As I said in my previous post I lived in Ottawa for a year while I completed my schooling. Ottawa is the capital of Canada and you all probably have seen it in the news lately. It’s a really neat city. It was hard to get used to it being completely flat. Here on the West Coast we are surrounded by mountains.” The Rideau River drains an area of over 4,000 square kilometres of Eastern Ontario. The main stem of the river flows in a northerly direction from Upper Rideau Lake near Newboro to the City of Ottawa where it tumbles over Rideau Falls into the Ottawa River”. (Taken from Wikipedia) The river runs through many parts of Ottawa. I originally stayed with David Anderson he was a MP in my city and his wife and they lived in the higher end of Ottawa. I had to take the bus to school so everyday I got to walk through downtown Ottawa. It’s a beautiful city.
Being from Ireland and then Victoria I was not used to the winters. That was like a culture shock I had to budget from my student loan for winter clothing a heavy jacket and boots. My first practicum I loved it so much it was nearby where I lived. It was a French /English daycare but mostly French. All the educators spoke French and a lot of the children did as well. I didn’t speak French but I loved the children and almost all the children spoke both languages. I Remember this little French boy as I struggled to do circle time. He came up to me he was four and told me that he would help me speak French. I spoke English and he translated it into French. That totally blew me away. I fit in there so well and I was like a sub for them because I had worked in the field before. I did extremely well in my practicum and was sad to say goodbye to them.
My second practicum was at the college but nobody wanted to work there because it was known as the fish bowl because the Daycare was surrounded by observation rooms for students to observe. I loved it because like I told people if your doing your job who do you care who is watching you. I got to do a pilot project. I loved it because I got to use a lot of communication skills. One day the staff sent me out with this ice picking tool to clear the paths so the kids could ride their bikes. I headed out no idea how to use this tool let alone seem one. A staff member came and laughed at me and showed me how to chip at the ice. It was amazing. From then on I was teased by them for haying no idea how to chip ice. Again I did exceptionally well and passed with flying colors.
One of the teachers I got on well with her she told me that she wanted to send me to a Head start program and that I may feel like I wanted to quit but I needed to come and talk to her. It would be hard and difficult but she had worked there before teaching. I remember the Preschool was right in the middle of a whole bunch of homes that all looked the same. I walked through having no idea what a Head Start program was. It’s a program for low income families where they promote cognitive, social and emotional development.
Before the program started we went around the neighbourhood with a bus and picked up each child. I was told to sit beside a certain child and I had to make sure all the children stayed seated while the bus was moving. Not one adult I saw just kids waiting outside their doors for the bus. The child I had to sit beside was super physical and tried to bite me many times and kick me. The child sat as close to the window as he could. I spoke quietly to him but he totally ignored me. He tired many times to Jump over me to get out of his seat. It was just me and the bus driver. The children all came into the Preschool and I will never forget what I saw. They had a breakfast program and some of those children ate the whole entire time of preschool. Apparently that was the last meal they had was when they came the previous day. The children had no idea how to play they would go into housekeeping and with their arm clear out all the shelves and dump everything on the ground. Outside they would try and kick me and bite if I got too close to them. At the end of Preschool we dropped them back off at home again not a soul to greet them. I left the Preschool weeping. It effected me so much.
I went back to my teacher and told her that I couldn’t work there it was too much and how could I make a difference. I never forgot what she said to me. Sarah the time you are at the Preschool you make it the best time for those children. You can’t control what happens when they leave there but you can control the time they come. That’s your time. I went the next day picked up all the children and came back to Preschool. I went into the housekeeping corner and I set up a bunch of dishes on the table with food and cups and tea and I sat there and offered the children to come and join me. Not one person came so I put teddy bears and dolls in the chairs and always left one open. Every day for a week I set up the same thing. The children watched from afar. On the Friday a boy came and joined me for my pretend tea party. From then on I set it up and the children came themselves and sat and had pretend tea parties. My heart soared. I am smiling now as I remember that. The children softened as they began to trust me. They just needed someone to be there for them. They had no idea how to play so I was modelling that to them. Apparently many of them hid in their homes while their families fought with each other. Hunger was huge and good was so important to them. This reminded me where I had come from and how little I trusted adults. They just needed time and patience and love. They needed someone who would love them just where they were. No expectations and praise they loved that and I noticed the more I praised them the more they did what they needed to do. I often had a bunch of them surrounding me.
I have never forgotten what Kathy told me about making the space for the children to be the best it can be for them. I was so sad when my practicum ended and the children cried when I left and the staff told me if I ever wanted a job there they would love to have me. I made a difference that’s all that matters in anything we do. I know my experience at the Head Start Preschool shaped me into the educator I am today. For that I’m eternally grateful. ❤️