"I`ll just call him Dick for short"

by Kevin Burns
(Kanagawa, Japan)

An English School Owner`s Experience in Japan

Kanagawa -

One of our teachers, I'll call him Dick to preserve his anonymity, gave us one week notice that he was quitting. To add insult to injury, he didn't even work his last Thursday,("I have to move that day,"he said) nor did he say goodbye to his Thursday students. For some reason moving couldn't be postponed to the weekend. He had told us that he would work for us for another year, so I didn't do much in the way of advertising for new teachers. We were caught flat-footed and in fact ended up closing one of our schools. One reason was we just didn't want to go through the hassle of finding a teacher on such short notice. It was impossible to cover all the classes too.

Why would someone treat their employer so shoddily? Are we a bad place to work? Do we mistreat our employees? I don't think so. Our other teacher has re-signed another contract and many of our previous teachers have. Our turnover of teachers and students is very low and in fact well below the Japanese average.

The simple answer is that he changed schools because he wanted to make more money. Which, ironically, I don't happened as his new school payed only a bit more and his rent was much higher. I think he simply wanted to be in Tokyo. All of this is fine if we had been given enough notice—our contract states one month notice, so he broke the contract.

Sue him you say! Well I guess we could have but it really is pointless. We would have had to pay a lawyer just to be vindictive. So here I rant instead.

We took Dick to the hospital as he didn't want to go by himself. We held his hand as he struggled with culture shock the first 4 months. We had him and Bill over for dinner many times sometimes buying steak (an expensive delicacy in Nippon!) We listened to Dick's problems and tried to help whether they were work related or not.

In short we went the extra mile for him and were rewarded with one week's notice, his failure to return a student's video machine that he was loaned, gas bills that are unpaid since December and other bills that we will have to cover if we can't force him to pay.

I have a sour taste in my mouth. At the same time, I am very thankful that Bill is such a great guy. He really cares about his students and us too, and we do the same for him. We had done the same for Dick and we felt we had a good relationship with him. We thought he felt the same way but at this point we aren't sure.

Dick has taught me that it is a mistake to hire someone who seems to be telling you what you want to hear. So many teachers do this. Now we hire good people who seem to be genuinely appraising themselves and telling the truth.

As a manager or owner you do your best to choose good people and then you do your best to keep them happy! I feel that our job is really to keep students and teachers happy. Unfortunately, you still get treated shoddily at times. My point is, teachers are not the only ones given a rough ride by English schools in Japan. The managers and owners also get kicked in the head too.

Perhaps one of the problems is this prejudice against the whole English school or Eikaiwa "industry." Which is rather silly as there are many good schools out there. You just don't hear about them because people don't rant about great things, they only rant when they are angry about something in this case a lousy school. A great idea for your site, Shawn and Chris, is a Let's Japan Approved School List. A listing of the good schools to work for. Not only would this be valuable for teachers, it would help to clean up the English schools.

If you get a job at an English school in Japan. It's an honour. I mean that! We get many applicants. It really is like a lottery sometimes.

We get applicants from all over the world and with some amazing degrees at times. You are entrusted with teaching our students who are very intelligent people for the most part.

Our students are involved in many kinds of research including cures for cancer. Is teaching them something to be equated with working at McDonald's?

You will be paid a very good salary, at our schools we provide you with a furnished apartment. You also teach in a Canadian Victorian house. You will be well respected in the community and called Sensei even by people much older than you. Surely that cannot be likened to a fast food chain.

If you want to work for a school that really cares about its teachers, and you are a serious teacher that really is serious about teaching English-have previous experience and training, then check us out.

Kevin Burns

Post Script

The former article was written in response to so much of the negativity that is on the internet about teaching English in Japan. I wanted to try to counter some of that feeling., and hopefully return a bit of balance to the debate.

I am not in favour of the sites on the internet that promote a naive or false sense of negativity about teaching English in Japan, nor any kind of blacklisting.

I think creating a blacklist of anything is subject to abuse by vindictive people. I am in favour of lists that highlight the positive things in life. So I think a list of good schools to work for in Japan would be a great service to many people. I would like our schools to appear on that list. I would strive to do what it took to appear on such a list.

If you search the internet, you will be able to find a blacklist of
English schools. I find it ironic that it is okay to have a blacklist of English schools on the internet, but not a blacklist of teachers.

I would think that you would risk being sued by the schools for putting them on a blacklist You would certainly risk being sued for putting a teacher on a blackliist. Partly for this reason, a blacklist of teachers doesn`t exist. Again I`m not in favour of putting teachers on a blacklist.

It seems it is okay to hurt someone`s business--that they have worked hard to create but you cannot blacklist a person. Why is it okay to blacklist a school?

How many opinions is this blacklisting based on? What is the criteria? Have any precautions been taken to ensure the accuracy of what former employees have stated about the school or are they just being vindictive?

I just wonder how valid it is that they are on the list?

Kevin Burns

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Oct 08, 2015
Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem Case Solution NEW
by: Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem Case Solution

This is really great work. Thank you for sharing such a useful information here in the blog for students.
Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem Case Solution

Jun 03, 2011
by: Kevin R. Burns

Thanks for your kind words! Actually I don`t hire fulltimers anymore. As of April 2011 I am teaching most of the classes at Kevin`s English Schools.
We have one part-timer.

But if you are live in the Odawara area perhaps we could meet up for a beer, or elsewhere in Kanagawa or Tokyo sometime if you are there?

It is always good to talk shop sometimes. Get ideas about how to teach etc.


Jun 02, 2011
Interested in working for you
by: Anonymous

Hi Kevin,
after reading this article I thought it would be great working for you.
I worked a year in Japan for one of the medium sizes schools and after a year of exploring business opportunities around the world have decided to return to Japan to teach with the same school again.
However, there are some serious negatives working for them along with all the positives.
This could only happen after a year as I have given my commitment to them for at least a year, starting about September.
Could you tell me where your schools are and maybe we can get to know each other better over the next year. Even if we don't choose to work together, it might be great to know someone else in the industry not in the same school group.
Kind regards,

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