Gentle Teaching Stories: “I’ve spent time learning who my supports are and how they feel supported.”

As a brand-new team leader two years ago, I naïvely believed that I had a great enough understanding of Gentle Teaching. That I had reached some level of understanding that wouldn’t transform any further. I was incredibly wrong in that belief and having the past two years to learn about myself and lead my team, I see how vital Gentle Teaching is to a team culture.

I reflect often on power struggles and ego in regard to supporting and across team dynamics. I’ve been in situations that were unpleasant, where others were intentionally hurtful toward me, or toward others on the team. And it took me a long time to identify that these supports needed nurturing. When I began, it was very easy for my ego to step into the drivers seat, and for me to engage in power struggles over issues with my supports. I had a pretty good understanding of COR at the time, and a pretty good ability to read other people which equated to me being willing to go to the mat over a lot of truly miniscule things (hindsight is 20/20). However, I see how that wasn’t helpful. And now, when similar circumstances occur, I can find the space in myself to step back and view the issue from a greater perspective. I have learned to respond to people’s words, not tone. I have learned to seek deeper meaning in the concerns that are brought up. I have learned the importance of having difficult conversations.

I trust the people who are honest with me, about me, the most. And I foster that trust on my team through having that same expectation of myself, for them. I recognize people’s accomplishments – I thank people who have gone through difficult situations. I work hard on encouraging the team to celebrate each other, to find connection in each other, especially during and after tough moments. I work hard to set a good example – always using kind words, not engaging in negative speech about others and coming to the home with all my personal stuff checked at the door. I’ve spent time learning who my supports are and how they feel supported. I recognize that I have a lot more experience to learn and gain. Yet every interaction I have with my team, I can feel a practiced compassion come into how I greet them, what questions I ask and how I seek connection for them. My goal is to be a leader that no one is afraid of coming to, no one is afraid of getting in trouble, and knows that support will be there when needed. And I believe I have achieved this (at least, mostly) by going through my own self-growth and reflection and understanding how I can change the course of an interaction with a team member through my responses the same way I can change the course of an interaction through my positivity with the people I support.

Kassie, COR Family

Gentle Teaching Stories: “Sometimes all it takes is one positive experience to leave someone feeling safe and loved.”

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

Gentle Teaching Stories: “I strongly believe that Gentle Teaching can impact the likely hood of an individual re-offending if human justice professionals practice it in all levels of occupations within the justice system”

Regina to Host the 2024 Gentle Teaching International Conference

The 2024 Gentle Teaching International (GTI) conference is the premiere gathering of people from around the world committed to providing positive and proactive support in health, mental health, disability and educational sectors. This event will mark the 23rd anniversary of the conference and will bring together 500+ participants over three-days from October 1-3, 2024. This conference presents a unique opportunity to learn about the research, best practices, case studies and lessons learned on creating and sustaining a culture of support for vulnerable populations in varied environments.

Gentle Teaching incorporates compassion as an alternative to the reactive and restrictive practices that are commonplace in working with vulnerable populations. Our central purpose is to nurture, teach, and sustain the experience of connectedness, companionship and community for those who have repeatedly experienced an existence of disconnectedness, isolation and loneliness.

Gentle Teaching is based on the premise that all individuals have a right to feel safe and valued in their homes; with their families and caregivers; and at their job, school, or other forms of meaningful day activities. Those who are most vulnerable require predictability and structure in their day. They also need to experience interactions from others that are overwhelmingly positive and uplifting (vs. critical and demanding). This is truly a cultural shift to, or in some cases a deepening of, those principles that provide a solid base for helping individuals experience companionship and connectedness. It serves as a foundation for other models of treatment or teaching specific to the needs of the individual.

COR and Gentle Teaching Canada are proud to host the Gentle Teaching International Conference in Regina, Canada on October 1-3, 2024. Visit the conference website to register and be the 1st to know when conference tickets go on sale!

Click Here for the GTI 2024 Conference Website.

Gentle Teaching Stories: “Realizing that every day is a new day and that there are always new experiences to be had, allows for suspense and a chance for growth – not just for whomever I am with, but for myself as well.”

Gentle Teaching Stories: “Gentle Teaching taught me that things don’t always have to be punishments and rewards”

Gentle Teaching Stories: “Gentle Teaching provides an environment that allows everyone to be themselves.”