First Reflections on the School of English for Engaged Social Service 2018 Program—and Voices of Our Students

First Reflections on the School of English for Engaged Social Service 2018 Program—and Voices of Our Students

First Reflections on the School of English for Engaged Social Service 2018 Program—and Voices of Our Students

Students from SENS 2018 met Thai dissident Sulak Sivarkasa at his home in Bangkok January 27, 2018

The School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS) is a place for learning English as a tool for leadership, self-cultivation, and social transformation. It is a three-month course that takes place annually from January to April at the Wongsanit Ashram near Bangkok.

How to Cultivate Leadership

It is very difficult to set a life direction or to lead others if you are doubtful or unsure of your own voice, of your own value, or of your own place in the world. Mindful and compassionate leadership is urgently needed in the world at this time, yet many of us are in fact doubtful.

In SENS we recognize that this doubt is widespread, for many reasons. It is a doubt that can be especially deep for women, for members of minority ethnic groups or oppressed nationalities, or for those who grew up in challenging circumstances. Yet we know on principle and from experience that every human being who receives the necessary support has the potential for profound leadership. What is that necessary support?

Five kinds of support we try to provide in the SENS program are:

1. Appreciation and Listening. We do everything we can to appreciate the beauty and goodness of each participant in the course, as they are when we first meet them, blemishes and all. We do this by appreciating them verbally, by soliciting their stories and opinions, and by listening to them with genuine respect and thoughtful attention. We de-emphasize critique, because everyone has been criticized and corrected so much that they become overly watchful of what they do, fearful that they won’t do something right… or worse, that they could never be right enough. We think our students, like all of us, need to be reminded of what is already right. Once they know we genuinely see their goodness and beauty, it is quite easy for them to accept suggestions, critiques, and corrections when needed.

2. Confidence. Secondly, we demonstrate our confidence in the students by assuming and stating that they all have the potential to be leaders in some social sphere or another. Our view is that all human beings can develop the qualities of genuine leaders, such as integrity, kindness, flexibility, and a willingness to think about the good of everyone. We begin by acknowledging the ways in which students already manifest these qualities to varying degrees. And we consistently affirm to the students that they can do things they may be afraid to try.

The SENS group meets with grassroots community leader Korn-Uma Pongnoi in Bo Nok, Thailand

3. Inspiration Towards Leadership. Our aim throughout the course is to provide alternative and approachable models of leadership that are based on peer relations and mutual respect, rather than on hierarchical relationships. In the work team we do our best to practice a kind of leadership that is strong in setting a tone and in doing what needs to be done for the success of our learning project, while also allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and accepting that we too will make mistakes. We take students on field trips to meet individuals who are outstanding leaders in one dimension or another, and students interact with them through interviews and discussions in a small group setting. In this way we support the students’ moral imaginations, for as they see the good that others have done, often against terrible odds, they begin to have a larger picture of what they too could do. Through workshops our students work closely for two or three-day periods with individuals who offer their skills in direct support of the students. Those experiences also clearly inspire the students to consider more deeply how they themselves could lead, train, or facilitate small groups. Finally, we ask the students to do research and give a presentation on a leader they would like to emulate.

4. Demonstrating the Need for Authentic Leaders. Our inspiration towards a new kind of leadership is strengthened by our exploration with the students of the major crises facing humanity at present. These crises include climate change, severe social inequality, the difficulty of realizing genuine democracy, and the use of violence as a method of attaining social or political goals. Students are further motivated to step up and take leadership when they see how dire the situation is, and the extent to which many established leaders ignore or downplay the seriousness of these threats.

5. Tracking the Growth of Each Participant. Finally, we make an effort to get to know each of the participants in the course well enough to know what kind of support each one specifically needs. We try to keep track of their personal growth throughout the course, so that they can overcome even very personal and subtle but persistent obstacles. In doing so we build on ancient forms of mentorship that require the teacher to be aware of the particular needs and difficulties of each student, and to take the time to devise a plan and to respond appropriately. In this way we challenge the impersonal and distant character of some forms of contemporary teaching. We also hope to model what we regard as a deeper form of solidarity in the teacher’s commitment to the student, and to make this kind of leadership seem normal, desirable, and attainable to the students.

L to R, Thet Nwe Soe and Phoo Pwint (Myanmar), Annisa Hasanah (Indonesia)

Learning how to integrate these five kinds of support most effectively for each new group of participants is a process that is at the heart of what we do. It requires that we continue to fine-tune when we succeed and seek to understand and devise alternative strategies when outcomes are not what we had hoped for. We’re pleased to report that we have become consistently better at determining how to support both individual participants and the group as a whole, as they work to realize their vast human and leadership potentials.

As evidence of our successes, we include here some of the reflections and goals that students shared at the 2018 SENS graduation ceremony held on April 4, 2018, generously hosted by Dr. Pichai at his Maenam Resort Nakhon Chaisri. Students crafted their own statements, but they received help with English phrasing, and their final statements have been edited for clarity.

We offer a limited selection of students’ reflections here, but we hope to offer more of our students’ voices, and share more about what we learned this year, in upcoming reports. If you are inspired by what you read here, you may help in one of these ways: 1) by spreading the word about the SENS programs; 2) by donating to the SENS Scholarship Fund: http://inebinstitute.org/donation/; or 3) by sponsoring a student in one of our upcoming programs. Next year’s course runs from January 6 to April 3, 2019. Those who would like to apply can do so at http://inebinstitute.org/apply/


Excerpts from Statements by SENS 2018 Students:

Sae Rob Lee (South Korea)

Sae Rob Lee – Jungto Society, South Korea

“For the benefit of all sentient beings.” In our Korean historical DNA, this commitment has been working deeply in our unconscious. …. My goal is to live by this teaching until I die. …. Thanks to this course, SENS, I’ve met engaged Buddhist practitioners, grassroots movement leaders, and learned about many social activities in Thailand. It is very hopeful that there are so many social changers—more than I expected. For a long time, I’ve concentrated on domestic social issues, but now I’ve changed. I want to work for more international or global issues. SENS gave me a chance to have a wider perspective and to be confident to communicate with international workers. We are not separated, but connected, so that we can cooperate in many ways. This is my great experience here.

A Student Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous

I see many new possibilities and learned a lot through this course. Through this program I have learned:
• To be an effective leader you need to be able to respond to challenges with intelligence, strategy, and sincerity.
• About the socialization and internalization of gender inequality through two wonderful women, Ouyporn and Ginger.
• How important it is to have Kalyanamitra in one’s life.
• When people have the same values, they naturally come together in unison in some ways.
• The importance of listening to what other people have to say.
• How climate change impacts everything and everyone’s life, and that even our civilization is at stake.

Thet Nwe Soe – Metta Development Foundation, Myanmar

As an adult, I haven’t shared my feelings with my parents that much. But learning counseling has encouraged me to share more with them and also to listen to them. …. Before this course, I didn’t have proper goals for my life. I just tried my best wherever I was or whatever I was doing. But now I see the value of identifying my goals and the steps I need to be able to reach them.

Students of SENS 2018. From L to R, Samkham Meunsy (Laos), Sabin Rongpipi (Assam, India), Thet Nwe Soe, (Myanmar)

Samkham Meunsy – Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC), Laos

I want to create a space in the countryside where youth can come to learn skills outside of school and access resources for personal development, including scholarships to study abroad, workshops and trainings, as well as community and network-building. These are not new ideas. But this course gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with them. Thank you to the SENS community and to all of our supporters for giving me the opportunity to learn more English.

Phoo Pwint gives her statement at the graduation ceremony.

Phoo Pwint – Kalyana Mitta Development Foundation, Myanmar

Previously, I stood for my Myanmar people; now I realize I need to stand for all living things. Because we have the same problems and we need to solve them all together. English language is a tool for social change. Therefore, it can be applied to connect to a global network. …. I decided to set up my goals for after this course as follows:
• To do regular practice for improving my English skills into advanced level in 2018.
• To listen deeply to my friends and community when they need someone to listen.
• To do research about the traditional environ-mental conservation customs and beliefs of ethnic groups and how to create an environ-mentally friendly culture in my country. I aim to complete this research within two years.
• To initiate an Eco Campus Movement at universities in my country that will go broader and deeper than it has before.

This is an expanded version of an article by Ted Mayer published in Seeds of Peace Vol. 34, No. 2 May-August, 2018


Download PDF First Reflections on the SENS 2018 Program and Voices of Students – Final Pls Share

 

School of English for Engaged Social Service – Voices of Students in Our 2018 Program

School of English for Engaged Social Service – Voices of Students in Our 2018 Program

The School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS) is a place for learning English as a tool for leadership, self-cultivation, and social transformation. It is a three-month course that takes place annually from January to April at the Wongsanit Ashram near Bangkok.

Leadership

It is very difficult to set a life direction or to lead others if you are doubtful or unsure of your own voice, of your own value, or of your own place in the world. Mindful and compassionate leadership is urgently needed in the world at this time, yet many of us are in fact doubtful.

In SENS we recognize that this doubt is widespread, for many reasons. It is a doubt that can be especially deep for women, for members of minority ethnic groups or oppressed nationalities, or for those who grew up in challenging circumstances. Yet we know on principle and from experience that every human being who receives the necessary support has the potential for profound leadership. What is that necessary support?

 

Two kinds of support we try to provide in the SENS program are:

  1. We do everything we can to appreciate the beauty and goodness of each participant in the course, as they are now, blemishes and all. We do this by appreciating them verbally, by soliciting their stories and opinions, and by listening to them with genuine respect and thoughtful attention. We de-emphasize critique, because everyone has been criticized and corrected so much that they become overly watchful of what they do, fearful that they won’t do something right… or worse, that they could never be right enough. We think our students, like all of us, need to be reminded of what is already right. Once they know we genuinely see their goodness and beauty, it is quite easy for them to accept suggestions, critiques, and corrections when needed.
  2. We also make an effort to get to know each of the participants in the course well enough to know what kind of support each one specifically needs. We try to keep track of their personal growth throughout the course, so that they can overcome even very personal and subtle but persistent obstacles.

 

In trying to do these two things, we often fall short, and we sometimes fail completely, though that is rare. The important thing is that we also succeed. And we have become consistently better at learning how to support both individual participants and the group as a whole.

As evidence of those successes, we include here some of the reflections and goals that students shared at the 2018 SENS graduation ceremony held on April 4, 2018, generously hosted by Dr. Pichai at his Maenam Resort Nakhon Chaisri. Students crafted their own statements, but they received help with English phrasing, and their final statements have been edited for clarity.

We are limited by space in this issue, but we hope to offer more of our students’ voices, and share more about what we learned this year, in upcoming issues. If you are inspired by what you read here, you may help in one of two ways: 1) by spreading the word about the SENS program; or 2) by donating to the SENS Scholarship Fund: http://inebinstitute.org/donation/.

Next year’s course runs from January 6 to April 3, 2019.

You can  find more information and apply at http://inebinstitute.org/eng/


Excerpts from Statements by SENS Students:

“For the benefit of all sentient beings.” In our Korean historical DNA, this commitment has been working deeply in our unconscious. …. My goal is to live by this teaching until I die. …. Thanks to this course, SENS, I’ve met engaged Buddhist practitioners, grassroots movement leaders, and learned about many social activities in Thailand. It is very hopeful that there are so many social changers—more than I expected. For a long time, I’ve concentrated on domestic social issues, but now I’ve changed. I want to work for more international or global issues. SENS gave me a chance to have a wider perspective and to be confident to communicate with international workers. We are not separated, but connected, so that we can cooperate in many ways. This is my great experience here. Sae Rob Lee – Jungto Society, South Korea

I see many new possibilities and learned a lot through this course. Through this program I have learned:

  • To be an effective leader you need to be able to respond to challenges with intelligence, strategy, and sincerity.
  • About the socialization and internalization of gender inequality through two wonderful women, Ouyporn and Ginger.
  • How important it is to have Kalyanamitra in one’s life.
  • When people have the same values, they naturally come together in unison in some ways.
  • The importance of listening to what other people have to say.
  • How climate change impacts everything and everyone’s life, and that even our civilization is at stake. This student has asked to not be identified.

As an adult, I haven’t shared my feelings with my parents that much. But learning counseling has encouraged me to share more with them and also to listen to them. …. Before this course, I didn’t have proper goals for my life. I just tried my best wherever I was or whatever I was doing. But now I see the value of identifying my goals and the steps I need to be able to reach them. Thet Nwe Soe – Metta Development Foundation, Myanmar.

 

Previously, I stood for my Myanmar people; now I realize I need to stand for all living things. Because we have the same problems and we need to solve them all together. English language is a tool for social change. Therefore, it can be applied to connect to a global network. …. I decided to set up my goals for after this course as follows:

  • To do regular practice for improving my English skills into advanced level in 2018.
  • To listen deeply to my friends and community when they need someone to listen.
  • To do research about the traditional environmental conservation customs and beliefs of ethnic groups and how to create an environmentally friendly culture in my country. I aim to complete this research within two years.
  • To initiate an Eco Campus Movement at universities in my country that will go broader and deeper. Phoo Pwint – Kalyana Mitta Development Foundation, Myanmar.

I want to create a space in the countryside where youth can come to learn skills outside of school and access resources for personal development, including scholarships to study abroad, workshops and trainings, as well as community and network-building. These are not new ideas. But this course gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with them. Thank you to the SENS community and to all of our supporters for giving me the opportunity to learn more English. Samkham Meunsy – PADETC, Laos.

 

Ted Mayer

SENS – Its Origin and Meaning

SENS – Its Origin and Meaning

The School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS) proudly takes its name from the School of Youth for Social Service, which Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh founded in 1964-65 to meet the crisis in the Vietnamese countryside created by war.

The School of English for Engaged Social Service was founded by Sulak Sivaraksa and others in 2015 to meet the crises of climate change, increasing social inequality, and individual confusion and despair about what to do. Its aim is to create a safe and supportive place for learning English as a tool for leadership, self-cultivation, and social transformation.

“Engaged” means that we learn to support each other with our mind, our senses, and our spirit fully present. It means that we work in service to society and all living beings from a place of openness and vulnerability, respecting the dignity and equality of those we encounter and assist, and ready to learn from them.

Our acronym, SENS, is a beautiful French word with many meanings. It is pronounced something like “saungs.” “Sens” in French means:

  • sense” as in the five senses. We rely on our experience, made possible through the senses, to test and to experience what is true, and to learn from experience what creates peace, clarity, and confidence.
  • instinct,” or to have an “intuitive sense” of things. Over time our mind builds up an intuitive sense of what to do, what to say, or how to behave. We can say, for example, a sense of humor, a critical sense, an aesthetic sense, or importantly, a moral sense. A moral sense helps us discern quickly what is important, what is going on, and how we can best respond.
  • judgment” or “reason” In French you can say “a mon sense,” which means “to my mind” or “in my opinion.” “Le bon sense” means “good sense” or “common sense.” We rely on reason and good judgment.
  • meaning.” We are always invariably interpreting the meaning of life and what goes on around us. Now it is important to understand the meaning of our time, and how it beckons us to respond.
  • direction” or “way.” Responding intelligently and boldly to the crises of the present requires that each of us set a personal direction that grows out of our genuine desire, love, and commitment. It also means that we agree on common goals and learn to cooperate and work together for a humane future for everyone.

Information about the SENS program in 2019: http://inebinstitute.org/eng/

Scholarship Announcement: English Proficiency Training for Thai Monks

Scholarship Announcement: English Proficiency Training for Thai Monks

Mrs. Malee and Dr. Pichai Tangsin Scholarship on English Proficiency Training for Thai Monks

Mrs. Malee and Dr. Pichai Tangsin

 

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Pichai Tangsin and his Mother, Mrs. Malee Tangsin, are pleased to offer a full scholarship to a Thai monk to attend the School of English for Engaged Social Service (SENS) 2018 program. In our first program, SENS 2016, this scholarship was offered to the Venerable Phramaha Kriangsak Prasoetsang, a monk from Wat Thong Nopphakhun, a Buddhist temple in Bangkok.

 

Eligible candidates for the SENS 2018 scholarship are Thai monks who:
  • Have been in the monkhood for at least five Phansa (Rains Retreats).
  • Have an adequate foundation in the English language (at least low intermediate).
  • Are willing and able to participate in the SENS training program throughout the entire three-month period, and to use the English and other skills acquired in the program to further propagate Dhamma teachings to a wider audience.

The full scholarship will cover all tuition, workshop fees, food, lodging, medical insurance, and program-related travel expenses for the duration of the SENS 2018 program, January 7 – April 5, 2018.

 

We are profoundly grateful to Mrs. Malee and Dr. Pichai Tangsin for this generous gift, and we would like to ask you to spread the information about this scholarship to eligible Thai monks who you believe would be appropriate for this training program.

 

Thai monks who are interested in applying for this scholarship to attend the SENS 2018 program should download the application form from www.inebinstitute.org/apply/. The application deadline is December 15, 2017 or passing that, until the scholarship is filled.

 

Applicants should complete the application form and send it to <registrar@inebinstitute.org>. Questions may be addressed to <director@inebinstitute.org>

Assistant Director for Innovative English for Transformative Learning Program

Assistant Director for Innovative English for Transformative Learning Program

Introduction

The Institute for Transformative Learning of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB Institute) is seeking a person who can teach English, mentor students, and provide strong support to the director of an innovative English for transformative learning program. Please see a description of the program, entitled English for Engaged Social Service, below and at www.inebinstitute.org.

We Are Looking for Candidates Who Have the Following Qualities, Interests, and Skills:

  • Excellent English language skills, either native or near-native.
  • Ability to think about the overall growth and development of the students and the work team, and capable of providing thoughtful (but not necessarily professionally trained) attention to not only academic but also emotional, relationship, and broader life issues.
  • Ability to engage in honest self-inquiry as well as to genuinely offer and receive support within the context of a community of learners.
  • Teaching experience, and especially language teaching experience. Such experience is highly desirable, though in some cases a candidate’s very strong qualities as a leader and mentor might make up for the lack of such experience.
  • Ability to create and implement lesson plans that engage students deeply in the learning process, and that empower the students to become self-directed learners.
  • An interest in combining the teaching of English language skills with a variety of other life and intellectual skills, such as critical thinking, social analysis, understanding identities and oppression, responding to climate change, and others.
  • Energetic and in good health, prepared for the demands of a rather intensive course.
  • An interest in Buddhism and experience with meditation is desirable, but not essential.
  • Experience and understanding of contemporary NGO and activist worlds would be beneficial but not essential.

Periods of Work Expected

  • The period of full-time work extends from November 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018 (six months), and may be renewable.
  • Must be available to start no later than: November 1 – 15 of 2017.
  • The English for Engaged Social Service course itself runs from January 7 – April 5, 2018 for students, and January 5 – April 12 for trainees.
  • The course is a residential course, which means that the Assistant Director must be able to live on site (one and a half hours from Bangkok) and travel on field trips with the group. Most but not all weekends are free; at the same time, the ability to be available for occasional mentoring and assistance on some weekends is desirable.
  • It is possible (and desirable) that the Assistant Director for this course would be able to continue on a part-time or full-time basis as a contributor to other INEB Institute programs.

Compensation

Compensation for the position of Assistant Director for English for Engaged Social Service 2018 is negotiable and will depend on qualifications, perceived likelihood of making a significant contribution, experience, and degree. It is very likely that compensation will be far lower than would be expected for an academic position in North America, Europe, or Japan. However, while the course is in session, the Assistant Director will receive free room and board, and free work-related travel. In addition, it is expected that the experience will be profoundly gratifying in ways that a normal academic position might not be.

Submission of Applications

  • Please send a statement of interest and CV to director@inebinstitute.org, along with three references.
  • Deadline: October 15, 2017 or until the position is filled. Preference will be given to early applicants.

Key Features of the Program

The INEB Institute’s three-month English for Engaged Social Service course aims to develop the qualities necessary for compassionate leadership at a time of growing crisis and uncertainty. For leadership to be compassionate and clear-minded, we believe it must be grounded in a strong sense of connection with oneself, with the earth, with immediate others, and with local, regional, and international communities. The ability to think freely and develop confidence in one’s views and capacities are also essential. These qualities can be developed through training and the adoption of carefully selected personal disciplines and practices. The kind of student we ideally seek to reach is a young adult from Asia who has already shown some commitment to work for the common good through practices of personal and social transformation. Such commitments and practices have been at the core of INEB’s identity as an international network since its inception.

Working with a small group, we aim for depth of learning and experience in a number of areas. The most significant of these are:

  • Self-awareness, self-confidence, and full access to one’s own learning potential.
  • Awareness and sensitivity to others, and the skills and motivations needed for mutual support and cooperation.
  • Skills of understanding, speaking, reading, and writing English.
  • Self-directed, freely chosen, and mindful leadership.
  • Interpretive, critical thinking, and social analytical skills.
  • Awareness of global crises—climate change, social inequality, violence, and lack of voice—and their local manifestations, as well as the many signs of hope that are now emerging around the world.
  • Awareness of the personal dimensions of efforts towards social change.

These areas are overlapping, and each has a subset of further skills or capacities that enable them. For example, the skills of awareness and sensitivity to others, mutual support, and cooperation, require a subset of skills that includes the ability to verbally appreciate others, the ability to listen with attention and respect as well as to keep confidentiality, the willingness to inquire into and accept cultural, ideological, and personal differences in an atmosphere of respect, and the willingness to trust and to share one’s personal thoughts and feelings in appropriate settings.

To accomplish these goals, the program uses a complex orchestration of:

  • Regular and sequentially organized classroom work in English and other areas.
  • Workshops by national and international level trainers in a number of areas (e.g. Power Analysis, Non-Violent Communication, Peer Counseling, and so on).
  • Field trips to observe and interact with intellectuals and community leaders in Thailand as examples of leadership, creativity, and social service.
  • Personal and small group tutoring.
  • Time for reading, writing, and communal watching of films.
  • Collective work to maintain the classroom and other areas.
  • Sufficient rest.
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