It is that time of the school year. August. A time when schools are starting to ask their teachers if they plan on returning for the following school year. Yes, schools are starting to ask now because the first job fairs are in mid-October. Some schools have already asked their teachers and administrators if they are returning and decisions are being made.
What happens next?
Teachers start to explore options for their next job. They set up their international job search files, get their references, and start to check out what jobs are popping up. Then, they go to read the reviews that teachers from those schools have posted online. I have been doing this myself.
Administrators, some of your schools do not look that great online.
In this COVID influenced school year, many schools are simply struggling to get by. There are an inordinate amount of challenges facing schools and administrations as they simply try to survive the myriad of struggles that they are facing. Some schools do not even have enough staff in the country to open their doors in the coming weeks much less thrive in this environment. These are all legitimate challenges.
Trust me, the job reviews sites are full of examples of international schools handling this pandemic exceedingly well, and very poorly. There is always a significant uptick in reports at the end of a school year from departing staff. If we are honest, those people who are most likely to report on their experience at schools are first, those who had a poor experience, second, those who had an amazing experience, and finally, the smallest group, those who want others to know what is happening there.
I always take job reviews with a grain of salt. One has too. The school is never as bad, nor as amazing as the review makes it sound. Much of one’s experience at a school is a result of the individual experience with those who work in the school. That can be high subjective in the long run.
However, one also finds commonalities in experiences with educators in schools. For example, I have been reading about several schools that now have multiple new reports following COVID. These schools are not receiving high marks for the quality and performance during this pandemic. These individuals want to tell others about how bad the school has treated them as a warning to not consider this school. A few have spoken very highly of their schools during this pandemic. They have been very positive about their experiences. These reviews are few and far between though.
As an administrator, how should you manage these reviews?
An administrator once told me that he wants all his teachers to review the school online. To that end, he tells his staff at the end of the year to go online to any of the sites that review schools and review him and the program. He said he wanted teachers to give a fair review of the school and have multiple pieces of information online about the place he led. His reason? The more information that was online, the more objective the picture of the school, and his leadership, would be.
Of course, this was in addition to internal monitoring of the school and end of year reflections. As you may imagine, this was an administrator who ran a good school. He did not worry about a large number of bad reviews. He was comfortable reading about the school in online reviews and acting on any concerns that arose that he was not aware of. As you may imagine, there were not many poor reviews of him or the school.
Administrators need to be comfortable in their own skin. They need to be comfortable seeing their name online in public view as they are public figures. The reality being, if an administrator is doing their job well, the reviews will generally be positive. We must be comfortable knowing that not everyone likes everything we do. If we don’t ask for feedback, it will be given in other ways that could be more harmful.
I like the idea that we ask teachers to complete online reviews of the school in public forums. First, it gives credibility to the school. The school gets its name out there in the public forum and other teachers can make decisions about the school based on the feedback provided. Second, it updates what it truly happening in the school. Many of the reviews are from years past and the school has changed significantly. The leadership has changed, and the reviews have not been updated. Current information allows teachers to make educated choices about their next school. Finally, administrators gain another place for feedback about the school and their work which allows them to improve.
If you have not asked educators to provide feedback for the school in online reviews, I highly suggest that you do. Yes, it will be scary the first time when you ask, but you will be surprised at the response. I guarantee it will not be all bad. The simple fact that you are willing to ask for feedback says something about your quality as an administrator of an international school.
If you have not used online review sites, I suggest the following three sites as a starting point:
International Schools Review: https://www.internationalschoolsreview.com/
International School Advisor: https://www.ischooladvisor.com/
International School Community: https://www.internationalschoolcommunity.com/home