How Do You Manage Learning Centres?

When Andrea Podgarsky was a company centre Instructor, her weekly Kumon Centre schedule consisted of more than teaching classes to students seeking enrichment.

Lesson plans, folder review, assistant development, parent orientations, payroll, cleaning, staff meetings and marketing research were all a part of her monthly and weekly schedules. She understood working at the learning centre was more than an 8-to-5, Monday-through-Friday gig.

Students doing worksheets at their local learning centre

Being a Kumon Instructor is a career and a franchise business venture, and it requires a lot of work.

Podgarsky did it for four years at a corporate-owned location in Manhattan. Now, she serves as the assistant vice president of Kumon University and teaches the ins and outs of the owner-operator model under Kumon.

“When starting out as a Kumon Instructor, don’t expect a neat schedule wrapped up in a predictable 40-hour week,” she says. “It’s a full-time commitment, which means your focus and attention need to be building up the business’s base.”

Before opening their own centre, Kumon Instructors are required to quit their current jobs to devote their entire focus to learning the company’s curriculum and how to run a business. The onboarding process is an intensive mix of business- and education-related content for new Instructors that is accomplished in phases, along with in-person training shadowing a current Instructor, which takes time.

“It’s during this time that Instructors really need to focus and devote a significant part of their time to building a business from the ground up,” says Mike Shim, Kumon’s senior vice president of field operations. “While we aren’t talking about 80-hour work weeks, opening a new business and growing it successfully can be quite demanding in the initial stages until you get the hang of it. But you aren’t alone, and we are here to give you one-on-one support throughout the life of your career with Kumon.”

When Kumon Instructors are first starting out, they have significant flexibility to make their own schedules, but they must meet certain requirements in their schedule to successfully serve the needs of their surrounding community.

“So, currently, when a new Instructor opens, they will need to be open for class 14 hours a week,” says Podgarsky. “But that's just class time. And they need to be open four class days a week with the minimum amount of class time per day of three hours.”

How that time is divided among your centre’s days is up to the Instructor and partially depends on the demand from your students. There isn’t really a typical day since there are so many variables in an Instructor’s responsibilities.

Paulo Alanes, who is the Kumon Centre of Esquimalt Instructor, says he is still tinkering with his schedule to make it fit better with the demands of his students. He opened in March 2023 and is working from about 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week, sometimes later.

He understands that it takes work to start a business and grow it, especially with students.

“I grew up in a household where my mom worked 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week,” he says. “So, this isn’t really anything new to me.”

Alanes says he takes Sundays to spend with his family and take time for himself before heading back to work the following day. One of the benefits to running his own centre is having the ability to change things as you need, when you need them.

Podgarsky says Instructors, like Alanes, can make their own schedules as long as they meet the required parameters that are discussed in their training. On any given day, the Instructors can work on any number of tasks that any business owner might undertake.

“They might do some marketing,” she says. “They might answer the phone, be answering emails or paying their bills as part of their administrative tasks. Then, they might be doing their lesson plans or folder review, thinking about assistant training. And then we have the class kind of built in there.”

Not all of the centre’s tasks fall on the Instructor. Depending on the size and demands of the centre, the Instructor can hire additional assistants to help with various tasks to help the centre run more efficiently. Whether it’s through grading, organizing, filing, cleaning, answering the phones or working with students, assistants play a significant role in balancing the workload with the Instructor in the centre.

Administrative time is the time Kumon Instructors can take to focus on the day-to-day business operations of the centre.

There are also parent orientations, and Instructors are required to hold five orientation spots each week outside of class. Of those, two must be either on the weekend or in the evening.

During that time, parents of new students are able to meet with the Instructor to review their child’s assessment scores and discuss development plans for how the student will be expected to proceed through the program.

“You have to plan all of that out,” she adds. “Lesson planning is going to take a lot of their time because that is the time they are planning for the students coming in. That's the most important time, really, is the thinking about what you want to do for your students.”

Over the course of a week, centres are required to be open for 40 hours, with the Instructor at the centre and available to talk to possible walk-in clients. That might include working on a Saturday or Sunday, or both. It all depends on an Instructor’s area.

While the schedule can be demanding at times, it’s really rewarding helping students.

“We are in the education business,” Shim adds. “We love it when our students find success and want to celebrate it with them. But in order for Instructors to provide that type of conducive learning environment, they also need to be successful business owners who are aware of what it takes to make that happen.”

By creating a thriving business, Kumon’s Instructors have more time to focus on the love they have for teaching and working with students.