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Want to leave an international post before it has started

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by Alexbartlett, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. Alexbartlett

    Alexbartlett New commenter

    I am due to start a job in September abroad but over the summer I have been unwell both physically and mentally and I have given it a long and hard thought and I don’t have the capacity to make such a big commitment abroad due to my personal reasons. My contract I have signed but it starts in September so I would like to know if I would be entitled to tell the school I cannot go through with it. I do not think I am part of a union as it is abroad so would like some advice on here as I am worried they could sue me
  2. bobbingtoncrescent

    bobbingtoncrescent New commenter

    I'd change your username pretty quickly, if that's your real name.
    demure and nomad like this.
  3. T0nyGT

    T0nyGT Lead commenter

    You certainly won't be the first person to do this and you won't be the last either. Even if they could 'sue' you, they would only be looking at recouping the costs which would be flights and other administrative costs although, at this late stage, they could of course have signed a contract on accomodation that you would be liable for.

    I would guess though that the most likely thing to happen would be nothing, aside from giving yourself a rather bad name on the circuit.

    Either way, if you can't go, then you can't go. Surely if you're asking about the possibility of legal action, then you really can go, but don't want to. What would you do if you knew they would pursue legal action? Would you go? If not, then this whole enquiry is probably pointless anyway and just adding to your anxiety.

    Finally, I don't want to be dismissive of your problems, but know that your feelings are perfectly normal with such a huge change looming on the horizon. What led to you seeking this change? Will you regret giving up this chance?

    I wish you the best of luck with what to decide but either way just bite the bullet. Let the school know ASAP if you're not going. They won't be happy but you'll have a weight off your shoulders.
    Aim4Jannah and SPC2 like this.
  4. PuRe

    PuRe Occasional commenter

    Just tell them the truth stuff happens
    Tartan01, hplovegame48 and SPC2 like this.
  5. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Okay, there are several things here that probably need to be said.

    Firstly, yes, there is a possibility (remote, but still there) that the OP may face some kind of legal action. When this smelly old pachyderm was teaching in Egypt, at the school for ex-alcoholics, the infamous Mr. Black (not his real name) was in the habit of getting his solicitors to write a rather nasty and threatening letter to those teachers who had signed contracts and then did a "no show". As the aforementioned contracts were signed in the UK, that meant that they were legally binding contracts under British law. As the teachers did not want to face legal action and then have to pay the costs as well as compensation, they agreed to pay an out-of-court settlement. It was not cheap.

    Secondly, this overweight and stinky hippo has pointed out, on many occasions, that teaching overseas might not be for everyone. Anyone thinking of going into a career in international schools has a duty and a responsibility to do their homework, to find out as much as they can and to be diligent in their research. Teaching overseas for two years (well, actually it is a bit less than two years) is not such an impossibly difficult thing to do, if the OP has bothered to make sure that it is the right school for him. As it appears that the OP has never posted on this TES forum before, then maybe we would be right to assume that he really has not "done his homework" and therefore he only has himself to blame.

    Thirdly, it is now August and so the OP has already had a few weeks to get himself mentally and physically fit and ready for his new career in international education. If he thinks that teaching overseas is going to be too tough, then how the hell did he ever get qualified in the UK? (Most schools in the UK are pretty demanding places these days. They are not convalescent homes.) If his mental and / or physical condition really is so bad, then how ever did he manage to persuade the principal of an international school that he was ready and able to do the job? (Was he perhaps a tad dishonest?)

    Fourthly, I have had some wonderful colleagues who were suffering from depression and one or two other mental health issues. Their bravery and their determination to overcome their problems were inspiring. They did not want to let down their colleagues or their students (things that do not seem to bother the OP or even cross his mind). Therefore I hope that I am not being too unkind or judgmental. However, I do think that on the whole teaching in international schools is much easier (and more fun) than teaching in the UK. (I have taught in one or two different places around the world, as well as in the UK.) Therefore a teacher who really thinks that he cannot hack it teaching overseas probably should not be teaching at all.
    IkzJ01 and gulfgolf like this.
  6. T0nyGT

    T0nyGT Lead commenter

    Mental health issues are strange things. It's perfectly possible to be mentally well and ready for an adventure when you're Skyping a principal in an exciting, sunny place and then be hit with unsurmountable anxiety when the time comes to actually get on the plane. We should never be dismissive of someone suffering from mental health problems.
  7. briancant

    briancant Occasional commenter

    I'd get a solicitor to look at your contract. Lots have opt out clauses. My last two posts had three month probationary periods with no notice required by either party clause. I left both with no notice. It would be very difficult for an international school to trace and prosecute an employee for breach of contract. Given ill health you could produce a sick note along with your notice at the start of term. They may have to provide sick pay so would be far more happy dissolving the contract.
  8. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    First off all, I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling this way.

    I would suggest contacting your new school and talking to them openly and honestly about how you're feeling. They should be able to talk you through their induction and support process and this may provide you with the reassurance you need that this can work.

    Equally, it may not and then you will need to decide what is best for your own health.

    If you elect not to go then they're not going to be happy and this may count against you in the future - but your health is far more important.

    The sooner you can talk to them the sooner you can decide. This, I think, is also fairest to the school in that it gives them a bit more time to resolve their probably staffing issue.

    Good luck.
  9. harpplayer

    harpplayer Occasional commenter

    Unless you are seriously, physically unable to go, I would bite the bullet and just go. The place might surprise you and be an aid to recovery rather than a hinderance so just do it and see what happens. Don't overthink the new job - pre jitters are perfectly normal. Don't over plan it. Just pack a medium rucksack (you can buy more stuff when you need it and are settled), a few teaching books and treat it as a holiday. Make new friends. Join a club out there. Go to the beach. Try to bonk someone as soon as possible. As Hippo said, if you have coped with UK schools for a year, as far as work goes, you can cope with anything. You can always get on a plane at midnight to Thailand and leave if you really cannot cope after a month or so, after you have had your first month's pay check.

    Yes, you potentially could be sued but it is highly unlikely. Firstly, they would have to know your current address in the UK (LOL) then they would have to deal with you not responding or refusing to sign for any mail for a few years. The vast majority of people have nothing happen. But just go. It's a holiday. Is the school on the International Schools Register database? Join them and see what people think of where you are going. But just go. You're not a slave and can leave anytime.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  10. mrjack

    mrjack Occasional commenter

    Some good advice given here. Hippo, you are a respected commentator on this board but your post is a bit harsh. "You cannot judge a man until you have a mile walked in his shoes "

    I was offered a job this week abroad, I'm on supply now and this summer has been my worst ever, skint, no funds to go on holiday and pondering my future after twenty years teaching and three years on supply. On the same day as the job offer my father met a consultant as he has had a minor stroke in the last month. He may be needing an operation in his neck. He is 76.
    Some people are very attached to where they live and their families, some people are not. Some people have no reason to be attached to where they live because they come from a crappy place and are moving to somewhere clearly more desirable. Some people just lose their bottle, some people do not. Some people are in a rut and might be delicate mentally, some people are clearly not. We get older, people change, things change.
    I am desperate for a job but there are lots of things which go into the decision to make the move, all things considered you must feel that your life is going to improve by doing so. I have lived by the ocean my whole life. My job offer is at least ten hours inland by road from the ocean ( on reflection should not have applied ). All things considered I don't think the place is for me as all the factors combined make me not excited to make the move.
    Have I lost my bottle ? maybe ? am I at peak mental health probably not. Am I making a mistake by not taking the job? possibly. Do I need someone kicking me when I am down ? hopefully not.
  11. percy topliss

    percy topliss Occasional commenter

    I would suggest that you bite the bullet and let the school know ,now, that you won't be coming at least that gives them the chance to fill your shoes. As for the Hippo, m'eh, he is behind the times these days..at least you weren't forced to "read his blog".....you must do what you see fit, all the platitudes in the world on here won't really help.
    Whatever happens, good luck and get well.

    Mr_Frosty likes this.
  12. february31st

    february31st Established commenter

    I would go to your GP and get a sick note and signed of work for the next 8 weeks. Send the document to the school and you will never here from them again.
  13. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    It was none other than Harry Deelman of Search Associates who famously said that "A gentleman's word is his bond." We should not make promises and then put our names to contracts, only to change our minds a few weeks later. Am I old-fashioned? Yes, probably. And well, perhaps I was a bit harsh, but "no shows" can cause a lot of problems and stress for the SLT, other teachers, students and parents. And legal action might be a lot more damaging to one's mental (and financial) health than a class of students.

    I agree with harpplayer's suggestion that a change of scene and a new job might actually be the best thing for the OP. It might aid his recovery and give him a fresh start in life.

    As for "forcing" people to read my blog, percy, I have had many messages from teachers around the world, thanking me for giving them some idea of what it is like to live and teach in China. (One or two have even asked me about teaching in a certain country in SE Europe.)
    englishdragon likes this.
  14. Tartan01

    Tartan01 New commenter

    I think the OP said he was physically and mentally unwell. As someone said previously - in life things happen and sometimes changes have to be made. I think the OP has to first and foremost look after his own health. In that way he will be ready to take on new challenges in the future.

    International school leadership too often lacks values and shows little mercy and compassion for teachers' personal circumstances or long term welfare so I don't buy into this idea of him having to drag his carcass to the school just to do the right thing by some - it is quite possible that if the shoe was on the other foot they would 'happily' get rid of him if it suits without worrying too much about his wellbeing.

    Therefore, OP do what feels right for you and your health. I'm sure if the school is in any way 'human' they will understand and, if they are not, well it was good to realize that before getting there.

    People who understand life also understand that life has its ups and downs and only caring employers are really worth working for - you know those wonderful people who can show empathy, who motivate, who help give confidence and help others to be all they can be. These are the real leaders we want to follow - those who don't love wallowing in the mud - but reach out a helping hand...
    ucsa001, mrjack, motorhomer and 2 others like this.
  15. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Tartan01's advice sounds like 'Do unto others as they might just possibly do unto you...and do it first.'

    There is absolutely no evidence that the OP's potential employer is NOT one of 'those wonderful people who can show empathy, who motivate, who help give confidence and help others to be all they can be,'

    If I were the headteacher concerned I would prefer an honest conversation about the OP's jitters than a no-show in September with all the potential disruption for pupils, colleagues and administration.
    percy topliss likes this.
  16. MsBuzy

    MsBuzy New commenter

    This comment from the Hippo:

    'Therefore a teacher who really thinks that he cannot hack it teaching overseas probably should not be teaching at all.'

    Strikes me as a particularly unkind, but also totally ridiculous statement.

    There are many, many excellent teachers who would not be able to 'hack' international teaching. There are people who are carers for elderly and disabled relatives, people who have very close ties to their local area who wouldn't want to move, people whose children are cared for by extended families...the list can be completed in diverse ways depending on circumstances.

    Those of us who took the plunge usually have a range of good and bad experiences, and for some people, the bad can be very bad indeed. Others have the time of their lives and never look back.

    What surprises me is that someone described as a community helper could be so dismissive of a genuine request for help. This type of behaviour is typical of the sort of bullying which exists in staff rooms the world over, meted out, usually, by older know it alls.

    To the OP: a good job doesn't love you back. Put those you care for first. Good luck.
    ucsa001, Kulmatie34, mermy and 5 others like this.
  17. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Yes, as usual the Sage of Walmington-On-Sea has given some good advice. If the OP really is not going to be there in September (or at the end of August), then of course the head would like to know asap. The sooner he or she knows, the smaller the chance of disruption and extra work for all concerned.

    When I was teaching at a certain leafy school in SZ, we had two "no shows" in the primary department and four in secondary. It caused a lot of headaches. And how much extra expense is involved, if you have appointed a teacher and then he or she does not get on the plane? I just do not know the answer to that one. Advertising fees, agency fees, visa expenses, work permits, flights, accommodation costs, medical insurance: some or all of those might now have to be paid a second time by the school. It would be interesting to know the Sage's estimate for the cost of replacing a "no show".

    If Tartan01 really is correct about the unscrupulousness and the total ruthlessness of most international school principals, then perhaps the chance of possible legal action is bigger than some on this forum have suggested. This is particularly the case if the OP has actually signed a contract in the UK. Therefore let us hope that Tartan01 is mistaken.
  18. Tartan01

    Tartan01 New commenter

    Mainwaring i think what I said was he should look after his health first and foremost. I would just honestly tell the school he is not well and can't make it and have a medical certificate to back it up.

    Anything wrong with just telling the truth?

    And the other comment was because others were criticizing the fact he might pull out.

    I believe firmly in 'treating others as you would like to be treated yourself'. Unfortunately, some don't so if he takes himself out to some foreign land still feeling fragile and unwell and then says he can't go on, he may not receive the best treatment.
    ucsa001 and blueskydreaming like this.
  19. englishdragon

    englishdragon Occasional commenter

    But.......what do Search Associates do to all their wonderful schools who make promises and then do not deliver on the promises made to these staff. Quite simply, nothing, Search Associates happily pocket their recruiting fee, and just as happily close the teachers profile should the teacher have no option but to escape the hellish reality of a bad school. Teachers are required to be honorable and keep their word/bond, schools are not, because schools pay Search whatever promises they break and lies they tell.
  20. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    It is a common false hope, in the midst of depression, that moving to a new place will be a cure. This is not true. Nor is not moving a cure. The depression must be dealt with in and of itself.
    Similar with anxiety (as an illness). Avoiding certain activities, places, people is not a cure. Treating anxiety requires treating anxiety, not wrapping oneself in pillows and bolting the door.
    Whatever the challenges faced by the OP, help is available. Get some.
    I recommend keeping your word and making the move. Being unemployed and receiving nasty messages from your school is probably not going to be helpful. Move, seek support, make life better.
    Even if you don’t go, seek support. Make life better.
    And please decide today. Your school deserves to know so they can desperately seek a replacement if needed.
    the hippo likes this.

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