Thursday, August 4, 2011

American TESOL Institute Review

My friend, Katy, did a review of ATI Special Thailand project, and I thought I should do the same. There is not enough substantial information on the website, so I think it is important for would-be teachers to know what they are getting into.
Truthfully, I don't know why I did the program. The information on the website, at least back in 2009, makes it look like a scam, and I was really worried when I arrived at the airport that this was an elaborate scheme to get my organs or sell me into sex slavery. Luckily, though, this program is legitimate.
My program started with being certified as an English teacher in Chiang Mai and then placed me in a Korean public school. The organization was pretty poor; I would wait for e-mails, and then all of a sudden three different people (one from ATI, one from Thailand, and one from Korea) would be hounding me on all these documents that they needed, which they only now told me about. By the time I got to Thailand, I still didn't have a visa for Korea and wasn't sure if I was going to get a job. Luckily, I eventually got my interview for Korea, sent in my documents and got my visa the Friday before flying to Seoul... that's a different story.
For now, I want to focus on the ATI classes. Everyday, we would have lessons on pedagogy, classroom management, grammar, or language acquisition. While these were interesting, three weeks probably didn't give us enough time to be truly comfortable in a classroom. That said, learning pedagogy for four years also doesn't prepare someone for the mania of thirty-five young Koreans in a small English classroom.
There were some aspects, however, that were truly helpful. We had some useful practice in lesson planning, without which I would have been lost in the classroom. The first day we had to sit through Thai language acquisition completely in the Thai language; by being forced to learn as our students would learn, we were able to grasp the importance of word choice and repetition. Finally, we went to actual Thai classes and taught lessons two or three times. This practice gave me confidence for my first classes in Korea and gave us the chance to meet some adorable Thai students.
The one problem with the Thai-Korea special project was preparing us for Korea. While it was fun to draw pictures of elephants and superman to use as classroom aids, I never did that while teaching abroad in Seoul. In Thailand, you use chalkboards and whatever aids you can draw yourself. In Korea, this was definitely not the case. My classroom had projectors, computers for the students and white boards, and I usually used powerpoint to teach; the ATI program did not prepare us for a technology-rich classrooms. Also, while we learned about Thai culture and its effect on the classroom, we didn't learn anything about what our life was going to be like when we moved to Korea.
Overall, I had a positive experience. I met some AMAZING friends, who continued to be my friends when we moved on to Korea. I ate a ton of cheap and delicious pad thai. I got over some of my pre-teaching jitters by practicing on some Thai students. I got my TESOL degree, which increased my salary in Korea. When my friends ask for information about teaching abroad, I usually recommend this course. It is a great way to see two countries and a great way to get your TESOL certificate. Just don't expect the classes themselves to make you a great teacher. That takes times and experience.


  1. Hey Mark,

    I'm in Seoul now too, considering the TESOL program in Thailand. What were the classes themselves like? How long per day? What did you do? Did you have homework, and if so, what kind?

    Shoot me an email if you can: marshalljonesjr[at]gmail[dot]com.


  2. What were the classes themselves like? The classes were pretty simple. We had some classes on teaching methods, some on English grammar/phonology, and some on lesson planning. Nothing incredibly difficult.
    How long per day? The classes were supposed to be 8 hours a day, but I remember them being a lot shorter than that (what with breaks, lunch, and finishing early)
    What did you do? Although we did have to study a bit, we spent the day taking classes and the night enjoying the city.
    Did you have homework, and if so, what kind? Homework was almost non-existent. We needed to prepare some lesson plans for some actual in class lesson demonstrations, but I would say on average the homework was no more than an hour. On the day before our teaching demonstration, which is evaluated, a lot of us were busy getting together materials and practicing the lessons. If you have already taught before, this will not be very difficult.

  3. Hi Mark,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I find the review resourceful. I had a few questions that I think you would be able to help me with in my own journey to Thailand and Korea with ATI.

    1) Could you give an estimated cost of your 3 weeks in Bangkok?
    2) If you taught English in Bangkok during the training what was the pay and for how long?

    Your answers will help me a lot!

    Thank you.

    1. Antrea,
      1) I think I spent around 800 dollars during my stay in Thailand... and I wasn't really trying to not spend money. Food is insanely cheap and the price for the course includes housing. I was in Chiang Mai, however, not Bangkok. Bangkok may be a little more expensive. But even in Bangkok you can get a delicious two-dollar meal from a street cart.
      2)The teaching experience I had in Thailand was part of the course. It was not paid and is usually a required part of getting your TESOL certification. It was only two classroom hours. I know they have programs where you continue teaching in Thailand after getting certified, but that was not my program.

  4. Hi Mark - Thank you so much for posting this. I have signed up to do the Thailand course and then teach in Thailand after. I have been having a very hard time finding info on the American TESOL Institute. Some of the info has said it is a scam and the certification isn't legitimate. Is this false?

  5. Hey,
    It has worked out for me. I went through the course with a reputable Korean recruiter as well... Unless it has changed dramatically since I went in 2009, it is not a scam.

  6. Hi Mark!

    Thanks for posting this. I enrolled in the program and my classes start on August. I'm just wondering about the accommodation. Where did you stay when you were taking up the course?

    1. Hi,
      They placed us in a hotel in Chiang Mai, and I believe the program in Bangkok is also in a hotel. The Chiang Mai hotel was fine, with air conditioning and a pool. The only bad thing I remember was the breakfast was awfully expensive... so we just got street food in the morning. Tasted better anyways.

  7. Hello Mark,

    Thank you for posting this review.

    I was wondering if you would be able to tell me if the TEFL certificate from ATI is recognized worldwide ; as I would like to teach in South America and Eastern Europe.

    I am planning to enroll for the basic TEFL course where ATI does not place you in any schools.

    I look forward to hear from you.

    Ritika !

  8. Hi Mark,

    I am planning to pursue,TESOL course in Bangkok I am unable to trace the authenticity of the institute and the validity of TESOL certificate worldwide. The course is carried out in the hotel JL International. Kindly advise ?

    1. hi himanshu,

      have you done the course ? can tell how was the course & experience & where you stayed.

      Are you still in Thailand teaching ???


  9. Hey Guys I am really confused some says ATI is a Scam and some says it is Genuine.I am really intrested to take Tesol course but unable to decide if I should takethisfrom ATI.