The Crazy World of TEFL Certification

The Crazy World of TEFL Certification


up fools.

There are many schools/businesses around the world that offer TEFL or ESL certification. If you want to teach English, do your homework as best you can to figure out which place is legit. For me, I did no homework and found a semi-legit place. That’s how I roll.

And just like anything else in life I’ve ever signed up for, the way I got accredited to teach English was TOTALLY NOT what my imagination had prepared me for, which was a typical schoolroom in an average school building with an ordinary schoolteacher. Probably lots of exams.

None of that happened. I mean, the company I went through was called Text-and-Talk Academy for God’s sake. Sounds totally prestigious, huh?

Granted, we did attend class in a room—a kind of open-air room without air conditioning but with ceiling fans. It existed in a one-story office-ish building on the corner of a back street on the island Koh Samui, Thailand.

It was a very unassuming place to learn how to get your TEFL on, and not very school-like at all. But it did have a white board on the wall, three tables pushed together in the shape of a U, and an instructor who always had a four o’clock shadow and armpit rings that looked like a tribute to the Pacific Ocean.

He was a forty-something English man who always looked angry, and that’s because he was. As the days added up, we discovered he was a raging alcoholic who spent his mornings being hungover and trying to describe word order, determiners, auxiliaries, and intensifiers to a bunch of equally hungover assholes—us. I understood his urge to mow us down with his tuk-tuk. We talked shit to him on the reg.

Our cast of characters came from around the globe, but mainly England and the USA. I grew to love them all except for an old man who looked like the worst version of Mister Burns from The Simpsons—his reptile skin melting off his body and his corn niblet teeth appearing to have been pressed into a tub of butter for seventy-five years. His name was Parker, and he chain-smoked, had a voice like a dying vulture, and fucked prostitutes every day. He’d go to the “special Thai massage” shops and buy all kinds of nasty sex favors with his dwindling life savings. He was there to fuck and die, and maybe teach kids in the process. Vomit.

One day during break, he told us between too-deep ciggie inhalations that he was going to get his vagina clan matching t-shirts that said “Parker’s Pussies.” I can still remember shrinking into myself and gagging in disgust as he spoke.

But enough about Parker’s Pussies.

Shelby Simpson's full body shot for TEFLWhat I want to tell you is this:

  1. I actually did learn a lot at Text-And-Talk Academy. We taught in the schools some days with young children, and sometimes at businesses on the island with adults, and it was awesome. I learned how to lesson plan, approach difficult language problems, and have fun while doing it. I actually turned into an excellent teacher.
  2. I got offered a lot of teaching jobs with the credentials I earned, so they worked. Nanny nanny boo boo. As a matter of fact, I sent an email to a woman named “Sunflower” that ran a kindergarten in Taiwan got an interview.
  3. The months I spent in Koh Samui were rad. I can’t think of a more spectacular place to attend class. It was The School of Paradise Life.
  4. My certificate has an emblem of a man wearing a top hat. Beat that.


And I guess that’s all I have to say about my TEFL schooling, oh, and CHECK MY CREDS, YO! They said I, “showed a commendable ability to present lexis.” Wuhhh whaaaaaa! Big words.

And my favorite, on the front side with the top hat dude emblem, they said I got a Low Pass A. Harsh. Why not just say I got an A, assholes?

Oh, and the other “harsh” part of getting hired to teach English was that they wanted a headshot AND a full body shot sent with my resume. I have no doubt this was to see if I was too fat to teach English. I was called fat many times in Thailand although, as you can see from the photo, I was not fat—by American standards. I just couldn’t fit into the GI Joe sized bikinis they sold for Thai chicks. I’m fine with that.

Anyway…if you’re interested in getting your TEFL credentials, I hope that one day you too will get your Low Pass A, show up for class smelling of Chang Beer and Tiger Balm, and listen to an angry Englishman describe diphthongs. If you do, you’ll have the time of your life.

Check out Shelby’s book, Good Globe, for more stories of her adventures and a glimpse at what we can discover when we find courage within ourselves.