In my experience, one of the biggest difficulties for international schools is retaining teachers. There are some schools that are amazing and are able to retain them with ease, but there are a lot of schools that seem to lose almost an entire staff at the end of every single school year because of a range of issues that all stem from one key problem: inappropriate management.

This problem can exist in a variety of ways:

  • A severely abusive school manager creates a hostile working environment because they take every single moment they can to berate and belittle members of their staff and plays favourites with a handful of people while gaslighting the rest.
  • An owner of the school is too focused on hoarding money in their greed vault to provide basic needs of the school.
  • Someone in management makes an irresponsible decision and hires unqualified people or low-quality third-party companies that are not capable of performing the tasks they’re required to do, which requires others who are impacted by either their inability or unwillingness to make up for it.
  • Management not showing proper care and support for teachers and the rest of the pedagogical team.

I’ve run into all of these scenarios and more in my time in international schools. I’ve also run into the first of many red flags in two separate schools in Europe:

I have been told by management that it is my responsibility to know local immigration laws even though they are the people who hired me  while knowing that I was a foreign national. They are the people who have contracted a third-party HR company who supposedly is responsible for informing me about the required documentation for a residency permit or visa.

I am not an immigration lawyer.

I did not make a decision to hire myself to work at the school, nor was I responsible for choosing to hire foreign nationals instead of local teachers (though, I do suspect it has a lot to do with reputation and desire to improve marketability that a foreign native-speaking English teacher was preferred to a local teacher who also spoke English).

I did not outsource my HR and employee immigration needs to an (unreliable) third-party company who has not kept up their end of the bargain and has not provided necessary information.

But if you work as management in an international school, you need to keep this in mind:

If you are not providing your foreign teachers with accurate information and correct procedures, you are not fulfilling your duties. You are showing us, right from the very beginning, that you do not respect or care about us.

You have made a decision to hire foreign nationals to fulfil a role in your company. You have made a decision that creates a need for me (or someone with my talents or skills) to be here. You are responsible for ensuring that your staff is not filled with anxiety over everything (because, if you didn’t know, stressed and anxious teachers cannot focus on their students when they are focusing on whether or not they can securely stay in the country).

In other words, by not caring about our well-being from the very beginning, you are simply providing us with additional reasons for why we will not stay.

And high turn-over is really bad for your school and the profit you care so much about.

But what would we know when “management knows best.”

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