08 March 2024

K Drama Review: Black Dog: Being a Teacher (2019) 4.8 || 4.5

This won't be a detailed review because I don't have notes for this drama. This was something my sister (who will now be known as Noona's Unnie) was watching that curious-me ended up watching with her. I'm sure I missed a couple parts, especially in the beginning. But my sister and I loved it. As teachers, we found so many things we can relate to in this drama. 


Black Dog: Being a Teacher tells the story of Ms. Go Ha Neul (Seo Hyun Jin of Record of Youth), a temporary teacher working at Daechi High School. Ms. Go teaches Korean and is assigned to the College Advisory Department. We see Ms. Go's struggles as a new teacher - learning to love different kinds of students, standing her ground against inflexible veteran teachers, advancing in her career especially in getting a permanent position, etc. The story takes us through how Ms. Go rises above the adversities she had to face, with the help of caring colleagues and friends who supported her along the way. 


One thing I loved most about this show was how it had really, really great actors. Yes, they were all perfect for their roles. It's my first Seo Hyun Jin drama and she did really well as the initially shy and confused new teacher who worked her way to being a feisty and passionate one that everyone respected. 

And of course, we have Ms. Go's College Advisory Department to back her up. The head Ms. Park Sung Soon (Ra Mi Ran of Reply 1988 and The Last Princess) who would do everything in her power to protect the students and her team. Ms. Go's elementary school senior, Mr. Bae (Lee Chang Hoon of 1987: When the Day Comes, Money Heist Korea: Joint Economic Area 1 and 2, Record of Youth, One Spring Night, Sky Castle, and Something in the Rain) who was the team's jolly, good fellow. And the quiet and contemplative and very handsome Mr. Do (Ha Jun). I loved all of them and I really wanted all of them to be together forever because they made such a good team. 

What made the casting great was that the nice characters were really likable. While the not-so-nice ones were often annoying like Ms. Go's partner tormentor-turned-BFF Ms. Kim (Jo Yeon Hee of Miracle: Letters to the President) and the Year 3 Department Head Mr. Song (Park Ji Hwan of Our Blues, Gyeongseong Creature, and 1987: When the Day Comes), among others. 


I'm sure a lot of people would find this drama relatable because most of us have been students. We've all had good and bad memories of school and this drama would definitely make you reminisce. The terror teacher. The cute teacher. The pushover teacher. The greedy classmates. The classmates who don't care. 

I also liked how this show highlighted the highs and lows of school life. That exhilarating feeling when the top students made it to the top universities. I couldn't breathe as the entire faculty room waited to see if they got a student admitted to the country's top medical school. And that sad, sad feeling when one of the top students doesn't make it to her dream school. Or when students struggle either academically or financially, or even both. 

And teachers. How teaching is probably one of the most noble professions out there. It's a known fact that most teachers are underpaid. Yet they have to do a lot of work even outside school. And this show perfectly captures how demanding teaching is as a profession. You need to shine in order to advance. So on top of teaching, you need to handle a lot of admin work if you want to be promoted. And unfortunately, some teachers think that actual teaching can take a backseat. Then you have to be there for your students, who depending on their grade level, would sometimes need more than academic guidance. Being your student's confidante in life is such a huge responsibility that people often take for granted. Take Ms. Park's case where her student resented her for not going to him at the police station when in fact, she was in a hospital taking care of her sick son. Being a teacher is definitely more than teaching and you need to have both the brain and the heart for it for you to thrive. As Ms. Go asked Ms. Park, you sometimes need to learn how to draw the line about how far you should go in caring for your students. 

I appreciated how this drama tried to touch on the problems that the school system faces. One of the toughest things about working in educational institutions is having to deal with school politics - with the higher ups, among your colleagues and in your own little departments, among the parents, and of course, among your students. With all the work teachers have to juggle, it's really annoying to see them waste their time, energy, and effort fighting against the problematic system. 

And how wrong you are if you think that because it's a school - everything will be merit-based. It's tough when that is not the case, especially when corruption and nepotism are involved. How some teachers have to struggle for a long time like Mr. Ji (Yoo Min Kyu) who never became permanent despite being an alumnus of Daechi and a temp teacher for 6 years. 

If you watch K dramas, you know how competitive the educational system is. And it's bad when schools have no choice but to set aside innovations and creativity so that they can compete with the best. It was sad to see how natural sciences and liberal arts were pitted against each other when both deserve support. And of course, that trend to help the best students to the detriment of the average ones. And how parents think they can push schools around to give in to their demands. *sigh* If only schools can be as inclusive as Ms. Park and Ms. Go aspire for. 

The show ended on a somewhat melancholic note. Ms. Park went on leave. Ms. Go had to move to another school (although I assume this should be a happy part because the show seemed to imply that she was admitted to a public school, which is tougher to get into). Ms. Go's friend (Lee Hang Na of Vincenzo) moved without telling her beforehand. 

And while it was sad, I appreciated how the drama bravely showed us real life. Teachers don't always stay in the same subject, department, school, etc. Students (and friends) come and go. We just all need to learn how to go with the flow and be happy wherever we may be. 

Noona says...4.8. 

Noona's Unnie says...4.5.