neighbours observed – Ellen

Ellen is elegant, slim and petite.
She says, ‘I hate it when i hear anyone using the term vertically challenged, so ugly. I may be five foot nothing but i don’t consider myself challenged. Why would anyone think someone else is challenged just because he or she is short? I’m not challenged in any way, i know my worth.’
Five years ago, Ellen resigned her teaching post at the age of forty-five.
‘Couldn’t take it any more,’ she said. ‘There was a time teachers were respected, especially Maths teachers like me, you know how much emphasis we place on Maths and Science here, but the kids have changed. Now they’re in love with the virtual world, their phones and people they’ve never met, and they’re in love with themselves and have become precious, a broken nail is a catastrophe and enough to send them to the emergency room. And of course they were born to text and shop.’
Ellen decided to pack it in when the kids began to mock her in class.
‘They said they couldn’t see the board, i was blocking the view, very rude, and hurtful when you consider my arm fully extended reached only halfway up the board. I can’t imagine what it must be like for other short teachers who aren’t Maths teachers. Maths is a sacred subject in our schools and highly respected, and we’re proud how numerate our young people are. I suppose if i’d been teaching in one of the elite schools it might have been different. It doesn’t matter now, i’ve done with it.’
‘Tell me about the moment you decided to quit,’ i said.
‘The straw that broke the camel’s back?’
‘Yes, more or less.’
‘Went into my best class one morning, a class that up to then had not been rude, not one of them not even once, good kids who were hardworking and keen to get on, and on the board was a big arrow pointing down. I looked down and there on the floor was an upturned beer crate. I walked out, went straight to the principal’s office and tendered my resignation. I had to serve out my notice for three months, the longest three months of my life. The principal never mentioned to the kids i was leaving nor did any of my colleagues blab, the little bar stools didn’t find out until the last day, and then came running to me and said they’d miss me and they were sorry if they’d hurt me, and rubbish like that. At the end of the day i walked out with my head held high…’
‘Good for you.’
‘… and a week later i started working in a bakery, and i’ve never regretted the change. The aromas of fresh bread are job satisfaction in themselves.’
‘You’re not in the bakery full time, are you?’
‘Three days a week, the other days i tutor at home, that’s where the money is, and i have a waiting list of eager kids, and their even more eager parents.’
‘So you don’t miss the classroom then.’
‘Not a bit.’

19 thoughts on “neighbours observed – Ellen

  1. It is a tragedy that the teaching profession is not treated as a profession. If it were, the teachers would garner more respect from students and parents.
    Doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants are not ill-treated. They are professionals.
    In Texas, we don’t pay teachers enough to attract young people eager to have a comfortable lifestyle. We expect some kind of mystical self-sacrifice.
    Our level of education reflects all that. So do our latest election results.

  2. Such a compelling story! I’ve always believed that teachers are not valued enough – they are the ones who spent more time with my child than I did. I am now tutoring middle school children in a class – math, social studies and science. These are the toughest years – hormones raging, growth spurts, unquenchable energy, and talking run amok. I see the lack of respect – not bad in this school (my son went there and I thought the sun rose and set over his teachers) – but it extended even to the medical students I used to teach. Luckily, just for a while, until our selection process changes. Teachers deserve respect and a wage that reflects their value to society.

  3. You have an ability to drag the reader right into the story. I saw this woman clearly. Not sure how I feel about her… but you quickly hooked me and held me until the end.

  4. As always, John, such a distinct pleasure engaging in your words here.

    This takes me back to my elementary and school days. I completed high school forty years ago, Heaven forbid I should even reflect on that passage of time. I recall vividly that even as a teen I felt a strong sense of compassion and empathy for any teacher who was subjected to any such sort of mockery and disrespect. A teacher, who has dedicated their lifelong career to the nurturing and educating of young minds to move forward with their lives in a positive way.

    One teacher in particular, Mrs, Sutton, my English lit teacher in Grade 10 or 11, had severe body deformity and I cannot recall what it was. She was extremely thin in a skeletal sort of way, had a badly disfigured back and difficulty breathing. Her life expectancy was greatly reduced to our own.

    Sadly the kids would mock her verbally (among themselves) but often loud enough that she would hear them. I caught her eye on a number of such instances and she would avert her focus quickly but was visibly hurt. I would wait for an opportune moment out in the hallway to let all concerned know in no uncertain terms how short-sighted and downright rude and harmful they had been to a teacher who loved her work, smiled always and in the most caring, sweet way.

    My words gave them pause for reflection and because the the scolding came from a classmate that kind of nasty behavior would eventually cease but the most important part of the issue was the pain that was surely left for dear Mrs. Sutton to work through. Kids can be cruel out of some false sense of the need to be cool, to fit in with their peers and go along with just about anything just for a cheap laugh at the expense of someone who cannot help the way they are. Warmth thoughts go out to dearest Mrs. Sutton if she is indeed still with us and even if she is not.

    I love your posts, John, for always triggering thoughts of another time, a similar circumstance.

    The power of words….

    • Don
      Thank you sincerely for this splendid reply and for sharing that wonderful story. I admire your intervention, it took real courage and self-confidence.
      Bless you!



      • You’re most welcome John. You know, around that time my mother had dedicated years of her life to assisting handicapped children, a real joy and passion for her. Mom has the kindest, most caring heart of anyone I have ever met, then or since, and much of her personality and perspective has stayed with me and enriched my life in countless ways. When I see someone being unkind to someone who has less I have to share a different perspective (mom forever whispering in my ear I suppose and not a bad thing at that).

        Dearest Mrs. Sutton…we connected even without words and when that happens I never, ever forget.

  5. One (me) wonders if Ellen couldn’t have turned the beer crate incident into something positive by reacting with an insightful sense of humor. She might have gotten most of the students on her side by relating to them in a way that showed she’s human and not just a teaching machine.

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