Education Philosophy

I am Tibetan by ethnicity, Nepalese by nationality and American by accent! Though born a Tibetan-Buddhist in a Hindu country, North American Jesuits schooled me. As such, when in school, I grew up praying to the Christian God, while outside, at times, praying for peace and harmony amongst, and prosperity of, all sentient beings lighting butter lamps at Local Tibetan-Buddhist monasteries, and, at other times, visiting Hindu temples, getting blessed by Hindu priests applying vermicelli on my forehead. Socially, I grew up singing and dancing to Hindi songs, sometimes alongside Muslim friends. Since leaving Nepal 24 years ago, over the course of my education and travels abroad and keeping with my background, I have acquired some unusual interests and hobbies. I am an avid Salsa dancer, a self-taught didgeridoo and an avid Ultimate Frisbee player. Drawing on the depth and breadth of my unique background, personal experiences, outlook on life and love of Chemistry (and Science) I endeavor to impart problem-solving skills, higher level thinking skills and make of my students life-long learners.

Recognizing the importance of context in Science education, I draw on my students’ everyday lives. Using dramatic, and some times explosive chemical reactions, I bring the magic of science alive for them, while imparting transferable skills. At the center of it all are discrepant events, which I call “Magic Shows”!

To begin with, the shows have titles such as Magical Beakers, Magical Crystals, Magical Colors, Magical Solution, and Magical Candle etc. Ranging from simple but unusual processes to dramatic and sometimes explosive chemical reactions, the show firstly brings the magic of chemistry alive for my students. Secondly, it appeals to their natural curiosity inducing, and sustaining, interest in the subject. And thirdly, when used as an investigative exercise they impart the problem-solving and the higher level thinking skills, namely those of application of concepts and skills, of analysis of scientific phenomena, of synthesis of different topics, and finally of evaluation of scientific method, principles, theories and information. To get them into the spirit of things, I have my students conduct the investigative exercises as a challenge, as a “Beauties VS. Brawns: Who’s the brains?” challenge.

Some of the other interesting contexts have included hot air balloons (for fuels and energy), the chemistry of gunpowder and fireworks, including crackers, rockets and roman candles (for quantitative chemistry, gaseous behavior, and redox reaction amongst others), liquid nitrogen and its applications in, for instance, making instant ice cream and creating spectacular plastic bottle explosions (for state and energy), South Park characters (for displacement reactions), and Sudoku (for symbol of elements and formula of compounds). With hot air balloon, gunpowder and fireworks, they involved not only studying their chemistry but also making and testing them

Naturally, three other passions of mine–music, dance, and Buddhist philosophy—not only provide additional contexts but also add a multicultural dimension to my teaching. In addition to jamming and performing live with local bands, I have used my didgeridoo to demonstrate the behavior of atoms. My Salsa skills come into their own again not just as an after-school activity for students and in town where I have held classes for adults, but also when studying patterns in behavior and structure of substances. Buddhist philosophy complements their studies of atomic theories and the philosophy of science.

I further enhance my teaching of science and chemistry by extensive use of ICT. I have developed a variety of electronic resources some of which I make available to the students in print, others on CDs and most on my chemistry page on my web site. I am in the process of moving on to a paperless system where all work—completion, submission, grading and feedback—are carried out electronically. To that end I have created this Blog and I am also in the process of installing and setting up Moodle on my homepage.

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10 comments to Education Philosophy

  • I would have liked to have a chemistry teacher like you in my previous to UWC school. Anyway I was lucky enough to have you as a roommate. I really appreciate this kind of teaching approach and I think that a lot of science teachers should adopt it. I’m not a teacher but I’m also a volleyball trainer and I have some teens in my team. Usually we talk about science facts after training and what I use them to explain simple physics facts are small examples that I found in this cool book:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Physics_of_Superheroes

    and I also gave them to read this one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tao_of_Physics

    Well, they were really excited and happy after reading it, so, I came to the conclusion that science should be taught using a “real world example” approach and not in the classical way, where theory seems to be completely detached from the world around us!!!

    Cheer up!
    Alain

    • Dorje

      Grazie Alain! Don’t know anything about The Physics of Superheroes book but will have a look. I read the Tao of Physics a long long time ago and remember enjoying it a great deal.

  • Wishing you the very best of luck regarding your unjust and unfortunate current circumstances. Let’s hope and pray that common sense will prevail, sooner rather than later..

  • 12rembember

    Dear Dorje. I did hear your wonderful news! I really hope it wasn’t too traumatic for you,(that is probably a ridiculous thing to say!)
    you had amazing support from around the globe (we are in Ireland) and i shall be keeping an eye on your website/blog to find out what your next adventures are..hopefully not as harrowing as Qatar! 🙂 best of luck…

    • Dorje

      Dear 12rembember,

      Thank you so much for your support! If it hadn’t been for the individuals like yourselves, I would have still been in Doha.

      Incidentally, I have very very fond memories of Ireland from a short trip I took a long time ago as a college student. The Irish people we met were very very friendly inviting us (two American friends and I) in their merrimaking…drinking, singing and dancing at bars near Trinity College in Dublin.

  • Mrinal Rai

    God bless you dai!!May peace prevail on earth!!

  • Elaine

    All the best for you Dorje!

  • Rani Gurung kakshapati

    dear Dorje
    you sound so intteresting. Just thought Ill say hello ! Im also a teacher ! and I also run a school ! We should meet and talk school !

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