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Thinking Critically in the Classroom

Naomi Konuma ‘22 and upper school science teacher Heather Aleman talk about thinking critically in the classroom.
Advancement Fellow Naomi Konuma ‘22 took the opportunity at a SBS faculty and staff meeting this fall to express her gratitude for her teachers as she spoke about the annual Second Fund campaign. Specifically, she referred to her challenging and rewarding experience in Heather Aleman’s chemistry class last year. 

Mrs. Aleman has been at Second Baptist School since 2007 and currently teaches chemistry. She began her teaching career through tutoring others in college, which ignited a passion in her for guiding students on their journey to understanding new concepts. Specifically at SBS, Mrs. Aleman loves teaching in the upper school because, “The small class sizes allow me to build relationships with students and their families. Being able to discuss life, faith, struggles and more in the midst of teaching science is invaluable.”

In addition to Mrs. Aleman’s attention to detail and relational teaching style, Naomi pointed out the ways in which Mrs. Aleman created an inclusive class environment that encouraged students to work together to discover and learn new things about themselves. 

According to Naomi, “Mrs. Aleman inspired me to think critically by posing open-ended questions to the class on new topics we were learning. Through class discussions, we were all able to not only understand new topics but also connect our new knowledge to past units and concepts. In this way, she creates a complex, interactive and holistic style of learning that enables her students to thrive in her class!”

When asked how she does does this, Mrs. Aleman first responded quite simply by saying, “I love science!” She went on to say, “So sometimes it can be challenging not to eagerly share all I have learned with my students. However, I also know that feeding them the answers will not cultivate their critical thinking. Instead, I coach and guide them along the way as they arrive at the correct answer.”

“Honestly, there is no feeling like watching that proverbial ‘light bulb’ turn on as students first grasp a concept for themselves. It's delightful to see!”

When Mrs. Aleman was asked how she herself thinks critically, she responded by saying, “As a teacher, thinking critically often means I must quickly change directions or develop a different technique or analogy to teach a concept. Thinking critically for me means observing and reading my students well, then adjusting as needed. It means recognizing that what works well for one student may not work for another, and I need to think through many possibilities of how to guide them to the finish line.”

As Naomi continued to express her gratitude for her impactful year in Mrs. Aleman’s classroom, she further expanded on the very important skill she developed, “Though one must be taught to think critically, I believe critical thinking is not entirely a skill, but a choice. You must choose to challenge yourself and expand your horizons.” She went on to say, “At SBS, teachers like Mrs. Aleman teach me not just how to think critically but how I can daily practice critical thinking--and not only academically! I am learning and choosing to think critically in how I interact with others. I constantly seek ways to show God's compassion to others and make them feel loved in a way that is truly unique to them. I am now able to display critical thinking by creatively motivating others to push themselves to their limits and choose to be critical thinkers as well.”

“Ultimately, I think critically by choosing joy and gratitude. By embracing each day as a blessing and opportunity, I go through my life in a position of humility and with a vigorous work ethic, which allows me to critically analyze the circumstances in my life.”
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