The RMM program has been thoroughly blessed by the Investing In Neighbourhoods initiative. This grant comes from the City of Toronto Employment & Social Services to create meaningful and rewarding jobs for Toronto residents who are on welfare. The jobs that are created provide paid employment for up to one year with the opportunity to build new skills and obtain employment references. Through this initiative we hire two students each year to assist in child care and teaching. MJ, a mom to three kids, attended RMM in Spring 2016 and passed all of her exams. She was hired in Fall 2016 as my teaching assistant to tutor the moms, cook healthy meals, prepare snacks, and help out in the child care centre. I had the chance to sit down with her and ask her about her experience.
What were you the most nervous about when you started this job?
MJ: Not remembering people’s names or saying the wrong name as I am talking to them. It haunted me.
What has been the best part of your job?
MJ: Helping build up people’s self-esteem and watching them develop more self-confidence in their abilities. Also, I got very sick this year and Chara (my supervisor) was very understanding. My last employer made me feel very guilty if I was ever sick.
What has been the most challenging part?
MJ: Helping the moms stay focused was hard but necessary. Also, knowing that this job is ending after one year without the possibility of staying on is hard.
What was one lesson that you learned this year?
MJ: There was a lot of helpful information presented to the moms and me during the year, different programs, colleges, universities, and job information. This information is helpful for me as the end of this job ends and I am wondering what my next steps are.
What are your next steps?
MJ: I am taking the summer off to spend time with my family and I want to take a computer course. I also want to take an advanced French course so that I can gain confidence again in speaking and writing the language that I grew up speaking, even before English! I have a meeting with the college to see about a one-year Community Worker program or a two-year Social Work program with George Brown College. I am still deciding between those for the Fall. I also may look into doing volunteer work.
What is one piece of advice you would give the next teaching assistant?
MJ: When you are tutoring people it is very easy to get side tracked. So my advice would be to take control of the situation and get them to focus on their studies, but at the same time be understanding and sympathetic to the conversations and what is going on in the lives because these moms have a lot going on.
What do you find rewarding about working with people?
MJ: When people actually come and tell you how much they appreciate what you do. Also, watching people become more comfortable with themselves and gain confidence. When a woman comes into the program, they don’t leave the same person, so that is always a good thing. Not that they were bad, but that they came here to make a change in their lives and leave with more confidence as a mom and a student. I also loved watching the children in the child care grow. Like Baby M who came in as a little baby and didn’t do much and now she’s doing all the actions to the songs and trying to walk. Seeing the moms gain more confidence leaving their children in child care is neat. It takes them a while, but once they do it benefits their kids and allows the to focus on passing the GED!