“Although our vulnerabilities and the external threats to our wellbeing are in many ways nothing compared to those of the persons whom we serve, it is important that we recognize our own before dealing further with the vulnerabilities of those whom we serve.
We are all vulnerable to breakdowns in our personal values. Sometimes these can be due to how we feel and what we are experiencing within ourselves; at other times we can be part of a system that makes it harder for us to respond to our shared values. If a caregiver is afraid of being hurt, he/she then becomes more likely to use restraint to control violent behaviors. Or, if a caregiver is depressed, then it is extremely hard to bring joy to others. If we are being beaten and de-valued at home, it is hard to bring non-violence into someone else’s home.
Many of our vulnerabilities are worsened by lack of adequate training and hands-on supervision. Some caregivers are quite isolated and seldom have the opportunity to discuss their problems and search for new responses to challenging situations. It is critical that caregivers recognize their weaknesses and find ways to overcome them. Community leaders need to listen to caregivers and find ways to offer support and encouragement.
Caregivers need to find their own self-worth from themselves, talking frequently, sharing their anxieties, and pointing out their goodness. Our own worth has to be generated from within ourselves. We need to form strong communities.
The question of burnout seems to be always present. Some caregivers give up and attribute their burnout to poor supervision, working in violent settings, receiving little guidance, or low pay. Since we are not only teaching feelings of companionship, but also a sense of community, it is important for caregivers to look at themselves, question their reality, and search for ways for themselves to feel safer, more engaged, and more valued. The first step in this is to step back and examine those things that make us vulnerable.
Let us take a moment to reflect on these aspects of our lives — recognizing these will help us understand better the needs of those whom we serve.”
~Excerpt from John J. McGee’s “Mending Broken Hearts” — CPLS Newsletter.
Gentle Teaching has become a main part of my life. During my university career, I have done many presentations and projects based on gentle teaching because it applies to so many different areas of study; whether it be Psychology or Kinesiology and Health Studies. As Assistant Home Team Leader, I dedicated most of my support times (and outside support times) to making sure the people I support are physically healthy. I continue to do activities to keep the guys active and engaged, but allow them to decide which activities are right for them! I pre-cook and freeze meals so that it is easily accessible for the rest of the team. This is done so that supports aren’t tempted to buy unhealthy food! Since this started, I have continued to encourage others on the team to do the same as well. As a result, the team has all begun to contribute to grocery shopping and cooking wholesome meals. This was not so they could be “fit” or “skinny”, but to better compliment one’s overall quality of life. I am a strong believer in how physical health affects one’s mental health, thus my pursuit of a masters degree in sport and exercise psychology.
Although I recently stepped down as Assistant Home Team Leader, I have continued to keep many of the same responsibilities. The title of ATL was not my motivation to be a leader! I will continue to be passionate about caring for the people I support, as that is the foundation of Gentle Teaching. Their companionship and presence in my life is enough to want to help with the quality of it. COR has shown me that I am capable of my own academic accomplishments. Sport and Exercise Psychology is not popular in Canada just yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to follow my interests and turn them into my passion. Even though I have stepped down from my ATL role, supports still contact me when certain issues arise; they still want to hear my advice and experience. I love this! For the first time, I feel like I am a mentor. I like knowing it is not my leadership status that motivates them to ask me for help. I feel as though they ask because they know I am effective at solving problems while still keeping one’s emotions in mind. It has become a very empowering experience. I love the leader that COR and Gentle Teaching has enabled me to become!
Kyla, COR Support
I once heard a George Lucas quote that stuck with me – “Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you imagine it.”
When I begin a job search, the first question I always ask a job seeker is, “what is your dream job?” Somewhere in that dream is the perfect job for each person, whether it’s the head coach of the Riders, a free-lance writer for a social media campaign, a chef, a firefighter or Celine Dion’s manager (each of those are real answers I’ve received!). While I will admit, I’m quite skilled at my job, I may not have the strings to pull to hook someone up with Celine Dion, but I do recognize that within that dream probably lies an interest in popular music, a passion for an instrument, an outgoing and organized personality. From those traits, a real and meaningful job can be sought. 4to40 prides itself on thinking outside the employment box – focusing on each individual’s uniqueness. No one should be forced to work in a job or an environment that doesn’t make them happy or fuel their passion. For people who experience disability, work generally is a dream that is accepted as whatever is given to them. I work hard every day to change that. When I take individual interests, skills, talents and personalities into account, and then customize and carve roles out within workplaces that are of interest to the job seeker, I open up a whole world of potential for employment.
Nothing makes me happier than hearing about someone’s success at work, whether that’s an increase in hours, learning a new set of tasks or being invited for beers on Friday after a shift. The feeling of success at work is so much more than just the job itself. Gaining independence, financial freedom, being a contributing and valuable member of a team, forging real and meaningful relationships. We all seek these outcomes from our workplaces. Why wouldn’t the success of 4to40 be measured in the same ways?
For the people I support, becoming employed leads to independence, self-confidence and a feeling of self-worth. But wait, my role doesn’t end there. 4to40’s partners, the employers we work with, not only see the great value the employees bring to their workplace efficiency, they also recognize how workplace culture changes. When committed to inclusion – that is, embracing the diversity of every human – employers see that their entire workforce can be more welcoming, patient and empathetic. Workplace culture becomes more supportive of everyone, ensuring that all talents and successes are celebrated and acknowledged. 4to40 encourages employers within our community to create an environment where all employees feel connected, valued and safe. Through the support of our project, job coaches and willing peers in the workplace – all these important needs can be met, and dream jobs can be achieved!
Employment Partnership Consultant, 4to40
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