The Greenlist of English Schools in Japan

Thoughts and Opinions on Teaching English in Japan, plus many lists of good schools in Japan at our homepage. You can post your resume or job for free too. Check out the homepage!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Own an English School in Japan?

Then you should join the ETJ Owners List
at Yahoo Groups!

"ETJ-owners is a subgroup of ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) for owners of language schools and teachers teaching privately at home in Japan."--from the site

David Paul has put in a lot of work to make this site a success.
If you own a school or even have a few students of your own,
I believe you qualify as an owner.

Very helpful for owners and a great site for helping each other.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Kevin, why the Hell did you List Smith`s on the Greenlist?"

Mmmh....sushi...where the hell is Nemo, Nemo!!!!!! Nemo!!!!!

by Kevin Burns

There has been some criticism of Smith`s being listed here.

The Top Ten reasons Smith`s was listed at the Greenlist:

10. I got laid and was figuring, what the hell, I`ll list Smith`s
today. Cuz I am feelin` hot!

9. Mr. Smith offered to pay me a lot of money and massage my

8. Mr. Smith and I both love Manchester United, the All Blacks and Crispy
Creme donuts ".....mmmmh creamy. Just another 2o minutes to wait
Mr. Smith."

7. I ran out of schools to list.

6. Glenski said he needed something to rant about at ELT News.

5. Let`s Japan closed their website for maintenance so I figured
I could just slip one by Shawn...hee hee....

4. My granny thinks Mr. Smith is HOT!!!!!! And she controls the

3. "Smith`s? Kevin, No I said, Biff`s English School!, Biff`s!--you know the guy who
used to chase Marty in "Back to the Future." He started a school
after his acting career took a dump."

2. Bob`s English School hadn`t been started when Smith`s was listed.

1. ...a big black car showed up and I was chased by a midget.

Seriously, Smith`s is one of a very few companies that will teach you how
to start your own school in Japan.

They also have cute midgets.

That was another poor attempt at politically incorrect humor as well!
I`m sorry, I really need to get more sleep!

Seriously, very few schools are willing to give up their secrets.
Smith`s will teach you those skills for a price.
For that reason, Smith`s is listed at the Greenlist of English Schools.

You may not agree. Because of this, for you the
Greenlist may not be perfect or is far from it.
Fair enough.

I just do my best and rely on our fellow teachers
to tip me off about which
schools are good and which are not. Thank you
for your Emails, they help! And thanks for the milk
and cookies Mom!

This is not the List of Perfect Schools remember.
This is a Greenlist. It is for schools considered by
many people to be good. Many have expressed
that Smith`s is not perfect (which school is?),
but that overall it was good. Some said great,
others don`t like Smith`s at all. So I feel the answer
lies somewhere in between.

This list is for good schools.
Not perfect schools. A school doesn`t even have to
be excellent to make the list, though we try to find
those gems as well--to me the Peace Boat, David`s
English House and the British School in the country
side--whose name escapes me, all strike me as
excellent opportunities. I enjoy the adventure of
life and the road less travelled. That`s my bias.
You should be aware of it.

But this site also relies on reader input. If your
school is good, tell us! And tell us why. We will
post what you have sent here. We will check out
your school briefly though to be sure. Email the
Greenlist at:

JET, though not a school, has been listed here (if my brain is still
functioning correctly). It is a good program overall,
though as outlined there have been some problems.
Again I like the road less travelled and many have
said they enjoyed JET. I have heard of some problems
and some horror stories even, but still JET gets
the nod and it is listed here.

Indeed, you have to decide whether what Smith`s
is offering is worth it or not,
and whether YOU (that`s you, yes
you with the glasses),
are suited to the job of starting
a school from scratch. It is a huge and stressful undertaking!
Just look at my face!!!! I have more lines than a football

There are some articles and some websites on Smith`s.
One in particular seemed to be well researched. I think
the link to it is in one of the posts on Smith`s, here
at the Greenlist.

*Not everyone likes cucumber. My father hated it.
I enjoyed it with salt and mayonaise. I hate anchovies
but I like caesar salad.....what the hell was my point?
Oh yah,..... not everyone is going to like Smith`s or even
be successful with a Smith`s franchise. Except that
guy with the glasses I was talking to above. I hope he
is still reading this.....that`s the BAD part about
blogging you never know if anyone is reading this <____>.

I freely admit that my wife and I have made mistakes
in starting schools over the years. (Now I sleep in the loft
with Star Wars figures staring at me from shelves!)
Then again when we sleep together bad things happen and
I keep seeing new little people running about. My wife
finally said: "ENOUGH ALREADY!"

I think it is inevitable, that if you start a school on your own,
you will make some major blunders. I think it is such a difficult
thing to do. And there is little information available on how to do it.
There are too many factors beyond your control to contend with.

My wife and I have started many Kevin`s English Schools over the years,
and we still have three. We consider ourselves pretty
successful, with some luck thrown into the mix as well.
We have also closed four! I chalk those ones up to
my rising wisdom as I rapidly approach my half century.

You could be like me...chubby and Canadian?

No, You too could have a Bob`s English School.
I think everyone should put their own name on a school
don`t you? Just imagine if everyone put their own
name on their school we`d have: Kevin`s, James, Shane`s
Anne`s, and Kent`s. That would be fun wouldn`t it?

I never wanted to call it Kevin`s English Schools. I thought
the name was sooo cheesy!!!! My wife wanted to call it that.
At that point I wasn`t sleeping in the loft (you remember the
Star Wars figures eh?) So I bowed to her judgement. I wanted to call it:
get this:

Harvard English School

My wife said: "Why Harvard? You never went to Harvard."
Case closed!

Yep you too could do the same as Kevin eh.
You could be just as obnoxious as me!
Burp and wear your shirt unbuttoned.
You too could keep your eyes and ears open
as you work for other schools. Then start your own.
Or you could buy a Smith`s franchise or one of the other
English school franchises available--"One World" springs to

They say the most successful people in life, were rich
buggers to start with---no that`s not it. What was it?

Right--make the most
mistakes as well. They just don`t get as down about them
as everyone else. They pick themselves back up and try
again. They learn from their mistakes.

I think having a sense of humour and getting some fresh air really helps.
(Oh yah, he types this while spending hours on this stupid piece
of sludge.)
Shooting hoops or hitting a tennis ball helps one forget,
then learn from their mistakes.

Smith`s may be able to help you avoid the same mistakes
we have made over 16 years in this business. Those
mistakes were hard won in our case. You can be taught
what to avoid in the case of Smith`s.

I chose to work for the YMCA, ECC, and Nunoike/St.
Mary College in Nagoya and keep my eyes open. Learn
all I could and then start my first school. We still
made mistakes and you cannot control a bubble bursting
economy and hundreds of other factors. Japanese tend to
love new things--so once your school is no longer new,
you are no longer as interesting to study with.
It just seems to be the way things work here.

It wasn`t easy for us and I think we were in a good area
16 years ago. Now Minami Ashigara and Odawara are
saturated with schools with declining potential students.
Jobs have been declining. Fuji Film alone laid off
4,000 of their 5,000 employees worldwide in our town of
just over 40,000 people. Still new schools are starting
and others are closing. It is almost like the convenience
store meltdown of a few years ago.

We chose to import a Victorian style home from Canada
to make a big splash in our town. It worked. We have
a successful school but we are not
rich. At least we do not consider ourselves to be.
But we love our home and it is a great place to teach
as well. Overall we love the lifestyle. It is a good life
for those suited to it.

I passively network through sports and our kids. Our
children have brought in a lot of students to our schools.
Mostly their friends and teammates. We tend to get
friends of friends and friends of students, but that takes
time. Again, we have been doing it for 16 years.

I think to be in this business and I am writing now of
being an owner, you have to enjoy teaching, enjoy teachers,
and you have to enjoy the lifestyle.
You definitely need a good dose of humour too to get you
through the rough patches.

It isn`t a profession one can get rich on these days I feel.
Not in Japan. China perhaps? Or Thailand? Not Japan for the
forseeable future. Thailand I hear has many schools though.
You can make a living in Japan and a comfortable one at that,
once you get going.

There are far better ways to become wealthy than starting
an English school.

To start your own school, you would need to know your
area well and do your own feasability study to decide if
a Smith`s School was for you, and in which area?
Are you going to go it alone, or do
you have a good partner to start it with?
Preferably a Japanese partner from the locality.
Are you and your Japanese partner in a long-term relationship,
or will you be business partners for many years to come.
Japanese need a solid local person to trust.

One nice thing about working for a company or
a university, is you don`t have to worry about all this so
much (as long as the company or uni is healthy). Obviously
I am not talking about Nova now.

To summarize, you need to find out if you are really the type
who can
start a school or buy a franchise.

Japanese do judge a book by its` cover.

Do you fit their image of what an English teacher:

--should look like?

Act like?

Sound like?

If not, are you planning to hire a teacher who does?

Are you a trained teacher? And/or do you have a lot of teaching experience?

If you hire a teacher, will you hire an experienced one, or train them yourself?

Japanese will at least want a trained teacher. That is a minimum.
This former one for those with no experience of Japan.

I think these are all important questions to ask yourself
before you take the plunge.

About the Chubby Canuck Who Wrote This:

Kevin Burns and Ikumi Kishiya have been married for
over 16 years, and they have three lovely
children. Whose names escape me at the moment. But they are cute.
They eat a lot though. The youngest loves SPAM. "SPAM SPAM, SPAM, SPAM,
SPAM, lovely spam, beautiful spam...." Kevin & Ikumi own a small
shop called Merry Lue, and a small chain of schools called,
Kevin`s English Schools, the Canadian schools in Japan!
Kevin also teaches at a university in Kanagawa. Ikumi
teaches English at a junior high school also in Kanagawa.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Quest for a Better Lifestyle

Pictured: Our Canadian home and school, imported from Cloverdale,
British Columbia

Originally published in the Vancouver Sun, 2001

For many readers, children and adults, the brain drain is more than an abstract theory.

Sayonara, Canada:
People laughed at Kevin Burns, when he said he would own his own school. Now he and his wife own three and Burns teaches at a Japanese university. His wife Ikumi is
a junior high school English teacher as well as co-managing Kevin`s
English Schools

Minami Ashigara Shi, Kanagawa Ken, Japan

I am lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
At this moment, I am sitting on a hill top, looking out at miles
and miles of trees. It is so green, beautiful and
only 10 minutes from my home.

I don't live in the Great White North anymore.
It is sad that in Canada today, you often have to move
somewhere else to do what you want to do. Yet it also
angers me to hear people complain that there's no work
in their home town and that is why they are on welfare
or employment benefits--as if that explains everything.
I want to scream at the TV: "Move then! Go to where there's work!"
There are many displaced Canadians in this country. They cannot
get a decent job back home.

I decided that I would be a teacher when I was 26.
If I liked it, one day I would own my own school.
People laughed. With a Bachelor of Arts in theatre,
I landed a job at one of the biggest English language conversation
schools in Japan. I learned enough to open my own school
two years later. I now have a small chain of three
schools, an hour and a half south of Tokyo,
and one of them is in my Canadian, Victorian style house.

Teaching English in Japan is a funny business and not
easily defined. It is part entertainment, part modeling
and part education. Studying English week after week
can be incredibly dry and progress slow. But if you
liven up the classes with humour, and make them into
your own David Letterman or Larry King Show, the
students keep coming back for more. I sometimes don
a funny nose and glasses for my class of high-powered
business executives. Sometimes I am not sure if I do it
for them or for me. It keeps me sane.

My first school grew to more than 100 students in the
first eight months. So I hired two part-time
teachers to help, a Canadian from Victoria and an
American from Missouri. I believe in free trade.
After work, I kick back with a Labatt's Blue,
watch Kids in the Hall on TV and , if I get bored,
a Mike Myer's video. Is this Canada or Japan?
Would you like a Canada Dry before we go further?
That Scott Thompson is funny, eh?

My Japanese wife is great. She owns a small boutique and
co-manages our schools. We have three beautiful children.
They all have the blessing of Canadian and Japanese

Although I miss my family in Canada very much and can
never really go back to the home I left, I like it here.
Where I am at this moment is quintessentially Canadian.
What could be more Canadian than sitting among
tall cedar trees, listening to the birds,
on a hot, sunny summer's day?

Kevin Burns is the owner of Kevin`s English Schools,
the Canadian schools in Japan!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Culture Shock & Eikaiwa Teachers in Japan

Originally Published at Various Internet Magazines
Including Webjapanese

by Kevin Burns

Moving halfway around the world, to a culture as foreign and difficult to penetrate as Japan`s is difficult for anyone. If you become an English teacher here, you will probably have to deal with a Japanese boss and staff with different cultural values from your own. This can lead to a feeling of paranoia in some cases; isolation
and disillusionment.

To a great extent, leaving your friends and family and going to Japan to teach English engenders some of the same
feelings as that of teenagers rebelling from their parents in the West. Teenagers rely on their parents, yet resent and rebel against them. Of course they complain to their friends about them too.

Foreign English teachers in Japan must rely on their Japanese bosses for: their work visa, in some cases their apartment, and of course their salary. Some teachers come to Japan with virtually no knowledge of the country. Childlike, they ask questions about Japan that many six year old Japanese know the answers to. The new teacher can feel embarrassed at times having to ask such basic questions as how do I use the Japanese toilet in my apartment? Can you open a bank account for me tomorrow? How do I get home from the school? To someone used to being independant, it is an uncomfortable, flashback to the teenage years.

Japan is a beautiful, interesting, yet daunting country for the newcomer. Some people thrive in the adventure that is teaching English in Japan and others don`t. For them it is the toughest thing they have ever done. The new arrival to Japan is faced with three alphabets to learn just to read her pay cheque! One comes to feel pretty helpless and childlike at times. Going to the doctor for your first cold can be intimidating. You don`t understand her questions and she doesn`t understand your answers.

Paranoia is common amongst immigrants the world over. Experts argue it is a symptom of not understanding what is going on around you--linguistically and culturally. The isolation this can lead to, causes the paranoia.

Resentment can set in if you are not prepared for this kind of culture shock. The possible symptoms of culture shock are many, and of course different levels of culture shock can occur over many years. If you are not a member of the majority, culture shock can hit you at any time. One symptom we often see in Japan is that of foreigners lashing out by complaining. They complain about the food, they complain about Japanese people, if they work for a Japanese company, they complain about how they are mistreated, and if they work for an Eikaiwa school, (which comprises most Western foreigners in Japan), they complain about the Eikaiwa school they work for. Some complain about all Eikaiwa schools as if all of them are the same, and all are bad. Some expats in an attempt to beef up future sales for the book they are writing, even set up a whole website to complain about Eikaiwa.

While there are certainly problems in Eikaiwa, there are many great things happening too. You only have to open the pages of an ETJ magazine, ELT Journal, or read the latest article at ELT News to see that. No this prevalence of complaints is something more. Indeed culture shock is one aspect of this phenomenon.

At many of the big schools the working hours are about the same as they are at public schools in North America. Yet the teachers of GEOS and Nova complain about their 28 hours of teaching and 40 hour a week shifts. (They work a 9 hour shift, five days per week at GEOS, with a one hour lunch break which equals eight hours of preparation and teaching). One Canadian elementary school teacher said: " I don`t know what they are complaining about. That is what
I do every week. That is what we all do at the public schools in Canada."

At many schools though, the shifts are much shorter and they don`t require you to be in the office. The work time of around 20-25 hours per week, would be considered part-time work back home. At Kevin`s English schools the teachers work between 20-25 hours per week with no requirements to be in the office when they are not teaching. Under the contract they can be asked to work as many as 28 hours per week but none are currently doing so. The current average is about 22 hours per week. They are not required to put in
any office hours, so when they don`t teach their time is their own.

Many of the Eikaiwa teachers miss their friends and family back home. Some were not happy in their home country and escaped to Japan to try to sort out their lives--only to find they are not happy here either. The old saying: "Where ever you go, there you are." springs to mind.

I assert that the rampant negativism on the
internet about teaching at Eikaiwa schools is only
in a small part due to the schools, but is mostly a symptom of
culture shock and the difficulty of adjusting to life in Japan.

Aug 29th, 2007 - 5:48 PM Re: Culture Shock & Eikaiwa Teachers in Japan

Wanted to tell you how nice it was to read your comment. I'm about to go overseas to Japan through GEOS. Mind you, I did a lot of research about the company, studied Japanese and the culture for a few years, and have many Japanese friends to tell me more. But regardless, after reading so many negative comments about Eikaiwas recently, (as you said, just complaints complaints complaints) I began to be really discouraged, thinking that if that many people are complaining, it's got to be the system...but you confirmed my gut instict, that it's not the system. People are culturally threatened/intimidated/uncomfortable etc, and therefore will have something to complain about even in the best of jobs.
Anyway, thanks for the positive perspective.
Pessimists like me really need it.
Posted at Jobs in Odawara & Japan

Nov 4th, 2007 - 3:36 PM Re: Culture Shock & Eikaiwa Teachers in Japan by Kevin Burns

Thanks Lofty! Of course there are problems in Eikaiwa and there
are bad schools, but many schools are good
as well. And that is often not mentioned at many forums.
That really is a shame.



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Forums About Teaching English in Japan Need to Take a Reality Check

by Kevin Burns
January 2005

"After reading what they had to say in the forums there, I almost decided to go to Korea, it is so negative. When I did ask, well what schools are good to work for?-no one answered."
- A.P., USA, commenting on the Let`s Japan Forum

“Many forums are too negative and distort the reality of teaching in Japan.”

Many forums are too negative and distort the reality of teaching in Japan. At one popular forum, one of the moderators dispensing advice is a university professor, who presumably has been out of the loop of looking for a teaching position in Japan for many years, yet he is telling people (incorrectly) how to get a job in Japan.

In one forum, he stated that schools here won't hire you unless you are already in Japan. In fact, most schools will hire you while you are outside of Japan. Why? They have to. If you have a school in one of the mid to smaller cities in Japan--which comprises most of Japan--you don't have many teachers banging on your doors to teach at your schools. These schools must accept resumes by Email or post, and interview by telephone, or they can't hire teachers. I am talking of course about the smaller schools like my own.

My point is that some of ths so-called experts are anything but. Yet they are espousing their opinions on the internet and you are reading them, and sometimes taking them at face value.

The people who post at forums rarely post anything positive about any of the schools they work for. There must be some positive stories but you won't read them there. I think it would be a great idea to set up a forum that has a positive story only section. As this would help to redress the balance and restore some reality to the debate about whether working for an eikaiwa school is a good idea or not.

Have a separate forum where people can only post positive stories-- just to give some balance. If your purpose is to educate people, that requires balance. Even if you are "Debunking Eikaiwa," as the Let's Japan quote reads, surely you should alert people to some good schools to work for?

Unfortunately, I just spoke with a teacher from America (quoted above), and she felt the site was so negative that she was debating whether to even come to Japan. If the situation were so bad here in Japan, then the forums would be doing everyone a service. But it just distorts the actual reality of teaching English here. Many of the teachers who post have had a bad experience at one school, yet in many cases still continue to teach there, and rant about it--ad nauseum at one of the forums. Can you say, "Get a life?"

You won't find the people who enjoy their jobs posting much. If they do, they will take a lot of abuse from the complainers already ensconced there, and they are too busy enjoying their lives to log on and post. Happy people don't usually rant.

Two somewhat famous webmasters did not enjoy their time at Geos. Yet I have a friend named Lee who loved Geos. He loved the fact that he had his own classroom, would brag about the fact in his animated way, and enjoyed teaching and his students. Lee doesn't post at the forums though. He is too busy enjoying life.

At times, some of the teachers seem to want to pick a fight over things so inane. In one story, a teacher said "Sayonara," to his students as they were leaving. Being an English school he should have said, "goodbye." His manager told him not to do it again. Had it been me, I would have simply said, "Sorry," and said "goodbye" to my students the next time.

But this teacher argued with his boss over it. A person was called from head office to have a meeting with him. I gather his local manager felt she couldn't get it across to him that what he had done was enough to make some students quit.

I can see both sides, but a simple "sorry it won't happen again" would have defused the situation. I agree with the teacher that it is a pretty silly thing, but students quit over silly things, and a lot of arguments are over them, too.

I enjoyed my time at ECC and the YMCA. I modelled Kevin's English Schools after the 'Y' to some extent. My point is we all have different experiences and we have to be careful about what we read, especially the negative stuff. Don't spend too much time at any one site, even here! Don't take my word! You need to explore many websites and read many books. You shouldn't jump on a plane and not be prepared. It is your life you are thinking about, so read all you can so you can select the right place for you to work. Both you and your employer will be happy for it.

By all means read as many articles as you can about teaching in Japan. You may relate to things you wouldn't like, but keep in mind that all Geos managers are not the same. Personality conflicts occur everywhere. I'm not defending Geos, and it definitely is not in my interest to do so, they are my competition for students and teachers. Indeed there are many things about Geos that I don't like.

My point is, I am in favour of being fair and I am worried that some people believe the negative postings at forums. I am concerned that it affects them to such a degree that they choose to teach in another country. That really is a shame when there are many good schools here, and it is a great, safe country to live and work in.

I have a conflict of interest having my own school so could not do this, but someone really should start a website about the good schools in Japan. It wouldn't be easy and small schools like mine would have a tough time, not having as many teachers to vouch for us as some of the bigger schools, but it is a badly needed site. So someone with some internet savvy, here's your notice.
(I obviously didn`t listen to my own advice. Since no one started
a Greenlist of English Schools for Japan, I felt I had to.-Kevin in

There is a need for an unaffiliated site like this. Many people abroad are going prematurely grey trying to decide for whom to teach. Help them! There are many sites like Gaijin but schools pay to advertise. You can find jobs there but don't have any independent reviewers who can tell you about the schools. We need some independent reviewers who can give the unbiased low-down on various schools--ideally a few reviewers would be needed. It wouldn't be easy. Perhaps it is a needed service? Perhaps some teachers would be willing to pay for such a service to avoid getting into a situation they wouldn't like.

Maybe even an independent site like Ohayo Sensei should consider offering this. They are well respected, independent and have been around for a while now. If they or some other site already does offer such a service, please let us know here.

In the meantime, I interview teachers by phone and face to face. If by phone, I try to reassure them that we are not one of the horror stories they have read about at such and such forum on the internet. Prospective teachers sometimes ask to contact one or more of our current teachers to ask questions about what it's like to work at our schools. I feel uncomfortable with this, never having asked any of my prospective employers for the same privilege and because I don't want to infringe upon the privacy or free time of our teachers. Our teachers are kind though, and allow me to give out their Email addresses to prospective teachers. It's a bit sad that this is necessary, but some of the internet forums and the bitter negativity that a minority of teachers express, seem to help make it so.

Kevin Burns is the owner, co-manager and head teacher of Kevin's English Schools - "The Canadian Schools in Japan"
Kevin's English Schools


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cyberbullying: What to do about it

If you plan on speaking out about your favourite school
at some of the famous forums about teaching English in Japan.
You will invariably find yourself a victim of cyberbullies.

Remember, negativity rules at the forums. Being positive
about the boss or the school doesn`t wash there.

Indeed if you spend any time at internet forums in general,
You will have had a few cyberbullies to deal with. I thought
this was good advice for coping with this recurrent problem:

Coping with Cyberbullies

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Tell Us About the Good Schools you Worked For

From the Editor:

I wish more people would do what Doug Smith has done here.
Why not pay a little back to future people who may wish to
teach English in Japan. Email the Greenlist and tell us about
the great experience you had at your school.

Email the Greenlist and tell us your good experiences and at
which school:

The internet is rampant with negativity about so many
topics, including English Schools in Japan. The people
with positive experiences are too busy enjoying their lives.
But please pay it back by telling us about it. It helps!

Even with some of the moderators
at the various forums about teaching here; you almost have
to pry it out of them with a crowbar to get them to tell you
where they taught and if it was good or not. They seem
downright reluctant to tell you about the good schools they
worked for. There is a lot of bitterness on the net.
(End of Rant)

Pay it forward!

Thanks Doug for contributing! It helps others!