Yesterday was "Teacher's Day" in Korea
Korea being a Confucian country (even the evangelical Christians are Confucian), teachers receive a lot of respect ... though I've observed this respect decline over the years. When I came to Korea the first time, back in 1995, the Confucian ethos was much stronger, and students told me that they had been taught by their parents that they should not tread on even the shadow of their teacher (let alone the teacher's foot!). I thought that part a bit excessive, but I enjoyed the status.
These days, no Korean student would ever exalt a teacher's shadow, and I think this alteration for the best. Too much status leads to a sense of entitlement and a corresponding degree of corruption, whereby even lazy or incompetent teachers are accorded undeserved respect.
I recall a discussion back in 1995 that I inadvertently initiated by introducing a discussion topic concerning a teacher in America who had been fired for acting in a pornographic film. We never got to that issue, for I prefaced my remarks in this way:
"We would all agree that an incompetent teacher should be fired, but what about a teacher who acts in a pornographic film?"At least, I intended to preface them so, but I only got this far:
"We would all agree that an incompetent teacher should be fired..."And several students said "No." Assuming that they had misunderstood the term "incompetent," I explained in more detail what I had meant, but they didn't budge. When I came to see that they understood but disagreed, I took a count of hands and discovered that about 70 percent of the class did not agree with me. They held teachers in such regard that in their opinion, even an incompetent teacher should not be fired.
So, we discussed this issue instead, and several of the students changed their minds -- after listening to those students who did agree with me -- and decided that an incompetent teacher should be fired since such an individual is hardly a teacher. But at least 30 percent were diehard opponents of firing.
One girl even argued that an incompetent doctor should not be fired! (Is a doctor a teacher?)
"What if the doctor accidentally kills someone through incompetence?" I asked.She fell silent.
"Then, the doctor should be fired," she decided.
"So, we should wait until the doctor kills somebody, then fire the doctor," I concluded.
Fortunately, teachers don't usually kill anybody. I haven't yet, and for that, my students are truly grateful. One of them even gave me candy and a note:
Dear Professor HodgesNice message ... and a nice card, too. The card, by the way, is made in Korea by the Yegong Everyday Card Company and is similar to the card above, also designed by Yegong. Mine is quite a lovely card showing three yellow flowers as in the card above but with a yellow rather than pink bow and without the green leaves. It's code number is C-404-05, but I couldn't locate this on the website.
It's teacher's day today! Thank you very much for everything you've done for me & my essays. I really like your class. I think this literature class is much more interesting than the history one although I've enjoyed them both a lot as well ^^
Anyway, thank you again for your hard work. I really appreciate it.
By the way, if any students are reading this blog and wondering what to give their foreign teachers for Teacher's Day next year, consider one of the lovely cards by Yegong, whose products I'm shamelessly plugging in the hope that I won't be sued for borrowing the above image from their website.