Black Dog: Episode 12
As the school year wraps up, there’s a lot at stake for both our students and short-term teachers. Camaraderie is built and relationships are mended before they each head down their own separate paths.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Haneul urges Teacher Moon to be as fair as possible when making the hiring decision. She entrusts him with preventing anyone who’s relying on nepotism from successfully making it. The next day, Administrator Yoo heads into his office and Teacher Moon contemplates the sign on his door which reads, Seoul Strives for Integrity in Education.
On the day of the CSAT, Myung-soo picks Haneul up with Yeon-woo and Hae-won in tow. Haneul has prepared some snacks, and everyone’s in a great mood. It’s mentioned that Yoo-ra and Jae-hyun will take their exams at the same school, and Yeon-woo muses that those who struggle together form deep bonds.
The guys give Haneul some pointers since it’s her first time proctoring the CSAT. Students could file civil complaints for: loud footsteps, strong perfume, and other students coughing. Yeon-woo worries that the change in pencil will spark an onslaught of problems and Haneul deadpans that South Korea must be a land of civil complaints.
Myung-soo teases her, stating seriously that if she gets sued, she’ll have to go to court all alone and stand trial. Yeon-woo morbidly adds, “You’re alone in life anyways. You’re born alone and die alone,” effectively scaring Haneul, who hopes that nothing will happen to her today, haha. The testing goes well, with the exception of a few broken pencils that makes Haneul resent the switch.
After a morning of exams, Yoo-ra gains some newfound motivation from reading Haneul’s encouraging letter. She notices that her peers are enjoying lunch with their friends, so when she catches Jae-hyun walking past her classroom, she invites him to eat with her.
The teachers at Daechi High wrap up a busy day of exam supervision. Teacher Moon’s gaze lingers on Sung-soon, recalling that the department heads’ opinions are going to be important when hiring this year. Sung-soon’s happy to be invited to dinner by Teacher Yoon, but her face falls to see Teacher Moon at the restaurant waiting for them.
Sung-soon recalls her previous conversation with Teacher Yoon about Hae-won, where she’d learned that although he’d made a mistake, there really was something shady about the short-term teacher hiring process.
Teacher Moon eases into the topic by noting that the hiring process should be fair. He agrees that there is a teacher that they shouldn’t hire, and Sung-soon somewhat accusingly asks if it’s someone who started a rumor. Teacher Yoon gives him an encouraging nod to continue, so he shares that a short-term teacher got hired through nepotism.
Teacher Jang’s waiting at a café, annoyed that the other short-term teachers left their group chat. Her uncle joins her to discuss the upcoming open recruitment process. Administrator Yoo had overheard the principal saying that Daechi High will select 15 teachers in the first round, which will be a fairly simple essay-based written exam.
When she makes it to the second round, Administrator Yoo can use his influence to seal the deal. He informs her that she needs to pass no matter what, because the Office of Education is stepping in next year to refer teachers instead of letting the school control the hiring.
Teacher Moon continues that they can’t let a teacher like that get hired, since it’ll reflect poorly on the school. He urges Sung-soon to put her personal feelings aside. She concedes, and immediately shares her plan: they’ll request to revise the written exam for the first round.
When Haneul gets dropped off at home, she and Hae-won bid farewell and share a moment. They each seemingly realize that from today on, they’ll be competing for the same position.
At school the next day, Myung-soo finds it odd that Sung-soon met up with Teacher Moon when they’re not on good terms, wondering what prompted her to get involved in school politics. Yeon-woo’s sure that it must be important, quoting Sung-soon’s mantra,“A teacher should be more interested in teaching students than in politics.”
Myung-soo firmly believes that Sung-soon will be on Team Haneul if it comes down to choosing between her and Hae-won. After all, Haneul’s been trained to become the second Sung-soon.
The department heads gather and Teacher Han notices that Sung-soon arrived with Teacher Moon. They enter the meeting room to find the chairman chatting with Administrator Yoo. There’s some underlying tension as Principal Byun gruffly announces that they’re holding a meeting, and Administrator Yoo sees himself out.
During the meeting, Teacher Moon proposes Sung-soon’s idea of lowering the amount of teachers passing round one from 15 to just 5. Additionally, they want to change the format to a mix of CSAT and certification-style questions. Sung-soon jumps in to explain that creating a more difficult exam will ensure the skills of the teacher they hire, since it’ll be easier to gauge their abilities.
Even Teacher Cha chimes in to say that the reason they’re entrusting their hiring to the Office of Education next year is to fairly hire someone skilled. The chairman isn’t fully convinced, wanting to sit on it. Teacher Yoon appeals with nostalgia, gently reminding him that they worked hard together to get the school to where it’s at now.
She openly supports the teachers, good-naturedly chuckling that they should definitely try it if this method will bring the best teachers to their school. Her words sway the chairman, and he allows the revision.
After the meeting, Teacher Song pulls Teacher Han aside to say that Haneul would be the top candidate for the Korean position. She thinks it’ll be difficult since there’s Hae-won, and he wonders who they should root for.
Teacher Han shrugs that they aren’t in control anyways – Teacher Moon and Sung-soon are. One’s set to become the vice principal, and the other worked closely with both teachers in question. That being said, Haneul will still need to do well in order to be backed. Teacher Han thinks this revision is good – it’ll prevent them from getting audited.
The teacher certification exam took place a week after the CSAT, and the Daechi High written exam was held a week after that. Hae-won and Haneul both work hard and make it past the first rounds of both exams.
At the news that the Hankuk University results are up, Jae-hyun leads Yoo-ra to the office with their classmates following behind. Principal Byun also gathers around with other teachers – in this moment, everyone’s united as they nervously hope for their two medical school prospects to succeed. Taking a collective deep breath, they prepare themselves for Jae-hyun’s results.
They all scream in excitement, and Jae-hyun’s unable to hold back his tears as they celebrate his acceptance. Yay! They calm themselves down for Yoo-ra’s, giddy at the thought of sending two students to such a prestigious school. Unfortunately, she doesn’t make it.
Yoo-ra slaps on a smile and pretends she’s okay, but when she leaves the office, she trails behind her classmates and allows herself to cry. Jae-hyun hangs back, staying with her as she sobs.
Haneul narrates that the kids were fighting a fierce battle in the land of college applications, but the teachers were also working hard. Haneul studies at a café where Yoo-ra works, and is given a drink and snack on the house to cheer her on.
Myung-soo starts a conversation with Yeon-woo while doing his business in the restroom, to Yeon-woo’s disgust. Hah. The second round of exams is being held, and all Korean teachers must be in attendance to evaluate the candidates.
He asks Yeon-woo if he was nervous when he took the exam four years ago. In typical Yeon-woo fashion, he says he was unaffected which gets Myung-soo to groan, “Enough with your narcissism!” Although Myung-soo is still confident that Sung-soon will support Haneul, Yeon-woo isn’t so sure.
Haneul is deeply focused on work despite her interview drawing near. Myung-soo reminds her to head downstairs and she realizes that he’s aware that she’s applying for the permanent position. He wishes his dearest junior alumna good luck, but she says that her chances of making it aren’t very high. Still, she promises to do her best.
Haneul joins the group of applicants and one of them notices that Hae-won and Haneul are wearing indoor slippers, accurately guessing that they’re both short-term teachers here. She wonders if the school already has someone in mind.
They face a panel of Korean teachers and Sung-soon is reminded of the time she found Haneul alone in her classroom with her fists clenched at the beginning of the year. Each teacher will have twenty minutes to prepare a lesson plan, and ten minutes to teach. They’ll proceed to do a group interview once all mock lessons are completed.
Haneul and Hae-won both do a great job; their lessons are easy to follow and both are taught in their own styles. Aw, Yi-boon practically shoots heart eyes at Haneul, proudly smiling as she watches her teach. The interview goes off without a hitch and Principal Byun asks one final question: “Why do you want to be a teacher?”
Haneul answers, “Because the kids are adorable.” She thinks about them even when she’s not at work, and it makes her want to stay at the school. Her answer resonates with Hae-won, who smiles as he listens.
He shares that he used to cause a lot of trouble back in high school, but is here because of his kind homeroom teacher from back when he was a second-year student. Hae-won doesn’t look directly at him, but this impactful teacher seems to be Teacher Moon.
Before the interview ends, Sung-soon wants to know their thoughts on an advanced club for top students. Hae-won believes it’s inevitable for a school located in Gangnam to pay special attention to top students. While it is unfair, the school needs to survive first by increasing their acceptance rate, so they can’t be blamed for starting the club.
Unsurprisingly, Hae-won and Haneul are the top applicants, with Hae-won beating her by a mere 0.2 points. Hae-won scored the highest on the written exam, while Hae-won did better on the mock lesson and interview. When Sung-soon is asked for her opinion, she says that objectively, Haneul should be hired for her higher written exam results.
However, she personally advocates for Hae-won, who’d survived six years at their school and whose effort they can’t ignore. Yeon-woo disagrees – if they’re audited, the most objective part of this process is the written exam. Yi-boon nods along as he says it’s unfair for them to not pick the teacher who scored the highest.
The higher-ups address Teacher Moon, who shares, “I struggled with whether or not to tell you this. It’s about the rumor regarding Haneul and I,” causing everyone to shift uncomfortably.
Haneul helps Young-sook out at the restaurant. She sighs that she failed to pass the teacher certification exam by 0.5 points, but Young-sook is proud of her for making it that close to the cut-off. Haneul’s disheartened that Teacher Jang will get a permanent position, while she will probably fail.
Young-sook yells at her to snap out of her funk and think about the kids, commenting sarcastically that they’d be thrilled to hear their teacher giving up on them. This strikes a nerve with Haneul who storms out without a word.
Young-sook chases after her with a box of kimchi, but Haneul doesn’t turn around despite her name being called. When she does turn, it’s because she heard a crash – a scooter knocked Young-sook down.
When everyone heads home, Teacher Yoon compliments Teacher Moon for being mature earlier. He’d addressed the rumors head on, denying involvement with the hiring of short-term teachers. He vows to keep it the same way this time around, and votes for Hae-won whom he believes is the most skilled for this position.
Hae-won’s capable, experienced, and can hit the ground running. Yeon-woo objects again, bringing up the written exam. It’d be fine if Hae-won placed second, but his score was the lowest amongst the five candidates. If audited, it’d pose as a problem because Haneul placed first.
Teacher Yoon comments that Teacher Moon did a great job for not revealing that Hae-won spread the rumors. Teacher Moon admits that he suddenly understood why Hae-won acted the way he did, knowing that someone really did get in through nepotism.
On graduation day, Myung-soo gossips that Teacher Jang didn’t make it past the first round and thus, didn’t get the job. Teacher Yoon’s invited on stage to say a few parting words before retirement. She shares that time has flown since she first started teaching at 29 years old, joking that if she knew time would pass so quickly, she’d have fought less with Principal Byun.
She sometimes wonders if she was a good teacher or not. She thought she’d be able to define what constitutes as a good teacher by the time she retires but deadpans, “Darn it, I have no clue.”
Thanking her students and colleagues, she reassures them that she’s going to be fine and feels liberated. She’s met with a standing ovation from teachers, and it’s clear that she’s loved by everyone.
She enjoys tea with the principal one last time before leaving. He’s obviously sad to see his friend go, reminiscing that back in the day, she had as much of a temper as Sung-soon does. She leaves him with the advice to be friendlier to get his juniors to like him. “I’m sure it hurts you more than anyone. Didn’t you know how lonely it’d be up there?” He didn’t. Despite not being a principal, Teacher Yoon was at peace and enjoyed her time here.
The advisors return to work and Yeon-woo gives an update on Yoo-ra. She didn’t get accepted anywhere for early acceptance, so she’ll apply to Hankuk University again during regular admissions.
The permanent teachers will be announced today; Myung-soo’s still sure that Sung-soon nominated Haneul, but Yeon-woo breaks it to him that she voted for Hae-won. Sung-soon maintains that she only looked at skill, and Myung-soo can feel the tension when Yeon-woo curtly brings up the written exam scores again.
Haneul visits Young-sook at the hospital, who tells her to get her act together. She’s still impressed that Haneul came so close to passing the certification exam, and asks if she’s happy at that school. Haneul beams that she is, and Young-sook quickly ushers her to head back to school when she notices a young man approaching.
Vice Principal Lee shares the permanent teacher results with Teacher Moon. The foundation board members had to get involved to make the final decision. We don’t hear what that decision is, but Teacher Moon beelines for Hae-won.
Hae-won’s desk is already empty – he’s just left the building. Teacher Moon spots a pair of slippers on the floor and grabs them, frantically running outside and calling Hae-won, who has flagged a taxi and takes one last look at the school.
Teacher Moon chases after the taxi, though he is unable to catch up. He thinks back to when Hae-won was a student, and they’d both been so happy that Hae-won was accepted into a good program for education.
He snaps back to the present when he hears Hae-won calling him from a distance – he’d noticed Teacher Moon after all! Emotionally, he calls out, “Hae-won!” and I’m in tears because he usually refers to him as Teacher Ji Hae-won. Teacher Moon sounds so innocent and relieved as he runs towards his former student.
Teacher Moon apologizes and tells Hae-won to at least get into another school. He’s genuinely happy to hear that Hae-won applied to other schools just in case, and sends him well wishes. Hae-won reveals that the slippers Teacher Moon has been waving around aren’t his, haha. His voice breaks as he asks for a hug, “These past six years have been extremely difficult,” tears falling as he’s comforted by Teacher Moon.
Haneul sends her class off, with Yoo-ra crying that she’ll definitely come back and visit. Jae-hyun echoes that sentiment, which brings up the mood of the entire class. Haneul waves goodbye and as she watches them leave, realizes that they’ve really grown up.
She looks back at the school and narrates that it’s strange how this very moment, when her students left and called her “teacher”, is the moment she became a true teacher. She has decided that the society’s views on permanent and short-term teachers are no longer able to control her. We pan over to her open laptop and are finally privy to the results of the open recruitment: “The Korean Department will not be hiring anyone.”
I…definitely did not see that coming. They couldn’t choose between two great candidates, so they just decided not to hire anybody? Perhaps I’m just too emotionally invested in this and am failing to see the logical answer, but I don’t see how this benefits anyone. I am positive that wherever life takes Haneul and Hae-won though, they’ll be able to excel in their respective workplaces. They’ve each displayed a high level of tenacity and camaraderie. They won’t give up easily, but they also support each other and won’t do anything to tear the other down. How many ~looks~ did they give each other this episode? They don’t talk much, but like Yeon-woo mentioned, people who struggle together form deeper bonds.
There were so many great moments in this hour. One of my favorites was seeing all the teachers and students gathered around the College Advisory office, nervously awaiting good news. In that moment, there was no rivalry nor ill feelings. Just pure joy for Jae-hyun, who’d worked so hard to get accepted. Poor Yoo-ra is a prime example of effort not always guaranteeing good results. I have my fingers crossed for her! She’s done so much growing up along with Jae-hyun, turning their relationship from petty rivalry to genuine support for one another.
It’s undisputable that the backbone of this school is actually Teacher Yoon. Time and time again, she demonstrates kindness and love. It’s no wonder everybody holds her in high regard! She once mentioned that she’d be afraid of everyone forgetting who she is, but I don’t think that’s something she has to worry about. She’s a valuable member of the school whose opinion can sway even the chairman. Teachers are constantly looking to her for advice, trusting that she will know what’s best.
I think her strongest point is that she’s just naturally very observative and in tune with how others are feeling. It’s how Teacher Yoon was able to win over Admissions Officer Song so quickly. She was extremely welcoming to Haneul back when she was struggling to fit into the school, and Principal Byun seems to rely on her a lot too. She may not know the exact definition of a “good teacher,” but she 100% is one. Daechi High will definitely miss her. Haneul is probably going to make her way back to this school one way or another. Myung-soo always says that Haneul’s gearing up to be the second Park Sung-soon, but I think that she’s more similar to Teacher Yoon and will become as irreplaceable as she was to the rest of the school.
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