Korea, Random Rambles
Comments 20

Get Yer 야 야’s Out!

It was like a scene from a Hollywood nightmare. I enter the school grounds yesterday, cursing, kicking things, some of which might have been students (Monday morning pre-caffeine fuzziness), and come face to face with…myself.

A cheerful, more youthful, and allround better-looking myself, admittedly, and sporting the toga and kinky boots I’d always known I was born to sport but had just assumed were inappropriate work attire.

On the plus side, at least I wasn’t brandishing a roll of T.P.

The anonymous artist(s) — I’m told they were third-year students who’ll be attending an “art high school” next year (many high schools here specialise) — had even immortalised some of my favourite classroom catchphrases.

The small label reads “Ian Seonsaeng-nim” — or Ian Teacher — similar to the Japanese “sensei”

They’d omitted my very favourite one — Very disappointing — but I was pleased to see the   that is now an indispensable component of my classroom arsenal. I’d seen so many co-teachers use it with great effect and when I finally took the leap and shouted it, the effect was so magical I was in danger of blunting it with overuse.

It translates as Hey! or Hey, you! or even, adroitly employed, Shut the hell up!

The school festival was last Friday, and these — one for every teacher — had been unveiled during festivities. I was working at N2 and missed it, but N2’s festival is this Friday, and who knows what I’m in for, apart from the seemingly mandatory K-pop dance routine done by all the girls’ (and some of the boys’) classes.

Truly we teachers are like Roman gods — or perhaps slaves

The vice-principal, a pretty good likeness

As well as the portraits, there were hundreds of dangling…whatever the hell these things are:

I’m told we may buy our portrait for 10,000 won — about 10 bucks — which will go to charity. I’ll probably do it, though getting the thing home may prove problematic.

Some of the likenesses were uncanny, and I can only guess at the significance of the coded motifs incorporated into each one. This bloke is pulling out all stops and hitting the buggers with a deadly Double Ya backed up with a nice, ripe persimmon:

There is no such thing as democracy in a classroom

More than one subject confided to me that they were less than impressed with their (un-)likeness.

I think the bloke on the left would be pretty satisfied. The one next to him — well, I thought it was a woman, but I’m not so sure now, and have blotted out the name tag without reading it. If it is a woman, good luck to her! She’s wearing a suit and bearing a bottle of liquor and a three-day growth, but seems happy with the path her life’s taken:

The guy is yelling “OKAY!”

One of the great things (on a good day) about being a male teacher is the gender imbalance. I am surrounded by princesses like these, not that we’ve ever exchanged anything more meaningful than a smile.

Yes, the science teacher in the middle is fond of the odd YA! as well

H____, one of my English-teaching colleagues, was most unimpressed with her picture. Justly unimpressed — she’s actually gorgeous, and a lot younger than she looks here:

Another colleague, S_____, who is actually my minder, liaising between me, the vice-principal and the Board of Education, and just as lovely as H_____, fared somewhat better:

It’s often said that Koreans venerate education and shower respect on teachers — I don’t know if this kind of display is typical of schools in Korea but I’d guess it is. I must say my feelings about the school system here have evolved over the year. The classroom environment is certainly not for the faint of heart. It seemed like mayhem to me when I started, and some of the stuff I see still blows my mind, but I no longer approach most classes with crippling dread.

I actually like a lot of “my” kids now, and have even managed to half-tame some of the obstreperous brutes who made my early months hell (a packet of lollies or 10 is another essential part of my toolkit — I hope you’re taking notes, future language-teaching professionals). And let’s face it, my anonymous portraitists could have been a lot crueller…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. I love these pictures! It’s interesting how you picked up a snappy pair of boots rather than a more traditional Caligula sandal…?!

  2. A few different artists I see. It is really a great project they have done… and I like the dangling things too… what a shame you weren’t there on the unveiling day, that would have had lots of hilarity! Lovely to see you warming to your job and the kids.

    • Yeah, overall I’m a fair bit saner and less miserable than I was earlier in the year, that’s for sure. Today is the festival at the second school. I’m actually almost looking forward to it, especially the boys dancing in drag!

    • Yeah, I would’ve got six of the best! Pretty cool though, there’s some genuine love — or at least respect — there.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Alice says

    Those students are really talented! Must have been a shock to run into yourself.

    • Yes, and I had to pass myself in the corridor for a week. Then just when I was plucking up the nerve to say hi and make small talk, he was shipped off to some dusty cupboard…

      In general young Koreans, like Japanese, are pretty good at cartoonish illustration, probably because they read so much of that stuff.

  4. a strawberry patch says

    What artists! I am always amazed that the kids I don’t think are listening or that I am affecting in any positive way do something that shows me they are listening and have at least a little respect buried deep down somewhere 🙂

    • Yeah, I think I’ve mellowed a bit as well. Where once I hammered them with scorn, now I shower them with candy (as they call it). It works!

  5. Franko Paddo says

    That is the best likeness of you I have seen …apart from the actual mountaingoat.

    Can you bring the cardboard likeness back to Australia?

    • Actually I carried it home the other day and didn’t even pay for it. I think they were cleaning out the storeroom. Now it greets me outside the bathroom. I’m gonna try to work out how to bring at least the head back with me — great souvenir of my time here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s