Faculty Spotlight: Siham Gheewala, Upper School English educator

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager
Learn how a member of the English department helps LJCDS students become critical thinkers. 
Teachers don’t normally encourage their students to fight but in Siham Gheewala’s ninth- and 10th-grade English class “The Fight” is one of the activities she has created to encourage her students to think for themselves. It’s not physical; this game is based on critical thinking, and it tests the student’s beliefs. And they love it.

“They'll have conversations usually built on some kind of belief they have about the world that they aren't really questioning,” shares Ms. Gheewala. A statement like “kindness can be cruel” or “we can understand the past” is put on the board, and if students agree, they move to one side of the room; if they disagree, they move to the other side. The speaker holds a ball and then must pass it to the other side to hear the opposing opinion. Students get bonus points for referencing the text they’ve studied in class and for asking clarifying questions. Then they write about it.

“I want them to walk out of my room being comfortable thinking for themselves, being critical thinkers,” shares Ms. Gheewala. “It sounds like this very simple thing, but to be a good critical thinker you also need to be an absorber of information. You need to be able to have read a lot and then parse it out; you just can't be critiquing constantly. One misconception about critical thinking is that you just have to critique everything. It's about looking at your own assumptions, rethinking them, understanding where they come from. It’s fine if you want to hold onto them, but you should still understand where they come from.”

Based on the makeup of the class, different games have been created over the years and rules have been changed based on the students’ feedback. The class takes ownership and tweaks the game. That is the goal, after all. “I'm constantly trying to give them the tools to do that without me present,” shares Ms. Gheewala. “I think what’s interesting about the job of a teacher, and maybe also of a parent, is that you have to make yourself obsolete. If I do my job right, students develop the same tools to facilitate their own learning and thus no longer need me or the class. That’s what I want.”

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