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Meeting the Dalai Lama enriches practicum experience

Last Updated: January 18, 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016—Ashley Faber, Ariana Debreuil, and Rick Kumar, students in the Professional Development Program (PDP) International Teacher Education Module (ITEM), were recently interviewed by the Vancouver Sun about meeting the Dalai Lama on their trip to Dharamsala, India this past fall. 

“That was incredible. We were all quite nervous and shaking — sitting on the edge of our seats and smiling so big. It was very surreal and when he walked in, it was so calming and relaxing,” Faber said. “He’s like a god to the Tibetan refugees we had been working with, so hearing their stories made it more real to see him and to hear how much they appreciate him, made us try to appreciate him even more. We felt really special and privileged.”

Faber also said experiencing both Indian and Tibetan culture and working with refugees made her feel blessed.

“Working with refugees at a time when Canada is taking so many refugees from Syria, I learned so much from people who have been through so much and have so little. I feel very appreciative of everything we have here,” Faber said.

Full story:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016—A group of student teachers in the Professional Development Program (PDP) International Teacher Education Module (ITEM) travelled this past fall to Dharamsala, India to participate in an experiential learning module in the program.

Since 1999, SFU has had module field experiences around the world in places such as Trinidad, China and Mali. Today, the university also sends students to Oaxaca, Mexico and Dharamsala, India.

The ITEM experience helps pre-service teachers better understand global education practices, as well as encourages openness to develop a broader perspective of diversity as they learn the value of community in contexts other than their own.

Shireen Chaganti, a student teacher in the module, says that the experience sparked an interest in learning about new cultures and traditions.

“I am definitely more sensitive towards being culturally appropriate at all times,” says Shireen Chaganti. “I think this experience has made me think of ways in which I can create a mini-community in my classroom where everyone can feel that they belong and are cared for.”

Sarine Sadhra, a program coordinator for the India ITEM module, says that students looking to participate in this module can expect the experience to challenge and transform them, all while developing their capacities to teach.

In addition to these unique experiences, students who participated in the fall 2015 module received the great honour of having a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama—an honour many Tibetans wait their entire lives for.

“His Holiness felt that we, as teachers, should educate the young minds of children with good morals and ethics and that we should teach Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of ‘Ahimsa’ or non-violence,” says Chaganti.

Chaganti believes the wisdom gained from meeting His Holiness will help her cohort of student teachers develop into better educators.

Written by Justin Wong, SFU University Communications