Black Dog: Episode 2
Our newbie teacher navigates the unfamiliar waters of Daechi High, learning important lessons along the way. She tries her best to survive her first day at school as friends and foe make their way into her life. It’s easier said than done though. Can she hold on to her sanity to become the teacher she’s always wanted to be?
EPISODE 2 RECAP
With school back in session, the teachers are busier than ever. Sung-soon gets a budget approved and is asked about Haneul – it seemed like she’d quit, so why’d she come back? Sung-soon just sips her tea, recalling the moment when Haneul stood in front of the empty classroom.
The new teachers are gathered for training and one of the female teachers glances over at Haneul, who’s sitting apart from the others.
When the session is over, the new recruits discuss the fact that they were advised not to admit that they’re contract workers. They think it’s common sense, but are glad that Daechi High isn’t like other schools where desks are labelled with “short-term” or “permanent” status.
The group heads to lunch and Haneul branches off to take the elevator alone. She’s joined by Song Ji-sun, the teacher who glanced at her earlier. Ji-sun empathizes with Haneul, sharing that her first time as a short-term teacher was difficult too.
She kindly offers to answer Haneul’s questions at any time. Aw, they timidly share smiles; Haneul has an ally at school now! Haneul feels like they’re being told to lie when the students will find out about their short-term status anyway.
Ji-sun explains that private and public schools are different. Contract teachers can quickly become permanent here, so students and parents don’t know who’s short-term. Her advice to not let students find out weighs heavily on Haneul’s mind.
She sighs that beginnings are always like this as she removes the previous teacher’s name plate from her desk. Ji Hae-won (the short-term teacher in his sixth year) passes by and his gaze lingers on Haneul. She’s sorting the recycling when a lady comes looking for the College Advisory Department.
Sung-soon and Myung-soo celebrate their approved budget before receiving word that a troublesome parent is here. They rush off in a panic when they realize Haneul’s in the office alone. Myung-soo worries about her, but Sung-soon says Haneul should quit if parents scare her.
Their concern was all for naught – they enter the office to find Haneul and the parent chatting amicably. (Myung-soo: “Hold on…is she smiling?!”) The mom discusses her daughter’s med school aspirations with Sung-soon. Prep school consultations cost a fortune, so she’s here to ensure the school’s doing their part to support her child first.
It’s revealed that Sung-soon has a knack for wrapping parents around her finger. At her signal, the team gets busy and the magic begins.
They first find out the student’s name: Sung Ji-yeon. Myung-soo immediately pulls up her academic records to confirm the stats that Sung-soon recites off the top of her head. Impressive! Despite mom’s insistence on prep school, Sung-soon asserts that they can’t beat the school itself when it comes to preparing Ji-yeon for post-secondary education.
Haneul watches as the team works together to prove their expertise, fact-checking and printing documents in record time to support their arguments. It seems effortless, and Sung-soon smiles to see Ji-yeon’s mother reluctantly accepting that they know their stuff.
Principal Byun and Vice Principal Lee agree to hire internally and have a short-term teacher fill the permanent position. Teacher Moon is part of this meeting, but spaces out as he thinks about the post that Haneul told him about, regarding Daechi High’s hiring corruption.
Teacher Moon pulls up the forum when he returns to his desk and notices that a reporter commented, wanting to speak to the teacher who reported the corruption. He’s so deep in thought that he doesn’t notice the vice principal approaching.
Back in the office, Sung-soon wraps up the consultation. Before leaving, Ji-yeon’s mom thanks Haneul for the talk earlier. She says she’ll compare the advice given by the school and the prep school like Haneul had advised. Oooh, Sung-soon doesn’t look happy.
Teacher Moon showed Vice Principal Lee the article, asking if they should do something before it blows up. Thinking the rumour is about Haneul, he starts to say, “If this is real and she gets hired as a permanent teacher…” but the idea is quickly shut down by the vice principal.
Now spooked by the presence of a whistleblower, Teacher Moon observes teachers from the hallway with suspicion, eventually making eye contact with Hae-won. He enters the admin office just as Ji-yeon’s mom asks if Haneul will teach here next year.
Haneul’s unsure of how to answer, and Teacher Moon refrains from stepping in. Vice Principal Lee warned him to be careful of rumors, lest it affect his promotion to become the vice principal in the future.
As Haneul hems and haws, Sung-soon comes to the rescue to answer that of course she’ll be here – she’s the hidden ace of the department!
The interaction leaves Haneul weak in the knees but she has no time to rest as Sung-soon singles her out for a chat.
Outside, Haneul thanks Sung-soon for the save, but she ignores that and quizzes Haneul. It’s evident that Haneul’s up to date on college admission stats, but she’s unable to infer what the numbers mean for the admissions system.
Students and parents go straight to the pricy academies because the school’s consultations being free aren’t appealing. Sung-soon advises Haneul to believe in the school, because “What kind of teacher has more faith in prep schools than schools?”
Haneul apologizes sincerely. She watches Sung-soon head inside as she thinks, “I felt impatient because I wanted to become a part of the school as soon as possible.”
She continues to narrate that impatience leads to mistakes. She finds herself outside Young-sook’s restaurant and thinks about Ji-yeon’s mother asking whether she’d be back next year.
Haneul recalls a time when she and her classmates had a blast playing dodgeball with Young-ha. One of them asked, “You’ll teach us again next year, right?” but he’d avoided answering. Aw man, he had such a sweet bond with his students.
Back in the present, she looks in Young-sook’s direction and promises aloud that she won’t be defeated that easily. She leaves without going in, but Young-sook seems to have seen her.
The next day, Myung-soo discovers that ‘the freak show,’ Kim Yi-boon, is going to be Haneul’s partner. She’d apparently had every teacher (except Yeon-woo) beat, and a teacher muses that the ‘law of conservation of freak shows’ must be real.
Yi-boon enters her office and the teacher narrates that it’s a mysterious law where there’s a fixed number of freaks in every organization.
Haneul makes her way to school amongst the crowd of students and laughs when two boys throw themselves into her path to say that she’s pretty, has a halo, and to please scold them loudly later, LOL.
Myung-soo tells Hae-won that since everyone else refused to be partnered with Yi-boon, the last to be hired got stuck with her. Hae-won later observes Haneul from a window, slapping on a smile only when students greet him.
Haneul’s first-day excitement doesn’t last long – she gets 2 consecutive calls with instructions to “come to my desk,” but doesn’t know who’s calling. Yeon-woo knowingly points her to the right direction.
Haneul finds Yi-boon sitting at a desk that’s decked out in pink. She’s told that they’re course partners, meaning that they’ll each teach the same material to half the third year students.
It’d be best for them to teach similar things to simplify exam prep and to ensure the students don’t complain – it’s a sensitive time since their grades will affect their college applications. Yi-boon has always compared lesson plans with her partners, so Haneul gladly shares that she created a presentation and handouts.
Yi-boon tsks that Haneul should’ve told her sooner, making it sound like she’s doing Haneul a favor when asking for her slides. Haneul barely comprehends what just happened, reluctantly sending her the file.
Yi-boon compliments her presentation but notices that Haneul is planning to teach a section that she’s not teaching. It’d make Yi-boon look bad, so she tells her to skip it.
Haneul holds in her frustration and explains that it’d be useful for the CSAT, but Yi-boon bulldozes over her opinions and advises her to lie low at school.
She finishes the one-sided conversation by telling Haneul she’ll mark down the sections she plans to teach. As Haneul leaves, she overhears Yi-boon criticizing short-term teachers for being slow. Geez.
Myung-soo notices that the new timetable doesn’t accommodate for Yeon-woo’s educational broadcast recordings on Fridays like the principal had promised, so Yeon-woo heads to Academic Affairs to discuss his schedule.
Teacher Song gets a document approved by Principal Byun, and is told to switch classes with Yeon-woo. He throws a tantrum outside the office, unhappy that everything revolves around Yeon-woo and his broadcasts.
Teacher Ha (a fellow third-year teacher) reasons that Yeon-woo’s appearance on EBC will promote their school, but Teacher Song is convinced that Yeon-woo’s just showing off. I’m not liking the gleam in Teacher Song’s eyes as he confirms that the College Advisory Department is holding a meeting during third period…
Teacher Shim from Academic Affairs refuses to adjust Yeon-woo’s timetable, since changing something for him means adjusting everyone’s schedule. He witnesses her taking a call from another teacher who pulls rank and rudely criticizes her timetable, so he backs off. Teacher Shim sighs and gives him a solution – switch classes with Teacher Song.
Of course, Teacher Song takes this opportunity to make him pay for embarrassing him. He yells loudly enough for the entire office to hear that Yeon-woo asked for special treatment (he didn’t) and is trying to get famous.
Yeon-woo grits his teeth and denies the accusations, but loses his patience when Teacher Song deduces that he’s planning to use his EBC fame to work at academies to make the big bucks. Teacher Song vehemently refuses to switch classes, so Yeon-woo retreats.
Haneul’s bombarded with endless messages and loses it as her to-do list grows. As she tries to organize her hectic day, Sung-soon announces that they’ll have a departmental meeting during third period.
She hesitates to pick up yet another phone call, but it’s not Yi-boon this time. It’s Teacher Song knowingly scheduling a Third Years’ Department meeting to overlap with her College Advisory one, but she doesn’t realize it.
Seeing that everyone’s trying to help Yeon-woo out, Haneul checks her own Friday schedule before rushing off to Teacher Song’s meeting.
The College Advisory Department waits for Haneul to begin, but she doesn’t show. Vice Principal Lee makes his rounds around the school and the team realizes where Haneul is when they find out that the Third Years’ Department is meeting right now.
Haneul finally realizes her mistake when another teacher points out that it’s almost fourth period. She asks to be excused and rushes off, which surprises Teacher Ha. He’d thought that as Teacher Moon’s niece, she’d be on their side.
By the time she makes it back, Haneul’s completely out of breath and only Myung-soo is left in the office. To avoid eavesdroppers, they talk outside and he admits that he feels a bit insulted.
He knows that the first day is busy, but that’s the case for all teachers. Myung-soo kindly lets her off the hook and tells Haneul to explain the situation to Sung-soon later.
Principal Byun holds a department head meeting. He isn’t happy about their college admission rates, and Teacher Song rubs salt into Sung-soon’s wound by announcing that they have the lowest rates amongst nearby private schools.
To be thoroughly prepared this year, Teacher Byun wants the Third Years’ Department to support the College Advisory Department. He stresses that they shouldn’t fight, but there’s no stopping these two.
Teacher Song makes snide comments, and Sung-soon calls him a thug. It’s definitely a common occurrence, since everyone (including the principal) leans back in their seats, knowing that the bickering match will take a while.
Haneul frantically prepares vitamin powders with notes as an apology to the team. She picks up Yi-boon’s call but isn’t listening, rushing to get herself sorted for her first class.
Her students tease her for being drenched in sweat, “Were you working out?” Haneul’s so disoriented that she doesn’t even realize she’s teaching Class 5, her homeroom.
As problems arise one after another, she loses the respect and interest of her students, unable to teach a single thing during the entire period.
The College Advisory crew soften up when they discover Haneul’s apology notes. Yeon-woo sounds bothered by the heart she drew but can’t stop looking at the post-it note, tucking it away in his drawer.
After class, Haneul dejectedly looks at the revised powerpoint that Yi-boon sent, crossing out half the things she’d planned on teaching. She tells Myung-soo she’d like to eat with the team but they had lunch already, so she heads to the cafeteria alone.
Unsurprisingly, the new teachers continue to ignore her. Though she’s prepared to eat alone, she’s joined by Ji-sun who points out that Haneul’s the only one wearing her lanyard. Hah, Haneul removes it at the speed of light when she realizes Ji-sun’s right.
Ji-sun believes that Haneul told the truth about not knowing her uncle worked here. She encourages her to hang on, since this position is hard to come by. Haneul can use this time to prepare for the certification exam.
Haneul believes contract and permanent teachers are the same, but Ji-sun knows better and tells Haneul that she’ll realize what she means later on. While they’re on the topic of her course partner, Ji-sun lets Haneul know that she has no obligation to share her materials.
Haneul works up the courage to apologize to Sung-soon for her mistake this morning. When Myung-soo saunters into the office mid-apology, Sung-soon scolds him for not properly taking care of his seatmate.
Haneul continues that she did lack faith in the school and isn’t knowledgeable on the their systems, but will work harder from now on.
It’s Yeon-woo’s turn to take Haneul outside for a chat. He thanks her for her note offering to switch classes, but can’t agree to it since she’d end up with a killer schedule of 5 classes.
They’re both taken aback when she says that she’s fine with it as the youngest member. Embarrassed, Haneul inwardly wonders why she’d say that, but confirms the switch. As she awkwardly shuffles back inside, Yeon-woo’s left behind to wonder if she’s really the youngest. LOL.
Sung-soon takes a glances at Haneul’s detailed lesson plans and clicks through the revised presentation before Haneul gets back.
Haneul is summoned again but this time, a few students are gathered around Yi-boon’s desk, complimenting her slides and wishing that she taught them instead of Haneul.
Yi-boon wants Haneul to take even more material out, since they have no time and prep schools will cover it. Haneul’s fed up with being ordered around, evenly asking to work together. She firmly voices her own opinions, and Yi-boon can’t lose her temper when they’re being watched by the surrounding teachers.
Suggesting a coffee break, Yi-boon spitefully pushes Haneul’s textbook to the ground as she walks past. When Haneul leaves, Teacher Shim comments in awe that Haneul sure has guts.
Yi-boon calls again and Sung-soon takes the phone from Haneul, hanging up while Yi-boon tries to put Haneul in her place. She hangs up again when Yi-boon calls a second time, to Myung-soo’s concern.
Sung-soon lets Haneul know that as a teacher, she has the authority to teach her lessons her way – nobody else has the right to change it. This advice makes Yeon-woo smile, and Myung-soo warns that Yi-boon has arrived.
She storms in angrily to yell at Haneul, only to do a complete 180 when Sung-soon says, “I answered her phone, but hung up by mistake.”
After she leaves, Sung-soon says that Yi-boon’s not completely wrong. Can Haneul really cover everything within a 50-minute period? It’s hard to make progress if the entire lesson is packed with material.
Haneul distantly says that removing difficult content to make progress or skipping handouts isn’t going to benefit the students – it’s to make the teacher’s life easier.
Sung-soon doesn’t deny this, but advises that working well with your course partner is a skill in and of itself since, like Yi-boon says, “school is also an organization.”
She and Myung-soo take off, leaving Haneul and Yeon-woo alone to work overtime. Haneul gives in and condenses her lesson, absentmindedly shredding her notes while Yeon-woo watches.
He guesses that Yi-boon said to share lesson plans but doesn’t actually do any work, and badmouths her in front of students. She denies it, but is surprised when he shares that he was Yi-boon’s partner last year. “Want my help?” he offers.
Man, that was a stressful first day of school if I’ve ever seen one. It was at times painful to watch, because how Haneul reacted to her surroundings is how most people would react in her situation. Outright bullying is tough for sure, but being ignored and unable to find your place has its own set of challenges. Haneul was fighting a lonely battle, but I’m so happy that her sincerity shone through to affect those around her. Ji-sun, for example, was a nice surprise. She seems to have gone through a lot as a short-term teacher with the amount of emphasis she puts on becoming permanent. I noticed that she doesn’t really engage with the other new hires, hanging back in group settings just like Haneul. Overall, she has a sad aura to her and I’m hoping that the two women work together to build each other up and keep one another company. At least with Ji-sun around, Haneul won’t be as oblivious about her surroundings!
I noticed that Haneul doesn’t actually that speak much during the course of this episode. She listens attentively, follows instructions, and runs around haphazardly, but ultimately is just reacting to her environment. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense since a newly hired teacher would be wary of how she presents herself, especially with the Korean working culture. She uses her judgement to try and figure out what needs to be done (like her taking initiative to sort the recycling, or being willing to have a tougher schedule as the “youngest member”.) It’s that type of instinct that helps one survive in the workplace.
Haneul tried her best to do things the way she knew how, but was shut down every time and told that she was doing it wrong. It must have been so discouraging, especially when she seems like an otherwise very competent person. She really was all over the place when she taught her class, and every mistake made me cringe a little. I understand why the class lost interest in her, but I’m hoping that she’s able to redeem herself and win them over. With how much emphasis is being put on the fact that short-term teachers aren’t ‘real teachers,’ I’d like her naivety to win and prove everyone and the system wrong for once. I hope that she finds the answer to her question and that like Young-ha, she wins over her students with her sincerity and love.
Black Dog is raw and it’s realistic with how the workplace is portrayed. Nobody will be on your side unless you prove yourself. Now that Haneul has the support and help from a handful of people who are willing to stand by her, I am excited to see her become more confident in her abilities. In this upcoming power struggle between Haneul and Yi-boon, I’m hoping that lessons are learned on both sides and that they’re able to salvage and improve their working relationship. I have a feeling that Yi-boon’s not that bad of a person and has just become jaded by the system like many other teachers, though she’ll have a lot to do to make up for how bad her first impression is so far.
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