Friday last week was Teacher’s Day, but the day always takes me by surprise. Actually, it would have taken me by surprise anyway — my students sprung the biggest ambush on Thursday.
We were in my office, setting up for a video shoot for that class of mine that’s making a mockumentary about an English cult operating in Korea (yes, a metaphor for the hakwon system and English-mania in general) and suddenly a pack of students I’d never met — freshmen, I guess — burst into the room with a chocolate cake and exploded into song.
If you don’t teach in Korea, the details I can share are that there’s a teacher’s day song, that the students sing the whole thing (even if you’re not able to understand the words) and they clap on beats one and three. (Koreans clap on one and three for everything, which means they sing “Happy Birthday” in 6/4 (and add a clap on 5) instead of in 3/4 as a waltz, the way we do.) While they sing, it’s a test of your inventiveness, or your cool, as there’s nothing you can do but stand and smile and wait for it to finish.
The prof in the French department said after she got her cake (the first of several) she told the class, “I’m going to thank you in the French way,” and gave each student the kisses on the cheeks that are common in French culture for hellos, thank yous, and the like. Unfortunately, my culture of origin is dour and boring and all I could do was thank them kindly. That I did, and they took off, leaving us with a cake and nothing to eat it with. Of course I shared it with the students — I’m not gonna bring it home and eat it all!
Anyway, I got a few other interesting gifts: some ddeok (rice cake) from the university, and a huge package of ddeok from an older student in one class. I also got a lovely and gigantic basket of flowers from student I taught in 2006, pictured below:
(Upon seeing this basket of flowers, one Korean woman who lives in the building declared with great certainty that the sender was on the make, but she hasn’t replied to my thank-you email so I’m no so sure about that.)
Anyway, the most entertaining gift — in terms of attached notes — was one that read, “Teacher! Please put this strap-on anywhere you like and think of me.” While the gift was actually a wrist-strap for a cell phone, I was very amused by her use of the word “strap-on.” I’m not about to explain the error, but that won’t stop me enjoying it. The strap is pretty nice, though, and is on my phone right now. (It’s green, and has a little plastic head with a professorial face on one end.)
Not bad, for a teacher’s day. Ah, and with the gift certificates I got from the student society, I got a shower curtain and some new towels for when I work out.