You can’t do much reading about TEFL on the Net without coming across stories of dodgy geezers and their nasty little business schemes, and then you can’t read much more without coming across the nasty little TEFL teachers with their dodgy feuds- and then all kinds of mental confusion breaks out. Who can you believe in the TEFL world? The answer is simple- me!
Joking aside, I’ve been trawling through hundreds of posts about TEFL ripoffs and DoSs with personality problems over the last 12 months and although I remain sceptical about most of the claims made on such forums, there are three people/ organisations that I get a particularly bad vibe about. As what I’m doing is trying to judge someone’s personality through the internet, it is obviously subjective- and if you don’t trust my opinion on most things, then of course please ignore me here too. Still, here is my opinion for what it is worth. If it was me, I would avoid these three:
Paul Lowe’s Windsor TEFL/ Windsor Schools
Mark Smith’s Smith Schools of English Japan
Bruce Veldhuisen’s TEFL International
My criteria for inclusion is simple and beyond reproach, I think you will find. The evidence I have on their business dealings is limited but they strike me as three examples of the less pleasant kinds of people that TEFL occassionally attracts. I’ve met a few unpleasant characters, and the usual pattern is that if you catch them on a good day and they need something from you, you might be charmed. If you have no dealings with them and a good person who has got trapped in their web is the person you deal with you might have a good experience. Get on the wrong side of them, though, and you will find yourself a victim of every vindicitve and manipulative tactic known to man, with the idea that there is a line they shouldn’t step over in order to get their way not popping into their heads. Paul has shown on this site that he is exactly like that. People who have had direct communications with Mark Smith that I trust have told me that he is even worse. I don’t know how involved Bruce is in the day to day running of TEFL International, but someone’s ambition is making them step over the line of what I would call gentlemanly business practices.
Which leads me onto my philosophy of TEFL life. The system to have a good time in TEFL and not give more influence to the bad guys is simple- find nice people, avoid nasty ones. It’s worked for me- made me choose Spain, Italy, and Japan rather than Austria and Switzerland (though my nicest students ever were from Columbia, where I haven’t been yet), made me get out of DoSing and teacher training and back into the classroom, etc etc. So far, it’s worked- or not worked, depending on whether not being bitter is turning into a TEFL blogger handicap or not…
As I said, take several large salt mines when reading about any TEFL dodgy dealings, especially as many people have been known to place false information (both good and, for some strange reason, bad) about themselves on such sites, but here are some links anyway: