My TEFL Journey: Part One

by Ben Davies/Kevin Burns

Interview with a Teacher – Kevin Burns (Part 1)

1. Please tell us about your life as a teacher.

I’ve been teaching in Japan for over 20 years. I’ve taught at various schools including ECC, the YMCA, St. Mary College in Nagoya, Tokai University, Keio SFC, and my own school, Kevin’s English Schools.

After about 18 months here I felt I knew enough to open my own school and I opened Kevin’s English Schools in 1991.

I enjoy teaching. I enjoy meeting new people and talking with people. I also enjoy the exchange of ideas that teaching involves, not only between the teacher and students, but between colleagues as well. My colleagues at Tokai are great!

I enjoy the act of teaching. I enjoy teaching people of all ages. I also learn so much – maybe more than they do!

2. That’s a whole lot of enjoyment. What are some of the highs and lows of teaching English, though?

Some of the lows are:

Students quitting your English school, especially if you felt they were just about to take off.

If you teach at a junior high school or a university, it is difficult to get through
to some of the students.

Burnout is always a problem for teachers I think. I put so much of myself into my teaching that I have to remember to pace myself. It isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.

Some of the office politics you have to put with, including the rudeness of colleagues here and there. For the most part though, people are kind and caring, and it seems to vary from institution to institution. Some places are more relaxed and warmer places to work than others.

Hearing people put down teachers or the job of being a teacher is another low.

I feel that good teachers are born, not made – much like good athletes. If you have it, that’s great. You can always improve on it.

I feel we are lucky to be teachers. It is such a great job no matter where you teach. And to those who complain about it or think it is not a worthy endeavor, I suggest if you don’t like it, then it is obviously time to move on. Either move to an institution that suits you more, or into another profession.

There are many highs and that is why I like teaching:

Finally getting through to a difficult student or finding common ground with them – this often happens in the junior high, or university classes I teach. It is always a high when this happens.

At the end of a term and the students have obviously enjoyed and gotten something out of the class.

When students improve is always nice to see. Seeing the children or even the adults progress in their English is rewarding.

Generally I feel that teachers make a difference. I really don’t feel I am just an English teacher – I feel I am an “internationalizer” in my own small way. As teachers, we are opening up Japan to the world. It just happens to be through an English class.

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