There are many jobs I’m capable of doing: parole officer, security guard, secretary, and until I was 19, daycare teacher was on that list. As time passed, I realized that I was not cut out for it.
I was placed at Sydney Daycare after my first successful year at Cape Breton University in the Community Studies program. I’d wanted to be a teacher since high school. I wish I knew that it was a terrible idea.
During my time at the daycare, I tried to keep myself busy with work around the building. I would clean the pool, rake rocks and make sure there was nothing in the play area that could hurt the children. I kept busy to avoid being stuck with the kids. In total, that work would keep me occupied for about half an hour, which left me with seven and a half hours with the children.
The first couple of weeks were great: the boys in the program loved having a man around. There weren’t any male employees, they were all women. Fun little fact: about 96% of daycare teachers are females, which meant that I was in the 4%. No problem, I could handle anything, I was a cocky 19 year old. I played sports with the children, had water fights and even had a little parade. I was an instant hit.
I felt like I was a part of their group, just another daycare student. During that work term the women were watching me, and half of their day spent telling me what to do. During our spontaneous drumming and clapping parade, I found myself being too loud when playing with the children. I would often nap longer than the children who were actually supposed to be napping. To this day, when one of the teachers falls asleep during naptime, they call it “Pulling a Madison.”
During this first little while, I loved everything about it: walking, playing basketball and playing with Legos. We did this as a group with the after-school program. I worked with them every day; they were aged 6-12. Great group of children, I really enjoyed being with them from 3:30-5:00 every day.
Once summer vacation started, I knew I was in trouble. The parents still had jobs and needed a program for their children. Luckily for them there was a summer program. Unluckily for me, we had a summer program.
I was taken away from the four year olds, who I had created a bond with. We were best buds: they loved me and I liked them, more than the elementary children anyway. It went from nap times and parades to headaches and skulking. I would have to have thicker skin; these children were getting the best of me. I did some questionable things in retaliation.
The daycare had a very impressive Lego collection The children loved it. That was their favorite pastime. They created some amazing things that I didn’t even know could be made with Legos. One day, after watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for the 20th time, the teacher and I let them play with the Legos. They’d been making things for weeks and adding onto it for the duration of the program.
The children started to get out of hand: they didn’t pick up after themselves; there was lots of talking back and fighting. The original teacher one who had been with them and me all summer, was on vacation vacation for this week. The children saw this as an opportunity to act up. They had been unruly all week., but today one child started to yell at us. I bit my tongue and called the principals of the daycare. They told us to go for a break and that they would handle it.
I went outside for some fresh air. I don’t smoke, but if I have ever needed a cigarette, that was the day. The other teacher might have had a mental breakdown in the break room. We returned. The principals were still handing the situation. So we went to tidy up the play room. This was one of my lowest points working at the daycare, right up there with stepping on a two-year-old who was napping. I went to their Legos and took apart every single one of their creations. Even the other teacher was shocked, but we were both extremely satisfied. The children were shattered.
During my last week there, I was the empty shell of a man. As I sat on a tiny toddler toilet which was a foot off the ground (the children put the employee washroom out of order). I realized that they had broken me. I was the only man there, and I had been defeated by these children. They changed my life direction, made me realize that I was a much better follower than a leader.
These kids also showed that they can change a life in a positive way. I’m thankful that they have done that. I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for them. I wouldn’t be here writing this, that’s for sure. They also showed me how strong daycare teachers are, those men and women, mostly women, they are the unsung heroes of our society.
Madison Joe is currently a student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. Madison Joe hails from Membertou, a Mi'kmaq First Nation in Nova Scotia. He can be found playing his Playstation or roaming the streets of Ottawa completely lost.
For more information on my culture visit these sites: