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GT has influenced my identity as an education student by helping me incorporate ideas into inclusive classrooms

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.

gentle-teaching-is-a-philosophy-rooted-in-the-recognition-of-all-people-having-the-right-to-be-treated-in-positive-ways

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

 

Gentle Teaching isn’t about trying to change behaviour…

Through my 3 and a half years of experience with COR and the philosophy of Gentle Teaching, I have attained a wealth of knowledge and an everlasting impact on my life. When I first started with COR, just like most people, I was a bit skeptical of the whole ideology of unconditional love. In latent terms, I perceived it as ‘give them whatever they want’ or ‘they can do whatever they want without consequences’. At the time, I failed to realize it was so much more than that. The whole basis of Gentle Teaching isn’t trying to change the individual’s behaviour, but rather changing our approach on how we serve the individuals.

My ability to use Gentle Teaching had never really been challenged until I began supporting at a new home and more specifically supporting one individual at that home. When I began, to be 100 percent honest, I was quite nervous. I had heard all the stories that this was the hardest team to support on. To my surprise, it really wasn’t! I got off to a good start with two of the guys. The only one I hadn’t connected with was one of the guys. Every time I would enter his space or try to interact with him, he would completely shut me down. This really bugged me personally. I am the type of person who really likes to get along with everybody, and at times, will over step boundaries to be liked by that person. This happened one day when I was supporting him. I came in that day with what I thought was a solid game plan. I was going to force myself to stay with him, we were really going to joke around and have an awesome time together. I also had the idea to take him to a Rider practice that day thinking it was going to be an amazing experience. I was completely wrong. Sure, he enjoyed the idea of going to Rider practice and seeing all his favourite players, but he still didn’t feel safe around me. I struggled to interpret what he was saying numerous times throughout the day and it led to numerous negative moments, the worst being at the Rider practice where he hit me. After that day, I came to realize that by forcing myself to be in his space, I had removed one of the most fundamental and most important pillars of Gentle Teaching; feeling safe.

They have taught me if I adjust how I provide care and unconditionally love them, rather than force them to be who they are not, that they will reciprocate it back in their way

In order to fix this, I needed to change how I provided care, while also trying to encompass the tools of Gentle Teaching to build the four pillars. For the next couple of months, I took a step back and really focused on observing, rather than forcing myself into situations for my own personal reasons. I was selective and patient in choosing the times that were appropriate to help strengthen his sense of feeling safe around me. Most of these interactions were focused around watching sports games or going out to grab a drink from 7/11. I tried keeping the interactions short and consistent allowing him to become comfortable around me. As time passed, I was able to get him to feel safe by changing how I provided for him. Once I had the sense of feeling safe around me, the other three pillars (feeling loved, feel loving towards others, and feeling engaged) came much more naturally.

Through my experience with all the individuals I support, they have had an everlasting impact on my life. They have taught me if I adjust how I provide care and unconditionally love them, rather than force them to be who they are not, that they will reciprocate it back in their way.

 

Brydon, COR Family Member

My First Two Weeks with COR

When I first came to COR I didn’t know what to expect. Much like the first day of school, I held my lunch kit close to me – as it is the only thing I knew in my unusual surroundings – and made the tentative first steps towards my desk. I expected the commonplace whisperings from the corners of the office, “Who is that?” “Is that the new guy?” as they avoided all eye contact and slithered back to their desks checking emails all the while telling myself how silly I was for leaving my comfort zone and placing myself in such unfamiliar territory…

Except none of the snickers happened – not did I have regrets for leaving the cocoon that was my last job. I was greeted with smiles, handshakes, and most importantly laughter. Everyone welcomed me and assured me that my first few days were going to be great. They didn’t lie. My first few days flew by as I fell into my new position and started meeting my new colleagues. Any questions I had were greeted with friendly and encouraging answers. It felt great to be part of a positive team again; more importantly it felt that I was an actual team member, an equal; no one was higher or lower on the corporate ladder – we were all one big team working together to help those that we serve.

I have had the chance to experience many community building activities since arriving at COR. I joined the Dragonboat team and even went kayaking with the people with serve – an experience that was so fun, I am thinking of buying my own Kayak! I have been invited out to the art night and cannot wait to attend my first COR BBQ. This is only the tip of the iceberg of activities COR has to offer and I cannot wait to be a part of them all. All of these unforgettable experiences are what makes COR special. You would not be able to find this at any other place of work.

Meeting all the people we serve was the greatest part of my first few weeks. Having limited experience working with people with disabilities had me a little nervous. After the first few days and after meeting quite a few of the people we serve I look forward to having great conversation and interactions with everyone I have met day in and day out – there is no lack of positivity in this workplace and I am elated to have made the step to work at COR.

I am now finishing my second week here at COR and time continues to fly. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything – I am looking forward to many more years with COR and to help all those we serve to smile and laugh every day. Shoot for the Stars!

 

Tom,

Administrative Assistant

 

All ideas are valued and appreciated

Health and Fitness has always been a passion of mine and I have been trying very hard to promote that within our team. I have taken the lead with healthy grocery shopping and meal planning with the individuals we serve, but I have also been promoting our supports to do the same. When speaking to the team about proper nutrition, I open-the-floor for supports to share their ideas on how to promote a healthy lifestyle as well. All ideas have been valued and appreciated.

I hope to continue to promote health and fitness within our team

The team has come together in encouraging the guys to eat more food in a day and at proper times. I have also made it a priority to have the guys eat as many meals together at the table with their support. It promotes a sense of family and togetherness. I stress the importance of proper nutrition and reduced sugar in our diet. The team has been making better choices with what they buy for foods too.

One of the guys is also taking an interest in his health and he is becoming more internally motivated to keep his body healthy. I cook meals with him every few weeks and then freeze them so he has easy access to healthy and tasty meals that he can warm-up on his own. The rest of our supports have also been taking an initiative in getting him more physically active and eating healthy. I take him to the gym every week and he now looks forward to going and works very hard. My culture of gentleness definitely is reflected in my passion for keeping the individuals we serve physically healthy and happy. I am proud of them for telling me the things they like and don’t like when it comes to healthy meals and being physically active. I am also proud of our supports for being consistent in making health a priority. I hope to continue to promote health and fitness within our team, as it has benefited the overall quality of life with the individuals we serve.

 

Kyla, COR Support

 

It isn’t a job! It’s a Culture of Gentleness!

Coming from a standard 9-5 job and not really knowing what all was out there for employment, COR seemed like it could be a new experience, but nothing more! Right from the minute I sat down for my interview I learned that I could not be more wrong. Everything felt different. In the sit down interview we hardly even spoke about the job! Sure I learned what I’d be doing, where I would be spending most of my time, and what was expected of me, but it was warmer than that.

The man who interviewed me asked what I liked to do. He actually cared about getting to know me! We talked about everything from the gym and martial arts; what I initially thought was an interview turned quickly into a conversation. I was spending time talking to someone,  getting to know someone.

Quote from Cole, COR family member

The feeling of having someone care about you and actually want to know, and include you in something this special was amazing! This feeling has only become more intense.

It is a feeling that has began to resonate within myself. I care about looking after and genuinely appreciate the young lady I support. I want to see her do all the things she has always wanted to experience. Watching her grow and learn that we are not the institutions she was accustomed to is uplifting to be a part of.

It’s a Culture of Gentleness, and it is what we strive in COR to instill within ourselves and in the people around us

The work we do is not about a pay cheque. The organization doesn’t allow for people with that mindset to exist within it. It grows us, and it is the 4 pillars that COR stands upon which make it so: safe,  loved,  loving  and engaged are 4 fundamental beliefs in COR that shook my ideas of what a “job” was supposed to be. It isn’t a job! It’s a Culture of Gentleness, and it is what we strive in COR to instill within ourselves and in the people around us. It is those fundamental values that take this “job” and changed it into a community.

 

Cole, COR Support

 

A Conversation with a COR Support…

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!

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!

It’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things

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 try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn’t exist.

I am creating a culture of gentleness with the woman I support slowly. Gaining trust between each other was, and still is, difficult not only for her to trust me, but also for me to trust her. Something that I think that is unique that I have done is to never treat her differently than I would treat anyone else I care about. I talk to her like she is no different! For lack of better terms, I’m not afraid to be myself. I have created a relationship with her where I can treat her like a friend. This is because I like to help people. It’s in my nature to try to make people happy. I slowly but surely developed genuine care for her.

By creating a comfortable environment and creating that comfortability you can then slowly begin to stretch that zone, and shape it to a bigger and broader comfort zone and I believe that, that is a key to growth. I also think that gentle teaching is growth. I believe in walking beside someone, and holding their hand. Not following behind them and allowing them to go where ever they wish, as that can sometimes be harmful to people unknowing or unaware of their true desires or what it is that truly makes them happy. Also not walking in front and forcing or pulling in a direction that may not be fully desired. Together and side by side you can guide, not force or follow but guide. I try to guide the woman I support. I try to allow her to be her 41 year old self, whose loving and caring and a truly genuine good person and guide that to create more of her wonderful growth. I think walking in front of her would not be as beneficial if any benefit. Walking behind her would also not benefit, because everyone who has ever lived on earth needed or needs a hand every now and then.

I try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn't exist

I try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn’t exist. I think that when activities are changed, and adapted to minimize or remove limitations and the focus is on abilities and effort than disability no longer exists. I want her to feel free. It should always feel like friends are over for her, and for us it should never feel like a job. Although it is a job and we do have duties I try always to implement a lesson in what we do so that when we’re done she has not only had a great experience with her friends, but also gained a lesson and learnt something that will allow her to grow which is our goal. Being with her is very important. Even when she is feeling down or sad, and may not want to talk.

Presence is how I show her I care. That no matter what, I’m still here and I got your back. I allow her to run her house as if it is her own, because it is her space and she should feel that she has control over it because in turn that allows her comfort levels to raise. Every person deserves the right to feel comfortable in their space of living. In the space they call home.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to do what I need to do. Helping create, and doing what I can to maintain a culture of gentleness with the woman I support has overflowed into my own life. I can say that this job has changed my life. I hope that I can return that favour within the organization and within my own life and the woman I support, whom I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to meet, and lucky enough to continue to spend time with.

 

Jeff, 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

 

Giving Patrick Independence – A Video by The Saskatchewanderer

The Saskatchewanderer spent some time this spring hanging out around COR capturing some footage of Patrick and his friends! Here is what he had to say:

“No two people are the same. That is the philosophy behind Creative Options Regina (COR), an organization that provides personalized support services for people with disabilities. The staff at COR tailor supports for each individual to help them discover their talents and interests and to help them reach their personal goals. COR has helped Patrick find full time work, develop an active social life and live independently in his own home. I first had the pleasure of meeting Patrick during a sports night at the Core Ritchie Community Centre in Regina, and I immediately understood his nickname — Energizer Bunny.”

A special thanks to the Government of Saskatchewan (Ministry of the Economy) and Neil Fisher (The Saskatchewanderer) for making this video possible!

Click here to learn more about The Saskatchewanderer.

-Michael

We all want the same things: to feel safe, to love, and to be loved.

I am so thankful for the training and knowledge I have received from COR. At the time I was hired I was simply looking for employment that was person centred in which I would be able to work closely with people. When I think about other agencies I could have worked for, I am truly happy I chose the path that I did. I understand that social work can be a very difficult job in which I may be required to follow strict policies which do not appear to better the individuals I am serving. At COR, I always feel that I am doing right by the individuals I work with and value the strong relationships I have been able to develop in such a short period of time. I owe this to the gentle teaching training I have received.
I believe we should be viewed as equal to those we support at COR; this is why I love the terminology of “support person” or even better a “friend”. I enter someone’s life and learn so much about them- their fears, their dreams, their hobbies, their family, their past and so on. I partly create my culture of gentleness by allowing them glimpses into my own life to be viewed as an equal. Having them over for lunch, allowing them to meet my family, and opening up about myself. I believe this allows people to feel more comfortable with you and that they will then feel safe opening up to you. Additionally, I always ensure I do not pass judgement. If someone opens up and tells me something about themselves or confesses something that has been bothering them, I ensure to be conscious of my facial expression, body language and tone when I respond. This allows for an open conversation in which they will come to me in the future and feel that they can talk and open up without judgement. COR has taught me about the power of my tools- my hands, my eyes, my tone… these can all have such a huge effect on your ability to make someone feel safe with you.

I always feel that I am doing right by the individuals I work with

In my eyes, a culture of gentleness can be broken down to simply mean what do we all deem to be valuable and important in our lives?

We are all individuals and yet, at a basic level, we all want the same things. To feel safe, to love, and to be loved. I have had the privilege of feeling safe in my life and it requires empathy to understand even the tiniest glimpse of what some of the individual’s supported at COR have gone through and what can change in your life when you no longer have to fight for basic needs. I have witnessed firsthand how much it means to someone to be able to give- to show love. For those I support to be able to teach me about something, to make me lunch or buy me a coffee; this means that they view me as a friend and care about me just as I care about them. I am proud to be a member of COR and proud of the strong relationships and friendships I have developed.

 

Shandrea, COR Support