My good friend Ben is teaching in India this year. His school was lucky to host the Dalai Lama the other day. In his reflection on the visit, he writes:

I especially remember some words from His Holiness’ speech: compassion, happiness based on community, and friendship based on trust. Those recurring words got me thinking:

If those are the things that we as humans are about, then why don’t we specifically target them in our classrooms? I know that most if not all teachers desire to bring those things in a general way to their classrooms. Of course they do – they are teachers and ours is a truly noble profession because we want to transmit a lot more to children than information. But the kids don’t seem to be getting a lot of those things in school, crowded out by the process of providing mere content.

But the thought I kept having while listening to the Dali Lama was why if those qualities are so important do we not then target them, design around them in a specific way, when we write our school curriculums? Seems to me like it would make sense.

If kids experience compassion, happiness based on community, and friendship based on trust in our classrooms, then aren’t they going to learn more of the language we teach them?

Bob Patrick, 2013 SCOLT TOY, had this to add:

That’s it. And go further. If we aren’t at least aiming for this basic trust and community in our classrooms then what we are doing in our classrooms is less than a human activity.

And Gerry Waas, in Missouri, added:

I have been overtly working on this for years in a whole variety of ways, from teaching The Four Agreements through Mindset until now my overarching classroom model is The Learner Path vs. The Judger Path. We have to create a compassionate setting all around what we do for CI to work its best magic.

Tina Hargaden, in Oregon, added:

Language is just such a human endeavor, it is humbling and exhilarating to teach, and I love how teaching with TPRS allows human connection to thrive in my teaching…in fact, it required that the connection and trust be present, or it does not work. What a beautiful synergy that helps us come closer to the Dalai Lama’s pure vision of compassion, happiness based on community, and friendship based on trust. Powerful words and a worthy target for life.

And all this just happened, coincidentally or not, shortly after Tina sent me this wonderful Rumi poem about stories (or, is it about stories?):

Story Water

A story is like water
That you heat for your bath.
It takes messages between the fire and your skin. It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!

Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself,
like a salamander, or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.

A feeling of fullness comes,
but usually it takes some bread
to bring it.

Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
the light that’s blazing
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.

We are so much more than just “language teachers”. This has left me with a lot to ponder this weekend.

Dalai Lama on Creating a Community of Trust and Happiness
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One thought on “Dalai Lama on Creating a Community of Trust and Happiness

  • June 1, 2016 at 1:49 pm


    I am surprised there aren’t any other reader comments on this very meaningful and provocative post, here. I agree that the connections we make, the trust and relationship building, are a fundamental part of what we do as language educators. Isn’t human connection right there on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? I expect that every child in our classrooms needs to be seen, validated, affirmed, and connected with. Language is a vehicle for this connection, for sure, but the connection also fosters language.

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