So I’m at the moment when my early-childhood placement in an Aboriginal childcare centre in Toronto draws to a close, and I am returning to school. In theory, this should mean I’ll be able to spend more time on my blogging, but in actual fact, who knows? School keeps me busy all the time. Work kept me tired all the time, but then it wasn’t just work: it was the strain of having to work a full-time job while still having all my down-time flooded with homework assignments. I love placements, but that’s something I really dislike about them, and it’s kept me from writing as much as I had intended.
I had meant to publish a chapter review for You’re Teaching My Child What? each week as a “Moral Panic Mondays” feature, but this placement really made it hard to care about American busybodies freaking out that children might learn the truth about sex. I loved being a part of the community and participating in cultural activities, but the struggles upon struggles I saw piling on some of the families I met gave me a jolt. Working in a poor area of the city – my partner semi-jokingly called the place where I worked “the ghetto” – I encountered conditions almost completely alien to how I grew up. At times, fully one half of the children in my classroom were homeless. One Monday I listened to the news on the radio, heard about two violent altercations that happened over the weekend, and discovered that both had taken place amongst the community where I was working. The children I was caring for might easily have met or known the people who died these violent deaths, reduced to news headlines. Virtually everyone was struggling financially, unemployed or underemployed. There were people living in poor health and in sub-optimal environments. Then I would go home for a weekend to environments where the trappings of wealth – access to healthy food, a spacious and well-constructed home environment, a vehicle to run errands, appropriate new clothes when needed, working plumbing and electricity, training and education options, flexibility and mobility . . .
I adored the children I cared for and I would be pleased and proud to work for that centre as a full member of the staff. But I also found it shocking that a country where we see ourselves as so much better, more equitable, and less prejudiced than the Americans condones the levels of poverty I saw, not just on the reserves but in big cities as well. I come from a culture that loves to blame people for their own circumstances, but I can’t accept it. The homeless infants in my class have been born into circumstances vastly different from what I was born into. I’ve had rough patches in my life over the past few years, but I always had people around me who had enough means to bail me out. But what if you were born – as these children were – into a community where everyone is poor? Where you’re born one parental illness, family crisis, or broken-down truck away from absolute disaster? What if there was nobody who could help you through the rough patches because everyone is in the same dire straits?
I’ll try to post some “Moral Panic Monday” stuff in the next week or so, but it’s hard to keep my heart in it during this sort of experience.