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Gentle Teaching has helped me understand the importance of presence in a world that idealizes busyness.

Five years ago, I began supporting with COR and was introduced to Gentle Teaching for the first time. Unfortunately, I had to move from Regina soon after, so was only able to support for a few months. However, Gentle Teaching has stuck with me ever since. Since returning to COR in September, my understanding and knowledge of Gentle Teaching has expanded greatly. Gentle Teaching, particularly the tools and pillars of Gentle Teaching, have greatly impacted the person I am today, as well as the person I strive to be. Since my introduction to Gentle Teaching, I have used the tools (words, hands eyes and presence) as well as the pillars (engaged, safe, loved/valued and loving) of Gentle Teaching to improve the professional, social and therapeutic relationships in my life. I strive to create relationships with all people in my life that are supportive, strength-based and built on the foundation of gentleness.

One of the tools that I find incredibly important is presence. It is also the tool I find myself needing to work on most frequency. Being a student, supporting at COR, and maintaining social relationships is very hectic and I often find myself incredibly busy and overwhelmed. I often feel as if I am being pulled in many directions, and my mind is often focused on the next thing I need to do (support, exams, deadlines, volunteer, birthday parties, etc.). Gentle Teaching has helped me understand the importance of presence in a world that idealizes busyness. Since being re-introduced to the tools of Gentle Teaching, I have allowed myself time to put down the phone, relax my mind and really be attentive and conscientious of what I am presented with in the moment. I have noticed the impact this has had on my life, especially in clinical practice with school. As nursing students, we have a lot to think about and learn during clinical placements in hospitals and in the community. Whether it is researching medications, implementing care plans, learning new assessment skills, implementing techniques for the first time or trying to find the right questions to ask, this experience can be crazy and overwhelming. When I remind myself of the tools of Gentle Teaching and the importance of being present, I am able to take a step back and focus on the moment. I am able to take the time to focus on the most important part of the experience, the patient. By doing this I am able to then use the other tools of Gentle Teaching (words, hands, eyes) to support the apprehensive, reassure the nervous, listen to those with stories to tell and see the patient as a whole person. I believe this makes me a better student, and I know it will make me a better nurse, and a nurse I strive to be.

Gentle Teaching has greatly impacted the person I am today, as well as the person I aim to be. It has helped guide me in creating compassionate and gentle relationships with those around me. It has also helped me give myself permission to be gentle with myself. I am incredibly grateful that COR has introduced me to the pillars and tools of Gentle Teaching, and I know I will take them with me through the rest of my life.

Gentle Teaching has greatly impacted the person I am today

Lindsay,

COR Family Member

Adopting Gentle Teaching is a unique process for everyone because it becomes a natural element within us

adopting gentle teachingThe person I aspire to continue to be:
Gentle teaching was given to me as an analogy in the form of a hat. A hat is worn during the day, you can choose what hat you wear, or you can avoid the hat that day altogether, but at the end of the day, you hang that hat up. Gentle Teaching cannot operate with authenticity and genuineness if you hang up this philosophy at the end of your support time or when you interact with others. Adopting Gentle Teaching is a unique process for everyone because it becomes a natural element within us at different points, serving different purposes. It has transformed the person that I continue to be each day by allowing me to find positivity in any situation and seek the optimism required to solve problems.

It has shown me that all growth initially depends on identifying necessary change within ourselves to accommodate others first. However, the power of relationship capacity building allows us to progress from giving people what they desire (showing that with us, they are safe and loved), into compromising and then into natural win-win outcomes, which is one of the most meaningful feelings of growth and connection. Keeping Gentle Teaching within my character has taken me to new heights as an individual. It directly impacts the service I provide through COR and simultaneously teaching me the value of being present in the lives of loved ones. It has taught me the importance of my presence and how to project my energy in a loving, safe and welcoming way to those I communicate with.

gentle teaching has taught me-sawyer quote

A large portion of communication is non-verbal and based on body language, facial expression and our eyes/hands as tools to deliver a safe, never-violent message. Non-violence requires an understanding of what the other person perceives as violent – not what we view as violence. Gentle Teaching has taught me perseverance by seeing setbacks, failures, relapses and struggles as necessary stepping-stones to success and achievement together.

For example, diet and physical exercise are seen as a daunting, uncomfortable experience to most, yet it is essential for a healthy, balanced life. From the beginning of serving individuals within COR, this concept has been no exception. The setbacks, lack of motivation, struggles to engage in healthy dietary choices and adopting health-balanced lifestyles have all been very prevalent. The persistence and patience acquired through this philosophy, however, has disallowed me to give up on people in their process of change. Slowly but surely, we make incremental gains in change, transforming into habits and a valued component of our time spent together. This is only possible through relationship building due to three distinct reasons: they will see that we aren’t going to leave their lives or give up on them, no matter what we go through, we go through it together and lastly, our persistence is received as the care to see their quality of life improve.

Gentle Teaching has taught me the importance of expanding relationships as the core of providing meaning in others lives -it will never be what we do or say that is remembered, but how we make others feel through the time spent together. Treating the janitor of a building in the same fashion we treat the owner of that same building is who I will continue to be and strive to empower others to be as well.

Sawyer,

COR Family Member

 

Our presence can change the way a situation can unfold

As I embark further into my nursing career, I am truly thankful for the philosophy that COR has ingrained within me and my practice when it comes to helping others. During my last rotation, I assumed I would not learn anything new because I was placed in a community Mental Health setting. To my surprise, I learnt a lot about myself and how I care for others based on the philosophy that I have been practicing throughout my years supporting with COR. It really opened my eyes to how ingrained Gentle Teaching was in my blood.

There were many difficult moments that occurred during my time in this Mental Health community setting, but because of my experience with COR, I was able to approach each difficult situation with an open mind and open arms. My instructor was the first to point out how my face did not necessarily express the fear and anxiety that I should be feeling in moments such as this as a third year nursing student. I explained to her that from my previous experience, there is an underlying reason for such behaviour and that our presence can change the way a situation can unfold.

Our presence-Shelby, COR Family Member

She was curious to where this knowledge had come from, and how I managed to create such an inviting space for someone who was experiencing such emotional trauma. I explained to her the philosophy of Gentle Teaching and how it can completely change our interactions with people who are struggling. She was very curious, and was eager to learn more about our philosophy. For the remainder of my clinical rotation, she encouraged me to mentor some of my fellow classmates on how important it is to be able to change our approach to yield a more positive relationship with those who we are caring for. The idea of person-centred care closely aligns with the nursing philosophy of patient-centred care which makes this transition into nursing very inviting for myself.

This is only one example of how Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am, or aspire to be. I am looking forward to see how Gentle Teaching will influence the rest of my nursing career, and how I can educate others on person-centred care.

 

Shelby,

COR Family Member

Caring for the caregivers is key for Creative Options Regina

Caring for the caregivers is key for Creative Options Regina

Employees at Creative Options Regina with a client. Supplied photo  

The job of providing supports for people with disabilities or those struggling with their mental health can take a heavy toll, though Creative Options Regina discovered when you care for the caregivers it benefits both the clients and the company.

This is their second year being named as one of Saskatchewan’s top employers. This year will mark Creative Options Regina’s 10th year in business though executive director Michael Lavis notes it was about seven years ago when the company started to refocus their efforts to create a healthier and happier work environment for their employees.

“The field of work we are in may not be physically demanding, but it’s very emotionally demanding,” he explained. “We need to ensure our employees feel supported and have the supports they need to be doing well both physically and mentally to be able to provide the quality care.”

Lavis said the key to providing this supportive work environment was to understand the needs and wants of their employees, which he credits as being the non-profit’s most valuable assets, and make sure they felt valued, respected and that their voices were being heard.

Not only do they offer their more than 200 employees flexible hours — including the opportunity to work shortened and condensed work weeks — and the option to telecommute, they also encourage the employees to share their passions — leading to the introduction of a number of sports teams, clubs and fun nights out.

“It’s about facilitating relationships both in and outside of work,” Lavis said. “When you think about the amount of time people spend in the workplace throughout their life, you would hope they have those relationships and connections with their coworkers.”

Putting these extracurricular activities in place is generally at a very minimal cost to Creative Options Regina, Lavis said. Even when there is a fee — such as the $1,000 entry fee to participate in the Regina Dragon Boat Festival — the amount of time and the number of employees who come out to support is more than worth it.

“All summer long they practice once a week, they’re engaged in this physical activity and connecting by doing something that they all love. So to me, thats $1,000 well spent,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to give it a try.”

Though Lavis notes it’s not always easy to manage the different needs of all their employees, he says this approach has also helped them retain employees longer — which in turn has helped maintain a sense of trust with their clients alongside the high quality of care they are known to provide.

“In the support services sector the turnover rate is quite, quite high and we’ve been year after year between nine and 14 per cent — which is a fraction of the provincial average,” Lavis finishes. “I believe a big part of that is because of the work environment we are cultivating and the attention we pay to our employees.”

Click here to view article on the Leader-Post site.

 

Two organizations prove that nice guys can finish first!

Mastermind Toys and Creative Options Regina

September 17, 2018
Your Workplace Sept-Oct 2018
While they may not seem that similar on the surface, Mastermind Toys and Creative Options Regina (COR) are two organizations proving that when you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your clientele. One is a toy retailer and one is a non-profit providing services to people with disabilities, but both focus on creating a warm and caring atmosphere and building a culture based on shared values.

The result? These two organizations have earned exemplary reputations with the communities they serve and enjoy unusually high staff retention rates for their industries.

Mastermind Toys

Mastermind has a unique philosophy for selling children’s toys and books. By fostering an educational approach, the company enriches not only the customer experience but the employee experience as well. In fact, they enjoy an average employee tenure of close to seven years — an almost unheard-of retention rate in retail stores.

Ryan Thorson, store manager of Mastermind Toys Terra Losa in Edmonton, Alberta, believes that the company’s workplace culture promotes a fun and inviting atmosphere that lives up to their motto: “We take play seriously.”

“I wanted to find a company where I could not only pursue career advancement,” Thorson says, “but also have it be a place that shares my values… a family-like atmosphere and a track record for treating its employees with fairness and respect.”

Mastermind was originally opened in 1984 by brothers Andy and Jon Levy in Toronto to sell educational software to families excited about their new home computers. Two years later, they opened a store in the Ontario Science Centre. Now with 60 stores across the country, and growing, Mastermind’s CEO, Jon Levy, understands the impact that his company can have on the communities where the stores are located.

In 2015, the company launched a partnership with WE (formerly Free the Children), a charity that supports youth education in Canada and overseas. In 2016, Mastermind stores raised $400,000, but the initiative isn’t just about giving back to the community; it’s also about engaging employees.

“Anne [Baston, vice-president of marketing] and I started to talk about the charitable side of our business and what we could do to broaden our horizons from the standpoint of how our employees were engaged charitably,” says Levy.

After much deliberation and brainstorming, the company selected WE. Its educational mandate plays well with Mastermind’s objective to sell toys that educate.

When they launched the initiative, many of the company’s younger employees were already familiar with WE from their school days. Selecting a charity with broad appeal, and that their employees were already comfortable with, made for a smooth, easy transference of enthusiasm from the top down. To drive home the impact that they are making through their charitable efforts, Mastermind takes managers of the stores that raise the most funds to Kenya on a yearly basis.

“Behind every great manager is up to 60 employees that get that store to greatness. Two store managers went with me and my wife, Karyn, who also works in the organization, the first year. The rest of their teams back in Canada got a fantastic reward package … Even though they didn’t go on the trip, they were highly congratulated with lots of prizing.”

Levy is always on the lookout for ways to connect with his employees. He started creating videos for the staff that, in addition to educating about a product, also introduces him to all employees in a playful, easygoing manner. This, in turn, helps break down uncomfortable hierarchy in the organization.

“Our inner kid, the way we like to play and what we think resonates with the community, really comes through in a personal way [with this] video program… so, it’s kind of fun,” he says. “When I visit stores, the newly hired staff say, ‘I know you, you’re on the video.’”

“Every store you go into, whether it’s out in B.C. or in Nova Scotia, it feels like family,” says Baston. “There’s a community feeling to all of the stores. Despite the fact that we’re growing… Mastermind does a really good job of hiring people with similar values. You can feel that when you walk into the stores, into the home office. I think that makes it very different from other retailers.”

Creative Options Regina (COR)

A culture of gentleness is woven into all aspects of the organization at COR — not just in how the individuals and families COR serves are treated, but in the people it hires and how each employee is mentored.

Michael Lavis, executive director, says that their method of “gentle teaching” is not specific to disability but rather can be applied to all people constructing supports for marginalized populations. “There are a handful of organizations — I think there are four of us now in Canada — working on this philosophy… which is really the foundation, the bedrock of the work that we do. And this is rooted in whether or not a person feels safe and valued — putting relationships at the core of care giving,” says Lavis.

The company is the seventh-largest care provider in Saskatchewan and employs 200 staff who serve 20% of the most challenging cases in the province’s service delivery system. Like other service providers, COR is contracted by the government to provide personalized support services for people with disabilities. What differentiates them from other providers, though, is the intentional shift they made to focus on their employees — the caregivers.

“By making that shift — by making sure we are nurturing our caregivers and that our employees are feeling cared for — what ends up happening is they give the utmost care to [our clients],” says Lavis. “So, it’s shifting the focus as an organization to our employees — to what the employee experience looks like, what the employee wants, what they need from us to feel supported and how we can really understand what is meaningful to our employees.”

Organizational culture is a popular topic these days, but Lavis challenges people to go one step further and work on shared values, as he feels that that has the greatest influence on culture. “What drives culture is value alignment. That’s something we’ve focused on, understanding the values of our employees … and where we see that alignment and shared common purpose,” he says.

In the Saskatchewan disability services sector the employee turnover rate was around 60% in 2015. By contrast, the turnover rate at COR has remained at a steady 9 – 14% since the company’s inception.

Creating a caring staff atmosphere is about understanding who is working for you and what is important to them. For most employees, a fair wage is critical. But for many that is only a small piece of a larger picture. There are other crucial factors, such as whether or not employees feel engaged and if their ideas and suggestions are listened to and valued. At COR, they have found that exploring employees’ passions and helping them bring those passions to life in the workplace is key.

“We have to have that conversation with our employees, because we need to know what it is that they want and need and whether that is something we are able to provide,” says Lavis.

Helping employees bring their passions into the workplace enables them to impart important life skills. For example, one COR employee who loves cooking offered to teach other employees to cook. As the average staffers’ age is 28, this is a skill that some of them may lack. COR helped the employee develop a monthly cooking class with regular attendance of 10-15 staff, who can now pass that skill onto COR clients.

Lavis says they plan to develop an art initiative next. The idea was brought to him by two employees who wanted to share their passion for art. “It’s a pivotal moment,” says Lavis. “A matter of us saying, ‘Yeah. I’d love to help you. How are we going to do this?’

“It’s easy to think of barriers of why they can’t do it. And that takes the wind out of their sails. But, by saying, ‘I love this idea. We just have to think it through a little bit more. Let’s talk.’ — Then, they are motivated and energized, and you know what? [Here we are now] developing an art studio. There were lots of barriers, but we have been able to work through [them] to be able to see it realized.”

Lavis believes that a customer-centric focus has actually harmed many companies. “People tend to focus on the customer and forget about their employees,” he says. “I think that, whether it’s a for-profit or not-for-profit business, if we want to provide the utmost care for those we are contracted to provide services to, that starts with us caring for our employees. If they feel well cared for, they are going to provide great care.”

 

Click here to view on the Your Workplace website.

 

I have seen tremendous transformations in the people I support

I, Jusinda, have had the opportunity to work with people who each have their own unique abilities. I have been able to become creative in a variety of different ways to create a barrier free environment for the individuals I support. The training I received — Gentle Teaching and application has given me the tools to give value to relationships. I have come to have more compassion for individuals that have been in the system for most of their lives. It can be very complex; respect is not complex. Since I have been able to apply the skills I have acquired at COR I’ve come to realize our time and attention are our most valuable resources as people. So when we choose to focus our time and attention on people, and with that compassion, beautiful things can grow.

its what i look up to

I have seen tremendous transformations in the people I support at COR with Gentle Teaching tools I have utilized. I have had the ability to learn from mistakes and grow through relationships. I have learned that relationships are not easy in this context, but I have chosen to give my time and attention to the individuals that I serve because I genuinely care about their progress and passions. I truly pride myself in being a part of the COR family, because COR is not your typical 9-5 job, as a support worker my job has taught me to be patient in the process of growth, and that growth is ongoing. The individuals I support at COR are my equals, my friends and the level of passion I see in them are what I look up to. They have shown me more about myself than I ever imagined. Gentle Teaching is effective and in line with my values about the approach taken when having a working relationship with individuals with varying abilities.

 

Jusinda

COR Family Member

Gentle Teaching has allowed me to look into myself at what I value.

Gentle Teaching has transformed who I am by leading me to think how I should respond to situations, both while supporting and in my everyday life. When I am supporting I know that Andrew has been in and out of various systems throughout his life and these have largely been negative for him. He has told me many times that COR is his ever-home and loves all the supports and friends he has made since moving into COR. I believe that this is highly due to the philosophy of Gentle Teaching, because it seems to have made the most positive impact on Andrew’s life. Gentle Teaching has allowed me to look into myself at what I value and how it is important to allow people to make their own decisions, even though what I feel would make their decision easier. This is the hardest part of supporting, but also rewarding. When I see the joy on the person’s face when the outcome of their decision is positive it makes me happy knowing that they have accomplished this their own way without feeling like I have overstepped my boundaries by providing advice. This is helping me to become who I aspire to be by allowing me to gain experience in multiple situations in the lives of the individuals I support.

all it takes is just one step

I aspire to have under my belt, vast knowledge and experience in handling my own thoughts about Gentle Teaching. As the philosophy is still fairly new to me, I believe that more organizations would benefit from following this ideology. It has inspired me to bring this to other places I volunteer at. For example, some people who come into a local organization who is working to alleviate homelessness are making poor life choices with alcohol. When I am interacting with these individuals I encourage them that their choices are their own and provide them with possible outcomes for various situations to help them find peace in their choices. This is difficult because policy is not grounded in Gentle Teaching. I find that Gentle Teaching should be presented to more organizations throughout our province and across Canada. Though I have big dreams of making changes within communities, all it takes is some support from one place to make the first stride to incorporating Gentle Teaching into more organizations.

Christopher,

COR Family Member

 

A culture of gentleness has invited me to grow in ways that I’ve never thought needed to.

Throughout my degree thus far, Kinesiology has inspired me to care for people- very similar to how work with COR has initially shaped that for me. The Gentle Teaching philosophy has a unique meaning and purpose in everyone’s lives. To me, it solely means caring for people in a way that puts them before anything else, seeing people as individuals with names, goals and aspirations, and developing a genuine relationship with them. Promoting leadership, compassion and this feeling of contentment seeing others succeed through empowerment within their own lives are attributes that both my degree, and this philosophy have given me in the last few years. What gentle teaching has taught me about love and care for people is that it’s not about maintaining clients, or creating a following; love is about creating meaning, raising each other up to their best place in life, while empathetic and unconditionally accepting in the hard times. Each unique relationship is maintained with consistency, trust and faith in each other.

I recall a shift in my perception with an important lesson learned within this last year- For as long as I have been enrolled in post-secondary education, I have contemplated personal training and following that path in some regard. Although, observing the way trainers interact with their “clients” has slowly shown me that I could never become complacent with displaying such little compassion for another person. I have grown into the type of person that puts a name to that client, is interested in their goals, their triumphs and their struggles. I’ve grown into the type that strives to create a relationship with those I may be working with and with this gentle approach- I do not have power over you, we have power together. Accepting the gentle teaching philosophy has shown me the importance of empowering those same people to be leaders and providing them the tools to become leaders of their own lives, but also being able to celebrate interdependence with people closest to them or people within the community to create their own sense of meaning.

“It isn’t what we do or say that will be remembered

Gentle Teaching has transformed who I am in many ways. It hasn’t changed who I am, but rather challenged me to find growth within myself. Growth is not an easy thing to accept as the principle of it insinuates the need to step out of a mindset we so comfortably accept. Therefore, growth cannot be confused with change. The culture of gentleness has invited me to grow in ways that I’ve never thought needed to- my interactions have become warm and welcoming; I have learned how crucial it is to be present in each moment with people. My focus is on building companionship with those I serve and interact with. An unconditional amount of patience allows me to value a person for who they are and not what they may be going through, or traits others may have pushed them away for. The philosophy of Gentle Teaching was once described to me as not simply just a hat that allows us to be gentle, able to be worn and hung up when we so please, it’s a feeling in your heart that is within everyone. Above all else, this culture has shown me how powerful it can be to maintain kindness, for it isn’t what we do or say that will be remembered, it is always how we make people feel.

 

Sawyer,

COR Family Member

The pillars of Gentle Teaching (safe, loved, loving, and engaged) have taught me the difference between equal and equitable.

Dr. John McGee’s Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am by helping me to understand that everyone deserves the help that they require. This is beneficial to me as I start my internship at a local inner-city school through the University of Regina Faculty of Education. As I start this journey, the teachings of McGee will continue to guide and shape my thought process by helping me to understand that there are reasons behind any action, as well as by helping me recognize the difference between equal and equitable. Together these teachings help me to better support those around me.

The realization that there is a reason behind any action will help to guide me in the future. The importance of recognizing things like attention seeking behaviours helps me to understand that some “negative” behaviours may stem from a negative experience or that a person may be lacking positive attention so they are seeking that attention through behaviours. A key for me to deal with this is to remember the four tools of gentle teaching; presence, words, hands, and eyes. By having a welcoming presence, words of encouragement/recognition and to spread conversation throughout the class, using my body language to show that I am calm and accepting, and my eyes to recognize everyone’s presence I will be able to provide positive attention to all students.

GT has helped me

Along with the tools, the pillars of Gentle Teaching (safe, loved, loving, and engaged) have taught me the difference between equal and equitable. This will guide me in supporting individuals who I serve with COR as well as in school. This is important because the pillars can be used as categories of self-fulfillment. When considering a person’s level of content with their pillars, there may be pillars where that persons level of content is higher than others. This is similar to using a wellness wheel to measure different areas of health like physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. By using the four pillars of gentle teaching I am able to better understand that everyone feels more content and less content in different areas so everyone needs equitable treatment that focuses on the pillar(s) that they need to improve the most in order to make that individual feel fulfilled in all four pillars. Where as equal treatment would focus on helping everyone progress in the same way without considering individual needs. Considering the four pillars will help me to make sure that people feel fulfilled in those areas and are able to say “in this place I feel safe, I feel loved, I am able to love and I am engaged with the people and things around me”. This helps me to better understand that everyone needs support in their own specific way.

Gentle Teaching has helped to transform me into the person I am today. The teachings help me to better comprehend the idea that every person needs a different form of support. Through critical thinking I am able to understand that there are reasons for any action and that people deserve to have support that suits their needs instead of one uniform approach. Gentle Teaching has helped me to grow as a teacher, support person and most importantly as a person.

 

Andrew,

COR Family Member