“Hajin, come here! I saved space for you!” Mina called from the crowd of kids around the blackboard. On the blackboard, there were drawings of flowers and messages, written in multiple colors. “You are the best teacher ever! Love you.” One message stated. “Teacher, I feel so lucky to be in your class!” said another.
“Mina, I don’t know what to write. Did you write something already?” Every year, I felt awkward seeing all the other kids showering our teacher with these messages and gifts. It’s been only a little over two months since the new academic year started. I liked our teacher, but I didn’t want to say she was the best already. Why can’t Teacher’s Day be in February, right before we move up a grade? I will have had a year with my teacher then.
“Yeah, mine’s here!” Mina pointed to a message in the center – “I think you are a great teacher, especially for science.”
“Why science?” I asked.
“Well, it’s something I am not learning outside of school, and I like her science classes.”
“I see. What do you think I should write?”
“Do you have a favorite class?”
“I am not sure. I think all our classes are okay.”
“Oh, then how about, ‘you are my favorite teacher’?” I knew there was nothing wrong with writing something like that, but I didn’t want to write something that I didn’t really feel. After a few seconds of hesitation, I carefully wrote with a white chalk in the space Mina reserved for me, “Thank you for being our teacher! Happy Teacher’s Day!”
“I need to get something at the stationery store. You wanna come with me?” I asked Mina on our way out of school. In my small orange wallet I had 2,000 won, and I knew I had no immediate need of money for anything else.
“Sure, what are you getting?”
“I don’t know yet. I will have to see.”
The store was crowded with kids and a few mothers who were buying school supplies. Right next to the counter, there was a low table for a special display. The table was full of carnation bouquets and items with decorated with carnations. I picked up a plastic box that had a single artificial carnation in it. It was 1,000 won.
“Hajin, we already finished at school. Are you thinking about going back with a flower?” Mina asked.
“No, I want one for my favorite teacher.”
“Who is your favorite teacher?”
“My baduk teacher! He’s been my teacher for over two years now.”
“Cool! How about this one?” Mina handed me a small, shiny metal carnation pin. I could easily imagine my teacher wearing it on his dress shirt.
“I like it!” I kept it in my hand, and also picked out a small Teacher’s Day themed paper card. They were 1,500 won together.
As soon as I finished lunch with my grandparents and Jane, I went to the playroom with my backpack. I took out the card and a pencil, and wrote, “Hi Teacher! It’s Hajin. Thank you for your baduk classes. You are my favorite teacher!” This time, I was excited to write it because I meant it.
By the main door of the baduk school, there already were two orchid pots that I hadn’t seen before. They must have been delivered earlier today. I entered the baduk school, hoping the teacher would be alone. I thought I would be too shy to give my gifts to him if there were anyone else around. Luckily, there was no one inside, not even the teacher. He must have been taking a smoke break. I thought this was even better. I quickly took out the pin and the card, and left them on the teacher’s desk. Then I took my usual seat in the corner and opened my life-and-death problem book.
“Hey Hajin, do you want some juice?”
Soon the teacher was back, and he asked me this as he was entering. He must have received a box of bottled juice again. It was the most common gift parents brought when they visited the baduk school.
I like ice cream, but I never really liked any drinks. I don’t like soft drinks like Coke, I don’t really like sweet fruit juice, and worst of all, I hate drinking plain milk. I also didn’t want to go into his office before he finds my gifts because I felt shy about it.
“Aww, what a surprise! Thanks, Hajin!”
The teacher came out of the office wearing the carnation pin, just as I pictured in my head. I was delighted that he liked my gift.
“How do I look? Handsome?”
I giggled, and nodded too. I thought he did look handsome, but I knew he was joking, and there was no way that I would say such a thing out loud.