy use them. The facilities at Narmer American College are substandard and the school is located in a 'rough' neighborhood near a national prison. Some of the students are well motivated, but they've been lured there with the false promise of an 'American-style' high school education. Caveat emptor
4. British Columbia Canadian International School, Cairo, Egypt
Comment #1: Canadian certified school with decent facilities and fair administration.The kids lack motivation but reasonable and manageable.Recently the teachers formed groups and started harassing fellow teachers by stalking them , following to places and spread rumors about their personal life.It is unfortunate that the professionals come all the way from Canada and create unhealthy,and unsafe conditions for the members of the community.There are even rumors that some bad elements from Canada are supporting and funding such kind of unprofessional behavior to create chaos in the school. The school management is very patient and helpless to contain the situation.
This school will definitely improve if the bad apples are disciplined by the BC College of teachers,the professional regulatory body responsible for certifying teachers in the province of British Columbia,Canada.
The Principal of the School,Collette is a reasonable person, supportive,helpful to the staff and so is the school board. The school needs dedicated and ethical teachers in the future which is lacking at present. (comment posted October 20th 2011)
Comment #1: This is an IB School offering PYP, MYP and DP. It is a truly international school with students from all over the world attending. Class sizes vary from 9 to 20, with most being at about 14. Not all students are fluent in english which can be a bit challenging at the higher grades in the high school when they do not have as much ESL time scheduled as in lower grades. The school facilities are good but space is becoming an issue as the student population grows. The school provides housing and the flats are very centrally located, which is a major bonus in Helsinki. Finland is a great country for outdoor activities but the winters take a lot of adjusting to; it's easy to deal with the cold and get warm clothes but the lack of sunshine takes a lot of getting used to. It is an expensive country to live in but the salary is more than adequate to live comfortably and travel on holidays. There is very little written english which can be difficult but in the capital area most people can (and will happily) speak english, with the exception of most bus drivers and anyone involved in transport - also a bit frustrating. (posted February 27th 2006)
1. French Company NACEL
Comment #1: NACEL runs summer camps throughout France called 'American Village' or 'Pueblo Español.' My experience is with the American Village in summer 2009. Not only was it the most frustrating teaching experience because of management's lack of organization, now I'm fighting to be compensated for the work that I completed. I've worked at a couple TEFL summer camps before and a little disorganization during the first couple days is normal before everyone finds a routine, but this was complete chaos for 29 days. The director on-site pacified herself by smoking up daily (in the building which twice resulted in fire alarms going off at 2 and 3 AM), but the rest of the counselors who realized that we were in fact, in charge of kids 24/7, thought this not to be the best idea. Everyone had false hopes when the company director announced his upcoming visit- we thought, finally, we can talk to a reasonable person about the location director's inconsistency with rules, lack of work whatsoever, causing AM fire drills, u know, normal stuff to discuss with an authority figure (sarcasm). We were SO WRONG- Nico, company director, was exactly the same as our location director which explained how she was hired in the first place. So, just a warning in case you are lured by the fraudulent summaries of working at a NACEL camp- you will be working more than you will get paid (think 30 euro for a full 18 hrs work), they charge you to stay at the camp between camp sessions (even if you are working both sessions), and finally if you want to voice a problem you may have with the camp- don't bother, because nobody's listening... (posted August 09)
Comment #1: Well-equipped school in pleasant location a little way outside Munich, which has a lot going for it. Package attractive, BUT offtakes from salary for tax and social security are around 45%.
Renting expensive (no allowance from school, but help in locating). Cost-of-living reasonable. Excellent travel opportunities. Adverse comments from both teachers and long-term administrative staff: Many students from rich families; used to getting their own way. Too many
parents interfering. Director appears very friendly and sympathetic towards concerns of teaching staff, but is really a snake - completely at the mercy of influential parents, many of whom are Board members. (posted April 26th 2006)
2. Berlin British School
Comment #1: Berlin British School (BBS) is located in the western part of Berlin in the beautiful green area of Charlottenburg and is well connected to the public transportation system. The School operates three sites (Early Years, Primary and Secondary School) with approx. 400 students from more than 40 countries. All class rooms are equipped with a smart board and Apple Macs.
BBS follows the English National Curriculum from Nursery up to Year 9 and then offers the internationally recognised IGCSE and IB diploma courses.
Teaching staff are almost exclusively native English speakers mainly from GB, Canada and the US and usually stay on for a long time. In the recent years the academic results of the public exams (IGCSEs and IBs) have been excellent. (posted August 30th 2011)
Comment #1: I normally never go out of my way to badmouth anybody, but I don't have many positive things to say about Escuela Internacional Sampadrana in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
The first problem is that the parents of the children own the school because they buy into it with a membership similar to a co-op. This alone is certainly not an issue if it weren't for the fact that administration wasn't in a situation where they needed to kiss the asses of so many self-entitled parents (not all snobby of course, but the bad ones can put a bad taste in anyone's mouth). During my ONE year there, I saw...a teacher fired for taking bribes from students (laptops)...the administration bribing a student for text message evidence that a teacher slept with him...the teacher fired for sleeping with the student (however, teacher threatened to sue and was paid off and hooked up with interviews at other schools by the superintendent)...two principals at the school kidnapped...one took an automatic rifle bullet to the shoulder and head...but lived thank god...over 85% of teachers' 2 year contracts broken because teachers did not want to stay another year...two students at our school kidnapped...one of my students parents kidnapped. I wish I could say that's everything, but I'm leaving the minor things out.
I will say that the administrators outside of the central office are good people, even though they don't always make good administrators. It was the most frustrating year of my life after having two other great experiences at other international schools. The pay is poor, and the city is dangerous and unexciting. However, if you get stuck here somehow, take the opportunity to travel Central America and Honduras. It's beautiful! (posted December 2009)
1. Yew Chung International school
Comment #1: I am in the Early Childhood section and the hours are long 8.00-4.30 or 5.00pm to be changed at the directors discretion. Lots of working Saturdays. Three weeks annual leave and no mid-summer break from August to December. It is disgusting.!! The principal tells many lies to get new teachers in.
Comment #1: We are leaving Surabaya International School after 5 years. It has been a great experiance. Small school (240 students) in a building meant for 1000 students. Technology is great and kids are polite. Great southeast asia living.
1. International School of Milan
Comment #1: This school Is supposed to have over 50 years of excellence and experience. My experience here was disappointing for various reasons. The first and most importanhews the standards of teaching. This school claims to have excellent results but most of the students are encouraged to choose easy options in order to raise their points. Eg. Choosing a subject at a lower level when most students should be doing Higher optitions. How is this a sign of excellent standards as they claim to have???
International staff changes every two years as in most Italian schools, no wonder many teachers that go to this school are looking ahead of two years of travelling through Italian countrysides and getting drunk with other members of staff rather than worrying about the quality of their teaching or getting to work on time.That didn't seem to be a problem of course if you were friends with the head !!! In my experience teaching, I realised that being friends with the right people was a pass to get anything you wanted in this school. That shows a lot about the professionalism that some heads and coordinators have in this school, specially being so young and inexperienced. On the overall the school facilities were quite poor, considering what parents pay in Milan for tuitions and fees, you would expect a better site. Teaching lessons in a canteen is not what i was expecting to do during my time there!!!
Even more, there is little respect for teachers, Mr. F. (being a good businessman)Doesn't seem to mind about the quality of the teachers as long as he can save money, so because of this, I've known more than a couple of teachers that left before the end of the school year due to teaching conditions and overload of work and expectations without the proper resources or qualifications. Very poor ethics from the owners is something that leaves you to think about, when it comes to teaching at ISM. (comment posted September 2012)
Comment #1: A new assistant head came in late August 2003 and life has changed completely. Please be aware of the following: Many teachers have suffered under the regime of this present headmaster who is leaving but leaving someone worse as assistant. We had a reading specialist and science specialist leave within the year of their hiring. Last year he tried to fire two
people, principal and teacher but had to reinstate them but it left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. The teaching faculty's morale is below zero and this was evident yesterday when very few attended the staff Xmas party. We had 9 teachers leave last year and this is standard these past 4 years.
Comment #2: K-9, gym on roof, benefits good.
Comment #1: Director Monica N. Greeley (well liked), lots of travel opportunity, safety bad, Rob lived here, pay good.
1. Seoul Foreign School
Comment #1: The best school I was in was Seoul Foreign School. Harlan Lyso is great and portrays the school very well. They treat teachers very well. The downside is that it is campus living with many very, very "fundamentalist" type Christians, which can be a bit much.
1. Al-Ghanim Bilingual School ( located in Salwa)
Comment #1: It’s my opinion that you should stay away from Al-Ghanim Bilingual School in Kuwait. These are some of the things that I disliked about the school
The turn-over rate is very high for new “Westerners.” I think the reason for this is the administration does not provide the appropriate classroom support. Instead, the climate at the school is one in which some administrators are critical of teachers. In fact, the Director, Dr. Afaf El-Gemayel said in a meeting with new staff members, “If you look hard enough, all student problems are the teacher’s fault.” As a result of this attitude, the probability of surviving for very long at this school is low. Given the low probability of surviving at this school, it is not worth the financial, emotional, and time investment to go here.
The administration is constantly popping into classrooms to observe teachers. In some cases, they will go into a teacher’s classroom five or more days straight . . . And, then they will still come back to do more observations at-will. It is very uncomfortable and nerve-racking for the teachers who are being watched. The administration says that they are doing it to “help” the teachers, but it feels more like they are doing it to “push” them out of the school. It seems barbaric.
On a regular basis, the school “docks” people’s pay. As a Westerner, this was abhorrent to me—the idea that you could work a day and then lose that day’s pay based on the judgment call of an administrator. (My belief is that if someone has done something egregious enough, suspend them without pay. But to have people work and not pay them seems too self serving.)
The school does not live up to financial commitments. You may or may not receive money owed you. Just because an administrator says in an e-mail that she will reimburse you for expenses, does not mean that she will. Also, I heard stories about how this school refused to pay summer salaries and “indemnity” pay owed to some teachers.
The housing the school provided smelled. I think it was a combination of cigarette smoke and feces (no joke) from poor plumbing. When I returned to the “West,” I had to wash all of my clothes because they smelled.
During the interview process, Dr. El-Gemayel said that the school had all the necessary classroom resources. The classroom decorations that were supplied to a colleague of mine were old and dirty, and several important resources were not available for the start of school.
Even though the school is not licensed to teach special education students, the school has numerous low-level classes called “Special English.” Guess what the “Special” stands for? These classes have many students that should be evaluated for special education services. It appears to me that the administration does not want these students evaluated because if the results determined that these students needed special education services, then the students would have to leave the school, and the school would stand to lose a lot of tuition money. So, when teachers have trouble managing and teaching these students, the administration acts like the problem is with the teacher rather than acknowledging these students need services beyond the scope of a regular educational classroom.
Although I recommend staying away from this school, if you are even considering working there, make sure that you get the following before making a final decision:
1. A copy of the contract.
2. A copy of the staff manual. If it’s the same staff manual that I received, you’ll find a list of things teachers should not do and the consequences—including the number of days pay that will be lost.
3. Your assignment and schedule in writing. (There were teachers who were told that they would be doing one thing, and when they arrived they were told that they would be doing something else.)
When you request these reasonable things, consider how the administration responds. Do they freely offer them to you with a smile, or do they come up with excuses not to provide them? If they don’t provide them, beware! If you make the mistake of accepting an offer from this school, then make sure you receive copies of your Initial and Final Approval Letters. (These approvals are sent to the school from the Kuwait Ministry of Education.) Also, once you receive copies of these items, contact that Kuwait Ministry of Education to make sure an original copy of your contract, as well as Initial and Final Approval Letters are on file. PLEASE DO THIS BEFORE YOU EVEN BOARD THE PLANE TO KUWAIT! I sought the assistance of the Ministry of Education when I was experiencing difficulty with the school administration. A ministry representative informed me that she couldn’t help me unless she had my original contract and approval letters on file (which she didn’t). Fortunately, the ministry representative was kind enough to refer me to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. (This ministry was a big help.) Unfortunately, I think the school administration purposely delays giving teachers these items so they won’t be able to seek assistance from the Ministry of Education when they’re being mistreated.
Please read additional reviews for Al-Ghanim Bilingual School and its director, Afaf El-Gemayel, on internationalschoolsreview.com. You must pay a membership fee to read reviews.
You may submit reviews for free. (comment posted January 2013)
Comment #1: Great students, very unethical and corrupt school, Headmaster and Board of Directors.
Comment #2: A really dodgy school I have been working at!! Things are always "iffy" and they will tell you any lies to get you there only to find they have no equipment, no teaching space and the swimming pool in the website never existed!!!
Comment #3: Used to be a good school to work at in a beautiful little country; but cannot be recommended under the present Head and Board: underhand and double-dealing. There's a comment on ECIS which I'd like to echo re. their sister organisation, CIS. They have repeatedly turned a blind eye to damning reports of the above-mentioned school, which is supposed to come under their guidance & observation. (posted December 2005)
2. Maseru Prep School
Comment #1: Great location for travelling throughout southern Africa, nice accomodation, not a lively social scene, small expat group- can be boring, unstable board of governors and admin overall, crime increasing due to high crime rate in nearby South Africa.
Comment #1: 700 students on huge campus, low salary but you can make good savings as Malaysia is farely cheap, don't count on your last pay cheque or be ready to wait for a year.
2. Dalat International school in Penang
Comment #1: The pay is lousy.... but most of the people here are 'missionary types', so they're in it for other benefits. The teaching environment is fine. A lot is done 'by committee' and discussion is encouraged, so your input is taken into account. Since it is a relatively small school, both my kids had wider activity options available to them than if they had been in a bigger school (ex. daughter: yearbook editor, varsity basketball, StuCo her senior year). Currently, there is a big influx of Korean students that the school needs to address in a way that differs from its usual missionary mindset. (posted April 12th 2006)
3. Excelsior International School, Johor, Malaysia.
Comment #1: EIS is a school of 2 schools.
We’ll start with the positive side; school 1. This is the school that the children go to. The children, for the most part, receive a high level of education from a diverse group of caring, hard working educators. They enjoy a range of facilities such as on site swimming pools and are taken on fun and memorable out of school excursions. The teachers have worked hard to provide the students with stimulating lessons in environments where they feel safe to ‘take risks’. Over the year, students have grown academically and socially, showing a confidence in themselves that has been nurtured since the school opened in September 2013.
Sadly there is a negative side; school 2. This is the school that the teachers work at. It is a school of deception and lies. It has no heart, no empathy and no respect. It is a school that cares not for the morale of its staff or for their wellbeing. Staff are not valued, staff are at school to fill a job position, just like the tables and chairs are. Staff have been escorted off the premises, loosing their jobs for no real reason other than they do not ‘fit’ the school. People who have had to leave due to sad circumstances at home have been shown no sympathy.
The board, as far as we can tell (it’s been a whole year and we’ve never actually seen a board), is one man who has no clear vision or understanding of true education. Decisions are made that make those of us who are there, giving our all for these children, shake our heads in disbelief that yet another educational thing has been decided against (I don’t know why we’re still surprised after a year…).
EIS is not a school for staff. If you are looking to work in a place that is satisfying, forward thinking and open minded, this is not the place for you. The frustrations are a day to day occurrence. Thankfully the wonderful children and parents at this school mean that the incompetence and heartlessness that comes from above isn’t quite as soul destroying as it should be. (posted September 2014)
1. American Schoool Foundation of Chiapas
Comment #1: I taught at the American School Foundation of Chiapas and the school is run extremely poorly. Many teachers left mid-year due to terrible disorganization and an administration that did not understand American/International academia.
Comment #2: I believe that comment #1 likely comes from someone who worked there some time ago, as the current teachers all seem to be happy and there is a good understanding on behalf of the administration about academic programming and educational philosophy. I do admit that most aspects of society are disorganized in Mexico, this is not something limited to the educational sector, but teachers who come to live and work in Mexico generally understand that this is part of adapting to the society in which they've chosen to explore and enjoy.
Comment #3: Let me weigh in as a current teacher. If I had to sum up the school in five words, they would be: Incompetence, corruption, nepotism, dishonesty and fraud
The things that I am going to write are things I wish I knew before I came to the school - for the record I worked with the administrators trying to help the school improve nearly all year and was politely listened to but eventually realized that the administration at the school does not have the leadership abilities to change anything. The principal insists that things will be different this year. I really hope so, but I think it is unlikely. I am not writing this out of revenge. I hope that by bringing these things to light, they will perhaps be changed.
ASFC takes disorganization to a new level. The school is incapable of developing a system for attendance. The first time they tried to start taking attendance lasted two days. The second time (which occurred after a student seemed to go missing, but no one knew if he was there or not) lasted three days. My two coordinators never once produced an accurate class list this year. Sometimes the school does not have the money to pay its staff. This year they wrote all the teacher contracts to last until July 6, but school ended on the 11th. There are no standards of behaviour or teaching whatsoever, no evaluations, and staff are never confronted about poor teaching. This creates a disastrous, anything goes setting (my classroom was often trashed after the Library and Music teachers were finished teaching a class in there). The curriculum reaches a staggering low in pedagogical standards. AMCO seems to have been thrown together by people with no teaching background.
There is no consistency, conceptual progression, no thought paid to the reading level of the students and the English is often incorrect. What should be an entire unit is done in one lesson. For example eight body systems are taught in eight lessons in science. This almost works as the students only need to parrot the information back on the question page that is facing the information page. I would need to write for days to properly describe the deficiencies of this curriculum.
The school frequently has banda de guerra (military drumming) right outside your windows. One coordinator (the sister of the owner) insists that her kindergarten students must practice right there even though there are many other places they could practice that would not disturb 300 other students.
Many other events take place and music is played at full volume during teaching hours, no amount of pleading or complaining will change that.
One of the coordinators (they are like VPs) is the sister of the owner. She has no teaching credentials at all. Her sole qualification is being the sister of the owner. Both the Mexican and foreign teachers in her department say she doesn't know anything about education.
Early in the 06/07 school year, one teacher had a student who crapped himself. The family of this child was related to the owner. This family scapegoated the English teacher even though no one knew when the accident had taken place. Hysterical family members told the teacher that she should be slapped in front of the owner. The owner didn't say anything. The value of the month was 'respect'.
I have had parents ask for special treatment for their kids and threaten to go to the owners if they didn't get what they wanted.
ASFC cheats us in every way possible. They offer us a week's pay as a bonus each semester for perfect attendance. By the time they have made all the deductions it is just over half what they told us we would receive. They deduct income taxes from the bonus. We don't know if they really pay them, but they deduct them. Even though it is a week's bonus, they say that a week is five days and thus don't calculate the weekend days to make it less money. I was told to pay my rent and the school would pay me back (10 days later each month). They were often late paying me and the last month I was informed that they would only give me half the month's rent because it was only logical that they are not going to pay my rent after my contract has expired. The fact that I have a contract with the landlord that does not allow me to pay part of a month's rent didn't seem to matter to our accounting department. The contract does not state they will only pay a portion of the last
One of the coordinators who I respect was lamenting the complete lack of honesty in this culture. About two weeks later she made a bald-faced lie in front of one of the other foreign teachers. One of the values we 'taught' this year was honesty. One administrator told my landlords and I that the school would continue to rent my suite when they had no intention to do so. I realized that she was lying when an she informed me they would be removing the furniture soon (I am staying an extra month). So I inquired why they would do that if they were keeping the apartment. Then the administrator made a big show of coming to see the apartment because maybe they would keep using it. She told the owner she would rent it. I am waiting to see the outcome of this situation.
I don't mean fraud in the legal sense, although it would not surprise me. I mean that the school portrays itself as a progressive American school. The only thing that is American about the school is that most weeks we play The Star-Spangled Banner at the weekly flag ceremony. There is nothing else remotely American about the school. Even hiring Canadians and Americans to teach does not help it to be more American as we can't teach in the way that we are trained to. We are too busy ramming information down their throats to complete the books.
IS ASFC THE SCHOOL FOR YOU?
If you are a poor to mediocre teacher with no standards, ASFC is the school for you. If you are satisfied with every decision being made in terms of whether or not it will please the parents, ASFC is the school for you. If you are satisfied singing happy songs about values, but never holding students and staff accountable to them, ASFC is the school for you. If you are satisfied teaching a curriculum that is literally everything you were taught not to do, ASFC is the school for you. (posted July 11th 2007)
2. Colegio Americano de Torreon. (Torreon, Coahuilla)
Comment #1: Excellent school, very organized, good students & good academic integrity. Facilities are fantastic. New pool openened in Dec. 2009.
The only downside is the city: somewhat ugly, little to do and lately very dangerous due to drug cartel war. (posted September 2010)
Mali (West Africa)
1. American International School of Bamako (Irene Epp, K-9 school)
Comment #1: Great School, French spoken here.
Comment #2: Irene Epp is no longer Head. It is currently David Henry. AISB is now pre-K through grade 12. It's not too bad, considering it's in a very poor, landlocked African country.
(posted march 29th 2009)
Comment #1: Elsa Lamb is a very dishonest and weak person; she is no longer there.
Comment #1: The Academic Bridge Program is a post secondary program for Qatari students to help them increase their TOEFL scores for the 5 American Universities in Education City. Small classes, fair pay and benefits, good students, fairly normal attitudes toward school work, college schedule of classes, two 15 week semesters. Has been some distraction at the Director level, but that for the most part has not bothered teaching. Living in Qatar is not hard as most things are available, not as strict as other Middle East countries. It has been a good experience for my family. (posted April 26th 2006)
Comment #1: I have been teaching at Saudi Aramco Schools for 6 years. As far as international schools are concerned, this is the crème de la crème…
I do believe I am possibly one of the highest paid teachers on Earth. That being said, it isn’t for everyone. The ideal candidate is married with children (to reap the most benefits the company offers)
For singles (especially younger ones) there is definitely a pretty big party scene… but besides that, not much opportunity for living a life of substance…. (ex.. you will definitely not be coming here for the ‘cultural experience’) (posted November 16th 2011)
2. IPS (International Programs School)
Comment #1: Owned by Walid Abushakra, bad director.
Comment #2: My wife and I worked for Walid in Egypt, Kuwait and Cyprus. We were very happy working in Walid's schools.
Comment #3: I, too, have taught at IPS. It is a good school. Walid does not interfere and I would not hesitate to work for him again. I am not sure from where arises the bad reputation that some teachers have slung. (posted March 29th 2009)
1. The Damascus Community School
Comment #1: I worked at Damascus Community School in Syria for two years (2006-2008) and the entire HS teaching staff left the year I did; except one mid-contract and the spouse of an administrator. Students and parents control the school and the administration does nothing to promote a positive learning environment. "Lord of the Flies" is the book that
comes to mind. (posted May 2011)
Comment #1: Rob says is one of the best African schools, 1100 students.
2. St. Constantines International School, Arusha. Tanzania
Comment #1: An awful place to work due to the current headmaster of St. Constantines International School Mr. Hendrich Gericke and his unprofessional practices which include:
Poor Organization, Communication and Leadership: Mr.Gericke rarely addresses Staff or Students and leads no meetings with Teaching Staff at the school. Staff that have joined in August 2009 have already stated that they will not renew future contracts due to his poor leadership and confrontational management style. Staff who ask about their welfare are branded as ‘irritating’ and the majority of Staff openly mock him – he is know variously as ‘the tall man whose brain doesn’t work’ or simply as ‘poison’.
Bullying Members of Staff: Female members of Staff have left his office in tears at the way in which they have been intimidated by him and he has forced them into giving intrusive details of their private lives. Staff members have previously stated how they were ‘held to ransom’ by Mr Gericke who knows full well the power he holds over his staff with his ‘what I say goes’ style of management.
Tanzanian staff are often shouted at and belittled in front of other staff members, pupils and parents for ‘bothering’ him or for simply not understanding him.
Bullying Students: There are cases of 2 girls in Keystage 4 (November 2009) who have been intimidated into following arbitrary school rules. One girl was cornered alone into a room and confessed that ‘he (Mr.Gericke) bullied me’.
Discrimination of Staff and Students: Staff members are singled out for small misdemeanors such as punctuality or forgetfulness and usually receive terse and at times aggressive letters, whilst other staff members receive no written or verbal warnings for the same transgressions. This is a organization that requires staff to befriend the headmaster knowing full well this will make your life ‘easier’. When it comes to punishing students invariably the punishments severity will be decided upon the student’s family status in the community or simply their wealth. If the family is not rich they are seen to be a smaller threat and given harsher punishments.
Inappropriate touching of Male Students: Mr.Gericke likes to be overly physical in his approach to the male students in the school, he will come from behind them and grab their shoulders, or rub their upper arms or attempt to hug them. I have seen students feel very uncomfortable with this and previous members of Staff have complained.
All in all the school is a wonderful place ruined by this brutal man. Staff are hemorrhaging from the school as we have to deal with him. Please avoid, avoid, avoid ! (posted September 19th 2010)
St.Constantines school have got rid of Gericke the previous arse and now have a guy - a corrupt egotist with responsibility for a childs death !
Academic honesty: Average exams have been known to be 'extended' to give students more time.
Moral of staff: If your one of the heads favourites then great, if not then is that even a question. He is importing his friends in and if your outside that clique then forget it
Main concerns/problems: Poor management, the Hellenic society who control the school are more corrupt than FIFA - bullied and illegally deported staff
Most recently the Art teacher has resigned. (posted November 3rd 2011)
1. Thai-Chinese International School
Comment #1: I worked at TCIS (Thai-Chinese International School) in Bangkok, Thailand in 2006 and the administration was extremely poor and treated the entire staff with disrepect. Several staff members complained of experiencing one or more of the following by Dr. John Jenckles: harassment, discrimination, intimidation and inappropriate questions and comments with frequent use of sarcasm. Dr. John demonstrates a general lack of leadership, lack of knowledge and interpersonal communication skills. His wife, Dr. Lalima, is the other administrator, leaving you little recourse for the reporting of Dr. John's unprofessional behavior. Several staff members broke their two-year contracts after experiencing such a negative work environment and were retaliated against by acts of slander to any email addresses the administration could find.
Comment #2: The administrative staff, Dr. Lalima Jenckes and her husband, Dr. John Jenckes, of Thai-Chinese International School is exacltly as said in the previous comment. They do not care about the school environment, especially the teachers and staff, but mostly cares for their own well being. They aren't able to make their own decisions for fear that they may create problems and thus pushes the decisions for other people to decide. Therefore, they will be able to blame the staff and teachers instead for taking the blame themselves. When something goes wrong in TCIS, they push the blames on the board directors, teachers, and staff instead of taking their own blame. I have even heard of Dr. Lalima threatening students, but they do not threaten them in a straightforward way; she rounds about all the things she's in charge of, for example, sending letter to colleges/universities, contacting the colleges/universities, and writing the recommendation of the students, and hints that if the students do not respect her, she will say or write something bad to these universities/colleges which may as well ruin the students' chances in the future. According to many complaints i heard from students, and being a teacher myself, this is what keeps them and us from speaking up against her. As I had heard, when confronted by the staff/teachers, Dr. Lalima acts as though it is not her problem and does not even consider a slight bit of thought into changing her own attitude, but instead accuses the teachers/staff of having an attitude problem with her. Also whenever the lower school director, Dr. John, makes a decision and although Dr. Lalima may know that it is a bad decision to make, she never opposes his decisions but insteads follow through with them, probably since he is her husband. However, this is a school not her family, so she should be making decisions for the school instead of submitting to her husband's decisions. The school board of TCIS does not prove to be much better than the administrative staff either. They, too, succumb to Dr. Lalima's every decision, which as i highly believe, because she is not an asian like what the school board mostly consists of. (Please understand that I am not being a racist but actually am stating the obvious). I cannot tell you how happy I am to finish my contract with this school and is now going to teach in another school. However, I will very much miss the students, my fellow teachers and staff, and hope they would do fine in TCIS and not be tormented by the school board and administrative staff. (posted June 20th 2007)
Comment #3: TCIS will have new person to replace Dr. Lalima Jenckes and Dr. John Jenckes in next term, August 2009. (posted March 23rd 2009)
Comment #4: ''I have been working there as the school technology assistant from 2007 – 2008 and I have a chance to provide my IT consultant services to both of these teachers during my services. I think that the comments above about both of these respectable teachers are not even close to the truth.
Currently both of these teachers have already left TCIS to enjoy their vacation in States. I'd like to correct the comment that this is not the school decision to find somebody to replace them but they are leaving the school with school board’s resentment to let them go.
I personally believe that these comments belongs to just one person in the school who was being ejected from the school by the board of committee's decision neither Dr. John nor Dr. Lalima for great misconduct in school office and against both of these teachers.'' (posted October 2009)
Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies
1. Maple Leaf International School
Comment #1: Nice little school on a very pretty island. Good school, good students, good life. Expensive, so savings are minimal.
1. Robert College
Comment #1: I have graduated from Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey. I think it is the best school in Turkey and may be in the top high school list in the world. Housing is provided to teachers on the campus and most campus houses view the Marmara Sea. The school has a wonderful campus and it is in nice neighbourhood. The students are taken according to a national exam and only the top 150 students can get into this school. Therefore, it is pretty competitive. Upon graduation, between 20-40 percent of the students study university in USA. They mostly go to ivy leagues or good ranked liberal arts colleges.
2. MEF International School
Comment #1: MEF International School, Izmir, is a sister school of MEF International in Istanbul. They also have a national school in Turkish which has been operating for a couple decades. The Izmir campus is on a small plot of land next to the airport. It boasts a small gym, swimming pool, and a garden with a gazebo, but does not have room enough for a play ground or a field, which is unfortunate as the students' favorite sport is soccer.
Some of the staff are experienced teachers who have worked in international schools, but the qualified teachers don't stay around very long. Of the ten teachers hired in 2004 who had international experience, six were not around a year later, and after two years only one teacher remained. This was due to poor administration, lack of resources, and poor moral.
The school does provide housing near the school, there have been some problems here, but over all the housing is adequate. The school seems to have difficulty getting work visas, I have not had one for about half the time I have been here.
The school promised training for their programs which never materialized, this along with inadequate resources, made it difficult to effectively run a curriculum.
The biggest obstacle to academic success at MEF International School, Izmir, a Turkish owned and operated institution, is the principal who has never been a teacher, never lived outside Turkey, and has extremely poor relationships with most of the staff. Most of those with experience in international schools should think twice before coming to MEF. (posted March 14th 2006)
3. Bilkent Erzurum Laboratory School (BELS)
Comment #1: While this school would be considered one of the best in Turkey if it were located in Istanbul, Izmir or Ankara, the fact that it is in Erzurum makes it one that should make teachers think long and hard about before joining.
1- The students are excellent. Admission is granted based on an entrance exam that only students with a total GPA of 80% or higher are invited to take. This means that all of the students at the school are very bright, although they certainly have varying levels of English. Also, as the school requires that all students pass the IGCSE exams, and then successfully complete the IBDP program in high school in order to graduate, it is a very high stakes environment. For this reason, students tend to be very motivated, & if they aren't, they transfer out of the school.
2- The people who work at the school are wonderful. You may not get along with EVERY other teacher, but many of the people who work there (Turkish & foreign) speak English & are incredibly dedicated teachers. It's worth noting that very few of the Turkish teachers are from Erzurum, and therefore they are also experiencing the culture shock of being in Erzurum along with you.
3- The school resources while not perfect, were the best compared to any other school I've seen in Turkey. It was wonderful to have unlimited printing abilities as well as a full-time photo-copy man who was very quick & efficient with whatever I needed. You could print things in color, black & white, spiral bound, laminated, whatever you needed. The school also didn't hesitate to buy things such as nearly 200 English language books I requested for the library, or a new CD player. They also provided all teachers with a laptop, and all classrooms had functioning projectors.
4- Housing is provided & completely free (you do not need to pay for internet, water or gas).
5- The pay is very good by Turkish standards, as well as compared to typical US teaching jobs. As it is tax free, & there isn't much to do in Erzurum, you're able to save quite a bit. However, you need to remember that not having a home-base anywhere else means you will also spend a lot of money during the summer when you are traveling and NOT in Erzurum.
1- The school is in Erzurum. While Erzurum is picturesque at first glance, surrounded by mountains that are snow-covered at least 6 months of the year, there just isn't much to do there. In the winter, days are extremely short, & it gets dark around 3:30pm in December-January. Most people will tell you that you can ski, but even that isn't guaranteed. For my 2 years in Erzurum, it was much more common to hear people complaining that the ski slopes were too icy, or the ski lifts weren't working, than it was to hear people saying how good the skiing was. There are spas at the ski hotels, but it starts to get expensive when you have to pay 40tl each way, plus hotel prices for food & services. Erzurum also doesn't have a culture of hiking or biking (although Ataturk University has recently put in bike paths), making it hard to do outdoor activities. In the winter (which is looong), you're basically confined to going to the mall & cinema, or making your own fun at home. In addition, there IS an airport in Erzurum, but there are only daily flights to Istanbul & Ankara, & 3 times a week flights to Izmir. With your work schedule, it's also impossible to catch any but the latest flights most of the time.
2- The city is cold, & not just by temperature. Although I like Turkish people very much, having lived in other cities in Turkey as well, I never felt very welcome in town. I understand that part of this could be that I'm a woman, but I was very frustrated by how often I was ignored in shops when I clearly wanted service, or how all communication had to take place through the man if I were with one. If I walked down the street alone or with another woman, I would almost always have men, or groups of men talk AT me, and never in a polite or respectful way. While the parents & students were wonderful, I never felt completely comfortable walking the streets by myself.
3- Pollution is a big problem. In the winter, many people still burn coal in Erzurum. If it has been especially cold, there will be smog hanging over the city, & it's impossible not to smell it when you step outside or just open your window. In a semi-related note, people also smoke everywhere. I especially hated when they would do this in restaurants, right under signs that said smoking was forbidden. If you have asthma or other respiratory issues, this could be problematic for you.
4- School will be your life. The school has a great mission statement & excellent goals, but you need to be aware that YOU are their main resource. If there's a problem, more often than not, YOU will be the solution. This was extremely frustrating to me at times because it meant that if my students were struggling in any way, I needed to offer extra classes after school, during their music class, for 15 minutes during lunch, etc. I certainly wanted to help my students, but it was exhausting creating more new materials CONSTANTLY and finding time to give feedback on everything. Add to this that when I was there, Saturday classes were mandatory for English teachers to give. That meant that in addition to our regular work load, we had to teach about 3 months-worth of Saturdays, which was always between 4-6 additional lessons. I hated this, especially because it made it impossible to LEAVE Erzurum when I desperately needed to. Also, because of where the school is located, the teacher housing is on campus, on the outskirts of the city. It is not easy to get around without a car, which often made me feel trapped on campus.
5- I found myself in situations several times where the administrators misunderstood emails or requests, and I felt I was treated quite rudely in response. In one situation, I asked to take the last 1 1/2 hours off on a Friday (when I was't teaching) so I could catch the only direct flight to Izmir. I was given permission, and the Director said he wasn't happy about it, but he would let me do it. (You should know there was no clearly explained policy about how to go about taking time off.) At the end of the school year, we received an email saying all teachers who had taken time off from school would need to make up that time during the summer. This meant that for a total of 3 hours I had missed, I would need to stay an extra 3 days in Erzurum (including the weekend). I emailed the Director to find out if there was anything I could do to make up this time in a different way, such as putting in 3 extra hours the next Saturday. I received an email back where he said he didn't know why I thought I was special, and no, I couldn't. The thing that really upset me later was when I realized that I had already signed up to teach one section of summer school, which would count as making up that time I had missed...yet no one told me this. There were other situations as well, but I won't detail them here. The important thing is that you should know that you may think you have a good relationship with the administrators, but they will quickly insult you or exert their power over you to the extreme when you do something as small as ask for clarification, or ask if doing something a different way is possible. (posted October 2015)
4. TED Izmir Koleji college
Comment #1: This review should be a warning to Native English Speaker teachers to avoid TED Izmir...at least for the next few years until they can work out their MAJOR problems. My experience with the school was that they wouldn't hesitate to lie to you, wouldn't communicate important information to you, and would bully you if you happened to disagree with them. I accepted a job there mainly based on the belief that the TED schools in Turkey were all generally similar, sharing a common curricula, respect of and use of English, and had a good support system for non-Turkish speakers. I soon found out I was wrong on all points.
Rather than just complain endlessly, I'm going to list my major complaints with the school, so that if you have any future dealings with them, you will have an idea of what kinds of questions to ask, & how they might respond.
1) They did not pay me the amount that was stated on my contract as my salary
This was a huge shock, & the tipping point that caused me to resign. I interviewed for the job in February, & during my interview I asked if I would be paid in USD or TL. I was told it didn't matter, I could choose. That was the first time that I told them it was very important to me that I would be paid in USD. When I was sent a contract to sign to accept the job, it was completely blank. I immediately contacted the school and told them I would not sign a legally binding document that was completely blank. At this point, I outlined again that I expected to see that I would be paid my salary in USD on any contract I signed. They sent me a new contract a few weeks later which did this. In the summer, I received an email from my new Dept Head which made some comment about "don't forget the +/- 8%" regarding my salary. I immediately wrote to her and asked her what she was talking about. If I was going to be paid in USD, why did I need to worry about +/- 8%? I never got a response. You can imagine my shock when I went to receive my first salary payment, and not only was it NOT in USD, but it was also about 800tl LESS than the amount stated in my contract by the day's exchange rate. I was furious. I told the accounting person there must have been a mistake, but he said it wasn't HIS mistake (in Turkish of course) & I would need to talk to my Dept Head if there was a problem. I did. She told me the TED organization had set the conversion rate at 2.5tl/1USD (the current rate was 3.03tl/1USD) and "didn't anyone tell you?!" Nothing was resolved. One week later I resigned.
2) They expect you to work nearly a month for free
When I signed my contract, the start date was written as September 1. I was relieved for this because I was leaving a high stress job, getting married, visiting my family in the US, and moving during the summer, so I looked forward to having a full 2 1/2 months to do all of that. I had regularly sent emails to my new Dept Head from about April onwards, asking questions to try to make my transition to the school a smooth one. I rarely received responses to my emails. After my wedding & showing friends and family around Turkey, my husband & I went to the States. The last email I had sent to my Dept Head said something along the lines of, "I'm looking forward to seeing you when I return to Turkey at the end of August!" This was one of the few emails she DID respond to, in which she said, "You need to be at school on August 10." Again, I was shocked and furious. It was mid-July when she told me this, & this was the FIRST time she had ever mentioned that I would need to start working before the date written on my contract. I responded & told her that was impossible since I wouldn't be coming back to Turkey until the end of August, & that we would need to discuss how I would be paid for working any days before my contract start date. She didn't like that, & wrote back that it was quite normal in Turkey to start working before Sept 1 (I had worked at 3 other schools in Turkey previously, and none of them required me to work before my contract start date), and that she remembered quite clearly that I was told this in my interview. I had notes I'd taken from the interview, & what I'd been told was that they usually did some observations before school started to "Level" students 1 or 2 weeks before school started, but I was never told that would be part of MY responsibilities. School also generally starts the 3rd week of September, so nothing indicated I would need to work in August. As to payment, she said that all of the staff was expected to work from August 10 on, and the first salary payment would be on Oct 1. Nothing extra. Free labor.
3) They won't apply for your work permit on time, which creates extra expenses for you when you have to apply for your own Residence Permit separately
It is illegal to work in Turkey without a work permit. Everyone knows this, which is why contracts always say that the school will provide you with awork permit. (This is also how they agree to provide you with insurance, since you can then receive SGK- the national insurance- if your employer provides you with a work permit.) Having already lived & worked in Turkey for 5 years, I was well aware of the work permit/residence permit situation. I knew that it usually took MONTHS for a work permit to be issued. I also knew the system had recently changed a year before, but again, I was familiar with the process & aware that if the school applied for my work permit, it would also count as my residence permit, & I shouldn't have to apply for one separately. When I was hired, I repeatedly asked what documents the school needed from me for my work permit application. By the end of May, I told them I'd really like to have all of my documents to them before my wedding, which meant I needed to know NOW what they needed from me. Nothing. At the beginning of July, DAYS before I was supposed to leave for the States, they sent me a list of things they needed immediately. It took my husband & I 2 full days to gather all of the documents (1 day for the medical report alone because the HR person at the school told us the WRONG thing that we needed). We mailed those to the school, & I thought I was done. Until I returned to Turkey, & started my job at the end of August, & was suddenly told I needed to have some documents translated & notarized for my application. (Again, this is typical, but every school I've worked at before has done this themselves...& I couldn't understand why they hadn't told me they needed ME to do this sooner.) At this point I could understand that they had not applied for my work permit yet, & my current permit was about to expire on August 31. I started asking my Dept Head, verbally & in email if they would have this done by Sept 1, as my insurance coverage would be ending, and if they hadn't applied by that date, I would need to apply separately for a Residence Permit so I could be in Turkey legally. No response. Well, not no response, but on Aug 31, the day my Residence Permit expired, I was told thatI would need to apply for a Residence Permit. This meant 2 things to me: 1-they had not fulfilled the contract by applying for my work permit by Sept 1 (meaning I wouldn't have insurance through THEM), and 2- I had to pay nearly 500tl of MY money to apply for a Residence Permit 2 days late & the school would not reimburse me for that. This experience showed me the HR person at the school was incompetent, & didn't know how to do her job.
4) The contract
I've already mentioned above how they sent me a blank contract. I later found out that I wasn't the only person they did this to. However, they told the other people they HAD to sign the blank contract, whereas they actually sent me a new contract to sign. Now, in Turkey, you usually have to sign a Turkish version & English version of your contract. Therefore, I had my then fiance look at the Turkish version, while I looked at the English version. It was immediately clear that they were 2 different contracts. It was not just a translated version of one contract, but 2 different contracts. Again, I emailed my Dept Head asking for clarification, because the contracts said 2 different things in some parts, & the part where the English contract talked about flight reimbursements did not match my notes from the interview. She actually responded to that email, and having her response in English, in an email, I signed the contract with the understanding that what she had told me in the email were the correct terms. This was in April. In May, I was still waiting for my official copy of the contract to be sent to me. I asked 2 or 3 times, and by the end of May I was told that I would just have to wait. I asked if the school could send me a "Memo of Understanding" or "Sample Contract" as most other schools usually do. Again, "No." I was feeling very uneasy about not having a copy of my contract, so when I started working, again, I asked for a copy verbally. I was told I just needed to wait a little longer. When my salary payment & work permit problems occurred, I went to the HR woman & said "I want a copy of my contract." (Some other colleagues said they had just been in her office, & all of our contracts were on her desk....mine on top.) She told me she didn't have it, my Dept Head did. I didn't see my Dept Head that day, so I emailed her that I wanted a copy of my contract. She also said she didn't have it, it was in Ankara. It turned into lie, upon lie...& by the time I resigned, I still did not have a copy of my contract.
5)The general work environment
When I accepted the job, I was told that teacher's generally taught 24 hours a week, teachers stayed late 2 nights a week for meetings (but hopefully it would be changing to only 1 night), some Saturdays were required, the students were great, & everything I needed to know would be translated into English.
The reality: Days before school started, the principal made an announcement that all teachers would have to teach at least 30 hours a week...but at the last minute the English dept hired one more teacher, so I was given 28 teaching hours a week instead; we had to stay 2 nights after school, but as the servis bus didn't show up, I didn't get home until after 8pm those nights. Also, the meeting turned out to be for other people, not me; certain grade levels had to go to school for meetings starting the 1st Saturday; the majority of the students were awful (in the sense that they had no discipline & did not view the teacher as a person who should be respected or listened to); and almost nothing was ever translated into English.
To be able to do your job at TED Izmir, it became clear that you needed to be fluent in Turkish. Many of the students (even at the middle school level) had almost no English, & no desire to learn it. They used the fact that they couldn't understand you as permission to have loud conversations with their friends across the room in Turkish, & the administration took no initiative to help teachers when they were asked to help with this situation. The meetings that we had to attend were almost always in Turkish, yet no one translated for the foreign teachers, nor did the Dept Head respond to verbal requests or emails asking for specific things to be translated. School rules & policies were never explained to foreign teachers. For example, I never knew what the attendance policy was, I was never told how many grades I was responsible for giving students (to be entered on e-okul, etc), and I didn't even know what I was supposed to do if I was sick (note- the school doctor doesn't know English). All of these contributed to a very stressful work environment.
I resigned after 1 1/2 months of working at the school. According to Turkish Labor law, & my contracts (which I only had photos of, not the official copies), I had the right to do that. I also had a medical note, as the stress from the job resulted in 2 herniated disks in my back. However, the second the school (mainly my Dept Head) realized I was serious about resigning, she began bullying me with threats that the school would take me to court. She repeated this in several emails, told me I couldn't resign, and that the principal wanted to see me. (Note that all of this communication had to go through my Dept Head because no one else at the school speaks English, not the principal, not the HR person, no one.) It wasn't until I contacted someone at the main TED organization in Ankara that anything was done. I was finally informed that my resignation was legal, and accepted, & I was told what documents to send the school in Izmir.
If I had been new to teaching, I would have thought that I was a terrible teacher & person because of the way things were handled at the school. However, I knew my rights & I had already been in Turkey for 5 years, & had successfully taught numerous Turkish students in both public & private school settings. I'm actually a pretty good teacher, & I knew it, which made it all the more clear that TED Izmir needs babysitters for their students, not serious educators.
I hope that changes will be made to the school in the future, but for anyone considering the school in the near future, beware of the English Dept Head (she will lie to you & manipulate you), and don't expect the administration to have any concern or understanding for "foreigner problems". (posted October 2015)