“So, how is your teacher certification going?” A family member once asked me.
“Well, my teacher training is going great,” I began. “But, technically, there’s no certification.”
“What? I thought, at the end of this, you’d be certified at the 200-hour level.”
“Well, I’ll be registered at the 200-hour level,” I tried to explain. “With Yoga Alliance.”
“So—wait—you’re doing all this training and you won’t even be certified to teach?” this family member downright yelped. She looked at me in a way that said: Poor thing, you are getting scammed.
Recently, a few of my fellow trainees went to a Yin yoga teacher training. At the end of the training, one of them asked, “So, does this mean we’re certified to teach yin?”
“Well, you have now been trained in how to teach Yin yoga,” he responded. “Be careful saying that you’re certified.”
My disdain for the word “certified” is not a new one. On top of being an aspiring yoga instructor, I teach tai chi. Like most martial arts, one’s teaching credentials do not rest on an official certification so much as they rest on the lineage of one’s instructors and whether or not your own instructor has advised you to teach.
And I took pride that I had a teacher who was born, raised, and trained in China—a teacher whose own instructor has won multiple national championships in China with his tai chi.
I expected a lot of things when I started teaching tai chi: reluctant students, people frustrated that they couldn’t immediately “get it,” etc. What I didn’t expect was a hyper-emphasis on certification.
A lot of potential employers dropped contact with me after finding out I was not certified. One director was so bold as to point out that they “already had a tai chi instructor” who was “actually certified to teach tai chi.”
I decided to look into this “tai chi certification,” which lead me to almost 20 different websites, half of which looked like they had updated their HTML coding as recently as 2002.
One site essentially told me that I can get certified if I write them a really nice letter, get my instructor to write them a really nice letter, and pay them a boatload of money. Another site boasted “online training.” Only a few even specified what family of tai chi they specialized in.
In those websites’ defense, some of these organizations appeared genuinely concerned about ensuring a proper quality of teaching and appeared to have a good reputation about them. But what about the others? What if I became certified through one of those more dubious sites? Would anyone care?
Probably not. All they would care about is that I was “certified”.
I bemoaned my frustration to a friend, who told me that he knows someone going through a very similar situation: his friend is a wedding photographer and has apparently been losing clients left and right because he is not, “Wedding Photographer Certified.”
Yes, apparently that’s a “thing.”
But we see this all the time in yoga as well: how many yoga instructors do you know say that they are a “200/500-Hour-Level Certified Yoga Instructor” (not counting a few of the modern families of yoga that have their own specific certification system through the founding organization)?
How many trainings say you will be “certified” with the YogaAlliance? How many are slow to admit that, with Yoga Alliance, it’s actually a credential system where one meets certain requirements in order to register?
How many don’t even know that there is a difference?
I’m already seeing myself falling into this trap as I start job searching (as my yoga teacher training wraps up in August): everyone wants a “certified yoga instructor.”
I could be costing myself a job if I point out to them that there is no official, across-the-board, certification system. Isn’t it easier if I just play along?
Listen, people: I am all about ensuring quality. But something horrible happens when we overemphasize certifications for the sake of certifications: we get organizations that boast quick and easy certification for lots and lots of money.
And we get teachers and other individuals feeling backed into a corner, like all they can do is shell out that money or be somehow “lacking,” even if they end up actually hurting their teaching skills by listening to these for-profit websites.
There is a reason why any worthwhile company that requires CPR certification goes that step further to say through the Red Cross ,or through the American Heart Association—because saying, “Get certified,” and nothing more leads a lot of people to go on “certification websites,” which are nothing more than a few YouTube videos and a demand for $45 or more in order to be deemed “certified.”
As a culture, we love that word. A “certified pre-owned car” is better than “used” because it means the car passed an inspection test and now comes with a warranty. “Certified organic” is better than “natural” because it means that particular food item has passed a set of very rigorous standards.
We’ve become so ingrained with this evil “C” word that we look for it without even understanding why.
The quality of what you put out and what you are given is vital. But this hyper-emphasis on “certified” can do way more harm than good. It creates a breeding ground for greed and exploitation. It rings the dinner bell for people looking to make a dollar off of very frustrated instructors—or photographers.
So, please: it’s time to take a step back and go, “Certified in what? Certified by whom? And should I actually care about this certification in the first place?”
The answer might not be what you’re hoping for. Especially if you’ve just spent hundreds of dollars on Wedding Photography Certification.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr / Jennifer Moo