Today, as every May 15th in Korea, is Teachers' Day. It's a pretty big deal - students bring gifts of carnations, candy, drinks, cards, etc. to school, and organize celebrations for their teachers, homeroom teachers especially. Ms. Hwang showed me pictures of the surprise her students prepared for her this morning - they pushed aside all of the desks and set up a little walkway made of lighted candles that led to the center of the room, where they fanned out into a heart shape. They also decked the place out with pink balloons and sticky notes that said how much they appreciated her. (I'll post pics on Monday when she sends them to me.) When Yoon Soon Yung, my main co-teacher, asked me about Teachers' Day in the US, I told her we didn't have one. I couldn't remember ever celebrating our teachers like they do in Korea. When I looked it up later, and found out that we not only have a day for teachers but a whole Teacher Appreciation Week, I was kind of embarrassed. We often - I know it wasn't just me - take our teachers for granted in the US. After high school most of us never talk to our teachers again, until perhaps a 5 or 10 year reunion. Mrs. Yoon gets texts, visits, and cheesecakes constantly from former students who have since graduated from universities all over Korea.
Today was also Sports Day, the one day out of the year when the students get to play sports organized by the school. They don't have a soccer team or basketball team or anything - this is as close as they get. All of the grades are divided up by class (there are 10 classes per grade), and organized into teams - White Tiger and Blue Dragon, two sacred symbols in Korean history (which also, apparently, sometimes mean right and left, but that's a different story). For this Sports Day they actually broke them down into White, Tiger, Blue, and Dragon. Each class decided on their own outfit/uniform for the day, which ranged from the unimaginitive (PE warmups) to the original (mental hospital patients):
Some teachers dressed up too. It was funny seeing this woman, whose face always looks this sullen, with Minnie-ears.
Then the students competed in different activities:
Tug of War
Kickball - pretty tame. They didn't even pitch the ball!
600M Relay - a lot of them ran in their socks for better traction.
During lunchtime, some teachers gathered in the teacher's office for octopus tentacles and ginseng-infused soju (it's a wellbeing food!). The tentacles were too slimy for me and the soju was bitter with an unpleasant aftertaste, so I excused myself after a few minutes of mingling.
All in all, a great sports-filled day. I feel lucky to be a teacher.