Casey with two young Korean students

Korean kids nickname just about every teacher. Like most nicknames, they just pop up. Maybe your nose is big, your hair is yellow, or you talk with a stutter. In Korea, as a sign of respect, instead of calling you Mr./Mrs./Ms. Smith, they call you Smith Sun-sang-nim, which means "Smith Teacher."

Students know my friends as "Robot Teacher," "Monster Teacher," and "Catfish Teacher." I've been "Monkey Teacher," "Old Man Teacher" and "Wayne Rooney Teacher." Why? Because I'm hairy, have big ears, and am old and sort of look like the Manchester United forward—that's a soccer/football player for all you ‘Mericans.

So the other day I walked in on my teacher friends' conversation.

GEM: They call me "Princess Teacher."

MARY: Oh, you're so lucky! They call me "Witch Teacher"! They think I'm so old and mean. I'm the manager here. I have to be mean!

KC: Hey guys, what do they call me? (They look at each other in fear.) Seriously, I can take it. The kids at my old school used to pretend to call the zoo because they thought I was an escaped-gorilla. (More awkward glances.) Come on! It can't be that bad…

GEM: Um, they call you Gay Sun-sang-nim…

KC: No! Really? (I shouted then looked around and saw some terrified head nods.) Really? "Gay Teacher"? How many effing times do I got to say it??! I'm not fucking gay! I never have been! I have plenty of gay friends, both boys and girls, but I'm not gay. I support anybody's right to bang whoever they want, but I like girls. I always have. Well, not in elementary school, but girls rule! What the hell is it about me that everybody thinks is so gay? My eyelashes? My constant use of ChapStick? Being really friendly with my friends and my mom? What is so fucking gay about me?

GEM: Um, they call you Gay Sun-sang-nim because it's Korean for something else.

KC: Oh yeah, what? What does fucking "gay" in Korean mean? Homosexual?

GEM: It means mutt, like a dog.

KC: Um. Okay. That's not what I expected. Why do they call me "Dog Teacher"?

GEM: Because you're really hairy and yell a lot.

KC: That makes perfect sense. Does anybody want anything from outside? I'm going to take a walk and hope you guys forget this ever happened.

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