Humbled with the gift of learning and teaching


My body reverberated with joy as I stepped into the narrow channel of still water flowing through the arched gateway into the Harminder Sahib (the Golden Temple), the most sacred site for Sikhs. I was leading a group of Canadian student teachers from the Professional Development Program’s International Teacher Education Module (ITEM).

The golden silhouette of the temple reflected in the Srowar, the pool of holy water surrounding the temple. Gazing in awe at the Harminder Sahib, time felt at a standstill. The air steeped with resonances of the meditative harmonization of the hymns being chanted. This brought my awareness to pauses in the sound, which evoked profound silence and solitude.

The synchronized melody of the kirtan echoed softly in my ears and vibrated through my body. I consciously breathed slowly, with intent, to be fully present with the sensations. As I inhaled, I felt deeply connected to the earth. With composure I remained standing in silence with my soles firmly placed on the cold marble ground.

I turned in awe, observing the student teachers that I, as a faculty associate, have led. I noticed that the Harminder Sahib touched them, too. They also sensed the rich depths of emotions experienced by the pilgrims. They were deeply touched. 

My two worlds are juxtaposed as I am reminded that I am a Canadian educator with Punjabi Sikh heritage. My Canadian values, principles and understandings were reflected in the SFU student teachers who stood in front of me while my Punjabi Sikh heritage symbolized by the Harminder Sahib that stood behind me. My two worlds intersected as I stood on the cold marble of the Gurdwara (temple), in Punjab, India. I had a deep sense of pride knowing this was the birthplace of my immigrant grandparents and parents.

My immigrant grandparents and parents moved to Canada to realize a ‘better life’ for their children. In their hearts this translated into a deep value for education for my siblings and myself. 

Years after their immigration, I come to the place of their birth having realized their dreams, as an educated woman. I am humbled with the gift of learning and teaching student teachers in my ancestral homeland. ITEM India marked me deeply personally and professionally as it further provoked my curiosity and wonder. My journey of personal and professional reflection remains nourished as a doctoral candidate within SFU’s Faculty of Education.

Jas Uppal
PhD (current), Faculty Associate,
Sessional Instructor (Science Education)

Read all the stories from the 2010s