Describe a place or time where Gentle Teaching has helped you in your personal life.
This hits home to me! I am so blessed to be a part of COR; I have grown so much both within this organization and outside it. I truly saw myself becoming a better person and becoming a role model at home, at school, and at work every day. Gentle Teaching has definitely allowed me to learn more about myself!
Tell us about a bond that you or someone close to you shares with someone you support.
I have bonded well with all the individuals I support. When I come to their home for a support time, I feel as though I am invited to be there. Every time I walk into their house, I feel that I am coming home to my family or that I am coming into a house of close friends. I am grateful for the opportunity that COR has provided me to develop the relationships that I currently hold with every individual that I support.
Discuss a scenario where someone you support taught you something.
Recently, one of the individuals I support decided to manage his paycheck and put the money toward future plans and paying his bills. This was a rare occasion because in the past, his paycheck would be gone within a day or two from social outings alone. It was the first time that I had witnessed him making a plan with his paycheck and his willingness to learn to budget his money was amazing. From that moment, he unknowingly taught me that you can always grow and become a better person! It was a humbling experience to be able to see a 31-year-old man literally grow in front of your eyes. He has grown so much since I met him and I can truly say that I’ve watched him grow each day. It’s unbelievable!
How has Gentle Teaching transformed the person you are or aspire to be?
Like I mentioned earlier, using the Gentle Teaching approach to supporting individuals has allowed me to become a better person than I had ever imagined. My Mom has mentioned to me a couple times where she sees the growth in me and she was proud of how far I have come. My parents were worried about me when I was in grade 9 and 10 because I had the attitude and the personality of someone who was not capable of success. So for them to be able to witness my character grow so much, it’s a sigh of relief for them for sure.
Describe how you have been able to share one (or some) of your passions with the individuals we serve.
First off, it’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things. Being able to share my passions with the individuals have definitely helped with the friendship that has developed. For example, one of the men and I share a passion for hockey. I know that whenever he is having a rough day, I can always bring up hockey topics and news and we can have a long-lasting conversation about it. There was a moment where he and I were at a Pats game and I remember thinking that our relationship had come a long way since we met. The Pats scored a goal, I looked over and he had a huge smile on his face and he ‘fist pumped’ full of excitement. He never does this! This truly was a special moment. It touched my heart to see how joyful he was to be experiencing the Pats playoff run with me.
Jason, COR Support
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.
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
“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.”
Common Situations: Refusal to Participate
If the person refuses to participate,
• Make sure there is a structured flow to the day, not just the emptiness of custodial care.
• Be aware of other caregivers who might be coaxing, cajoling, or bribing the person to participate.
• Bring about minimal participation by doing activities with the person.
• Continue to dialogue.
• Emphasize valuing and elicit it during any movement toward the slightest participation.
The major challenge in this situation is to make valuing occur, even in settings that contradict it. Many caregivers work in almost hopeless situations: institutions where the mentally ill are herded like animals, nursing homes where the aged are left to fade away, homeless shelters where the poor are warehoused for an evening. Although we need to fight for social justice and establish decent places for people to live, work and play, many caregivers still need to create hope and feelings of companionship where there is none. Thus, if we work alone in a setting that seems to be the antithesis of valuing and engagement, we have a special and difficult role: to bring hope where only despair reigns.
We will often be ridiculed for our idealism and seeming naiveté. Yet we can express valuing and create feelings of companionship even in the midst of hopelessness. Our interactions are what matters. If the person in the most forsaken institutional ward runs from us and falls to the floor, we can keep on teaching the meaning of human engagement. If the person lashes out, spits, or screams at us, we can move toward him or her and continue to bring about engagement and give unconditional valuing. We are challenged to enable participation and establish feelings of solidarity regardless of the hellish reality in which we find those who are marginalized.
-John J. McGee, PhD
“We teach “safe” by placing almost no demands on the person except for being with the person with a sense of just “being.” It is a tremendously important for one human being to teach another it is good to be near you. Nothing more, nothing less. This act of recognizing the brokenhearted person’s existence and goodness is a most powerful teaching-learning experience. At the same time, we need to engage in nurturing and finding relevant ways to express unconditional love without pressuring the person at all. This might seem weird, but the person will learn to feel safe if we lower our demands while increasing our goodness, kindness, and expression of love. We need to avoid putting the horse before the cart. Doing things is not the primary purpose of care giving; being with one another is.
A dimension that is often hard to understand and deal with involves the emergence of self-centeredness, becoming spoiled, after a time of intense nurturing. It is natural to become self-centered as a result of constant nurturing. This creates another important care giving role. We need to slowly begin to focus on stretching the person away from self-centeredness and toward other-centeredness. This stretching process involves reminding the person that he/she is safe and loved while asking a slight degree more—waiting a moment, taking turns, sharing, and other virtues involving others and our relationships. This process is very delicate so we need to keep reminding the person of how safe and loved he/she is.
The developmental model outlined below is a good guide for us to use to understand the various dimensions of new memories that have to be taught:
• From brokenhearted and lonely, to safe and loved;
• From self-centeredness, to reaching out to others and loving expressing love to them; and,
• From dependence on us, to engagement with us and others.
Our pedagogical process starts with us encountering a brokenhearted person and bringing two simple gifts that we have repeatedly mentioned—the feeling of being safe and loved. We have nothing else to give. These are not a program, a clinical approach, or focused on outcomes. They can, if necessary, be translated into mundane outcomes, but, for the caregiver, they are gifts and these now established feelings need to begin to include being safe with a growing circle of others and becoming a meaningful part of increasing engagement.
This stretching process is a part of normal development. These include learning other moral milestones such as learning to share, a giving up, momentarily, of what is theirs; learning to wait and to take turns; wanting others to feel proud; and, learning when enough is enough—self-control. We all have to learn these milestones. Each requires a grounded stance that assumes that the brokenhearted person has learned to feel safe and loved and is ready for participation in a broader community. After these have been formed in the person’s moral memory, we can then begin focusing on strengthening self-esteem, learning that “I am good!” and self-control, learning when enough is enough!” The person’s world and responsibilities begin to expand.
After an intense dimension involved almost solely with unconditional love, it is natural to enter a phase of self-centeredness. It is then that our role evolves into carefully and delicately stretching the still fragile brokenhearted person from a state of self-centeredness to one of other-centeredness. It is a process in which the person learns that it is good to be with a small circle of others, then it is good to do things with this group, and eventually it is good to do things with a wider circle of friends, and finally it is good to do things for others. This last encompasses a high form of moral maturity.
We also begin to focus on the person’s self-esteem. This milestone emerges when others keep reminding the person, “You are so good!” This begins to occur from the very start when we are teaching that it is good to be together. What happens in this process is that the person begins to feel safe and loved from within. As this occurs, the person begins to see him/herself in a different light and forms a moral memory that says, “I am somebody because my caregivers tell me I am.” As the circle of friends grows, the person’s sense of self-worth also expands and becomes stronger.”
– John J. McGee, PhD