Thursday, December 4, 2008


Never give up. Perhaps a better way to put it, adhering to the theme of this blog, is "never give up on a child." When I think about any good teacher I've had or know, the common characteristic that all of them have is a great capacity for patience. Any parent can tell you that kids are demanding, even when they don't verbalize their wants or needs. "Mom, I want this." "Dad, do this for me." It never ends, right? Even as a 27 year old man, there are still certain situations and moments when I lean on my parents. I'm not ashamed to admit it. That's the job. When you decided to have children, you were the one whose life changed. Even your title changed from either wife or husband to mother or father. Your son is just your son. Your daughter is just your daughter, and they will always be for as long as you are alive. You are the single greatest influence that they ever will have. Luckily, you won't have to do it all on your own. And that's where I come in.
To be completely honest, I consider it a great honor to be given the opportunity to help your child learn. But it's not always sunshine and rainbows inside a Kumon classroom. I think that anyone who has had a child learn long division for the first time knows this. I can recall many students and their struggles over the years. I wish I could tell you that I never got frustrated, but I can't. Math can present incredibly hard concepts to relate to. It's a language filled with laws and rules that hardly ever make sense until you've moved on to the next rung on the ladder. Explaining these rules can sometimes be harder than understanding them. I think that I am most discouraged when I see a child's spirit broken. "I don't care." I think those are the words that sadden me the most. When a child stops asking questions, when they stop trying, my heart breaks. A darker side of me thinks, "fine. You want to quit? Go ahead. It's not my life. You do what you want." Isn't it scary to hear something like that? But then I quickly remember that the heart of teaching is really about love, about giving love by way of passing on knowledge. Even if a child quits on me, I can still teach. So, I do.
"Keaton, you know what this is? This is the definition of perseverance. Do you know what perseverance is? It's when you don't give up. I'm proud of you." He took the level "D" math test three times. That test is torture and yet he endured. Reviewing those worksheets for five months is painstaking work but he carried on. His mom told me once that he is an "intense little kid." I saw that intensity fade. But he didn't give up. He didn't quit. To this day, my happiness for Keaton stems from understanding that he gained more than just an ability to solve long division problems. He learned that learning can sometimes a little longer than we want. I hope he never forgets.
Patience. It goes a long way.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Be Truly Amazing"

That's our new slogan. You can see it on the new t-shirts that our employees (myself included) wear to class. It's a little cheesy, I'll admit that much, but I think that one of the most important things a teacher can do for their student is to instill in them the idea that they can achieve whatever they put their mind to. Above all other things, this is the foundation upon which I intend to build my teaching career. If anything, maybe my students will believe in themselves simply because I believe in them. This is a great responsibility and I do not take it lightly.

I love what I do. The best part of my day is when I walk into the classroom and eagerly anticipate the arrival of students. I can often be heard saying as I open the doors, "are you ready for battle?" to our employees. Because it is a battle. Each day presents new challenges and obstacles for us, as Kumon instructors, and students to overcome. We are armed with knowledge and, hopefully, enough patience to find a way to relate material to our students. But for me, it isn't completely war. It's a labor of love. It really is. While I am labeled as a teacher, my main objective is not to just teach. What I attempt to do is to love my students by being the best teacher that I can be for them. For me, this is easy. For one reason or another, teaching has allowed me to positively contribute to the world around me. I will be forever thankful that I've been able to travel this path in life.

In the last post, I ended with the question of how I was to determine if teaching, if Kumon was going to be what I would do with the rest of my life. I hope the previous two paragraphs have given you a sufficient answer. Teaching isn't what I do, it's what I am. I am a teacher. If you think about it, we all are called to be such a person at times in our lives. I just choose to do it on a daily basis. And I get paid for it as well. haha. I could always use money to spend on new sneakers.

But all joking aside, I'd like to refer back to the title of this post. I'm going to give you a quote that I came up with myself, that I use frequently, to help motivate my students. It goes something like this:

"[enter student's name here], do you know what the difference is between people who do great things and people who don't? I'll tell you. The people who achieve great things do everything that they possibly can to be truly amazing. The people that just get by only do what is required of them."

My job, any teacher's job, is to find a way to help our students do everything that they possibly can to succeed in life. But they have to want it. We can't make them do anything. Still, it doesn't mean that we can't try. I promise you, parents and students alike, that I will always try my best. I will always do everything that I possibly can. In that regard, I, myself, can also "be truly amazing."

Pour on the cheddar, the gouda, the bleu and the swiss. It's a cheese factory up in here.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Kumon Must Be Painful if Even the Logo Isn't Happy

To set things straight, the logo is not unhappy. Actually, I wouldn't be so bold to assume that I, in all honesty, know the mood of our confused logo. The corporate side of Kumon claims that the logo is thinking. That is to say that the face is really a thinking face. So, my question to you readers out in the blogosphere is: what do you look like when you're thinking? Speaking only for myself, I don't think that I look like the Kumon logo at all. Normally, when lost in thought, I tend to furrow my eyebrows and display a sort of scowl/ frown on my face. I'm not angry, just concentrating really hard. This might also be the face that I have on when I'm at the other office. You know, the one with the porcelain seat. But I digress...

Yes, World, Kumon is all about the thinking face. Why? Because the Kumon Method stresses as much independent learning as possible. If you are not familiar with what Kumon is, and have been completely lost for the last 100 words or so, let me give you a brief synopsis:

Kumon was founded 50 years ago by a Japanese teacher named Toru Kumon. He actually taught in the Japanese education system where he lived and had a son who struggled mightily with math. Mr. Kumon found that the work assigned to his son at school was horribly insufficient and lacked the necessary repetition to foster efficient learning. So, he decided to create a worksheet system that would allow for his son to practice math but also learn concepts on his own through examples and formulas that were presented within the worksheets themselves. Well, the system worked so well for Mr. Kumon's son that, by the time he reached 6th grade, the young boy was doing Calculus level work. And so, the Kumon Method was born and many adolescent lives were made to be much more painful for years to come. Today, Kumon is practiced on six continents (54 countries). In North America, it is the #1 educational company because that's how we roll.

This sounds like an advertisement, I know. I've gotten quite smooth with my sales routine but I believe that it stems from my genuine belief in the Kumon Method. I know it works because I've seen it work. I was a Kumon student growing up. Of course I loathed the half-sheet pieces of agony back then, but only now do I realize how much it helped me. I wish I would have stuck with it longer. I stopped right before sixth grade. I had just started the math "J" level. Years later I would be employed by my mother as a grader. I hated it, I really did. I hated the fact that I had to work for my mom and I hated having to sit inside a building all day when I could be working cooler and more hip jobs at McDonalds or the local water park. It sounds funny, I know, but that's how I truly felt at the time. But with age, hopefully, comes growth, and I realized that I had a knack for explaining simple and/or complex mathematical and arithmetic concepts to pretty much anyone. I also realized that being like my parents wasn't so bad. So, about 5 years ago, I took a job offer at the Kumon Detroit Branch Office as an assistant to the Vice President of operations. I only worked there for a year but it was a great experience. I got to do research at two different school in Pontiac, Michigan, where Kumon was practiced inside of the classroom. I was not surprised to see how dramatically placement tests and MEAP scores improved within the span of a year. Those statistics only confirmed to me that Kumon was a worthy cause. The only question lingering in my head was, "how do I go about figuring out if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life?"

And the answer to that, friends, can wait for another day. I've written a hefty amount of backstory already. I promise to try and wrap it up in a much more concise post next time. Until then, I am wishing you all well. Take care, be good, and DO YOUR KUMON!

Phil Kwon

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

And So It Begins...


Here I am, World. I have decided to embark on the adventure known to some people as Internet Blogging. This is not the first blog I've ever hosted and I doubt it will be my last. You see, it just so happens that I am a writer...not by craft or profession, but by nature alone. I have often used writing as a sort of therapeutic measure, a way of venting all the stress and emotion that wells up within me. But writing also serves as a creative outlet for me. I write music, poetry, short stories, and even screenplays, all of which are reflections of my experiences in life. And that, dear readers, brings me to the inspiration for this particular blog. A huge part of my life is what I do for a living, what I plan to do for a very long time: I teach.
For me, at this particular point in my short life, there is nothing that brings me greater pleasure. I am extremely passionate about educating our youth. Currently, I am studying at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, pursuing a degree in secondary education (high school level). I am also currently going through the process of being certified as a Kumon instructor. I am very excited about the prospect of becoming both at the same time. I love what I do. To be completely honest, I actually look forward to going in to work and I don't think that there are many people who can say the same about their jobs. I consider myself to be very lucky in this way.
So, I suppose I can cut my introduction short and get to the real point of this blog (which I alluded to before I got sidetracked). This blog will serve as a sort of journal for me, specifically recounting my thoughts and experiences in the teaching field. This is a place for our Kumon parents to hear my perspective on our journey together, to read updates and voice opinions, or to just have a good laugh about anything that you find funny. I'm a funny guy, quite possibly the most funny out of anyone I know. I'm humble too (wink wink). But this blog isn't meant to serve that purpose alone. It is also meant for other people to read and enjoy the adventures of a 27 year-old single male teacher. It may not be exciting all the time, but it'll be 100% real and uncompromised by anything. This is a labor of love.

"In the beginning, there was..."

Phil, a quiet, conservative, Korean-American guy.

He spends his days at the Troy East and Bloomfield South Kumon Centers with fine young people like these fabulous girls, the Pilibosians, teaching and having a grand 'ol time. This is the birth of a blog, this is where the saga starts.

And so it begins...