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.



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.



COR Family Member


Wholeness within Gentle Teaching

The past year that I have spent learning about Gentle Teaching, watching transformation occur, and seeing genuine relationships evolve has been my favorite experience as a nurse.  The best part of the philosophy, and the most tangible to me, are the four pillars; safe, loved/valued, loving and engaged. These pillars easily tie into my clinical training in wholistic health, the view of body and mind as one dynamic process. If we break down each pillar separately, we are able to better see where we are balanced and where we need improvement.

How is your emotional wellness? Are you being nurtured? Do you feel emotionally safe? Do you have insight/intuition? Are you financially stable?

How is your mental wellness? Do you have opportunities to learn new skills? Do you have opportunities to share your wisdom with others? How is the environment around you?

How is your spiritual wellness? Do you have vision/inspiration/enlightenment? Do you have companionship? Are you connected socially? Do you have a connection to the earth?

How is your physical wellness? Do you have a sense of community? Do you participate in activities meaningful to you? How’s your energy? How’s your presence? Do you have meaningful employment?

These questions within the four pillars allow us to take a step back and look at the big picture of overall health, awareness of our body, mind, heart, spirit, and the connectedness between them. To be in good wholistic health is to maintain balance in various areas of our lives while continuing to learn and grow as a person. This is why it is important that we re-visit the pillars often to re-evaluate where we are on our wellness journey.

Gentle Teaching is a malleable tool that can be useful in all sorts of applications. Sometimes all you need is a little perspective.

– Haley Ralko, Director of Mental Health Services


Interconnection and Caring

I am becoming more aware that everything is interconnected. Having this mindset reminds me that everyone and everything has a purpose, is worthy of respect and caring, and has a place in this circle of life. As I sit and write this from a local coffee shop, I am aware that the woman sitting at the table next to mine is an extension of myself and at the same time something separate from me that I respect in her own right. This feeling of someone being a part of me is enhanced when they are in my care. I am supporting them but this does not mean they are dependent upon me. I know that this person does not need me in order to survive. Rather, I experience their development as bound up with my own sense of well being and my purpose, together co-creating our destinies. Interdependence is crucial in learning about yourself, feeling your own separateness yet seeing the other as the same as you. Gentle Teaching is based on the notion of human interdependence bound by unconditional love. The caregiver must delve into thorough self examination, wrapping her spirit up with gentleness to then provide and teach unconditional love and connectivity to the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our society.

My hope is that through my teaching and modelling the people I support will learn how to feel safe and loved. My role is to provide a safe space and opportunity for them to grow in their own right. I see their potentiality and I believe that my primary role as a caregiver is to aid in this growth. This does not give me power over them, but rather I see it as privilege to support and witness. I have been entrusted with the care of another, the opposite of possessing, manipulating or dominating. Caregivers must be heart-centered, focusing on feelings of the heart. I must be creative in how to express love abundantly and generously. Love to me doesn’t equate to an object but rather love is us at our core. Love is our whole being, our godliness. Care-giving is about knowing and choosing to be love. I believe that this will only be reflected back to you. This is how we teach. Life is nothing but an opportunity for love to blossom and for us to become love.

Caregivers must be genuine in their care. There must be no discrepancies between how the caregiver acts and how they truly feel. I can not care by sheer habit; I must be able to learn about the past to create my own moral based memory. I have found that we must develop a rhythm, observing our actions and reactions, in order to remove our expectations of the future. This requires watching people, situations and events and truly absorbing these experiences through thought and feeling. In light of those results we maintain or modify our behaviour, expressing love, no matter what. We must support in the here and now, meeting the people we support exactly where they are at today. This requires me to flow back and forth. Something that worked yesterday may not work today. I must be aware of what I am doing and whether this is helping or hindering the individual.

As caregivers we should not only ensure that those whom we serve are safe, and feel loved, but we also feel safe and loved ourselves. We must provide opportunities for the people we support to express their love, to care for someone or something a part from themselves. Efforts aimed at helping those we support to understand themselves in terms of their morality—characteristics like compassion, gratitude, mercy, and generosity—can restore their sense of identity. These bonds are critical to one’s well-being and health, as they are the source of all connectedness.

I engage with others in holistic and meaningful ways that support well-being and encourages connection. My favourite times are when I can wholeheartedly “be” with whomever I am supporting. It is then that I am able to access my inner-knowing to connect deeper with the person I am supporting. When we listen respectfully and attentively to what others say with what I call, our heart mind, we are able to know them much more than our rational minds allow. When we allow ourselves to delve into the deep pockets of love, connection and intuition, we are able to better understand the true essence of the person. I am forever grateful for the deep and genuine connections I have made with those I care for. I am constantly reminded this is the foundation of all relationships within our world, encompassed by our interconnectedness.

– Andie Palynchuk, Support Worker

Creating a culture of Love

Creating a Ritual of Love

While growing up my family had all kinds of little rituals that, even as a child, I knew were completely unique to my family. Each night before bed, regardless of where we were in the house, once my sister and I were tucked in we would all shout loudly to one another “NIGHT, LOVE YOU, SEE YOU IN THE MORNING!” It became such an important ritual to my sister and I that it would have been unthinkable to try and go to sleep without hearing my parents say those magic words of night time protection. Throughout my childhood, my dad would yell at the top of his lungs “JANA…NICHOLE…FRONT AND CENTER!” In another home those might have been frightening words, but we knew exactly what it meant. We would drop whatever we were doing and come running at full speed to stand in front of my dad with anticipation. Sometimes it was a treat he bought us on the way home, sometimes it was money to go to the store and sometimes it was a surprise or good news to tell us. When we heard those words, we knew that it was going to be good!

We all have small rituals that get us through our day; morning coffee, kiss the kids goodbye, our route to work. These things are like touch stones and once they become ingrained in our day, they become essential to our flow. If I miss a step, or something goes wrong, if I sleep through my alarm for example, it throws my whole day off kilter and sometimes it’s impossible to get it feeling back on track for the rest of the day.

In building our relationships with the people we support, it’s important to remember how unpredictable and chaotic their lives can be and that (to them) we are just another stranger in a long line of strangers that are thrust into their lives. They don’t always have the ability, the insight or even the control to build into their day the small rituals that we all have that keep us emotionally and mentally on track. One of the things I have worked really hard at is creating unique and personalized dialogues with people that I support; inside jokes or small rituals that we do every single time we are together. Whether it’s a song we sing, a running joke that gets repeated at the same time every day or a ritual of sitting together and sipping coffee in silence, you can intentionally build these rituals into your relationship that are unique to just the two of you. By doing so, you set yourself apart in some way from the dozens of care workers that have come before you and create a new and special bond that begins to become a foundation for the friendship that may come with time. Even more important, you will give the person you serve the gift of creating a touchstone for them in their day. Something that they can count on to happen and that brings a feeling of safety and security and something that they will inevitably begin to associate with you.

When things get scary in life and when our world begins to fall apart, there are people, places and things that we count on to hold on to, to remind us of who we are. To this day, if I crash at my parents house, you will hear us yelling from room to room, just before we fall off to sleep, “NIGHT, LOVE YOU, SEE YOU IN THE MORNING!”

– Nichole Gooding, Team Leader

Embracing My Weakest Tool

Before SAI I had no prior knowledge of Gentle Teaching other than the brief summary I had read on the website.  My first Gentle Teaching training was amazing and I was instantly hooked.  Here I was, in a professional workplace, being taught that all these things I naturally do were the very tools I would be using to build my relationships and succeed in this organization.  I couldn’t believe it.  I told my parents, my friends and anyone who would listen about Gentle Teaching.

Now that I was equipped, I was ready to start actively using my tools.  I thought it was going to be a piece of cake.  I quickly realized I was relying on some tools much more than others; touch and words of affirmation were the ones that came easy to me.  Some of my relationships were growing really fast and it felt really good.  When I was with those individuals I was using the right tools and it showed.  Those were the days that were filled with smiles and the companionship was effortless.

I had one particular relationship that showed me I needed to sharpen my tools.  I had to move to passively using the ones that came easy to me to actively using the ones that put me out of my comfort zone.

This individual made it very clear that he could see right through me based on what my eyes were telling him.  I could use my strongest tools as much as I wanted, but if my eyes said something different than what I was saying it was the equivalent of lying to him.  I tried a lot of different approaches at first (most of them relating to my stronger tools) and they didn’t get me very far.

One thing that I noticed was that when I was unconsciously using my tools I would go home energized and happy.  When I had to focus on my weaker tools I would go home emotionally drained.  Eventually I learned how to soften my eyes when things weren’t going well.  The more practiced I became at using my eyes gently the less drain it had it on me.  It took time but by adapting my approach we got to a place where he felt safe being with me.  With this basic need met we were able to start to strengthen our relationship even further.  By embracing my weakest tool, I was able to open up the pathway for my strongest tools.  This was just one of many steps we took together in our relationship.

Being able to embrace my weakest tool allowed me to take a step backwards and apply it to my other relationships.  My experience showed me the importance of meeting an individual where they are at.  Being able to step outside of what was natural for myself and learn to use my tools in a complete way allowed me to build my most treasured friendships.

– Ryan Wall, Team Leader

Boundaries Can Be Tricky

It is important to recognize that boundary setting. If done in the spirit of Gentle Teaching, it is about teaching others how to love and treat themselves and others. Both the support person and the individual supported have their own personal boundaries they bring to a relationship. As supports and leaders we need to ensure that the individual’s boundaries are understood. There are times where we seek to decrease the boundaries of the people we support. If their boundaries are due to fear, current or previous trauma, or negative emotions, we need to ensure they feel safe and loved by us until the time is right to stretch. There are other times where we need to teach the other person how to set their own healthy boundaries.

We need to explore our own and other team member’s motivation for establishing boundaries with the person we support. Questions that should be asked include:

  • Is it to keep the individual/others safe?
  • Is it to increase the chances that their day is more successful?
  • Is it going to increase their quality of life?
  • Will the individual derive a sense of consistency/reliability from this?

If we are setting a boundary out of our own fear or discomfort this is not a boundary established for the others benefit or safety needs, but to decrease our own anxiety. This boundary will never be able to contain the spirit of Gentle Teaching. It is crucial to be able to identify and acknowledge our fear, and then question ourselves as to how we can change our approach instead of placing a demand on the other person. Because boundary setting can be tricky, we need to fully understand the person with whom you are setting the boundary. It is important to know whether you need to establish a positive relationship first and then establish boundaries – or is it important to have the boundary established at the start of the relationship? Know the individual’s history, in particular their trauma history. There may have been boundaries established in the past that have sent this person into crisis or remind them of past suffering.

There are instances where not having defined boundaries can lead to:

  • Individuals not being given appropriate or helpful support. This could effect their relationships with support people.
  • Individual may feel betrayed, abandoned, and not supported.
  • Support person and individual may be emotionally/physically traumatized or put in danger.
  • Community members may be at risk.

What potential effects could there be if a boundary that has been established, which has had a positive impact on the individuals well being and the relationship with their support person, is not being held to by one or more support person?

  • This can cause havoc with the individual’s sense of safety.
  • The individual can experience a sense of uncertainty with the support person, which can be detrimental to other relationships between the individual and others.
  • It may increase frustration and pit support people against each other.

It is very important to note that Gentle Teaching does not dictate what the boundary is, but rather how we use our tools (words, presence, eyes and touch) when communicating with the individual. Gentle Teaching requires us to have a non judgmental attitude while standing firm on boundaries. There will be instances of testing even in positive, loving relationships with well established, healthy boundaries. Please bear in mind that this is human nature and it is our task as Gentle Teachers to support others through outcomes with dignity and respect.

– Heather Foster, Home Supports Coordinator

Communication Between Souls

I had the good fortune of being introduced to Gentle Teaching when the philosophy had already caught fire. Many caregivers before me have blazed a trail of love and mutual respect; I was thrilled to jump on this path. Gentle teaching has allowed me to make connections and friendships that I never thought possible and is now, how I chose to live my everyday life.

One relationship that I often think of was very brief, but also something very special. It was with a baby elephant I met in Thailand. I had watched many tourists fail to make any connections with these gentle giants and was leery of paying the $10 fee to wade in the ocean with someone who didn’t want to be there. I laughed as each person got a blast of trunk water to the face and was disappointed when the animals would get yelled at when they did not respond to being poked and prodded. Most, if not all, left upset that they didn’t get their ride, and some were still choking on salty trunk spray.

I wanted that ride. When I met my elephant, I introduced myself. I made sure to show him my eyes and I gently pet him to show him I was his friend; we were safe together. Even though we did not understand one another verbally, I used my presence and gentleness to communicate and eventually the baby understood it was good to be with me. After a couple of minutes, the elephant knelt down and guided me up onto his back with his trunk. High and mighty we strolled out into the water. We had to be pried from each other when our time was up. We said our goodbyes on the shore and someone else tagged in. I giggled as I watched my friend spray the new guy in the face when he tried to step on the elephant’s head. Amateur.

Gentle teaching to me is communicating with the soul. You don’t have to speak the same language; you don’t even have to be the same species. I am very thankful that I have found a career where it is part of my day to give love. The trade off is that in doing so, it’s almost impossible not to receive it back. Sounds like a good deal to me.

– Jacine Gyug, Vocational Coordinator