Our Franchise Recruitment team visited one of our recent recruits Magdeline (Dee to her friends) Tshangela at her new centre – Kumon Soweto Power Park one warm Wednesday afternoon. The purpose of the visit was to see how she is finding the life of a Kumon Instructor and to gain some insight from the applicant’s perspective about the recruitment process we follow for new instructors.
Sitting outside her centre in the leafy, tranquil surrounds of the conference centre that hosts Kumon Soweto Power Park, one would never believe that you are in fact, in the centre of the hustle and bustle of Soweto - a city described on www.savenues.com as “inhabited by over two million people, with homes ranging from extravagant mansions to makeshift shacks. Soweto is a city of enterprise and cultural interaction”. Her centre is set up with a television and DVD player and as you walk in she is already ready to hit play on the Kumon DVD -something she watches regularly for inspiration. Dee makes use of this DVD in all her enrolment interviews and already has her CD folder of Kumon English CD’s ready and waiting for use. She has a smaller area with supplementary activities prepared and an eye catching red bookcase crammed with early learner appropriate books.
After the grand tour of the centre and some catch up conversation we get onto our questions, sitting in comfortable wicker chairs enjoying the summer breeze and sights of butterflies making their pilgrimage across the lawn.
Why did you want to be a Kumon instructor?
I have seen the difference that Kumon has made in the lives of my children. I struggled with Maths at school and was even told by one teacher that “Maths was a subject for the few”, and this was at one of the better academic schools in Soweto. Having grown up in Soweto and experienced the attitude towards learners who struggled with Maths I also wanted the opportunity to provide this amazing learning opportunity to children living and growing up in Soweto. “I felt that if I wanted to see the change I would actually have to be it.” This is a part of my vision for myself; learning at any age is important and if you are going to do something you have to do it right, and do it with all of your heart. I had long felt that my heart lay in the education and development of children and found the time was right to challenge myself to do it right!
How have your children reacted to you becoming a Kumon instructor?
At first my daughter thought it was a joke, and laughed at me working through my worksheets! She is currently at a different centre and is so happy there I have no plans to move her to my own centre. She is also somewhat the Kumon expert compared to me at the moment, and has already told me that she can do the marking in my centre – as long as I pay her!
Tell us about how you applied to become a Kumon instructor
I actually used to daydream about having a centre and one day decided, this is it, and completed the “contact us” section on the website. At first I thought a centre closer to my home would be ideal and so I applied for that area – I was contacted by the Franchise Recruitment Team who had other ideas and brought me in for an interview. Can you believe that I actually missed my first interview and was so embarrassed when I received an email from FR saying how they had expected to meet me that day! Thankfully they gave me another chance and I was on the first step of the path to my dream.
What else happened in your application process?
I had to do the assessments. The maths gave me SUCH a headache. I really struggled with Maths at school and had in fact already spoken with an existing franchisee about enrolling as a student in her centre to improve my own maths and now I was faced with this assessment. I did not sleep the night after I submitted it as I was so nervous, but when FR communicated the results to me, although I did not get right up to the high levels the information was given to me in such a positive way that I became fully confident that I could improve my maths ability through Kumon. It also made me think back to those teachers in school who discouraged me from pursuing maths and made me want to go to them now and disabuse them of those old fashioned notions – something I may still do in the near future! I am now working methodically through the worksheets right from the beginning, with my training manual at my side at all times. I am also going through my sons old worksheets to gain further understanding of how a child experiences the worksheets. I believe that having as much in depth Kumon knowledge as possible is essential in being able to provide a good service.
What did you take into account when looking for your venue?
The noise of Soweto was always going to be a problem; this city has a heart of its own and there are always things going on here. I also needed to make sure that I would not have disruptions over a weekend as so many children are looking for Saturday classes (Soweto is THE place to be on a weekend). I needed to make sure that there was enough secure parking, that children would not be disturbed by strangers and that the children would have a safe environment with room to move but within specific boundaries. At this venue, I have an understanding and considerate landlord who is always aware of my needs for quiet but who also gives me the opportunity to network with any people who come into the venue – I am big on networking!
Tell us about your marketing plans for the centre.
Because marketing is such an essential part of being a Kumon instructor it is essential that I find the most effective and cost effective ways to use the budget that I do have. I am networking within my peer group extensively and am gaining access to different government and educational departmental meetings where I intend to talk about Kumon whenever possible. I want to speak to as many people as possible about Kumon and feel that word of mouth is one of the best tools. I am giving brochures out on school visits and to taxi drivers who go to the schools; I am organising newspaper interviews and am planning as much signage as possible. I also will be advertising in the Sowetan and hopefully on local radio stations as well.
What was the most challenging part of the application process for you?
Definitely the assessments, I thought that this was the end of my Kumon dream, but it turned out not to be the case and I was certain that I would find my way back to Kumon should this have turned out to be the wrong time! The whole application process was very informative; I was kept up to date at all times.
What advice would you have to give anyone starting out in the application process?
What is the best part about having a dedicated Area Manager?
I love having someone to refer to if I am unsure, someone to share my triumphs with and someone who understands the journey I am on. I feel that I am backed up in all ways I need to be backed up. My Area Manager encourages me, keeps me in line, offers alternatives and just generally is my source of information.
I know that you have visited some long standing and very successful instructors, how has having them as mentors benefited you?
I am just stunned at the willingness of these instructors to share. They have just been so welcoming and they are not sharing because they have to, but out of a genuine desire to share ideas. To me this is an actual example of the Kumon feeling, and has really confirmed for me that this is the world that I want to be a part of.
As with all our other Kumon franchisees, Dee embodies the strength, desire for knowledge, vision and motivation needed to realise the development of learners through the Kumon Programme!