This article concerns my experience with the International Teacher Training Organization, otherwise known as ITTO. I enrolled in this program in early 2014 because I had been told earlier by several recruiters for employment that I would need a TEFL certificate to be considered for any reputable teaching positions within the target country where I was applying.
Initially, ITTO seemed like a very good option because of the low cost of room and board, comparatively speaking, and the 100% job guarantee. I had spoken with a representative on and off for a few months to verify some information about the program, trying to get as much information as I could so that I could make a fully-informed decision. I visited the teflcourserview.com website and looked up the reviews of ITTO and saw nothing but stellar reviews (I would discover later that the teflcoursereview website removes negative reviews about ITTO pretty frequently). Ultimately, my experience with ITTO turned out to be largely negative, and I will elaborate shortly on why, but first, to be fair, let me start with describing some of the good qualities about the program.
The experience with teaching a classroom of students is unparalleled in the TEFL-teaching industry and is one of the best features of this program. From the very first week of the program, you are teaching REAL students with a REAL lesson plan that you prepared and developed on your own. In this respect, ITTO delivers on its word. Additionally, living in Guadalajara is a fantastic experience because it provides you with the opportunity to experience living abroad. You also meet some really great people, many of whom could become lifelong friends.
That said, the program has many serious flaws that need to be stated outright for all beginning EFL teachers who are reading this and thinking about getting a credential to teach English.
The course content is mediocre, at best. The one text book you are assigned in the program, and from which all of the coursework is based, is very dry and vapid and has mostly information that you can easily obtain from the internet without having to pay thousands of dollars. Just simply Google “teaching methods,” and let the search engine do the rest. The ITTO teachers who train aspiring TEFL teachers read through this textbook daily, and many of the students in my class–if they weren’t yawning–grumbled with resentment. Do adults in their 30s and 40s really need to be read to? Seriously?
The quality of feedback and lesson planning guidance would have been excellent were it not for the fact that we students had two different teachers, one for the first two weeks and the other who replaced the first just mid-way through the program. Unfortunately for us, these two teachers had two radically different expectations, grading policies, and teaching philosophies that made the students very disoriented and confused. This in itself would have been okay were it not for the frequent conflicts of interest that we students experienced at all stages of the planning and execution of lessons (fyi, making lessons is arguably one of the most important, if not THE most important, assignments you are required to complete in the program). Depending on which teacher we had grading us, for example, we had to radically change our teaching approach, never quite knowing in the end which approach was correct, and just ending up frustrated, learning nothing at the end of the day. I have been informed that one of the instructors left the program to return to the United States, so this said conflict shouldn't be much of a problem for future students. Still, you can just imagine how difficult this might have been for my class.
But here's a fact that ALL people considering the program should know: ITTO says they offer 100% guaranteed job placement. However, this is patently false. Whoever writes content for the website is falsely advertising that ITTO places students “anywhere in Mexico,” and abroad, or else a full refund. As of 2014, ITTO can really only place you at the school it has a connection with, IMAC, and maybe one or two other schools in Tlaquepaque, if that. Otherwise, you’re on your own. And guess what? No refund. After spending four weeks with your nose to the grindstone, you’re on your own and receive no help with the transition. Why? becasue the ITTO staff have rolling admissions and must worry about the next incoming class... and then the next... and then the next. And they just don't have the time for the people who graduated. At ITTO, it's the "buyer of the moment," who comes first, not the alum who desperately needs a job. It’s cruel and unusual.
One of the scariest moments for me took place when I was seriously running out of money and had not received a job offer in Mexico nearly four weeks after graduating. I had spent every last penny of my savings to enter the ITTO program in a bid to get a job (the unemployment rate in the U.S. was a big motivator here), and it was turning out to be one of the worst investments I had ever made in my life. If this type of false advertising had taken place in the United States, ITTO would have surely been subject to a fine by the Federal Trade Commission.
When I did eventually leave Mexico, I tried posting a negative review on the teflcourserview website, the same website that had been the key deciding factor in my decision to enroll in the program. I posted a negative review, and received notification by one of the webmasters just a few days later that they needed to see a scanned copy of my credentials to verify that my review came from a legit graduate of the program. I easily complied, and then a few days later, saw that my review had been removed anyway. I asked the webmasters why they had done this, and was told that they had decided that my review had violated their review policies after all. I asked them in a follow-up email what was wrong with the review, and they said it was too negative (I'm paraphrasing), so I sent a number of revisions, but this didn't work. Eventually, the webmasters just stopped replying to my emails, and I was forced to let the matter die.
Overall, I would grade my experience with ITTO as a “D.” ITTO doesn’t entirely fail, because it provides teaching experience, the opportunity to live abroad and make new friends, as well as a chance to develop a teaching portfolio. However, it also doesn’t entirely succeed, for all of the reasons mentioned above. Caveat emptor.
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