The TEFLtastic Blacklist of Shame Guardian Watch 3

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:

The TEFLtradesman on TEFL International LINK BROKEN

The TEFL Blacklist on Smith’s School of English

Usingenglish on Smith’s School of English

TEFLtastic on Paul Lowe

This entry was posted in Bruce Veldhuisen, Dodgy TEFL courses, Dodgy TEFL school owners, Teacher forums, Teaching English Abroad, Teaching English in Asia, Teaching English in India, Teaching English in Japan, Teaching English in Thailand, TEFL, TEFL certificate, TEFL International, TEFL scams, TEFL villains- Paul Lowe, Windsor Schools, Windsor TEFL. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The TEFLtastic Blacklist of Shame Guardian Watch 3

  1. Ann says:

    Most of us know Bruce Veldhuisen as the CEO of TEFL international and the owner of another fifteen sites (found to date).

    [lots of edited stuff, because as I said I think the fact that these people are unpleasant is enough, so I don’t see the point of making any other comments unless it is too the police or to a proper journalist]

  2. Alex Case says:

    Ann, any more libellous comments that will just make people think this is a site not worth reading or trusting, and you will be blocked

  3. derek hj says:

    These people are linked in a conspiracy dating from the Crusades and involving high echelons of government. You have only to look at a dollar bill (in Britain, a £20 note; in the Isle of Man, a sixpence) to see their masonic codes ‘hidden in plain sight’ as one observer has perceptively noted.
    And another thing – how could a large building such as Windsor Schools collapse AT THE SPEED OF GRAVITY? There must have been a secret hand behind the scenes. Go to Youtube and enter ‘tall buildings tefl plot’ and you will see what really happened.

  4. Eric Roth says:

    Solid warning with appropriate limits. Thanks!

  5. Mike says:

    Dear Alex,

    I think it best if you know these individuals and work for them long-term before you pass judgement. I worked as a director and trainer under both Paul Lowe and Bruce Veldhuisen over the last 5-6 years.

    I can’t vouch highly for Mr. Lowe’s character, having seen and done some questionable things under his direction and treated very poorly as well. I know most of the posters who have posted against him (former staff), and their stories as highly acceptable. I hold no grudge against Mr. Lowe, but woudl not work for him or recommend anyone to do so.

    On the other hand, I can vouch very highly for Mr. Veldhuisen’s character, having worked around the world and done very honourable, charitable and good things in the industry and with teachers, under his instruction. I know hundreds of former and current staff that would rate him very highly as an employer and person. I also know many of the posters that have posted against him, and that many of their stories are questionable as they come from individuals that either: (1) could not pass a TEFL course; (2) were incompetent staff that had to be dismissed; or (3) who had business disagreements and stubbornly refused to find/ look at numerous offered solutions until legal matters had to be taken (which favoured Mr. Veldhuisen in the end). You guys know who you are.

    You can knock me if you like, but I have known these individuals first-hand for years as well as some of the people who post on them. I have a great deal of integrity and respect in the industry myself and those of you that read this and know me, know what I say is true.

    Email me if anyone wants more of my opinion.

  6. derek hj says:

    I’ve never heard of this Bruce V person, but what you say about Paul Lowe will be familiar to many of us.

  7. Alex Case says:

    I’ve emailled Mike asking him if he’d like to be interviewed so he can give his point of view, but no reply yet.

  8. Alex Case says:

    I’ve been asked what I based my judgement on TEFL International and Bruce V on. As I’ve said, it’s very hard to cut through the false information from both sides, but here are the things I believe to be true:

    – TEFL International makes more of an effort to make sure that critical voices are not heard than I think is acceptable. One tactic is having lots of differently named websites. Another is that whenever there is a thread about TEFL International it quickly gets cluttered up with ridiculous accusations (which makes people not take the more likely accusations seriously, gives the site owner a headache and leaves them open to threats of being sued) and stuff copied from other sites (which makes sure it slips down the Google rankings). It seems to me that the only people who have anything to gain from that are TEFL International. I would never use any of these tactics however much I was being attacked, and I think they suggest someone or an organisation whose moral compass is a bit wonky.

    – There are clearly some issues of ambiguity in its non profit making status. This is one of the commonest red lights in the world.

    – The sheer size and rapid expansion of the company suggests an excess of ambition. People with that much ambition, especially in TEFL, are 90% of the time people to be avoided

    Although there are many bitter and angry TEFL teachers throwing around false accusations and bile out there, I think the above three points are irrefutable. For me, personally, that is enough to give me the instinctive feeling that if I was offered a job with TEFL International, I would turn it down

  9. Topper says:


    Could you please provide reasons why you feel TEFL International’s critics are not heard? If they’ve not been heard from, then what are you basing your opinion on? If they have been heard from, could you please provide links to their comments.

    Could you show us some posts from former teachers of TI that indicate that working for TI as an instructor isn’t the happy little warm place we, as teachers, want?

    Lastly, I would suggest you do something….really crazy! Start a poll on teachers forums asking about TI’s quality of education, its committment to its students and question how the organization takes care of its teachers. Try

    Bruce started off in Thailand (I think) and many of his students/instructors, etc, etc are Ajarn Forum members. Don’t trust my word…ask them. See what they say about Bruce and TI. Then get back to us and tell us what you found out.

  10. Alex Case says:

    I’ve polished up the post a bit, and now I’m bored with this topic. If you don’t want people to read this post, may I suggest not leaving comments and so letting it fall off the end of the “Recent Comments” box?

  11. Alex Case says:

    Both Bruce and Mike have agreed to interviews, so hopefully we can get this all cleared up once and for all and get back to The Alternative ELT Jargon Dictionary Part 93

  12. derek hj says:

    When can we expect an interview with Paul Lowe? Not too early in the morning, presumably.

  13. Smithparody says:

    I owned a Smith’s school for 4 years. I know the truth. I know the scam. Here are some of my favorite quotes directly from the Smith’s website referring to Mark’s made up methodology “Coaching Communicative Confidence” (with my comments in parentheses):

    Coaches of Communicative Confidence and how Smith’s philosophy differs from the majority of English schools in Japan

    …..We are in fact Coaches of Communicative Confidence. One doesn’t need a PHD or even a degree in order to be a good coach. Why then is there publication upon publication saying that you cannot or even should not work at an English school without a degree? Who knows? —(This is a great quote. This shows how little Mark knows about TEFL theory and methodology. His system is ineffective for real, meaningful learning to take place. The training you will receive at Smith’s is based on a system that one man with no TEFL qualifications made up.)

    ……write the following on the board in any adult English conversation class: “Where do you live?”
    They can read it. They do understand it. They may not be able to answer it verbally. That’s where our job begins. Oh, and know this: If the student can’t understand this sentence or form some type of answer, chances are neither you nor the majority of the teachers in this business in Japan today can teach it to them as a non-native Japanese speaker. To do so would require: An in depth knowledge of the grammatical structure of the English language (is he admitting he can’t teach English grammar?), the ability to explain that structure (which any qualified TEFL teacher could do), and most importantly, the ability to make that explanation in Japanese. — (Oh, Mark, how little you know about real teaching. On my first day of CELTA, our trainer took 4 people who said they never took Spanish class, and taught them to say this very phrase in Spanish, and more! They were able to greet and have a short conversation in a language they had never studied before, and the teacher did it using only Spanish in 30 minutes! Further proof that the Smith’s system is not based in any proven, tried and tested, internationally recognized TEFL methodology. He made up his entire system!)

    ….. how can we be expected to teach the English language with one 45 minute lesson per week? The answer is: we can’t. (Ugh! I can’t believe I fell for this crap! If you take a real TEFL course, you’ll find that actually, you can! The Smith’s “curriculum” ignores 75% of language skills development. Mark probably doesn’t know what I’m talking about, and that’s why he can’t teach effectively in 45 minutes. If he can’t do it, and you train under his system, how do you think you will do?)

    ….Moreover, English conversation schools are no more than an extension of the job started by Monbusho. They teach grammar. We teach communicative confidence. (He doesn’t teach grammar because he doesn’t know how!)

    …..In order to define and in turn perfect our own performance in that relationship we did research into the English language education provided by Monbusho. (I would love to go back to him and ask him what kind of research he did! I’m sure, since I’ve spent so much time with him and his system, that this is an outright lie.)

    …..The proof that Monbusho has a different goal altogether lies in an average student to teacher ratio of 40 to 1. What conversation coaching based organization would advertise a class ratio of that nature? The answer is none. In that situation, during a 45 minute class any one of these students gets only a very small amount of Student Talk Time. (again, further proof that Mark Smith knows nothing of true TEFL. Sure, a ratio of 40:1 is far from ideal, but a well-trained teacher would be able to manage this class to give everyone plenty of talking time.)

    …..Monbusho does their job giving Japanese people the technical skills of English (in the professional TEFL world, these “technical skills” are called “English systems”, but Mark wouldn’t know that.) and with this, we can start ours. We have the responsibility to coach to confidence to vocalize the skills provided by Monbusho. We are Coaches of Communicative Confidence. (“vocalize the skills”, is this an admission by Mark Smith himself that the Smith’s system focuses on only one language skill, speaking, and completely ignores 75% of English skills development? Do yourself a favor, don’t buy an English school franchise from a guy who know nothing of TEFL.)

  14. Smithparody says:

    Please visit my blog site dedicated to spreading the truth about Smith’s School of English. Most of my blog uses information found right on Smith’s own website, and I tell you the horrific truth about this man and what he is trying to sell. I ought to know, I’m one of the people he scammed.

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