Black Dog: Episode 6
Serious changes are needed at the school but before that can happen, they have to tackle their problems head-on. It’s never a pretty sight when ugly truths have to be confronted, but we have a dependable team of passionate teachers who will do their best for their students.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Myung-soo slips into an office to eavesdrop on Teacher Song’s meeting. They brainstorm names for the new class, but suggestions like “The SKY Class” and “Daechi Leaders” are continuously shut down until one of the teachers shares her idea.
Cut to: a poster introducing the brand new Icarus Club, now accepting members. Priority goes to the 20 applicants with the highest grades, and the students can tell that this elite club is for top performers and will beef up their student records.
JEON YOO-RA, a student from Haneul’s homeroom class, takes in the notice seriously while her classmate Jae-hyun doesn’t seem to be too concerned.
Teacher Sohn commends the Third Years’ Department for working around the Office of Education’s ban on advanced classes by advertising it as a club. Its members will have access to special after-school classes and counselling sessions with the College Advisory Department.
Yeon-woo’s surprised to see the Creative Experience Department listed on the Icarus Club proposal. Their job is to review student records in regards to club activities. Myung-soo figures that Teacher Han – the head of Creative Experience and the teacher who named the club – must’ve wanted to butt in with the excuse of reviewing records.
Principal Byun tries to talk Sung-soon into accepting the advanced class. He brings up the fact that the College Advisory Department wasn’t able to produce desirable results and though it looks like Sung-soon has something to say about that, she decides against it.
Haneul has a great time chatting with Teacher Yoon, who flips through Yoo-ra and Jae-hyun’s student records. Haneul’s teased for worrying about the other advisors and shyly admits to it, agreeing that they’re charming but have strong personalities, heh.
The conversation takes a more serious turn when the topic of the advanced class comes up. If Haneul takes on the role, students and parents will give her a hard time but she’ll also be caught in the power struggle between the two departments. Additionally, now that the Creative Experience Department is included, they’ll be over imposing in regards to the student records.
Teacher Ha recounts his earlier run-in with Haneul while on a stroll with Teacher Song and Hae-won. Though she’s made up her mind regarding the position, she said that she’ll announce her decision at tomorrow’s meeting. They find it odd that Haneul didn’t just tell him, but they spot Sung-soon approaching and crouch by the bushes to eavesdrop.
Teacher Sohn believes the advanced classes are needed to help their top students get into good schools, which Teacher Song agrees with from behind the bushes. The College Advisory Department will take credit for any successful Icarus students, so he urges Sung-soon to just think of the results and bonuses she’ll get.
Teacher Cha chimes in to defend their school – other schools treat their top students with special care too. Sung-soon doesn’t reveal whether or not Haneul is taking the position, to the dismay of the third year teachers who accidentally reveal their position by dropping a soda can.
Yoo-ra paces in front of the Third Years’ office with an Icarus application in hand, but decides against submitting it as she worries about a lower mark she’d received. She’s excited to see Haneul in the hallway so they sit down to talk, and Yoo-ra gets reassurance that she’s doing well enough to apply.
She opens up to Haneul about her family’s financial situation. She’s aiming for med school because studying something specialized will increase her chances of landing a permanent job. She worries about the number of short-term jobs out there, which Haneul relates to more than Yoo-ra realizes.
Haneul chuckles to hear a high-schooler lamenting about how tough life is. She gives her words of encouragement, and Yoo-ra beams with happiness that Haneul remembers her name.
Haneul stays late to review the student records and letter of recommendation written by Teacher Yoon who voices over that in fear of their kids falling behind in school, parents send them to academies. We see Jae-hyun studying at one of these, while Yoo-ra has to study on the side at her part-time job.
When she heads home after work, Yoo-ra spots a bunch of her schoolmates leaving the prep school, and watches as Jae-hyun gets into an expensive car. His dad lectures him endlessly about school and the CSAT while he stares longingly out the window.
Teacher Yoon had explained during her chat with Haneul that as teachers, they should pay special attention to those whose grades fall because they can’t afford to attend prep schools. She writes her recommendation letters explaining their circumstances to help these students out.
It’s difficult for a teacher to criticize their fellow colleagues, so Haneul sighs as she flips through the records late into the night and contemplates what to do.
Before the meeting the next morning, Sung-soon shares that her contact at Hankuk University looked into the records of the student who got accepted. That student barely made it in due to the varying opinions of the admissions officers, but was accepted because the interview and recommendation letter were great.
This is the final push Haneul needed to decide to speak up, insisting that it’s important that she talks to the team before the meeting. She dives right into her findings – the accepted student didn’t have better specs than other applicants. In fact, his math grades dropped at one point.
It was only through Teacher Yoon’s letter that the reason behind the lower mark was explained. Their school’s exam structure favors students who study the materials in advance (aka those who attend prep schools) but this student had always been practicing self-directed studying.
Her detailed letter of recommendation proved helpful as the admissions officers took her words into consideration when evaluating him. Sung-soon understands that she’s trying to say that the problem lies in their school’s system.
Yeon-woo doesn’t agree with how Teacher Yoon’s recommendation letter was written and Sung-soon asks why Haneul brought this up before the meeting. Haneul replies that it’s a difficult truth that had to be told, but nobody was willing to speak up.
She thinks that they should try all other options before proceeding with the advanced class, so that all kinds of students can get into good schools. She specifically names Yoo-ra, who’d entered the office to look for Haneul and has been listening in on their meeting. She overhears her family circumstances being shared with the other advisors, and leaves upset.
The advisors are all lost in their own thoughts, Haneul’s words weighing heavily on their minds. She thinks to herself that one of them is going to have to make a “conscientious confession” to tell the truth to all the teachers.
Myung-soo thanks Haneul for sharing her thoughts, knowing she did it to look out for the team. Sung-soon decides to speak to the principal despite Yeon-woo’s warning that nothing good will come out of bringing this up.
Haneul narrates that the fundamental issue has to be tackled in order to evoke change, though telling the truth is difficult.
Principal Byun points out that with the amount of students a teacher has, personal situations are often overlooked so the teachers can’t be blamed. He’s not exactly happy about this being brought up, but he postpones the meeting and asks for the attendance of all teachers.
Sung-soon is given the stage to discuss the record-based applications and is met with many sarcastic remarks from the crowd of teachers. She keeps her cool and lays it out plain and simple: the reason why so many Daechi students are rejected by Hankuk University is because of the school’s system and teachers.
Teacher Moon asks for proof, which the College Advisory Department has prepared and hands out. One of the teachers is particularly displeased, berating Sung-soon for criticizing her colleagues. She emphasizes that she isn’t criticizing, just asking everyone to tackle the problem together.
Sung-soon gets emotional as she asks for the teachers to view each student as individuals and consider their situations when writing their recommendations. She also urges them to think about the ones who don’t attend prep schools when creating exam questions. Out of frustration, she silences the teachers making dismissive comments with an outburst, “They’re all our kids!”
Teacher Han and Teacher Song take over and a voting takes place regarding the proposed benefits that the Icarus students will get. Each vote passes with a majority of teachers in favor of the perks. The only thing left to do is to choose the teacher.
All eyes fall on Haneul as she accepts the position, though she has a favor to ask. She wants the Third Years’ and College Advisory Departments’ cooperation to ensure no outside pressure affects how she runs the club. She also wants to be trusted to handle the student records as the teacher in charge without interference, and asks for the Creative Experience Department’s help.
Yi-boon cutely claps in support of Haneul’s brave requests and Teacher Cha muses that this is how it should be done. The teachers can’t oppose when confronted so publicly, and even the new short-term teachers agree that Haneul’s got guts. Teacher Moon stops Haneul in the hall to wish her luck and promises to tell her how to become a permanent teacher if she does well.
Myung-soo does an impression of Sung-soon’s “They’re our kids!!” and the mood is immediately brightened in the office. He compliments Haneul for doing great and making him proud. They decide to grant Haneul a wish, and she requests to have a meal with the team.
Haneul is delighted to be eating with the others, and doesn’t bother hiding it. Myung-soo realizes that this is their first time eating together. The advisors take turns taking care of Haneul: Myung-soo offers soup, Yeon-woo casually puts meat on her plate, and Sung-soon pours her a shot of soju.
It suddenly starts to pour, and the team looks out at the rain together. Sung-soon comments, “They say you’ll live long if you’re cursed at a lot,” to which Yeon-woo replies that they’ll all live for 5000 years then. Haneul asks if she has any regrets about today, and Sung-soon confidently says that she doesn’t.
Hae-won walks home without an umbrella, highlights from teaching at Daechi running through his mind. When he was with the College Advisory Department, they always celebrated their successes together and he seemed so genuinely happy. In the end, he can’t stop thinking about Haneul being nominated for the Icarus position.
Drenched and dazed, he crosses the road and is almost hit by a car. Hae-won’s bottled emotions finally explode, and he takes his frustrations out on the driver. A friend texts him to ask if he’s interested in going on a blind date with a pretty girl who likes teachers.
He responds with, “I’m not a real teacher,” which his friend dismisses as him being disinterested, not knowing how true those words really are.
The next day, the students scramble to check the Icarus members list. Jae-hyun and Yoo-ra both make it, and the latter isn’t exactly excited to hear that Haneul’s in charge of the club. A few of the girls who didn’t make the cut head to the admin office to complain.
Teacher Sohn has to break it to Yeon-woo that Icarus students get first dibs on his additional after-school class spots. It’s an order from the principal, so they can’t argue against it. Teacher Sohn asks Yeon-woo to help their department out, since they saved Haneul’s after-school class last time.
Yeon-woo is approached by the students who are here to complain about their spots being taken by the Icarus kids. One of the girls starts to cry that she’s about to lose everything, and nobody really knows how to handle the tears.
Sung-soon shoos the girls away and sends them to the Third Years’ Department to complain, since they’re the ones who made the decision. There’s no need for their department to take the blame for other teachers, after all.
Teacher Ji from Academic Affairs sends out a mass e-mail to remind teachers that midterm questions are due next week. He types with gusto to request all teachers to check their questions and ensure no errors are made this time.
Haneul chases after Yeon-woo later to apologize about the situation with the Icarus kids taking priority. He sternly tells her that it’s not something she should be sorry for, and that she doesn’t need to take responsibility for everything.
Yi-boon calls Haneul over to her desk and secretively whisks her away to an empty meeting room. She wants to discuss the Korean midterm – she and Haneul will co-write the first part of the exam, and Teacher Ha will collaborate with Ji-won for the second part.
Teacher Ha already submitted his questions, which Yi-boon took a look at. She hands Haneul a textbook that Teacher Ha created for an after-school class that only Icarus students are part of. She’s scandalized to discover that his midterm questions are based off of what he teaches this class.
Yi-boon is afraid that this will get the two of them in trouble too, and Haneul doesn’t understand why he can’t just make questions that are based off content that’s taught to everybody. Yi-boon explains that it’s all for the money – he wants his after-school classes to be popular so that he can be paid for his extra work (they get paid by the hour for after-school programs).
Haneul wants to confront him or report it to the higher-ups, but Yi-boon shuts those ideas down. She says that this is a problem that Hae-won will have to deal with; they can’t touch each other’s questions. The principal is also the last person you’d escalate an issue to at school.
Yi-boon says the only thing they can do is stay out of it, and though it’s tragic, Hae-won just had terrible luck for getting a bad partner.
Haneul later observes Hae-won’s interactions with his students from the hallway, taking notice of him for the first time. He seems to be a well-respected teacher whom his students love, and he’s more than happy to help them out.
Vice Principal Lee approaches Teacher Moon with the open class evaluations and comments that Hae-won is constantly improving, favoring him for the permanent position. Teacher Moon searches the forum for the Daechi corruption post, but it no longer exists.
Haneul can’t sit back and do nothing now that she knows about the situation, so she approaches Teacher Ha to discuss the midterms. She tries to tactfully ask him to adjust his questions, suggesting that he made the exam easier for Icarus members.
Teacher Ha doesn’t admit to it, but says that even if it were true, it’d be good for her since the College Advisory Department would get the credit. Yeon-woo happens to pass by and rushes over with a fake emergency (“Myung-soo got hurt!”) to interrupt the conversation.
Outside, Teacher Moon witnesses Yeon-woo lecturing Haneul. “If you confront everyone like that, it’ll only make the problem bigger.” She has no right to interfere with Hae-won and Teacher Ha’s business.
Haneul argues that if she doesn’t speak up, then Hae-won will take the fall – does Yeon-woo still expect her not to do anything? She’s disappointed by his answer, but he just doesn’t want her to get criticized by others again.
To her disbelief, he says that school’s not the same as when she was a student. She spots Hae-won and runs inside to speak to him, but is followed by Yeon-woo. As they continue to fight about Hae-won, he appears at the top of the stairs and has evidently overheard as he asks, “Why would I take the bullet?”
As the show progresses, I’m getting less convinced that the Daechi High corruption poster is Hae-won, not that it really matters anymore. He’s doing his utmost to show his best side, seeking approval and recognition from everyone. It doesn’t make sense to do all that and then post on a forum where his account could easily be traced back to him, ruining all his hard work (unless he just didn’t consider that to be a possibility). He, like most teachers, are trying to keep the status quo whereas Haneul, who doesn’t really know how the school system works, is following her heart and doing what she thinks is best for the students. Hae-won must’ve been incredulous to see Haneul accept the position he coveted and have the guts to state demands on top of that.
It’s like that time she stood up to Yi-boon, then used her own methods to win her over. She’s very much so an agent of change, which is what Daechi High desperately needs right now even if they don’t want it. She has an infectious quality to her that made Yi-boon work harder, and influenced Sung-soon to make that emotional speech during the meeting. I don’t know how Haneul will shake things up next, but I’m sure she’s going to continue impacting others to move towards positive change. The one thing I’m concerned with is that she has too much on her plate. As a first-time teacher who can barely complete her administrative tasks, she’s in charge of half the senior class, midterm questions, college admissions, an intensive after-school course, and the Icarus class. I’m not sure how she’s going to balance everything, so we’ll have to see how this all plays out! She’s a great teacher and the students will be lucky to have a teacher who cares as much as she does (though she’ll have some amendments to make with Yoo-ra, who seems really upset about Haneul sharing her secret).
However, as much as I’m rooting for Haneul to succeed, I believe Hae-won also deserved the opportunity. She got the chance to lead the Icarus Club because of her connection to Teacher Moon, NOT because Teacher Song believed in her abilities as a teacher. It’s another example of self-serving motivations within the school. Rather than picking a teacher that’ll be able to best support the students, they picked one that they think will put them in good graces with someone in an authoritative position. Objectively, Hae-won would have been a great choice – he has worked in both the College Advisory and Third Years’ Department for a number of years. He understands the inner workings of the school, has built years of rapport with the students, and is a hard worker with proven competence as a teacher. He can feel himself being slowly pushed out of the running for the permanent position, so he feels anxious and desperate to prove himself, so I really feel for him. Now that Haneul has him on her radar, I hope that they can interact more so he can experience firsthand what people see in her that makes them treat her as a peer. It’ll be interesting to see what he will do if he learns about Teacher Ha’s midterm questions. Will he stay complacent and let it happen in order to not disrupt the system, or will he take a page out of Haneul’s book and take a stand against it to protect himself and his students?
Speaking of students, they’re slowly being introduced into the story and I appreciate that the show is expanding its world gradually. We’re starting to see the effects of the looming CSAT on the third years. If you didn’t know, the CSAT in Korea is HUGE. It’s the culmination of everything the students have been working hard their entire lives for. It’s an immense amount of pressure that I can’t even begin to comprehend. As such, everything is put on hold to ensure that no outside influences can affect the students. Shops are closed, people head to work an hour later to decrease traffic, and even the planes are grounded so the noise doesn’t distract the kids. It’s amazing how the country comes together for this important day. A lot of things are riding on the CSAT, college admissions especially. This episode pointed out the fact that the students who attend prep schools have the upper hand whether it’s in-school exams or CSAT prep. They’re being taught the material in advance, and have someone to guide them through their learning. The ones like Yoo-ra who don’t have the time nor money to attend academies end up with the shorter end of the stick. Teachers at school should be supporting all of the students to create an equal playing field, but instead, there are teachers like Teacher Ha who only care about themselves. I hope that Sung-soon’s emotional outburst affected at least a few indifferent teachers out there. Fixing the issue will take some time, but we have to start somewhere small!
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