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.
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
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.
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
Every year we celebrate the people who are committed to making our organization great! This year, COR Supports gathered for an evening of fun and gaming at a Casino Night hosted by the Tartan Lounge!
I cannot express how fortunate I am to work alongside such a dedicated, compassionate group of people. You are all remarkable individuals and I sincerely appreciate your determination and commitment to creating a culture of gentleness within COR.
I know our work can be challenging at times, but I truly believe that by working together, remaining strong and committed to our mission, we will succeed in achieving our goal of building a brighter future for those we serve.
Thank you for everything that you do. You are all truly a source of inspiration.
When I think about COR and the individuals I serve in relation to a culture of gentleness, I think it is extremely important to remember that we are all human beings and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Treating people like people, and not like patients or clients shows these individuals that they are loved, important and cared about. By doing this, it ensures each relationship I have with the individuals I serve to be authentic and meaningful, and in turn allows for this culture of gentleness to develop and flourish over time. I approach each individual support time with a positive and friendly attitude, because I know that this will let the individuals I serve know that I want to be there, and I am happy to be in their presence every time I am with them.
I also believe that in order to maintain a culture of gentleness I need to love the individuals I support unconditionally. It is often easy to get frustrated, angry or upset when unfavourable incidences arise, but as a support I consciously make an effort to show that my respect, love and loyalty will not alter regardless of the situation. As a support, I always encourage the individuals I serve to pursue their passions and become involved within their community to not only enhance their own lives, but also the lives around them. By doing this, it shows these individuals that they are both capable and important members of our team and community. Those within COR that I support learn that they have the ability to positively impact someone else’s day. The safety of the individuals as well as the team is very important to me, and I believe that if I am able to provide a gentle environment through my words and my actions, everyone is able to feel much more safe within their home and with everyone around them. When situations arise that may not be safe for myself or the individual, I make sure to stay calm and remember to respect everyone involved not only to act a positive role model, but also so that a safe and positive outcome occurs.
During my time with the individuals I serve, I make sure that they know how individually special they are, that they are loved and cared for by many and that I genuinely enjoy and cherish the time that we spend together. I do this not only with my words, but also with my consistent display of true unconditional love for each person that I support and support with. I believe this is critical in ensuring a gentle environment and relationship. Ultimately, I believe it is extremely important to remember that we are all equal regardless of our ability level. I truly believe that the only disability in life is a bad attitude! When we treat those we support, and support along side as equals, everyone is able to feel safe, supported and loved by one another and this is how true relationships are built.
Sawyer, COR Support
COR was featured in the October/November 2015 issue of the Saskatchewan Business Magazine. Read the article below:
In everyone’s life there are those moments or experiences that capture your full attention and enchant your heart. In my life I have had a handful of these experiences: including lying in a rain storm emotionally broken to which when the rain stopped craziest Northern lights began dancing across the skies, my first date with Larissa my beautiful wife and the days that both my children were born. If you took the time, sat back and reflected on your life I too believe that you would pinpoint experiences that spurred a major reaction within you which kick-started a wave of changes: either big or small. As I sit in this opened aired mall, with people hustling and bustling around with only two weeks before Christmas, I confidently can say that Creative Options Regina (COR) has been added to my life experiences that have provoked change.
Nearly three years ago I took a position with Creative Options Regina after a friend and fellow wait-staff told me about her new position with “this super awesome organization!” The words that flowed from her mouth were captivating and got me excited! Not wanting to sound like a stalked, I hesitantly approached her and asked if she would be ok if I applied with this new-found organization. With a resounding “YES!” I applied. in the following months, I quit my job as a waiter and engaged in full time support hours with COR. I don’t know if I ever really thanked this person allowed: so now is the time! Thank-you Brittany Bechard for your wisdom in knowing a little about my heart, ‘seeing something in me,’ and encouraging me to apply. You are an incredible woman and those who you serve and support have a better quality of life because of you. When I first started supporting with COR I served Jesse, Jasen and Shaun. These men are incredible and taught me a lot about myself. Jesse’s determination to do everything in a day, Jasen’s love of authentic relationship and Shaun’s ability to be the slowest eater in the world taught me to embrace the small things, laugh, and rest in the fact that in those moments together nothing else needed to consume me: we were, and that was more than enough. A few short months after starting my journey with COR I was asked if I would consider moving teams to support a young man named Michael. Little did I know that this man would reveal my true colors, challenge me to be a better me, and become not only a friend but a brother.
My journey with this man was not always easy. Sometimes it was hard. Perhaps it is just me, but I think it is the hard things in life that are worth fighting for. My journey with Michael led me to new heights, literally. In the summer of 2014 we were able to strike out on new adventures together, including a handful of roads trips and an airplane ride around the Regina city limits. Michael, and others in COR have become an intricate part of our family: coming over for meals, playing with our kids and engaging in this “thing” we call life. My words can’t express the joy and appreciation I have for each of the people who have come into my life during this time of my life.
Though the people that I have been led to serve have impacted me tremendously: I have been equally left effected by those who I am blessed to call friends and coworkers. From the leadership of the management team, to the bravery of team leaders, to the humility of support people, you have sparked change in my life: Whether it is Jenna walking into my office to “just talk about life”, or going out for a drink with Ryan, Reid, Murray or Bart to talk about the philosophical structures of Gentle Teaching, I have been challenged and changed: Thank-you.
Perhaps this is why it is so difficult to write this blog: the relationships we have built matter! It is with a mixing pot of emotions that I write to tell you that as a family we have decided to resign from my position as Director of Culture and Mentorship and relocate. Our decision was one that was not taken lightly, or easily made. Every square inch of the effect of our decision was scrutinized and processed: to the point of believing that I needed a heart transplant. It is with great sadness that we let everyone know that as of January 15th, 2016 we will no longer be serving at Creative Options Regina. This decision had little to do with COR and more with my own physical health, the health of our family and an opportunity that we believe will lead us to help spark change elsewhere in Saskatchewan.
As we prepare to leave there are a lot of details that we are hoping and praying will fall into place. But I am fighting hard to finish well. I believe that whatever my hand finds to do I have a role and a responsibility in helping it come to fruition: to pursue the best outcome possible. In the coming weeks, I will be focusing a lot of my time to the curriculum that I have been developing over the past year, along with finding moments to say those proper goodbyes.
If I may: and I will! I would like to leave you with a message of encouragement. It has often been said that Gentle Teaching carries a lot of power. While I don’t disagree with this completely, I believe that it can be refined all the more. Gentle Teaching equips people with the skills and tools to have a voice of influence, which in return equips you with a “power”. Now don’t misunderstand me: I am not suggesting that you are to have power OVER someone. Rather, you, yes YOU, have the ability to be a powerful influence. The way in which you choose to interact with someone, and the words that you use can and will change a person’s life. So I beg you: be kind, speak with wisdom, pursue good, love the lonely, hurting and brokenhearted, know that your purpose on this earth goes beyond the material things that we we can collect for ourselves. The relationships in which you currently find yourself (whether long-lasting or temporary) are the most meaningful. As you go through out your daily life, with friends, loved ones and team members, remember your tools. Your mouth is to speak kind words, uplifting others. When your hand is forced to address difficult situations remember that your words carry a powerful punch and even in the midst of addressing conflict or correction can become vessels of empowerment for those you are speaking to. Your hands are to be agents of care: assisting the homeless, uplifting the broken, encouraging the fearful yet doing all of this together. Your presence should display the message of your intent: I am here with you, through thick and thin. As I often have said my training’s, “we are in this together, because WE, well we are the dream team and nothing can stop us!” And finally use your eyes to empathize, sympathize and see the true story of peoples lives. Our eyes should not just be used for the present, but be used for the future. Dream big dreams for both yourself and the person you are serving. Work hard not to become entrapped in what you see now, but dream about tomorrow. The people you serve deserve it, and so do you!
From my family to you: we thank-you for the impact that you have had in our lives.
With all of my heart and deepest gratitude,
My most memorable time at COR has to be one of my more challenging days. We had just gotten back from a rough time at a softball game. The person I was supporting made a choice and ended up having to deal with some of the repercussions. When we got back home we had a really great heart to heart moment together. We talked and had a moment of learning together about what happened and why. I feel like it’s moments like these that I get up for everyday.
To go through life one step at a time and learn something valuable with every step we take. COR is an amazing place for everyone to come and learn. It’s not only the people we support that learn, but every person I have spoken to is truly impacted by the people we support in one way or another. We all learn from each other and its alright to make mistakes, as long as we pick ourselves up and are ready to try again.
When: November 5, 2015 2-3pm
Where: Saskatchewan Science Centre Theatre
Mark Wafer is the owner of six Tim Hortons franchises in Ontario. Over the past 20 years, Mark and his wife Valerie have hired 118 people with disabilities and currently employ 46 people with disabilities from a work force of 250.
Mark believes there is a clear business case for inclusive employment.