Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My letter to the president of the TEFL Institute

I wanted to make this public, because I know the TEFL people check this blog from time to time. I am planning on e-mailing this to the guy, as well as mailing him snail mail copies too, if it comes to that. Also, I am planning on writing a final Paris blog detailing my last 3 weeks in Paris, which will probably be mostly detailing my last week in Paris, when the girl I have been dating for almost 2 years now, Ashley, came to visit me, but I will do that sometime later this week, hopefully. Anyways, here it is!

December 20, 2011

Mr. Gibbs:

I am unfortunately writing you today to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the TEFL program, and more specifically, with the advice that I received from one of your agents in Chicago. I first contacted the TEFL Institute on the internet this past July, hopeful that I would be able to live out my dream of teaching English in France by enrolling in the TEFL program in Paris and becoming certified to teach English as a foreign language. I was contacted by phone within a few days by one of your advisors in Chicago, a man named Brian Kruk. He assured me that my dream could be realized, and although he did tell me that France may be a more competitive market than some other countries, it would more than likely be possible for me to find work as an English teacher in France. Unfortunately, he never once alluded to or revealed the reality of the situation for American workers in France, which I had to discover for myself by visiting the American Embassy while I was in Paris. I am left to wonder if he didn’t tell me because he honestly didn’t know, or because he just wanted to get me enrolled in the class so that he and the TEFL Institute could benefit financially. Whatever the case, I am still absolutely infuriated; 2 months after returning home, because I feel like your advisor’s incomplete and misleading advice resulted in me being cheated out of something that could have been a life-changing experience, not to mention spending about ten thousand dollars of hard-earned money in the process. I feel like I should perhaps explain to you what the situation for Americans is in France, in case you really don’t know. I would hate for this to happen to anyone else. When I finally got around to visiting the American Embassy, I was told by the people there that the reality for Americans is rather grim. I could not, as Brian had suggested I could, just come to France with a ninety day traveler’s Visa and expect to exchange it for either a student or a worker’s Visa. The handout I received made it abundantly clear that this was frankly impossible, and it also made it clear that it was impossible for an American to get a worker’s Visa outright. The best way to stay in France for an extended period of time as I had so wanted to do, I discovered, was to either try to overstay my Visa and risk getting banned for life from the country I so adored, which I wasn’t willing to do (and frankly found the suggestion to be ridiculous since it is illegal), or to get a student Visa before coming to France and to work part time when I wasn’t in class. For the record, I was and still am adamant about teaching English in France, and would have happily registered and taken some classes in Paris if it would have allowed me to stay there for a year. I could have taken some French classes to improve my French, which was part of the reason I wanted to do this in the first place. But since it’s impossible to exchange a traveler’s Visa for a student Visa, the only way to stay in France for an extended period of time would have been to return to the States, apply for a student Visa, and then go back to France. Needless to say, I didn’t have an extra thousand dollars that another plane ticket would have cost me, let alone the money it would take to continue renting an apartment and keep myself fed until I was able to find a job. So I was forced to return home, bitter and defeated, my dream crushed, feeling cheated and betrayed, overcome with an absolutely genuine sense of loss that fills me with a quiet, simmering rage to this very day.

                In addition to being misled by an advisor who clearly was incapable, due to his ignorance, of performing his basic job duties, I also feel I was misled by the program itself. I was assured time and time again, both by Brian and on the TEFL website, that an exceptional level of job placement assistance was included in the program, which I was told would basically guarantee that I would find a job, with the assistance of a TEFL Institute employee, in the country of my choice. To make matters worse, when I, wanting to be sure I wasn’t wasting my money on some fraudulent scam, asked Brian what percentage of people who completed the TEFL certification found a job, he said there has never been anyone that wanted a job who didn’t find one after completing the TEFL program. So either he was lying to me, or I am an anomaly: the only person who has ever finished the TEFL program and wanted to find a job but didn’t; the one and only black mark on a company’s otherwise flawless reputation. Well, the simple fact remains that neither I nor anyone else in my graduating class received any kind of job placement assistance whatsoever. I thought and was led to believe that there would be at least one person whose sole job would be to find us jobs after we finished the course, and there wasn’t such a person employed by TEFL at their Paris school. The closest thing I received to job placement assistance came in the form of my TEFL instructor telling us where to go to check out job postings, which hardly qualifies as job placement assistance. Plus, I think the only reason she was doing that was because we complained of the surprising lack of assistance when it came to finding a job after finishing the course.

                While I enjoyed the class, my wonder teacher Sanja Jankovic, and my classmates immensely, I feel like if I had been better informed, or maybe even better assisted, I could have made a better choice, perhaps opting to take the class in Chicago, where my sister lives, instead of in Paris, and could have ultimately saved a TON of money on things like rent. And since there’s a French Embassy in Chicago, I could have applied for a student Visa while there, sorted that whole mess out, and perhaps still be in Paris at this very moment, watching snow fall around the Eiffel Tower. Instead, due to a certain amount of ignorance, incompetence, and negligence, I am sitting here writing you this letter in the United States, nursing a broken dream with anger in my heart and a bitter taste in my mouth. I am placing the blame squarely on you and your institution, for I believe it is your organization’s fault alone that I am not still in France, fulfilling my dreams of teaching French people how to better speak English.

                At this point, I honestly don’t expect you to do anything to ameliorate this situation, since my faith in your institution has been shaken so dramatically, but I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t implore you to do something to make this right. I figured at the very least, I could bring this situation to your attention to ensure that it never happens to any other idealistic young language enthusiast, and that it couldn’t hurt to ask that you do something to fix this problem. I will refrain from making any suggestions as to how you can fix your agent’s and your company’s blunder, but my hope remains that you will read my words, reflect upon them, and compensate me, not necessarily monetarily, in a manner that is commensurate with the injustices and trauma I have had to endure as a result of being cheated out of my dream by your agent and the TEFL Institute itself. Please get back to me in writing at your earliest convenience, either by mail or by e-mail. I have included a number of ways to get ahold of me at the beginning of this letter. I hope we can come to some sort of resolution to this matter that is mutually beneficial.


David John Hyde IV


  1. Did you ever make it back to France? I was thinking about getting certified with TEFL Institute and also considered applying for a job with them but they seem to have a spotty reputation at best. Anyway, Bonne Chance!

  2. Not yet, but I am working on a 5-week summer teaching opportunity through an American University that will take place this summer in Paris. I set up a Skype interview with the Director, and I should know whether or not I got the position in about a month or so. I would say that overall, it was still a worthwhile experience, but that I just wish I would have done some more research before I went over there, so that I could have cleared up those Visa restrictions. One question for you: Are you an American? Because you will have a much easier time finding work over there if you aren't, but are still from an English-speaking country (Australia, Ireland, the U.K., Canada, etc). At least this is how it was when I was there. Who knows, the policy may have changed since then, because they have since elected a new president. I'll have to look into that. Thanks for writing!

  3. Hey man, glad to hear you're making some progress. I am American and was already somewhat aware of the challenges. I think the more likely route for me now will be trying to save up some money and going on a vacation rather than trying to work there.

    Hope you get that gig! France is the best, I have been there twice but unfortunately one of them was when I was too young to appreciate it and the other was a very short trip 10 years ago. I've been to Montreal a few times which I love but it's just not the same.

  4. Sorry to hear about your experience with TEFL Institute. You're not alone.


  5. Thanks, Mike! I guess any way to get there is a good way, right? Unfortunately, I didn't land the summer gig (though I came very close...the hiring director even said I had it at first, but then there was a staffing issue and he had to pick someone else over me), but I am planning on applying for that job every summer until I actually get it, so I am hopeful that next summer may be different. I have now been to France twice myself as well...once for about a week when I was 18 as a part of a 2-week high school trip, and this time, for two months. I would really love to save up a ton of money (or win the lottery or something) an just spend the whole summer in Paris. Or maybe I could figure out a way to live there for a year or so. Either way, I am determined to go back. Thanks for writing!

  6. And Ann, it's good to know that I'm not alone in this matter. :)