Friday, 15 May 2009

Happy Chonji Day

I called it "Cheonji Day" instead of Teacher's Day because Teacher's Day is also known as one of the most common days for parents to give teachers cash gifts called "Cheonji" (촌지))... sometimes meant to be in exchange for "special" treatment of their kid (on the grade sheet) -- there have actually been laws passed putting a maximum on the amount of cash or value of gifts permitted to give teachers, because the old tradition of bribing the teacher had gotten so rampant. The practice continues today.

My favorite Teacher's Day moments in Korea came from my first year, when I taught grade school kids.

Being male, the usual cosmetics packages didn't suit, and there must have been a sock-selling truck somewhere on the bus route picking kids up to come, so over the course of the day, I received twelve pairs of the exact same socks. Totally interchangeable. I didn't buy socks once my first three years in Korea. Just when I was starting to run out and wear out, another teacher's day would come along. It was awesome.

My favorite teacher's day class was the class where one student gave me a bucket of rock candy, and another student gave me a bottle of Amway toothpaste. Perfect match.

My biggest teacher's day bung-up was the year I told the students that if they wanted to bring me Teacher's Day gifts, they could, but please remember that I'm allergic to milk, so chocolate presents make me sad, because I can't eat Korean chocolates (it's all super milky), and the mothers took my PSA to mean that I was expecting nice gifts from all of them, and complained about my overly expectant attitude. Since then, I've just taken the chocolates humbly, thanked people kindly, and passed the chocolates around to the other teachers in the staff room (who are all swimming in chocolate, too).

Thanks for the spelling correction, ROK Hound.


Anonymous said...

I've gotten absolutely nothing for Cheonji Day. Don't the students realize that I can be bought?

Brian said...

For the third consecutive year I've been, um, "exempted" from the teachers' day stuff. No corsage, no invitation to the assembly, no gifts, no nothing. I get it, I'm an assistant teacher, and other assistant teachers have the same fate (even though lunch ladies and librarians get to participate). But why oh why doesn't this mean I can stay home and not have to sit at my desk while everyone else plays volleyball for 11 hours?

Roboseyo said...

I'm with you, Stray. I'm TOTALLY for sale.

Anonymous said...

I got weird ass dress socks one year but they ended up being useful in winter as an extra lining between my feet and my normal socks. Made for a warmer walk during those 8-14 days in Seoul when winter dips into Canada cold.

Another year I got "blurberry" hankies. At first I thought "geez what am I? My gramps?" but then I realized with all the colds you get teaching little disease vectors, hankies are actually an enviro friendly alternative to tissue.

So yeah, sometimes the gifts seem bizarre but you can usually find a use.

ROK Hound said...

It's not Cheonji Day (천지).

It is Chonji Day (촌지).

ROK Hound said...

My own Chonji Day gifts usually include handmade things; cards, crafts, etc. Today for instance, the only gift I received was a handmade (by my student) silk rose.

I prefer the handmade items. (1) it shows the effort the student went to to say thank you, (2) anyone can buy a gift, it doesn't show much originality to buy a chocolate bar or a pair of socks.

John from Daejeon said...

I got the best gift ever. A student who actually listens in class. He gave me some sunblock as he knows that I am often riding my bicycle and getting a bit of a sunburn during the warmer months.