Farah Kinani prepares students to be global citizens


Photo courtesy of Farah Kinani

French teacher Farah Kinani wearing a shirt supporting the women’s movement in Iran. “I have learned that what matters the most in teaching is the relationship with the student. You are able to personalize the teaching and in a language class that’s important because you have to make them vulnerable in class and be able to make mistakes,” Kinani said.

Farah Kinani is teaching French for her third year at WJ, but that was never her original plan. Growing up in Morocco, majoring in psychology and working as a journalist, Kinani came to the U.S. in 2001 for a month to cover a partnership between the state departments of the U.S. and Morocco. Kinani met her husband here and has remained in the U.S. since building a family and blogging on Global Voices, a blog site by Harvard University, to shine a light on unheard voices, not in mainstream media.

But in 2018, Kinani started substitute teaching at the elementary level for fun and for the incentive that she gets to choose her own hours. She then went on to teach Arabic and French at both BCC and Whitman before coming to WJ. Her addition adds to the many international teachers at WJ.

“[International teachers] bring nuance, we bring different experiences and perspectives, I also teach French in English and I have an accent so I like to show the students that it is okay, I am encouraging the students to make mistakes and learn. I am not speaking English well but it is not blocking me, I published a book in English as well so the students don’t feel like they have to be perfect,” Kinani said.

What makes taking a class taught by Kinani different is the inclusion of current events in class. Kinani has gone over the Gaza bombings, the Stop Asian Hate movement and more recently, the protests in Iran and earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

“I do it to give students perspective and be grateful for what they might take for granted. It’s easy but wrong for people to say it’s not my issue. And I’m able to connect it with content in class,” Kinani said.

Kinani’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by her students.

“She is the only teacher in the entire school who has been talking about these issues. She ensures that her students know what is going on in the world, even if it does not directly pertain to her class. Her inner journalist from when she was younger does not allow herself to sit idly by when conflict arises, and that has really inspired me to take action because I know that she would,” senior Sean Blakeslee said.

Kinani also sponsors many clubs at WJ, mainly those centering around identity. She sponsors the Middle Eastern/North African Club, the Muslim Student Association, the Armenian Club and the Persian Club. She will be sponsoring the Japanese Club next year.

“One of the privileges I have is teenagers coming to me that they want me to sponsor their club and that they feel like they can trust me with that. I believe in the power of debate and I like the idea of offering them an arena to debate and I’ll watch from afar and engage sometimes,” Kinani said.
The MSA (Muslim Student Association) discusses and debates fun topics such as if acrylic nails and nail polish are allowed during Ramadan, as well as more serious ones such as if Muslims should stand in solidarity with Jews and denounce the antisemitism happening at WJ.

“Madame Kinani has given us discussion topic ideas. She brought up the subject of antisemitism at WJ. She reminded us that in Islam we lead by example, forgive, and live with integrity even if others don’t,” senior and MSA President Soukeyna Ndyoe said.