Before Mr. D, I was a Bule Kampung

I now have 576k followers on Instagram. That’s a pretty big number and I’m hoping to have a book ready before June. A lot of my friends and students think that it’s easy to live in Indonesia as a ‘bule.’ But my time here hasn’t been as smooth as what most people think. I was a nobody when I first came here. I had no fame, no money and a lack of teaching experience. I think the term here is ‘buleleng’ or ‘bule kampung.’
Before I started teaching English with English Today Jakarta ( now English Today Indonesia, more on this later), I was an aspiring Hollywood actor. I starred in a few smaller films playing small roles but I wanted to be like Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, or Matt Damon. Unfortunately, I never made it into any big, well known Hollywood films and that’s when I thought I had to do something different, something totally out of the box and can change my life! So, I applied for a lot of jobs and opportunities abroad.

 How did he get into teaching?

Long-story short, English Today Jakarta reached out to me and said they’d hire me under certain terms and conditions. Since I had limited teaching experience, they were hesitant to employ me, but luckily for me they were willing to train me as long as I could adapt to their methods.
The owner of English Today, Matthew Donohue, told me that although he was willing to take me on, nevertheless, if I couldn’t quickly adapt, I would be let go and he added that I had to pay for my own plane ticket. So here I was about to go a foreign country, where barely anybody speaks English except for ‘Mister, mister, where you come from?’ – at least, that’s what I thought anyway.
Matthew and other English Today teachers continued to emphasize that the teachers of English Today Jakarta were the elites of the elite, meaning they were the best of the best – and they are! A lot of the teachers with English Today were former Director of Studies from brands like English First, or Centre Managers from Wall Street, and Senior Product Managers from ILP… and then you have me, bule nyasar.
I thought about all the risks and told myself that life’s short, life’s an adventure. If it didn’t work out with English Today, what’s the worst that could happen? Deported and back to be a small time actor? No problem! (No, actually I wasn’t that optimistic) So, I told them I’d take the job.
After an intensive preparation session with Ms. Amber, English Today’s awesome Director of Studies, I landed my first class teaching the beautiful flight attendants at Garuda Indonesia. I really enjoyed it and I thought that this whole teaching business was actually so easy and fun. After about two months, my boss Matthew called me in for a chat. He said the reviews we got from our clients were good. I was glad to hear that. Then he explained that when Indonesians say ‘good’, it actually means ‘not good enough’, when they say ‘excellent’ it means ‘great’, when they say ‘super amazing’ they mean ‘excellent’. My reviewers said I was only ‘good’ which in reality meant I was not good enough. Suddenly, my heart dropped 🙁  .

“So, what now?” I asked.

Matthew responded “If you observe our top teachers Joe and Amber every single morning and wait for them at Starbucks after each and every class to discuss lesson plans and teaching methodology, I believe that you could become an A-grade teacher,” he told me.
I was glad he gave me another chance. So, I dedicated myself to learning to be an excellent teacher. I observed lots of classes, read lots of books on teaching and shared my thoughts with the senior English Today teachers. I gained so much from my peers. Everyone was so caring and passionate about teaching and they perfectly knew what they were talking about in class.
I approached my boss and thanked him, I said that I have learned so much from Joe, his energy levels in the class are so high and his passion is amazing, and also Amber, she is just so detailed. After a couple of months, I felt I knew everything about teaching and so I told Matthew I was ready. Without hesitation, he said,
“No, you’re not. Do you think you are as good as Joe and Amber in just 2-3 months?”
No, no I stuttered, I was confused. He continued,
“They have been teaching for years, and you in just 3 months think you are as good as them? They are A-grade teachers and you are still a B-grade teacher.”
 I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to react. I asked him whether it means that I had to go back to America but, strangely, he said no.
“Dennis, you need to be who you are. Find your strength. Find something that you’re good at that the others are not. What are you good at he asked?”
The room went silent for a minute. I didn’t know.
He continued, “You’re an actor so you’re good on camera. The other teachers are fantastic in the classroom but they’re not as good as you on camera. Actually face-to-face, you’re a little disappointing, but you’re awesome on camera he joked.”
To put it simply, what he was saying is ‘lu ga punya tampang, tapi jayus.’ So, he guided me in making videos about learning English. He gave me books about social media marketing and I learned from them. I researched the use of social media myself and in no time, I made my very first video on Instagram under @guruku_mr.d. Since then, I started becoming popular.
The story didn’t end there, though. I knew the internet can be cruel and mean but I thought I could handle it. Video after video, people were commenting on my teeth! My teeth my goodness! ‘Mister, kenapa ga ke dokter gigi?’ Why can’t they comment on how ganteng I am? In just 3 months, I was depressed. I wasn’t confident and told my boss I couldn’t do it anymore.
He didn’t give up on me though, surprisingly. He said if I kept listening to negative comments and ignoring the positive, there is no way I would succeed in anything in life. He told me to focus on the positive comments and ignore the negative. Eventually he promised, with determination, I’d have more followers and enough people to defend me from any bad comments. He encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing and helped me through the tough times.
From then on, my followers kept growing and growing. I kept going, focusing on the positives and ignoring the negatives. Before I knew it, I had 10k followers, then 50k, 100k, 200k and now I have nearly 600k. And with the growing followers, I now get endorsements and amazingly a dentist messaged me one day, offered to fix my tooth free of charge if I endorsed him! No more comments on my teeth! Rasain tu haters! Not only endorsements, I’ve been called to appear on TV shows as well. I was on dahSyat, Hitam Putih, and most recently Ini Talk Show. Bye-bye, bule kampung, hello Mr. D!

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