The Greenlist of English Schools in Japan

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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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