Of all days to bring on the snow storm of the year, I thought for sure I was going to be sending regrets to our students and community partners. Call it divine intervention or just good timing, but we were still a go and Dr. McCrovitz’ plane had landed at Pearson Airport. I knew it was going to be a fantastic day when I listened to the voices of a very excited Recreation Therapy team introducing themselves to Anthony. There was something still bothering me though. I could not help but think, what does one expect from an expert who creates human connections, who holds a Ph.D and several other credentials; what does one say? I can happily share that he made me feel very relaxed when I met him; like I had known him for years.
Dr. McCrovitz’ first experience at Mohawk College was in viewing our own multi-sensory lab and an introduction to CICE (Community Integration Through Co-operative Education). This innovative program “provides student who have intellectual disabilities pursue a postsecondary education and experience college life" (Mohawk, 2016). How fitting it was for him to interact with a client base he has spent his whole career with.
Thanks to our property services team over 190 seats were made available for not only our first and second year students, but also our new intensive program and community partners.
After formal introductions from the Dean of Community and Urban Studies Neil McMahon, Dr. McCrovitz introduced us to his company Globe Star and his beautiful family. As I scanned the room it was amazing to see how engaged everyone was; especially the students. He did such an amazing job sharing his experiences as a practitioner, professor, and an international presenter.
Dr. McCrovitz shared many more examples from his PPT teaching how this framework can support others in developing feelings of companionship and provide teachable moments. The four areas that make up the framework of gentle teaching include value, teaching, protection, and reciprocation. Participation cannot flourish until a person feels safe, loved, and valued, reciprocating connectedness. As a visual learner, the observational videos he used to demonstrate the gentle teaching concept was the most impactful for me because it helped me put theory into practice. These videos focused on the importance of developing a relationship of trust with clients that fosters a spirit of gentleness. One can learn and understand every theory and skill there is, how to modify it and document it, but if one does not have the skill of looking into the eyes of a patient and getting to know who they really, we have the lost the opportunity to create meaningful moments.
One particular video that I cannot get out of my head was a short piece about Mother Theresa and her work with individuals who have been marginalized. Without any formal training her love and compassion resonated with individuals she cared for. There were no words exchanged just a gentle touch that created a connection between two people. In one particular case the individuals fixation on mother Theresa, as he turned his head and just looked lovingly into her eyes to say "yes I am here and thank you for spending time with me," was very profound.
After the session the TR team spent time with Anthony our new friend, colleague and partner at dinner reflecting on the day. We realized that his concept is something that we have done for years in the field. This skill of connecting may not be natural for some and perhaps needs to be reinforced in the classroom. We hope everyone enjoyed their experience as much as we did. It was fantastic to connect with practitioners in the field for the first time. A huge shout-out to Kaela Millar, our multi-sensory lab technologist for reaching out the Anthony and setting this partnership in motion! We could not have done it without you.