Often when I have the chance to catch up with somebody I have not seen for a while, the question always seems to pop up: “So, where are you working these days?”. This is a funny question for me to answer because when you truly find something that you are passionate about and enjoy doing on a daily basis, it’s no longer considered work – this is how Gentle Teaching has transformed me as a person. After graduating high school, I soon found myself at a job that did not offer any growth for myself as an individual. A cooking job that provided forty hours a week, but had me asking myself if this is really how I want to spend the next however many years of my life, at a job where I simply show up for a nine to five shift, then go home. I can imagine that I was among millions of people who couldn’t wait to be done work to get home and relax, dreading the thought of having to go back the next day. I needed a change, especially knowing that I had much more inside of me than that. COR was an option that I had considered applying for, but was ambiguous about at first. It’s the type of organization that was very unfamiliar to me solely because I was one of many who had the common attitude that people with a disability may be seen as troublesome and based my perception on the idea of their “behaviour”. I took a blind leap into Gentle Teaching and soon realized that a critical part of this culture of gentleness is shedding these beliefs and valuing people for who they are. Now, two years later, I have found myself buried so deep in the lives of the individuals I serve that the thought of not seeing them throughout the week is unnerving.
With COR, I now find myself getting lost in the moment with these individuals that I can honestly call my friends, forgetting about time all-together. From being part of a fast paced, aggressive work environment in the past, to now being a part of a community that practices Gentle Teaching in every aspect in life is truly a blessing. Gentle Teaching has helped me focus on building a sense of companionship and community with those that I serve and that there is no nine to five shift when it comes to being involved in others lives. The relationships you create and maintain with others directly revolves around the time you invest with them, being WITH one another is one of the main lessons I have grown to appreciate since being introduced to Gentle Teaching. This philosophy is truly something special, something you can’t just turn on or off when it fits. I believe it’s the unconditional compassion for others in which we all have inside of us.
Sawyer, COR Support
Gentle Teaching is not only valuable to apply with individuals that one supports, but is a wonderful approach for all relationships . It has transformed how I view others in my daily life. Gentle Teaching allows me to think more optimistically towards everyone. It has made me more positive by allowing me to see through people’s flaws and see their past experiences that bring out colourful emotions in high stress situations.
Gentle Teaching has taught me to reflect on how life experience affect how people see themselves and in turn how they act. Poor experiences can affect the way individuals value themselves, develop relationships and deal with conflict. Maintaining this mindset outside of supporting has enhanced the way I interact with others and improved my ability to accept others for who they are. In order to understand a person, one needs to know where they came from. In order to do that, listening and interpreting words is essential for that understanding.
Gentle teaching has taught me that devotion is one of the best tools for teaching. Being devoted to a person is to actively show them that you are a part of their journey and are there to help. Whether it be with my girlfriend, family, my nieces and nephews, my friends or even my dog showing genuine friendliness and enthusiastic support in good moments has a stronger impact than punishing or dwelling on downbeat moments. Letting go of negatively charged moments and using them as teaching moments and celebrating little victories shows a person that you are devoted to their growth and you can grow healthily together. Devotion allows for trust and relationships to grow.
Active listening skills can be improved constantly throughout a person’s life. Working on them continually has improved my communication. Active listening requires not simply hearing what someone says, but hearing their message, the emotion evoked and also paying attention to what is not being said. It has taught me that when people are upset there is at times a deeper issue troubling them. Past trauma speaks through people in times of stress and unresolved negative experiences can often cause people to live in clouds of pain.
Gentle Teaching has caused me to reflect on my own past and consider how I may hold pain from experiences. Recognizing how trauma has affected myself allows me to let go and move on to become a better version of myself. Self reflection has allowed me to think rather than react to situations. Being self aware is key for anyone to grow and live a healthy life and it is constant. Self care and mental health are essential for healthy bodies. Being honest with myself about trauma has allowed me to become a person that is ready to reach out and support others around me. Being comfortable with oneself is very important before someone loans them self to others for support.
Jacob, COR Support
Gentle Teaching (GT) is a philosophy rooted in the recognition of all people having the right to be treated in positive ways. This helps me to remember that all people are inherently good and deserve the best of any situation. As a result, I debate that GT has positively transformed the person who I am and aspire to be. This is revealed through my transformations of identity as a future teacher and my identity with the person who I support.
GT has influenced my identity as an education student by helping me incorporate ideas into inclusive classrooms. My major in Physical Education and minor in Inclusive Education (Special Education) directed me to define GT in a way I can use in classrooms. GT implies that everyone has the right to be treated with respect and patience and that it is my responsibility to create an environment where everyone’s differences are embraced. This is an environment where no matter peoples race, religion, ability, disability, sexual orientation or other differences everyone deserves quality education that is appropriate for that individual and helps them to progress mentally and physically in a positive way. The use of the Four Pillars of GT: safe, loved, loving, and engaged are also useful part of my philosophy. All four pillars are needed for a student to learn at their full capability. This is because people need to feel safe in their surroundings in order to learn; similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs being necessary for survival. As a result of GT influencing my teaching philosophy my future students will be able to learn and move in a positive space and encourage me to have positive interactions with them.
GT has greatly influenced my relationship with the woman who I support. The Four Pillars along with the Tools of GT: presence, words, hands, and eyes help me to create an environment where Angie feels safe and trusts me. Given the history of institutionalization in Saskatchewan, GT has helped her and I to build a strong relationship that is more than a worker client mentality. We create a space for each other where we can have fun and help each other grow by loving and supporting each other. The use of hands and the element of touch are important to her relationships as she is the first person to want a hug in any situation. Her “squishes” are also important; this is a type of deep pressure therapy which allows her to relax in most situations. These are parts of her relationships that benefit her greatly and were not part of her previous relationships due to philosophy restrictions.
Overall, GT is a positive alternative to traditional philosophies involving people who have disabilities. GT goes beyond support times and into the lives of those who embrace its qualities. This is shown through my identity as a future teacher and my identity as a support person. Not only does GT improve the quality of life of individuals who are supported it also improves that of people who believe in the philosophy and those around them.
Andrew, COR Support
On September 23rd, COR hosted a Support Appreciation Night at the Saskatchewan Science Center to celebrate the incredible people that form part of the COR family! With approximately 80 people in attendance, the evening was filled with Potato Chip Challenges, Segway races, Nitrogen Ice Cream, prizes, tasty food and splendid company! A special thanks to everyone at COR for their commitment and dedication to cultivating a culture of gentleness! Your passion is truly inspirational!
Family members and friends of COR are invited to join us for an evening discussion on a Culture of Gentleness as a Promising Practice, with special guest: Deirdre Mercer, Center for Positive Living Supports (Michigan, USA). This interactive and powerful learning experience will better your knowledge of the important role of a gentle caregiver. Space is limited. Please contact Michael for more details.