American TESOL Institute (ATI) Review – In-Course Experience

The primary reason I wanted to write this series on the American TESOL Institute is to provide a detailed account of my experience through the entire course, as well as many other 3rd party accounts as I can find.  Essentially, I want to provide the kind of information I wish I had before I enrolled in the ATI course.

The gate to the office of ATI in Bangkok.

I should begin by saying; they are real and not a scam, what seems to be the primary concern of most people looking for this same info.  Outside of their official site(s), it can be difficult to find valid information about ATI.  This is for 2 reasons.  First, they are relatively new compared to most TEFL/CELTA/TESOL programs.  The other is that they spam search engines with many official sites and dozens of other places they stick their name and info.

If you have any specific questions not covered in these, please ask. I’d be happy to answer.

American TESOL Institute Series


In-Course American TESOL Institute

By the morning after I arrived at JL Bangkok, I had met 4 of the 9 total students we would have in the course.  From future and past graduates of the ATI course I have spoken with or read the accounts of, this was an oddly small class for one of the Special Thai Projects of the American TESOL Institute.  Understandable, I suppose, considering we were convening at the tail end of one of Thailand’s largest natural disasters in the last century.

We started with 4 women; Megan (Wisconsin), Morgan (New York), Sarah (Pennsylvania), Christy, (California) and 5 men; Craig (Indiana), David (Michigan), Bobby (New Jersey), Arthit, (Thailand) and me.  After a few days, it was down to 8 as Arthit had left.

Speaking to the others when I first started to meet them, most had come here under the same uncertainty that I had.  Many were still frustrated about the vagueness of delay and how it affected their flights (not me so much, as I enjoyed travelling that time).  But mostly, months of emails with Jess, Suzy, and Nina of the American TESOL Institute had left everyone with more questions than answers, and all of us had come not entirely knowing what we would be showing up to or what, if anything, to expect.

Luckily that was all cleared up once the course actually began.

Class in session.

The first day of class began with us meeting Whittney and Aoh, who were to be our instructors.  Beyond the first couple days, though, Aoh was scarce, and only came by to take pictures of the class every now and then.

Right off the bat, the first lesson began with Aoh going to the front of the room and implementing a lesson plan completely in Thai.  This went on between 5 to 10 minutes before Whittney took over.  She then explained that the confusion we just went through in trying to figure out what Aoh (who knows English as well) was saying is exactly how our students would feel as we began teaching them.

The second day of class, we were introduced to Supatcha, or Pat, the woman who runs Innovative Solutions, the placement agency that the American TESOL Institute uses to find jobs for the majority of its graduates in Thailand.  A half hour of listening to Pat and things were clearer than 3 months of emails with ATI.  She went over visas and work permits, jobs and placement processes, and various Thai cultural items that were important for us to know.

And at one point, we did actually ask Whittney if Jess, Suzy, and Nina were all the same person, as everyone else seemed to mildly suspect as well.  She replied that they weren’t and that she had actually met them.

Course Assignments

“Teachers should be heavy duty, like a washing machine.”
– Pat, Innovative Solutions

Much of the course revolved around the tactics and methods of writing lesson plans.  This included various grades and types of plans, the many parts that we might be expected to write, and then their implementation using the ATI class as guinea pigs.

Our assignment binder, workbook, and Thailand survival guide.

For the lesson plans, we were given a topic, an age level. Without getting overly detailed, for each assignment, we had to create a warm-up activity, define a context for the material, teach the new vocab or content, and then provide an activity to reinforce the material.

Sample lesson plan page.

The plan’s steps in more detail.

Each section required a certain amount of time, which we had to plan for.  We also had to outline learning objectives and step-by-step what both the teacher and students would be doing during this activity.  For each step of the lesson plan, we would also have to come up with possible “anticipated problems” without using any form of the students not comprehending.

Any materials that we wanted to use for the lesson would have to be made from scratch.  And they would have to be made for every participating “student”.  I ended up making use of the internet café a street over for a lot of last-minute printing, as I’m a horrible artist and prefer doing things on my computer anyway.  Others would draw an identical copy of whatever they were using for each of the 7 of us.

Final grade sheet for the course.

We would then implement these lesson plans with the class, each lasting an average of 45-50 minutes, a normal class period.  Playing the role of whatever age group the teacher was assigned, we would then participate in his or her activities.  Each lesson plan was then followed up by a peer evaluation from each course member to provide feedback.  My most common ones were that I spoke too quickly and was  too wordy in instructions.

I’d be curious to see how this works in larger American TESOL Institute course.  As ours was only 8, it was easy to incorporate everyone into a single activity.  Others I’ve met have been in courses of more than 30.

School Visit

One part of the course that is usually done is a visit to a local school for the teachers to implement their lesson plans to actual students, and at the same time, get the feel of actually being in a Thai classroom.

While it was trying to be planned out the whole time that we were in class, we ultimately didn’t get to do it.  Because of the flood, every school anywhere near an affected had essentially been shut down to some extent.  And due to its locality in Bangkok, all were still closed as we were wrapping up the in-class portion.

Instead, we forwent the classroom visit and did another, much more in-depth activity in class instead.

 

Coursemates

7 of our 8 on a island cruise near Phuket. Photo courtesy of Robert Wood.

Probably one of the best part of the American TESOL Institute course is that it gives you the opportunity to meet and get to know people that are in exactly the same situation as you.  Yet, they are from all over, and not always from the U.S.  During the course, you have to work closely with everyone in the course, and the more open you are to ridiculousness, the more fun you will have participating in everyone’s lesson plans.

Dinner in the neighborhood.

As much as many of us had in common in odd jobs and travel desires or experiences, it was interesting to hear the different motives everyone had for coming and what they wanted out of it.  I was there because I had no desire to return to the US anytime soon and was excited to try out a new trade that could also help me travel further.  Sarah was there as a new way to spend the winter before she returned to her job in the U.S. as a park ranger.  Christy, who was an Asian history and teaching major, was looking for an exotic experience to add to her resume.  Some weren’t even quite sure what they wanted, just that they wanted to get away or try something new.

By the end, the eight of had gotten to know each other fairly well.  We had gone out to various different parts of the city, including the Royal Palace chaos for the King’s birthday and to the infamous Cabbages and Condoms and Soi Cowboy.  Seven had gone together to Phuket for an extended weekend.  Four would be working together at the same school and two at another.  Three had gone out to a DJ rave party an outlying district of Bangkok.  Two were kind of dating.  And one had gotten herself packed into another’s suitcase.

Location

The JL Bangkok was a decently nice hotel.  Unlike most places in Thailand, it has a heated shower in every room as well as wifi and cable TV, including a few English channels.  The beds are comfortable and room service also cleans the room daily.  The hotel is located on a quiet side street (soi) off of the loud and traffic packed Ramkhamhaeng, a major road through the city.

JL Bangkok’s sidestreet/soi.

The neighborhood is highly urban and residential with 2 movie theaters, a bowling alley, 3 shopping centers, and about 4 McDonalds all within a 5-minute walk.  At night the sidewalks become overrun by vendor stands on any available square centimeter, making it nearly impossible to walk.  While the majority of these seem to be oriented towards women’s clothing, there are plenty of electronics, movies, food, and various other things available.  There is also the nearby Ramkhamhaeng Hospital a couple kilometers north, a nice one that Christy and I both used.

Though it is on a few bus lines, Ramkhamhaeng is a good distance from the center of the city and the areas with the most sites and tourists.  It was nice, however, to get a glimpse into how a fairly regular Bangkok neighborhood lives.  Still, for being a residential area AND a university district, there were plenty of restaurants, but very little in the way of social hangouts.

Review

Once we were all on site and at the course things became immensely easier in regards to all of the confusion we had with ATI’s Special Thai Project up until that point.  Whittney clearly had experience in the field doing this sort of work and was able to guide us along nearly every step of the way.  On top of that, Whittney was able to answer any of the general questions we had about what our experience would be like and, as I said, a half hour with Pat was more informative than 3 months of emails with the American TESOL Institute.

The course assignments do an excellent job in preparing you for lesson planning and for standing in front of and directing a group.  However, many of them are done as if you would have absolutely no resources other than materials you make at your disposal, including some form of textbook.  While this may very well be the case in some very isolated or impoverished schools, it will rarely be the case overall.

Between the place, the activities, and the people, the American TESOL Institute course was two weeks of an overall good experience.  It was certainly different being in a class again, though it’s comforting to know that everyone else in it is in the same situation as you.  The course can be intense and usually fun, but not everything I learned there have been applicable to the job I was placed in.  This is partially because my school provides most of the materials that I need, including some lesson plans.

Links to others’ experiences with American TESOL Institute:

Reviews of the  American TESOL Institute (ATI)
American TESOL Institute Review | From Here to There
American TESOL Institute Review (by a graduate of the program) | Traveler on Sabbatical
The Training Program | Smiles, Spice, & Everything Rice
What Did I Do? | Smiles, Spice, & Everything Rice
American TESOL Institute | XploreU Student Travel Blog
Clusterfuck to Bangkok, or My Experience with the American TESOL Institute | la vie bohémienne
ATI: Special Thai Project | All Thai’d Up
Step 3:  To TEFL or Not to TEFL? Vagabond Vo
“Special Thai Project” (ATI) Review | Monkey Abroad
A Complete, Unbiased Review of the American TESOL Institute (ATI) “Special Thai Project” | Kellan James Travel

Experiences in the American TESOL Institute (ATI) Course
I’m a teacher!??! Awesome! ATI training in Phuket | GypsyJourneys
Teaching Practice Week with “Teacher A” in the House | Travel on My Face
The Orphanage and the Juvenile Detention Center | Jaiyen
Work visa/JL Bangkok/First days of teaching | Ty Tripping
Teacher Morgan: Lesson #1 | EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER.
Chaos in the Classroom | Exotic Winds and Spicy Freedom
Practice Teaching | To Ma-Thailand and Beyond

Posts while attending the American TESOL Institute (ATI) Course
First week here | Erika’s life in Thailand :)
Phuket aka: pooket | doubleu’s Great Adventure
Jet Lag Continues, Fish Pedicure, Training Day One | All Thai’d Up
Big girls don’t cry | back pages
The Weekend and My First Day in School | Julies Jaunts
Back in Bangkok | The Ramblings of Sarah Metz

 

8 comments to “American TESOL Institute (ATI) Review – In-Course Experience”

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  1. Marijana Latinovic says: -#1

    Hi guys ,
    I have read all what you’ve had wrote but I actually want course online and wondering if anyone who has attended it may help me with more informations .
    Thank you ,
    Sincerely,
    Marijana Latinovic.

    • Marijana,

      From what I can tell, ATI does a lot more of their specialized or advanced courses through an online format. They may do the basic TESOL training fully online now, though I’m not aware of any specifics about it.

      My experience with the partially-online course left some things to be desired. The readings were mixed in their usefulness, but the more interesting ones provided basics on linguistic theory and how to approach foriegn classes. Many of the readings were noticeably not from the same authors, though, as they switched between first and third person, among other differences in their styles. Many of them could stand a look over by an editor as well.

      Other than that, I’m not sure there too many more specifics I can provide about their online courses though.

      Good luck,
      Ben

    • Thank you SO much for this.

  2. Ritika Joshi says: -#1

    Hello Benjamin,

    Thank you for posting this review ! It had been very useful !

    I am an Indian (completed my MBA from London) and planning to enroll for the basic TEFL course with ATI Bangkok in January.

    I was wondering if you can clear out a few queries for me please.

    Is the certificate from ATI internationally recognized as future plans are to teach in Eastern Europe, South America and other Asian countries.

    Also, is it accredited by any international body or Thai Ministry of Education ?

    Having contacted ATI, they have not mentioned to me about the “Thai Special Project” where they place a graduate in a school for 3 – 4 months; is it going to be really tough to find a job being from a non native English speaking country ?

    I appreciate your time and guidance.

    Thank you in advance ! :)

    I look forward to hear from you !

    Ritika

    • Ritika,

      Thanks for writing.

      Please don’t take what I’m about to say as harsh on my part, but I’m just trying to paint a realistic picture from my own experience here.

      The first thing I have to tell you specifically about Thailand is that they are very much about image. Even among native speakers with equal qualifications from a native speaking country, a white person is far more likely to get the job than a non-white. Despite the fact I’m sure you can speak natively or on par with any native speaker, given your heritage an education, being Indian both ethnically and legally, will hurt your chances of teaching in Thailand.

      That isn’t to say it’s impossible . . . far from that, just much harder. And, that may be part of the reason you haven’t been told anything about the placement part of their offer: you simply might not be “marketable” enough for them to be worth the effort.

      As far as the international recognition of ATI goes, that is a difficult question to answer. There is no international authority on recognizing or certifying any kind of TEFL/TESOL/etc programs. Pretty much as long as they provide a certain amount of hours of training and issue you a certificate, one is as good as another. Some are certainly held in higher regard like CELTA, but there is no objective standard.

      All that said, ATI has actually been making quite a dent in the market in the last few years. Maybe that means some higher level of prestige or maybe not, I honestly can’t say. The best advice I can give to you is make sure they can accommodate your own goal, because they certainly won’t alter themselves to help you.

      If there’s anything else, please ask.

      Regards,
      Ben

  3. Shivam Gaur says: -#1

    Hello Benjamin.

    I am a citizen of India too just like ritika and I contacted ATI today. They told me the same thing that there are no placement guarantees.

    A friend from America recommended me this (he has been living there for like 5 years now) but since there are alot possible chance to get a job teaching there. I guess I won’t be doing this course.

    If you got any suggestions, do write if you still use this. I would really appreciate it

    Thank you!!

    • I don’t have any specific suggestions for Indian citizens. So long as you can prove a high-proficiency to near native level of English, there are many places that will hire non-native English-Speaking citizens. Most commonly in Thailand, this happens to be Filipinos, but I see no reason why an Indian citizen with the same abilities and qualifications might not be hired as well.

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