Teachers’ Day in South Korea is almost as big a deal as Children’s Day, although we teachers don’t get to enjoy a national public holiday (boooo).
It’s on May 15th, which unfortunately falls on a Sunday this year, so there aren’t too many presents to be seen in school today – only a few devoted individuals remembered to bring in gifts and cards in advance! I did get this card from one of my new boys in the ‘baby’ class (about 4 or 5 years old), and it made me well up:
But sadly, Teachers’ Day has mostly become something of a corrupt occasion thanks to the crazy, focused determination parents have to get their children ahead in the fight for good university places and good career positions. Although it’s not a national holiday, many schools do actually close when it falls on a weekday, because the ridiculousness of the obvious bribes being disguised as Teachers’ Day gifts was just becoming too much.
You still get the odd parent who persists, though. I’ve probably mentioned before that there’s often food to be found in the office, as a parent will have brought in a big box of doughnuts or half a strawberry field. Well, around Teachers’ Day, this generosity increases. Yesterday evening I called into the office on my way out, and was presented with food and drink from a high-end burger/steak restaurant. We’re not talking crappy processed McDonald’s here – these were thick, good-quality steak burgers in proper floury bread rolls, with all the trimmings. It was a full-on dinner, and would have cost about 15,000 won per head. And the mother of one of my students purchased these for about 20 members of staff! Make sure you change the grades on her son’s reports now! said Terri wryly as we chowed on our burgers and slurped at our drinks. For yes, coincidentally, we are in the middle of writing the Spring progress reports. Maybe we’re too cynical? Hmm. All I know is (a) I have no previous experience of parents demanding good grades rather than honest ones, and (b) I don’t remember any of my teachers receiving gifts more lavish than a World’s Best Teacher mug.
But obviously I’m not complaining. And possible bribes aside, I really do like the fact that Teachers’ Day is celebrated with gifts and cards here, and that the teachers are shown appreciation for their work. Tonight, the school is taking us all out for dinner after work, and tomorrow we’re going out for the day. Teachers are pretty fantastic creatures, after all, and should be given treats on a regular basis! But failing that, one day a year will do.
Happy Teachers’ Day!