Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Yesterday was "Teacher's Day" in Korea

from the lovely selection

Teacher's Day arrives every year on May 15 here in Korea, and it's a bit of a big thing. Students visit their teachers and offer flowers or gifts.

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.

"Then, the doctor should be fired," she decided.

"So, we should wait until the doctor kills somebody, then fire the doctor," I concluded.
She fell silent.

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 Hodges

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.


Nice 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.

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.


At 9:41 AM, Blogger steph said...

I never knew much about the personal habits of my teachers but IMHO the worst crime a teacher can commit is mispelling. A teacher who can't spell should be fired. I had an incompetent English teacher who was consistent in his mispellings: "allways", "nessessarily" - simple words like those! His name was Mr Win...! Admittedly he was only high school but he did have a Bachelor's Degree in English. I know several university lecturers with a similar defect. One (who thankfully I don't know personally) is apparently a biblical languages expert. He blogs and his atrocious spelling is hysterical. He is Texan though, so...

Congratulations however on your well deserved congratulations from your students.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Steph.

One thing that I've noticed about my own spelling is that it gets worse when I write on a blackboard or whiteboard -- anything that requires that I write in large letters.


I think that the reason is that I spell by sight, and BIG LETTERS always look wrong to me.

I've learned to step back and judge my spelling from a distance to make the letters look smaller, and that helps ... a bit.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:46 PM, Blogger steph said...

I can appreciate that! I know what you mean. I would have allowed Mr Win the odd blackboard error - but his mispellings encroached onto paper too. And as for the Texan who blogs ... they aren't typos because they're consistent. His dubious "Weetbix" PhD should be withdrawn. (Your blog is free from mistakes, unless you count the odd intentionally ambiguous one "secreted" into the text. Blackboards don't count.)

At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read this and was surprised to see my card and a message. :)
Didn't except that you'll write about it in your blog. However, it is a nice surprise. ^^

Good night and see you on Monday, sir.

At 4:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

박승주, thanks for writing. Yes, your card (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) made it onto my famous blog -- as you see.

This was a test to check if you are reading what I write. You passed the test (minus some points for being several days late).

Since I'm your teacher, you won't mind if I suggest that you might have meant "expect" rather than "except" -- perhaps you suffer from dysscriptia (by analogy to dyslexia)?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I passed the test! Lucky me ! What's the next task?? ^^

Hahaha it was my mistake. I think I really am suffering from dysscriptia. Last time, I was writing somthing about France and I wrote "Notre-Damn" instead of "Notre-Dame". My teacher pointed that out and we laughed like mad. ^^

At 3:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Notre-Damn? Hmmm ... must be your preteritial nature expressing itself.

As for the "next task," you just passed that one by reading my reply and posting again.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:41 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

20th, Nov is teacher's day in Vietnam. Hi, you're a teacher and i'm going to be a teacher :D

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

You can contact with me by yahoo mail. :.
Nice to meet you!

At 3:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Huong, thanks for the posted comment. Good luck on your future career as a teacher, which involves tasks not always simple.

Jeffery Hodges

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