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A Conversation with a COR Support…

Describe a place or time where Gentle Teaching has helped you in your personal life.

This hits home to me! I am so blessed to be a part of COR; I have grown so much both within this organization and outside it. I truly saw myself becoming a better person and becoming a role model at home, at school, and at work every day. Gentle Teaching has definitely allowed me to learn more about myself!

I truly saw myself becoming a better person and becoming a role model at home, at school, and at work every day. Gentle Teaching has definitely allowed me to learn more about myself

Tell us about a bond that you or someone close to you shares with someone you support.

I have bonded well with all the individuals I support. When I come to their home for a support time, I feel as though I am invited to be there. Every time I walk into their house, I feel that I am coming home to my family or that I am coming into a house of close friends. I am grateful for the opportunity that COR has provided me to develop the relationships that I currently hold with every individual that I support.

 

Discuss a scenario where someone you support taught you something.

Recently, one of the individuals I support decided to manage his paycheck and put the money toward future plans and paying his bills. This was a rare occasion because in the past, his paycheck would be gone within a day or two from social outings alone. It was the first time that I had witnessed him making a plan with his paycheck and his willingness to learn to budget his money was amazing. From that moment, he unknowingly taught me that you can always grow and become a better person! It was a humbling experience to be able to see a 31-year-old man literally grow in front of your eyes. He has grown so much since I met him and I can truly say that I’ve watched him grow each day. It’s unbelievable!

It’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things

How has Gentle Teaching transformed the person you are or aspire to be?

Like I mentioned earlier, using the Gentle Teaching approach to supporting individuals has allowed me to become a better person than I had ever imagined. My Mom has mentioned to me a couple times where she sees the growth in me and she was proud of how far I have come. My parents were worried about me when I was in grade 9 and 10 because I had the attitude and the personality of someone who was not capable of success. So for them to be able to witness my character grow so much, it’s a sigh of relief for them for sure.

 

Describe how you have been able to share one (or some) of your passions with the individuals we serve.

First off, it’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things. Being able to share my passions with the individuals have definitely helped with the friendship that has developed. For example, one of the men and I share a passion for hockey. I know that whenever he is having a rough day, I can always bring up hockey topics and news and we can have a long-lasting conversation about it. There was a moment where he and I were at a Pats game and I remember thinking that our relationship had come a long way since we met. The Pats scored a goal, I looked over and he had a huge smile on his face and he ‘fist pumped’ full of excitement. He never does this! This truly was a special moment. It touched my heart to see how joyful he was to be experiencing the Pats playoff run with me.

 

Jason, COR Support

 

I try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn’t exist.

I am creating a culture of gentleness with the woman I support slowly. Gaining trust between each other was, and still is, difficult not only for her to trust me, but also for me to trust her. Something that I think that is unique that I have done is to never treat her differently than I would treat anyone else I care about. I talk to her like she is no different! For lack of better terms, I’m not afraid to be myself. I have created a relationship with her where I can treat her like a friend. This is because I like to help people. It’s in my nature to try to make people happy. I slowly but surely developed genuine care for her.

By creating a comfortable environment and creating that comfortability you can then slowly begin to stretch that zone, and shape it to a bigger and broader comfort zone and I believe that, that is a key to growth. I also think that gentle teaching is growth. I believe in walking beside someone, and holding their hand. Not following behind them and allowing them to go where ever they wish, as that can sometimes be harmful to people unknowing or unaware of their true desires or what it is that truly makes them happy. Also not walking in front and forcing or pulling in a direction that may not be fully desired. Together and side by side you can guide, not force or follow but guide. I try to guide the woman I support. I try to allow her to be her 41 year old self, whose loving and caring and a truly genuine good person and guide that to create more of her wonderful growth. I think walking in front of her would not be as beneficial if any benefit. Walking behind her would also not benefit, because everyone who has ever lived on earth needed or needs a hand every now and then.

I try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn't exist

I try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn’t exist. I think that when activities are changed, and adapted to minimize or remove limitations and the focus is on abilities and effort than disability no longer exists. I want her to feel free. It should always feel like friends are over for her, and for us it should never feel like a job. Although it is a job and we do have duties I try always to implement a lesson in what we do so that when we’re done she has not only had a great experience with her friends, but also gained a lesson and learnt something that will allow her to grow which is our goal. Being with her is very important. Even when she is feeling down or sad, and may not want to talk.

Presence is how I show her I care. That no matter what, I’m still here and I got your back. I allow her to run her house as if it is her own, because it is her space and she should feel that she has control over it because in turn that allows her comfort levels to raise. Every person deserves the right to feel comfortable in their space of living. In the space they call home.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to do what I need to do. Helping create, and doing what I can to maintain a culture of gentleness with the woman I support has overflowed into my own life. I can say that this job has changed my life. I hope that I can return that favour within the organization and within my own life and the woman I support, whom I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to meet, and lucky enough to continue to spend time with.

 

Jeff, COR Support

 

COR Family Night: A Culture of Gentleness as a Promising Practice

Family members and friends of COR are invited to join us for an evening discussion on a Culture of Gentleness as a Promising Practice, with special guest: Deirdre Mercer, Center for Positive Living Supports (Michigan, USA). This interactive and powerful learning experience will better your knowledge of the important role of a gentle caregiver. Space is limited. Please contact Michael for more details.

COR Family Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Need To Be The Most Loving During The Worst Moments

“We often see ourselves as better than those whom we serve and express this in talking down to those who are troubled, acting condescendingly, separating ourselves from their lives, and making sure that we are in control instead of dialoguing. Our task as caregivers is companionship and community. Our culture makes it harder because there is an expectation that we must control others by withholding ‘positive attention’ when someone is acting out. Our position is the opposite. We need to be the most loving during the worst moments.

-John McGee

Our role as caregivers is to provide community and companionship

Process of Stretching

“We teach “safe” by placing almost no demands on the person except for being with the person with a sense of just “being.” It is a tremendously important for one human being to teach another it is good to be near you. Nothing more, nothing less. This act of recognizing the brokenhearted person’s existence and goodness is a most powerful teaching-learning experience. At the same time, we need to engage in nurturing and finding relevant ways to express unconditional love without pressuring the person at all. This might seem weird, but the person will learn to feel safe if we lower our demands while increasing our goodness, kindness, and expression of love. We need to avoid putting the horse before the cart. Doing things is not the primary purpose of care giving; being with one another is.

A dimension that is often hard to understand and deal with involves the emergence of self-centeredness, becoming spoiled, after a time of intense nurturing. It is natural to become self-centered as a result of constant nurturing. This creates another important care giving role. We need to slowly begin to focus on stretching the person away from self-centeredness and toward other-centeredness. This stretching process involves reminding the person that he/she is safe and loved while asking a slight degree more—waiting a moment, taking turns, sharing, and other virtues involving others and our relationships. This process is very delicate so we need to keep reminding the person of how safe and loved he/she is.

The developmental model outlined below is a good guide for us to use to understand the various dimensions of new memories that have to be taught:

• From brokenhearted and lonely, to safe and loved;
• From self-centeredness, to reaching out to others and loving expressing love to them; and,
• From dependence on us, to engagement with us and others.

Doing-things-is-not-the-primary-purpose-of-care-giving-being-with-one-another-is

Our pedagogical process starts with us encountering a brokenhearted person and bringing two simple gifts that we have repeatedly mentioned—the feeling of being safe and loved. We have nothing else to give. These are not a program, a clinical approach, or focused on outcomes. They can, if necessary, be translated into mundane outcomes, but, for the caregiver, they are gifts and these now established feelings need to begin to include being safe with a growing circle of others and becoming a meaningful part of increasing engagement.

This stretching process is a part of normal development. These include learning other moral milestones such as learning to share, a giving up, momentarily, of what is theirs; learning to wait and to take turns; wanting others to feel proud; and, learning when enough is enough—self-control. We all have to learn these milestones. Each requires a grounded stance that assumes that the brokenhearted person has learned to feel safe and loved and is ready for participation in a broader community. After these have been formed in the person’s moral memory, we can then begin focusing on strengthening self-esteem, learning that “I am good!” and self-control, learning when enough is enough!” The person’s world and responsibilities begin to expand.

After an intense dimension involved almost solely with unconditional love, it is natural to enter a phase of self-centeredness. It is then that our role evolves into carefully and delicately stretching the still fragile brokenhearted person from a state of self-centeredness to one of other-centeredness. It is a process in which the person learns that it is good to be with a small circle of others, then it is good to do things with this group, and eventually it is good to do things with a wider circle of friends, and finally it is good to do things for others. This last encompasses a high form of moral maturity.

We also begin to focus on the person’s self-esteem. This milestone emerges when others keep reminding the person, “You are so good!” This begins to occur from the very start when we are teaching that it is good to be together. What happens in this process is that the person begins to feel safe and loved from within. As this occurs, the person begins to see him/herself in a different light and forms a moral memory that says, “I am somebody because my caregivers tell me I am.” As the circle of friends grows, the person’s sense of self-worth also expands and becomes stronger.”

– John J. McGee, PhD

Gentle Teaching International Conference 2015

Kansas City, USA welcomes the Gentle Teaching community! On September 9-11, 2015, Kansas City will play host to the 2015 international conference. More information can be found at www.gti2015.com.

Gentle Teaching International 2015 Conference

If you want more information about the 2015 Gentle Teaching International Conference find our events page on Facebook by clicking here.

Teaching Feelings of Safety and Security

“If we want to teach feelings of safety and security, we need to question what we are doing and how we are doing it. The key is to look at ourselves and ask, ‘ What do we represent to the person–love or domination?’ If we see the person as our equal and if we define our relationship as one of brotherhood and sisterhood, then the answer becomes more obvious. We commit ourselves to making certain that our presence signifies feelings of safety and security. Yet, we need to deal with the irony of representing these feelings while face to face with rejection, disruption, or even violence.

Our interactions have to signal warmth, serenity and tolerance.

Our interactions have to signal warmth, serenity and tolerance. From the first instance, we need to make sure that the person interprets our presence as representing nonviolence. Warmth emanates from a strong desire to be one-with-the other. We have to put in check many customary reactions–demands, harshness, and objectivity. Care giving is a very personal process that needs to summon forth feelings of friendship. At first, we should not expect acceptance since all of the person’s history says control is the rule. But, in time, the person will begin to see us as representing safety and security.”

 

-John McGee

Mentoring a Spirit of Gentleness

“Mentoring is a way to help teach others about gentle care giving, to enter into terrifying spaces and teach others to feel safe and loved.” Mentoring is an approach to do this. It is a way to share with others a spirit of gentleness and justice.

A mentors role is to define the empty and sometimes violent spaces that exist between caregivers and marginalized individuals in institutions, shelters, homes, prisons, nursing homes, schools and wherever we happen to serve. These places have to be filled up with the caregivers’ laces of affection–their loving touch, warm words, and kind gazes. Caregivers need to stop and reflect on the formation of companionship and community and the role of helping individuals feel safe, engaged, loved and loving. From this foundation, caregivers can then create communities of caring. Mentoring is a process for teaching caregivers to establish companionship and community.

Mentoring is a way to teach others

Mentoring is an ever-deepening task that calls for the development of trust among caregivers and the formation of a sense of companionship and community. This trust starts by the Mentor entering into the caregivers’ space with a deep sense of humility and justice and helping each caregiver feel safe and respected. It is the informal coming together of the Mentor and caregiver around the kitchen table and the sharing of the meaning of companionship and community. It is working together and finding ways to teach marginalized people these feelings.”

-John McGee

Psychology of Interdependence

“Regardless of the type of aggression, self-injury or withdrawal, we assume that a hunger for being-with-others rests in the human spirit, longs to be fulfilled, and , in many instances, needs to be uncovered. We struggle to uncover and fulfill this need in ourselves and others. We are often pushed by the fear of giving ourselves to others and pulled by the hope that such feeling give rise to. Our fear can lead us to lord over others in order to gain a false sense of power. But, the more we question our values, our hope can lead us to feelings of companionship. This pushing and pulling leaves us in a quandary–to reach out toward others or to preside over them. The desire to affirm the other is often buried in us by years of training that have taught us that independence is the central goal of life, and, for those who are on the fringes of community, compliance is the pathway to success.

Yet, self-reliance and blind obedience are lonely conditions that lock us and others out of the embrace of human warmth and affection. Those who are committed to care giving often do not recognize this struggle within themselves, let alone in the marginalized people whom they serve, So the first place to start in the psychology of interdependence is with ourselves, our values, and how we translate these into reality.”

John McGee

Reverse Effects

“We keep trying to establish feelings of companionship and forming community among those who are marginalized. Yet, we struggle to create a sense of connectedness in a culture that demands independence and self-reliance. We listen to newscasts that announce this. We hear newscasts tell us the strong must control the weak. We read newspaper stories that trumpet the glory of the self. These cultural attitudes become part of our care giving. We have been trained to seek compliance and control. We demand that those whom we serve choose what is right and good when they do not trust us, in fact, often fear us. We live in a world that places the individual above the community.

As care givers, we have to reverse this trend and begin to question what the other needs — to feel safe with us and loved by us. A psychology of interdependence assumes that we find ourselves in others and in the strength of our connectedness to others. It is the foundation of who we are and what we are becoming. It leads us to develop a sense of companionship with those who distance themselves from us. We have to move from a culture of self-reliance to one of human connectedness and from a culture of self to one of otherness. As we do this, we are slowly moving toward the formation of community where we will feel collectively safe, loved, loving and engaged.

Interdependence is based on our shared values — the wholeness and inherent goodness of each person in spite of violent behavior and the thirst that we all have for a feeling of being one-with-one-another in spite of paradoxical behaviors that push others away. These values are difficult to maintain, but are necessary if we are to help those who cling onto the slippery edge of family and community life.”

John McGee,
Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Community