WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL
The students in the 2nd Year, Room 2 at Victory High School are known for being the most undisciplined and their poor grades. Jung In Jae (Jang Na Ra), a sweet caring language and literature teacher, is assigned as their homeroom teacher.
Unable to get their grades up and keep them in line, the principal decides to assign another teacher to the unruly class. Kang Se Chan (Choi Daniel), a renowned after-school teacher with a proven method to help kids get the scores needed in order to get into college. Unfortunately, Kang Teacher and Jung Teacher do not see eye to eye on how to oversee this class.
With every generation of kids that go through high school, they have their own stories, trends and their own brand of struggles. Sometimes I find myself becoming more disinterested in trendy high school dramas because the older I get I am finding that the gap is making me relate less to the story. However, this drama touches on a lot of realistic issues that makes the drama more poignant than trendy.
Go Nam Soon’s (Lee Jong Suk) and Park Heung Soo’s (Kim Woo Bin) fragment of a relationship was a hard obstacle for the two to overcome. I love that it grows from a fiercely resentful one to the playful bromance that it ends up being.
I even enjoyed how the duo becomes a quintet later on despite their initial reluctance to let Oh Jung Ho and his crew in.
Though Nam Soon’s and Heung Soo’s discord feel like it goes on for a very long time in the drama. They save each other over and over again and serve detention together again and again. I wouldn’t have minded it as much if their story was tucked into the background for a time while we explored the stories of the other students but it was so prevalent in the drama that it lessened the impact of the story after some time.
Kim Bo Kyung – 혼자라고 생각말기 (Don’t Think That You’re All Alone)
I felt the opposite when it came to Oh Jun Ho (Kwak Jung Wook) though. From an angry teen, I thought it was important to see his every day struggle. There were the ups and the downs to just the mediocre days.
I so wanted things to end happily for him but I was completely satisfied with his ending and enjoyed how he portrayed his character. It was such a realistic journey as there are many kids who don’t get to dream as their life just gets in the way. It looks endearing when the underdog is able to overcome it all but that doesn’t always happen.
Even without those challenges, the other kids have their own difficulties. I found each of the stories compelling and frustrating (in a good way). There was Kim Min Ki (Choi Chang Yeob), the good student with an overbearing mother which causes him to contemplate suicide.
Or Song Ha Kyung (Park Se Young) whose relationship with her best friend Lee Kang Joo (Hyo Young) was marred by her jealousy over grades. Or Gye Na Ri (Jun Soo Jin) the disinterested teen who gets jealous when her best friend Shin Hye Sun (Jung Yeon Joo) ignores her when she gets a new smartphone.
Or there was Gil Eun Hye (Gil Eun Hye) who is quick to accuse and selfishly only thinks of her own success rather than what’s fair. Sure, some of these stories sound trivial but that’s what teens deal with daily.
Even all the teacher had their own distinct personalities. There’s the ever patient gym teacher and the stern Uhm-force but there’s also the Vice Principal who lacks a backbone whenever the Principal is around. Though she always comes off as a numbers person, I didn’t always view Principal Im as the enemy. The drama barely touched on the subject but she’s got her own difficulties as she’s got to answer to the school board and the parents or else the school will be unable to keep the funding coming in.
Kang Teacher learned what it meant to be a caring teacher while Jung Teacher learned that going to the ends of the earth for one student may mean neglecting her other students. Despite their disagreements, both teachers were able to learn from each other and respect each other.
The most compelling story for me was when they discover a cheating scandal after a midterm test is stolen and answers are handed out. Because of the kids’ indifference, it drives Jung Teacher to shed her nice image and hit the students with her hand. We might all have different opinions on corporal punishment in the classroom but it pained me that she was trying so hard to teach the value of right and wrong only to be so readily dismissed. The punishment clearly hurt her more than it did the students.
The drama has a lot of characters but it doesn’t feel overwhelming exploring all their lives. It’s a well-rounded drama with a lot of heart. While not everyone gets the happy ending, it feels like a more honest teen drama that I’ve seen in a while.