Today, in Korea, was Teacher’s Day. While we also celebrate this holiday in America, we were taken aback by the numerous ways with which the students endeavored to show us, their teachers, honor and respect. We were so touched by the genuine respect that they showed that we were left speechless. The students here really do love their teachers (for the most part…there are always those few outliers) and on Teacher’s Day they take it upon themselves to show off the respect they feel for their instructors.
For example, when I arrived at my school, the entire senior class had lined the drive into our school so that they could bow to each and every teacher as they arrived. Additionally, as each car pulled into the school gates, the lead student would announce its presence and the entire group would proclaim “Happy Teacher’s Day” in unison. After this they held a bow for the entire time it took for the car to travel the road to the staff parking lot, thus ensuring that each teacher would know how important they are to these students. I cannot begin to explain how special a gesture like this can make a person feel.
Due to the recent Sewol Ferry Tragedy, most schools were instructed to cancel Teacher’s Day celebrations and festivities. Since carnations weren’t to be presented and much of the day has lost its luster in the shadow of recent event, this class of seniors organized a display of respect to honor the teachers outside of the regular events that would not be held. They felt that it was of paramount importance to do something for us.
As with my school, Stephanie’s students took it upon themselves to practice a special song they wanted to sing to the teaching staff. Hours of after-school practice (on top of the already-massive work load these kids are under) culminated in a perfectly executed song that they performed in rounds. Again, most of Teacher’s Day was supposed to be abandoned to show respect for the victims of the tragic accident, but the students had too big of an urge to honor those charged with preparing them for the world with a gorgeous and heartfelt display.
We do not wish to show our schools and students as ignoring the tragedy last April and charging ahead with their own agenda, but instead hope to show how special this day was for students and teachers alike. Every person involved in the education process, teachers and learners alike, have been profoundly impacted by the loss of so many young people. Without losing mindfulness of the pain that Korea is feeling, it meant a lot to see our students take it upon themselves to ensure that teachers knew how grateful they were for our hard work. The relationship between teachers and students is complex and meaningful for both parties. We feel incredibly lucky to have these young people in our lives, and we now know how much they appreciate having us in theirs.