Shireen was an aspiring teacher in the Professional Development Program at SFU when she heard about the International Teaching Education Module (ITEM) in India. She was immediately interested.
Every year, a group of student teachers from SFU complete their practicum in Dharamsala, India, a city perched on the southern edge of the Himalayan Mountains. The area is home to Tibetan refugees who live under the leadership of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.
"This module taught me how to be empathetic, flexible, adaptable and community-oriented," shares Shireen. "The children in Dharmsala were so grateful to be given this education...I wanted to be the best teacher I could for them.”
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Shireen discovered how the people of Dharamsala place importance on upholding their heritage and values in the most peaceful ways. 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.
And there is no better teacher of mindfulness than the Dalai Lama.
"Meeting the Dalai Lama was a dream come true," says Shireen. "He wanted us to teach the notion of ahimsa (non-violence, to cause no harm). This experience has made me think of ways I can create a mini-community in my classroom," adds Shireen, "where everyone can feel that they belong and are cared for."