Letting go of certificates

After thinking about it for a long time, I have stopped giving certificates out at the end of most of my workshop courses.  They have always made me a bit itchy, but I gave them out because it seemed to be the thing that teachers did.  The thing is, I've always known that these sorts of certificates are meaningless at best, and misleading at worst. 

You see, anyone, and I mean anyone, can make a certificate, for anything.  You can order certificate paper online, or get it at a local paper or office supply store.  A fancy certificate that says you completed a course carries no legal weight.  It isn't a license or a degree, nor does it generally signify state or local educational governance approval or authorization to practice Thai bodywork.  It doesn't signal that you are now qualified to do anything; it's just a piece of paper that shows that you took a class.  Use of the word"certification" in advertising in a way that implies that you will be earning some sort of official title is just marketing. 

The idea of official looking certificates given for completing, say, a five day workshop, strikes me as carrying the potential to create an inflated sense of ability and accomplishment.  After thinking about it for many years, I finally realized that I just felt like I was giving people a medal that outstripped the deed, and it rang a false bell. 

Don't get me wrong; I love workshops, I love my students, and I can see that most of my students put an enormous amount of effort into being in class.  About 40% of my students travel from other states (and sometimes even other countries) to attend my classes; the amount of energy this takes is not lost on me and I bow to all of you who work extra hard to take a week off in devotion to deepening your knowledge.  It's just that, when I look at my own file full of all the certificates I've accumulated over the years, I know that I'll never hang them on a wall.  At this point honestly I could probably coat several walls in them, but it doesn't sit right with me. If I could put them all together, into one single beautiful certificate that demonstrates a lifetime of studying healing arts, I would feel pride in that piece of paper.  But the certificate that shows that I took a two day foot massage class?  I got a certificate for two days of work? I just have to question this, and question myself for having given out similar pieces of paper.

And so for now, my plan is to give certificates for the two courses I currently offer that require a substantial extra amount of energy: My ten week online theory course, and my 250 hour Thai Massage Specialist Program.  For my other classes I'll still give proof of completion, such that those needing to demonstrate CE hours for their local licensure have their needs met, but my appreciation of their time in my shorter workshops will be given not in an official piece of paper, but instead in my heartfelt and sincere speeches of gratitude given in person, with eye contact and hugs.