Day 136 - Susan

Day 136 - Susan (3rd person I approached)
May 16, 2014 - Susan is the fourth child of ten. She was born and raised in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, a small farming town.

“My father and Uncle were wheat farmers. We lived in town but the farm was in another location. We all did our share. I’ve milked cows, helped in the fields. And having six younger siblings, everybody had to help out,” said Susan. 

 

When Susan was eleven years old, her mother was pregnant with her tenth child. Her father had taken a trip to British Columbia (BC), and came home and informed everyone that they were moving.

“Dad gave Mom one years notice. He fell in love with BC, and we were moving,” she said. Susan remembers the excitement she felt.

“I had friends who had come out to the west coast and they would talk about the mountains and the ocean and the sand at the beach. I had never seen any of that before,” says Susan. The family relocated to Chilliwack, in the Fraser Valley, another farming community.

“Living on a farm, working and having so many brothers and sisters, taught me about responsibility. I learned about working hard. I was very focussed on my education. I didn’t have time for much outside of school and helping out, either milking the cows or helping Mom,” said Susan. 

 

After completing Grade 13, which is a prep year for university, Susan went to the University of British Columbia (UBC). She wanted to become a teacher.

“I remember feeling so excited. I felt privileged that I was able to be a student there. I had worked hard and now I was in a really exciting environment. I lived in residence on campus. That was the first time I saw the ocean.” 

 

Susan told me she had known from the age of six that she wanted to be a teacher.

“I remember my older sisters coming home from school, and hearing them talk about it. Looking at their books. The smell of the pencils and the erasers. I remember my first day of school. I wore a red dress that my mother had bought me. I sat outside on the curb waiting for Mom to take me to school,” she recalled. After completing the one year of teacher training at UBC, combined with her Grade 13 year, Susan got her first job in Oliver, BC.

“It was exciting and so much more difficult than I thought it would be. I taught Grade three. I always wanted to teach younger kids. There were 32 little ones, a lot of them from Portugal and their English wasn’t so good. I was new, and really didn’t know very much about teaching,” she said. 

 

After that first year of teaching, Susan returned to UBC and completed her degree in Education.

“I started working in a children’s hospital. We had a classroom set up and I would teach the children who were hospitalized. It was tough emotionally, and also very rewarding,” said Susan.

“I spent a lot of time working with the families of the sick children. That was the hardest part. Counselling the families. I decided to go back to school and get my Masters degree. I worked at the hospital, went to school part time evenings and weekends. By this time I had been married, had two children. We got divorced and I was now a single parent.” I couldn’t help but tell Susan how much I admired her, and how challenging that must have been to do so many things.

“Yes, I’m not really sure how I got through it all, but I definitely had a lot of help and support.” Her Masters was in Counselling Psychology.

“It was all that time I spent working with the children and the families in the hospital setting. I was there 12 years and became very interested in the counselling aspect of the role,” she said.

 

Susan continued teaching until she retired a few years ago.

“I was a resource teacher for a couple of years. That was probably my least favourite teaching job. I would go into different schools and help with groups of a children. I only had the students for 40 minutes, and then it would be a new group. There wasn’t time to form connections or relationships,” she said.

“Now I’m retired. I have two grandchildren and I love spending time with them. Well, I'm almost retired. I’m just not ready to completely stop teaching. I’ve kept my teaching license, and I’m on a roster where I can call in and say I want to work so many days. I usually get called about two or three days a month. I’m teaching high school now. I'm really enjoying it. Watching the development of teenage minds is amazing. They are so respectful and they want to learn. I love it,” she says with passion in her voice. 

 

We chat a bit more about a few others things. Social media and it’s apparent creation of widespread disconnection amongst people. Everyone looking down at their phones and not talking to the people around them. I thank Susan for her time, and I then take her picture. As I thank her again, she says to me

“Oh. One more thing I'd like to say. My mother is still with us. She’s 90 years old now. She still lives in Chilliwack, in a lovely care home. She is a delight. 26 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren!” #notastranger