2022 FDSTL Conference Held Online

The Northern California Dharma School Teachers League hosted the 2022 FDSTL Conference on April 23.


Although this conference was virtual, the Northern California planners conveyed the hope that we will begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and return to Dharma School.


The theme, “Cheers to Finding a New Norm,” represents a new optimism that we can return to the pre-pandemic state, realizing our future path has taken a new course to include added safety measures, changes in social behaviors and a newfound presence on the internet.


The conference was attended by 113 participants from 20 BCA temples and included substantial participation from both the Buddhist Churches of Canada and the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. Two IMOP students joined us from Japan.


As BCA Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada stated in his opening remarks, over the past two years, Dharma School teachers have done a remarkable job to keep students connected through innovative and safe ways.


The goal for the conference was to take the first few steps to get back to the classroom and rebuild our Dharma School rosters.


Rev. Dr. Takashi Miyaji, minister of the Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church and faculty member of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, gave the keynote address.


His talk focused on how we get to a “norm” from the turbulent times we are experiencing now. He suggested that finding this new “norm” includes embracing Amida Buddha’s infinite wisdom and compassion, participating in the activities of the temple, becoming part of the Sangha, and to see our true selves including the less desirable parts we don’t want to see.


Rev. Dr. Miyaji wanted the participants to think about how we would make an “elevator pitch” to explain the religion. The “elevator pitch” requires us to make concise, but key points, and most important, to understand how religion shapes your outlook on life.


Rev. Dr. Carmella Javellana-Hirano talked about helping the Dharma School children reach their new “norm” by understanding their stages of development. Dr. Javellana-Hirano has a clinical practice as an Integrative Psychiatrist in Salt Lake City and received Kyoshi certification from IBS in 2018.


She described the developmental process in children and how it can be integrated with their spiritual development. She explained Jodo Shinshu psychological principles such as “monku” (“complain”), “mottainai” (“regret to waste”), “bombu” (“foolish beings”) and “myokonin” (“wonderfully good people”), and humility and gratitude.


She recommended several books such as “The Runaway Bunny,” the children’s book classic by Margaret Wise Brown, and “The Velveteen Rabbit,” another classic by Margery Williams, as ways for children to relate to others and how it also relates to Jodo Shinshu principles. She concluded by stating that faith is not about everything turning out OK. Faith is about being OK, no matter how things turn out.


The workshop exercise was called “Escape from the Pandemic and Find a New Norm.” It presented a chance to get back to the Dharma School classroom by solving a series of puzzles and problems, like from an escape room.


This portion of the conference was designed to be as interactive as possible on the Zoom format, as well as provide ideas for either in-person or virtual lesson plans. With as much as a two-year hiatus from the classroom, we hoped to provide a platform for teachers to expand the teaching format to a challenging, yet fun, interactive return to the classroom.


During the closing service, the 2022-2024 FDSTL Cabinet was installed. We thank Carl Yanari (Vice President) and Mike Shibata (Publicity/Historian) for their dedicated service during their terms on the outgoing cabinet.


The 2022-2024 FDSTL was installed as follows:


President Koichi Sayano (Southern District)

Vice President Darlene Bagshaw (Northern District)

Corresponding Secretary Bessie Tanaka (Southern District)