I still vividly remember learning about a culture of gentleness as a young Support Worker nearly eight years ago. I remember the “lightbulb” moment that I had learning about Gentle Teaching and how I was immediately drawn to this incredible organization that treated people in a way that aligned with my values and beliefs.
Before getting hired at Creative Options Regina, I had worked for another program that supported teenagers with intellectual/developmental disabilities. I chose to leave that job because the way people were treated and looked at by those in positions of power didn’t sit right with me. I was asked to do things within that role that left me with a pit in my stomach. As someone so new to the field, I didn’t have anything to compare my experiences to, and I wondered if this is just how it goes in the disability sector.
That all changed when I began my journey at COR and realized that how I had been feeling was valid and for good reason. Treating people with kindness and dignity IS a part of this sector of work, and I had finally found a place where I felt at home. Over the past eight years at COR, I have been able to nurture a culture of gentleness not only with those I was supporting, but also within myself. A culture of gentleness isn’t just something you forget about after a support time. A culture of gentleness is something that becomes a part of you, if you let it.
I have been privileged to have been in several different roles during my time at COR, all of which have taught me different aspects of Gentle Teaching within different settings. During my time as a Direct Support Worker, Gentle Teaching meant ensuring that those I was serving felt safe around me, built trust with me, and knew I was there to support them first and foremost. As a support, I worked very hard at leaving my personal feelings, my stressors, and my struggles within my personal life at the door. I remember Jim talking about this in a training very early on and this stuck with me. As soon as I stepped into the house of the person I was serving, I was a guest in their home. I wasn’t there to only support THEM, they were not there to support me. I chose this job, and they have welcomed me into their home so it was important to enter into it with a positive attitude and open mind.
As I worked my way into the Aspiring Team Leader role and the Team Leader role, I was able to encourage and support my teammates to also work on this same mindset when entering people’s homes. How would it feel if someone came into your home and was grumpy, distracted, or upset? Would that make you feel safe? Would that be something you’d want to engage in? Would that make you feel loved? Likely not.
When I transitioned into the role of Literacy Facilitator, I remember wondering if Gentle Teaching might look a little bit different. I remember feeling worried that I might not get to spend as much time with those we supported, and wouldn’t have as much success nurturing this gentle culture I had worked so hard at in my previous roles. The truth is, it doesn’t always matter how much time you spend with someone. Sometimes all it takes is one positive experience to leave someone feeling safe and loved.
Kristyn, COR Family