Don't Care for Daycares

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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. 

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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:

 

Membertou 

Membertou Heritage Park

Idle No More

 

 

Culture Night

On November 4th, I went down to the Wabano Centre for Aboriginals. Every Monday night they have a culture night for Ottawa's Aboriginals. I took advantage of this and went down to talk to people, and to sit in on some activities. I sat with a mother and daughter; the mother was old and had been in an accident which had left her disabled. The daughter had been taking care of the mother since the accident. She had told me that she is her mother and that she wouldn’t leave her, it was her mother who had taught her that you need to help people in need. They go to Culture Night every chance that they get to go out to talk and catch up with old friends. The free meal was a nice little cherry on top.

Mi'kmaq Honour Song

 During the dinner, there was an astounding sense of community in the room. It reminded me of the community meals that I would attend on my reserve, Membertou. All got together, gave thanks to the creator, and ate.

After the dinner the large group broke up. The room was full; I was later told that this was the smallest crowd in months. The crowds were broken up into the usual settings. The top floor had elder teachings and crafts. The crafts made were beautiful, ranging from headdresses to beading key chains.

The men’s drum group there had been getting together every Monday to practice and just to have a good time. The group’s name was O-Town Boys, a name that they had been stuck with. I was told that the wanted it to be temporary but it just stuck.  They gathered into the backroom of the building and took their seats around the moose hide drum made.

When they started, the beat of the drum seemed to be in sync with a heartbeat. The singing was as if it was being sung by twenty men, but there were only four. When asked if I wanted to join, I didn’t want another disaster like the tipi one to happen, I declined, because I haven’t drummed before.

But they were ready to accept that and let me join in anyway. To join this drum group with no experience whatsoever. It was a great feeling, but maybe when my Monday evenings empty, I’ll join. 

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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.  

Here are some links for you ladies and gents: 

 

Membertou Heritage Park

Idle No More

Eastern Eagle Mi'kmaq Drum Group

My Best Laid Plans

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I recently decided to learn more my culture and sat down with many people, but so far the best sit downs happened on the set of "The Best Laid Plans." A classmate had told me about an opportunity for full Aboriginals to be extras in the CBC mini-series.

I did it for two reasons: I’m broke and that I would be in a room full of Natives that would be able to speak to me about their culture, win-win. When I arrived, it was fairly early. I had a call time of 8:15 a.m. When I arrived, there were only three of us. It was a fun thing to be a part of. I’ve never been on set of a TV show, let alone be in one.

I was told that I was going to be the driver of a pickup truck. It was a strange experience, being told how to drive a truck: very specific directions. I Watched them make the truck dirty with a spray. This went on for a couple hours. I drove the truck spot on and walked in a path that was mapped out for me. After another hour it, was time to go back until they needed me again.

When I got into the holding room it was full of other Aboriginals from around Ontario—Jackpot.

I sat down with others in the room and we talked about where they were from. Many came from Quebec and Ontario. Speaking with them I learned that they were from different tribes, Cree, Ojibway, Inuit and Métis.

They all wanted to have a conversation: I sat down with a woman and her family. They told me about how they were Cree and grew up traditional: They honoured the Creator and respected Mother Earth; much like my culture. The mother then told the son to hand drum and sing for me.

The boy sang a Cree song. It was amazing: the vibrations of the drum and his voice created one sound. The boy told me that this was his first drum; he and his grandfather had made the drum from scratch. It was made from deer hide and wood. Unfortunately cell phones and cameras were not allowed on set, so I couldn't take any recordings or photographs. But it was a phenomenal experience. 

 

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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.  

Here are some links for you ladies and gents: 

Membertou Heritage Park

Idle No More

Stoney Bear Drum Group (Mi'kmaq drumming group) 

Madison Joe, Tipi "Expert"

A couple of weeks ago, I accepted an offer to help put up a tipi on the Algonquin College campus. I accepted because I had helped put up tipis before and thought it would be a great way to learn about true meaning of the poles. The Mi’kmaq never used tipis, they used wigwams, tipis that are put up are just decoration. The only knowledge I have is that the poles go up in a tripod, then the other poles follow and then it’s time to dress that bad boy up with the canvas.

 A float that I helped make with tipis on it, once won most creative use of lights in the Sydney Action Week Light Parade.

A float that I helped make with tipis on it, once won most creative use of lights in the Sydney Action Week Light Parade.

When I arrived, I was running on “Indian time,” which means I was about 20 minutes late. I got there and everybody was sitting around and nothing was accomplished. I thought it was strange, but they must have been on Indian time too. Little did I know that they didn't start because they were waiting for me.

We get outside and start to smudge. I think this is nice, but then someone walks up to me and asks, “You the tipi expert?” This is where I know I’m in trouble. What should I do? Let them think we’re all clueless and don't have the faintest idea how to put up a tipi? No, I did what anyone in that situation would do—I winged it.

I took control, we got the tripod up, tied ropes, placed the poles and after a hiccup with the canvas, eventually got it up. I've never been prouder. I did it. I winged it and succeeded, or so I thought. The canvas was loose and once of the key poles didn't touch the ground.

What were we going to do? What was I going to do? Admit that I’m not a tipi expert, that it was the blind leading the blind? Nope, I talked to Thomas, the elder from Moose Factory and we offered tobacco and thought of something quick. The pole that didn't touch, I simply tied to another pole with the excess rope. I then led them to try and fix the canvas. After an hour of this we met as a team and decided that it would be easier to just call the tipi company and get them to come in and do it.

Overall, what I learned was that taking down a tipi is a lot easier than putting one up. 

 

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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.  

 

Some links for you guys to check out: 

Membertou

The significance of the poles of a tipi

Idle No More

Rediscovery

It wasn't until last night when I realized that my idea for this blog - reconnecting with my Mi'kmaq culture by exploring other Aboriginal cultures - relates to a poem that my grandmother, Rita Joe wrote. The poem is called I Lost My Talk. The poem is about how she was forced to abandon her beliefs in a residential school and about how she acknowledges two cultures.

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I grew up knowing my culture and traditions, right up until I was about 12. That’s when I threw away my culture and my beliefs. I was taught by my grandfather. I did sweat lodges every weekend, traditional ceremonies, eagle funerals, and fasts. I was smoking out of a sacred pipe by the time I was six. I remember doing a ceremony and being awarded my rattle, which I don’t have anymore.

I was that typical native child with a dream catcher earring, and wore things that reflected my culture. But my grandfather turned out to be a horrible man, and I didn't want anything to remind me of him.  All through junior and high school I took Mi’kmaq classes, but this was because I wanted an easy credit. I never really took it all in.

Then I graduated high school and my culture started to come back to me. This was because I went to a wake, a wake that wasn't for a Mi’kmaq person. It was strange to me. Why was I in a funeral home? We have wakes in family homes for three days, praying, smudging and sharing stories of the dead person's life and thanking the Creator for letting us to be able to spend time with them.

After being away from my reserve, I came to realize that my culture shouldn't be thrown away. I decided to accept and relearn things that I've forgotten, but also to learn about the other tribes and their culture and traditions to see how they are like the Mi’kmaq traditions. I want to learn about not just my tribe, but everyone’s. I have to discover the Aboriginals of Canada before I can truly discover myself and my culture. I want to relearn the things I've forced myself to forget.

Let me find my talk, so I can teach you about me. 

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 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:

Membertou 

Membertou Heritage Park

Idle No More