Engaging Students, News, PDP

An enlightening experience in Dharamsala

January 15, 2015

 “It is vital that when educating our children’s brains that we do not neglect to educate their hearts” –Dalai Lama XVI

Every year, a group of student teachers in the Professional Development Program (PDP) International Teacher Education Module (ITEM) travel to Dharamsala, India to complete their teaching practicums. Located in verdant Kangra Valley with its century-old buildings tucked in the hillsides of the Dhauladhar mountain range, Dharamsala is home to Tibetan refugees who live under the leadership of his Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.

There was something unique about this particular practicum experience. Never would the student teachers have imagined meeting one of society’s most respected leaders, but they did and it happened on this trip in Fall 2014.

It took Tibetan school administrators many weeks to engage in patient, yet persistent efforts to arrange the gathering. However in the end, this module became the first to personally hold audience with the Dalai Lama since the program began in 2009.

While our student teachers excitedly expressed that meeting His Holiness was an unbelievable part of their experience in India, they didn’t discount the impact of their daily interactions with the Tibetan community, one that welcomed them as family. “The communities we lived and learned in were filled with kind, loving and giving people; they were our family away from home.”

This experience wasn’t just about developing skills as a future teacher, but also about learning the importance of family and community.

The student teachers learned first-hand how the people of Dharamsala place importance on upholding their heritage and values in the most peaceful ways possible. To teach a group of children from a different cultural background is one thing, but to be mindful of what they and their community lived through, took the challenge to another level.

The Dharamsala school communities showcased their openheartedness and caring by welcoming the student teachers into their homes. On speaking of their experience, they said “being involved in their community has proven to be one of the most unforgettable and humbling experiences we have every had. It is what made this trip so enriching.”

For this module, the experience was a door to an unforgettable experience that left one humbled, honoured and curious as to what lies ahead in the future for the community of Dharamsala.

“If we could, we would be ecstatic to be back in India for this experience again. We have made life long friends and special bonds with our students, which we will cherish for the rest of our lives.”