This was only my second class with the fifteen-year-old – and also the beginning of the end. Both times, Mrs Lim* – who was at least twice my age – had smilingly let me into the house. She seemed earnest and well-meaning. I laughed Stacy’s comment off awkwardly and resumed the lesson.
A few months later, Mrs Lim sent me a text message concerning her daughter’s progress at school. The conversation quickly deviated: how were my other students doing, and how was my day? From then on, she would text me frequently about such mundane things. Because she was a paying customer, I dutifully replied as politely as I could. Young and new to the business, I was unsure of how to respond to such attempts at small talk.
She developed a habit of sending streams of texts, and would call me if I failed to respond immediately. Once, when I was in the gym, I received a call from her, demanding to know why I had not replied her. Slightly winded from the treadmill, I panted when I told her that I was working out.“I’ll talk to you later then,” she said and hung up.
Sure enough, after I was done at the gym, I returned to my mobile phone, only to see a text from her, reading: “Dear, your voice…”
“My voice, what?” I texted back, puzzled.
“Your voice… turns me on,” read her reply. A wave of nausea washed over me. I put my phone aside, trying to process what this meant. Then, I took it back out and struggled to type out a “thank you” before stashing my phone in my bag for the rest of the evening.
“If you don’t hear from me in two hours, call the police”
I desperately tried to make the texts and calls stop. When I lied that my phone was out of battery, she would continue to hound me via Whatsapp. Her persistence only escalated the more I tried to ignore her; she would call me repeatedly after I stopped replying her messages, saying my battery was nearly flat. At this point, I let the phone ring because I didn’t want to pick up.
She called more than 10 times before I received a lengthy text from her. In it, she accused me of trying to deceive her. She said that she knew I was deliberately avoiding her calls and cursed my girlfriend for “taking me away” from her. The relentless harassment pushed me to my breaking point and I cried.
The next day, with a clearer mind, I worked up the courage to tell her off. “I view you solely as my student’s mother,” I wrote. “You should view me solely as your daughter’s teacher.” She replied curtly, saying that she understood.
I dreaded the next lesson with Stacy. “If you don’t hear from me in two hours, call the police,” I said to my girlfriend, only half-joking. It was Stacy who greeted me at the door instead of Mrs Lim. As I followed Stacy to the study area, I caught a glimpse of her mother, hunched up on the couch, eyeing me dourly.
Ignoring her, I focused on my lesson with Stacy. After several minutes, there was a loud thump. Mrs Lim had gotten up off the couch. She stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
“What’s up with your mum?” I asked Stacy, cautiously.
“Don’t know, she’s been in a bad mood these last few days,” Stacy shrugged, disinterested. I took comfort in the knowledge that she remained clueless about her mother’s unbecoming behaviour towards me.
Throughout the subsequent lessons, I tolerated this treatment from Mrs Lim all the way until Stacy’s exams were over. Then, I sent her one final text to say that I would not be returning. I also made a mental note to only text my future students directly, not their mothers.
*Names have been changed.