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A culture of gentleness for me has come naturally by genuinely caring for the three gentlemen I serve.

A culture of gentleness for me has come naturally by genuinely caring for the three gentlemen I serve. Since I started at COR almost one year ago I have created relationships with the three guys I serve that without a doubt will last a lifetime. Being able to care for someone on a daily basis and watch them grow as people has been one of the most professionally satisfying accomplishments to date. Watching the look on the guys faces while they do things they love can turn even the worst of days around in a heart beat.

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I would have to say I more so reciprocate a culture of gentleness however. To say I create a culture of gentleness would minimize the amount of caring that these individuals show us who come in to serve them. The three guys I support have some of the biggest hearts I have ever met. They will share what ever it is they have with out batting an eye. I strongly believe the culture of gentleness is created by those who we serve.

 

Danny, COR Support

 

How many jobs allow you to help improve the lives of others while building such meaningful relationships with those individuals?

When I heard the philosophy of Gentle Teaching, it seemed like the most simple and effective way of giving the individuals we support at COR the best quality of life. Safe, loved, loving and engaged- the four pillars that make up Gentle Teaching- make so much sense! When I look at my own life, I know that with these four pillars present I feel the most valued so I want to always make sure that the girls I support feel that way too.

Whether the girls are having a good day or a bad day, I feel like it is important to make sure they know they are still loved unconditionally and supported no matter what. I want them to feel that they can approach me and feel comfortable to communicate and be themselves with me. I feel that I best deliver a culture of gentleness through my communication. I let the girls know that I am here for them, we build trust in each other, and strong relationships form. I always remember that the girls are people first. We all go through rough times but that doesn’t mean that they are any less than anyone else. When, for example, the girls feel down, maybe frustrated or upset, we use our ability to communicate to help them get back to feeling their best. It is important for them to know that they are not bad nor have done something wrong. Instead, we talk through the situation in a way which lets them know that they are still supported and loved and our relationship has not changed. Having patience and a sense of calmness often works in the house that I support at. When the girls see that I am open to helping them and keeping them feeling safe and loved they respond better in the ways we communicate.

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I feel like in order to maintain a culture of gentleness it is important to not think of supporting as work. At the end of the day, yes this is a job, but it is so much more than that. How many jobs allow you to help improve the lives of others while building such meaningful relationships with those individuals? The benefits I see in the individuals lives that come from the culture of gentle teaching make my life as a support so rewarding. Because of the benefits I see with Ruby and Lanie and the way Gentle Teaching works with them it motivates me to continue the way I approach my support times with the girls. They have experienced a lot of change in the last 6 months which can easily take a toll on them. Seeing the way our team has used gentle teaching over these last 6 months and the positive improvements it has made with the girls just reinforces once again the impact that it has and the importance of maintaining it in the way we support.

 

Elise, COR Support

 

Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am today; I see differently; I speak differently; I touch differently; I vibe differently.

How has Gentle Teaching transformed the person you are or aspire to be?

For the first time in my life, I am employed by a company that has the same philosophies as me and provides countless opportunities and encouragement to dive deeper into an exciting journey of self exploration and self development. I will be forever appreciative for this experience.

Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am today; I see differently; I speak differently; I touch differently; I vibe differently. I now understand how paramount things like safety, love, and engagement are in maintaining my current relationships and also building new, healthy, empowering relationships.

Gentle Teaching has also transformed the hundreds of interactions I have each and every single day, whether that be with my family members, partners, friends, i-see-differently-i-speak-differently-i-touch-differently-i-vibe-differentlystrangers, or my pets. For example, I am constantly practicing Gentle Teaching with my fur-babies: two beagles. Beagles are stubborn, messy, loud, and stinky … but they also give the best cuddles, are the source of many laughs, and love me unconditionally. Sometimes, when they are not getting the proper attention and engagement that they need, they eat everything (literally everything – the bed frame has large chunk missing and the phone jack has been eaten off the wall), they puke on the new couch, howl at my neighbours, and are incredibly stubborn to train. Despite all of this chaos they cause in my life, I find it so easy to love them unconditionally. I no longer raise my voice or punish them when they do wrong. I only use touch and words in a positive way. However, sometimes when I feel like I cannot properly practice Gentle Teaching with my dogs and need time to myself, the pups visit Gramma and Grampa; this allows me time to recharge and recover so I can give them the best care I can. Gentle teaching has strengthened my relationship with my pets which is transferable to every other relationship in my life.

Despite all of the changes I’ve made so far, I’m not perfect. While I try my best to practice what I preach, sometimes I slip up. Honestly, I still aspire to be a more patient person. At the beginning of my Gentle Teaching journey, I often lost my patience on insignificant things; bad drivers, needy dogs, demanding partners. I feel like along my gentle teaching training was also a lesson in patience. I now know that the person is more important than the task at hand. It also taught me that, in disagreements, I no longer need to have the last word. Also, sometimes people have bad days and I do not need to take it personally. Hopefully, the relationship I have with that person was built on such a strong foundation that they can offer me the same compassion and understanding that I would offer to them when they need it most. I am also doing my best to love people unconditionally and aspire to have a positive journey to love without conditions and BE loved without conditions.

I have only been practicing Gentle Teaching for about a year. Now that I have a taste of this philosophy, I want to continue to change. I want to know more. I want others to learn the benefits of gentle teaching. I want to lead by example. I want to make a difference.

 

Diandra, COR Support

 

To truly promote a culture of gentleness one must apply it to all relationships in their life.

The nature of  the job at Creative Options Regina inspires  its employees to “take their work home with them”. It is my view that an ideal support at COR nourishes a culture of gentleness  in all facets of their life, not just when they’re on the clock at COR. Personally, I maintain a culture of gentleness in my life by applying gentle teaching principles to everyday relationships, and by persistent self development.

I firmly believe that gentle teaching is a mindset that one sees the world through. Although I feel that the pillars of gentle teaching are innate to me, there are always ways to improve and broaden ones understanding. Reading books about neuro-science and psychology has given me a much better understanding of myself, and hence others around me. I’ve learnt that you cannot truly understand others if you do not know yourself. The nature of my degree at the U of R has also contributed to my self growth at COR. The main objective of the inclusive education classes that I have taken is to provide people with intellectual disabilities the means  they need to succeed; many of these skills transfer over to my work at COR. Lastly, and most importantly, to improve my ability to create a culture of gentleness, I work on myself through introspection. For me it is as simple as writing thoughts, new knowledge, and questions down in a journal. This allows me to organize my thoughts and be able to focus on what is important when I am supporting.

As I mentioned above, to truly promote a culture of gentleness one must apply it to all relationships in their life. Naturally I apply what I have learned from gentle teaching trainings in my everyday interactions with the man I support, however, I am proud to say that I take my work home with me. I have used GT techniques to navigate my way through my relationships with family and friends. My relationship with my loved ones is one specific example where GT techniques have dramatically impacted my life. This way of life has enabled me to help a loved one through depression at a time when I was at a loss for what to do. I went from being just another person in their life, to being their mentor.

Personally I maintain a culture of gentleness in my life by applying gentle teaching

Upon doing my internship last fall at a community school, I quickly realized that the school setting was also a place where gentle teaching has great value. Being a community school, many of the students attending came from “rough homes”. My knowledge from COR enabled me to form meaningful relationships with my students. They were excited to come to school, and so was I. Being at school was home for many of the kids that I taught; I was the only stable adult in their lives. Were it not for gentle teaching I likely would have just been “another adult” to these students and squandered the opportunity to be a positive influence in their lives. Yet, with gentle teaching, I found I was being my candid self in front of the class, staying after school on my time to talk with the kids, and attending their events that they were passionate about such as sports, band and drama. I was completely invested in their lives.

The last facet of my life (and where it all started) where I promote a culture of gentleness is my relationship with the man I support. I often wonder whether he promotes a culture of gentleness in my life or I do his. Either way, I love the guy to death. He has been in my life for two years and he has become a brother to me. I’ve seen our relationship evolve from an awkward “get to know you” stage, to now, where we crack jokes and laugh our butts off. I feel like I can do and say anything at this point in the game with him. I trust him wholeheartedly and that trust is reciprocated. When he is upset I tackle his problems head on, I want him to be bigger than his fears and anxieties. I push him to be the best person that he can be. In any situation the end choice is always his; but you can bet that I’m challenging him improve the whole time. His growth in the past two years is astounding, it has been an absolute joy to watch him progress from one milestone to the next. In his life I switch between the roles of being his friend, family member, and motivator; it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. My role in his life is ever changing as he becomes more independent, I promote a culture of gentleness in his life by actively listening and evaluating him, thereby providing the most effective support that he needs to succeed.

Creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness strictly within the individual I serve is a flawed mentality. To truly be an agent of gentleness one has to apply it to every area of their life. In doing this, I have found that each circle in my life feeds off of one another. Instead of feeling drained after a day with the students, I feel energetic and fulfilled, ready to support, and vice versa. At this point in my life I know one thing to be wholly true: My career will revolve around being in the “people business”. Gentle Teaching has proven to be a significant influence on me throughout day to day life in the early stages of my career. Without it I cannot say that I would be enjoying the successes that I am experiencing today.

 

Matt, COR Support

 

Who am I to come into this person’s home with demands and unrealistic expectations?

I consistently strive to build and maintain a culture of gentleness among the individuals I support and spend time with. When I am in someone’s home I try to put myself in their shoes. Who am I to come into this person’s home with demands and unrealistic expectations? Trying to be mindful of what I say/how I say it and how I present myself to the person receiving support is always at the forefront of my thoughts. By using the four tools (presence, eyes, hands, and words) positively, I continually try to build on the relationships I share with the individuals I serve.

I continually try to build on the relationships I share with the individuals I serve

Ensuring that person feels safe where they are and who they’re with is an important first step. Afterwards is the point at which the person can begin to be stretched and grow. Remembering that the relationship I have with the person I’m supporting is one of interdependence, allows me to teach as well as learn. This is an attitude that I attempt to maintain both within COR with the individuals being supported as well as in my other social circles.

 

Jordan, COR Support

 

Characteristics of a Caregiver

“To be a caregiver involves more than caring: it is to enter into a mutual change process with the person, with both becoming more, instead of less — the parent embracing the crying child instead of yelling; the teacher befriending a lonely child instead of punishing; the psychiatric nurse sitting with the confused and belligerent patient instead of opening the heavy seclusion room door; the social worker creating circles of friends around the homeless person instead of simply dishing out soup; the relief worker entering into the world of the political refugee and seeing the suffering heart instead of seeing only a number. Indeed, our intent has to be to change ourselves, deepen our love, increase our warmth, and recognize the wholeness and goodness of the other. We might never “change” the other. Our purpose has to be to change ourselves. Our hope is that our deepening love will also change the other.”

-John McGee

Our purpose has to be to change ourselves

Who The Other Is: Human Vulnerabilities and Gifts

Who the other is: HUMAN VULNERABILITIES AND GIFTS

Caregivers have to be very tuned into the life-story of the person and the significance and impact of inner vulnerabilities; we must also be astute at seeing or even sensing the life-giving gifts of each person such as forgiveness, curiosity, hope, and the slightest hints of a hunger to connect with others.

Vulnerabilities can be caused by a sorrowful, often undefined, vague, but morally defining, memories of years of segregation, loneliness, scorn, institutionalization, racism, sexual abuse, societal prejudice, illiteracy, poverty, imprisonment, neglect, war, dictatorship, torture, the loss of family members, political isolation, and poor health care. These experiences and often vague and ill-defined memories can be worsened by our lack of attunement or empathy for these conditions, ignoring their long-term effects, or taking a “lift yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude. Internal vulnerabilities can come from psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, manic-depression, depression or the often condescendingly cited “borderline” personality.  Caregivers frequently fail to recognize or understand the hidden power of past memories and the end result is comments such as knowing better, being manipulative, or attention seeking.

They can be made more difficult by physical disabilities such as seizures, sensory disorders, or the side effects of medications. The presence of developmental disabilities can make it more difficult for the person to defend self and reach out to others.

Each person is a unique expression of the human condition

Our human strengths and weaknesses are shared with those whom we serve. Each person is a unique expression of the human condition. Some are more troubled or burdened than others, but we all share the common thread of humanity. Within this fragile thread lie the values that bind us together. In our own personal lives, these vulnerabilities can arise at any time and threaten our well-being.

The question is to what degree does any individual need support when threatened by these and other forces. We need to recognize each person’s vulnerabilities and find ways to reach out to those who are more threatened. They are more than persons with vulnerabilities, mental illness, or behavior problems. They are full human beings with a range of gifts and vulnerabilities, a deep inner life that beseeches and long ago our attention, and longings that call for fulfillment.

While recognizing the need for teaching functional skills, our central caregiving role must focus on teaching each person to feel safe with us and loved by us. Although professional measurement tools to define the degree or absence of functional behaviors can play a useful secondary role in care giving, if the central developmental milestone of feeling safe and loved is not achieved, then any further discussion can be fairly shallow. If the center of the human condition has not been achieved or has been broken, the rest of learning is merely peripheral. If we can help form the center, skills will blossom. The assessment of our companion or becoming-companion is based on the assumption that we must focus on the center and then the periphery will take care of itself.

John J. McGee