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Faculty Profile: Carole Maccotta IB French Teacher

January 17, 2020

Please tell us about your path to Léman.

I grew up in Montpellier, France and I got my bachelor’s degree in Anglo-American Literature and my master's degree in French Language Acquisition at the Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier. Then I moved to North Carolina, where I taught high school French and then pursued my Ph.D. in French and Francophone Literature and Dance Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I later moved to New York and was a professor at Long Island University, Brooklyn for six years. As a professor, I published articles and spoke at international conferences. Then I came across the job offer for this position as an IB French teacher at Léman, and when I came for my interview I was really impressed by the rigor at the school and the IB program, so I decided to take the job.

What do you like about teaching at an IB school?

I really believe in the values shared by the IB. It requires a high level of thinking but framed in a way that students can relate to. Teaching the IB is very different because of the academic rigor and the level of thinking and reflecting it requires. Also, the topics you cover are very different than those that you cover in language classes at a non-IB school. Typically, you would cover themes such as everyday life, food, clothing and travel. Whereas in IB courses we talk about advanced topics such as migration, international politics, technology and mental health. In an IB course, you are still teaching grammar and vocabulary and a level of thinking and analysis that you wouldn’t be focusing on otherwise.

The students at Léman impress me every day, which is what I find fantastic about teaching here. I'm really impressed by their capability for decentering and I think they have that because so many of them have an international background. They already have a sensibility that allows them to have a multifaceted approach to things rather than having just one viewpoint.

What do you think is the benefit of being multilingual?

I think that being multilingual is truly becoming a vital skill because of the direction the world is taking right now, in many regions including the United States. You need an international view on things to be successful.

Language is inseparable from culture and connects to wider issues such as race and social class and gender. They're all interconnected. So, when we teach culture and language, we really address all those very important topics. I think that this is vital for our students to be equipped with this broad knowledge, which encompasses so many aspects of life. I like to tell my students learning a language is learning about life.

What is your educational philosophy?

One of the essential components is to have a sense of harmony in the classroom, which requires being very receptive to each individual student in the classroom, to each student's personality and sensitivity to certain topics or needs. My focus is on establishing harmony within the group. So there needs to be this harmony, peacefulness. I need students to feel good in the classroom. To me, that's the most important thing. Once we have that, everything follows. It's important to be really perceptive to each individual student in terms of their psychology, their way of thinking or being but most importantly, their way of learning.

The other most important thing is to focus on this idea of decentering in foreign language and culture class, I think that's what I really want my students to take from this class, the idea that they can get the big picture and to have a multi-faceted view of everything and to stop questioning “why do I say this in English and why do they say it a different way in their language?”. I try and teach them to stop questioning difference and simply appreciate it, while discovering it is safe to do so. When they became aware of different, culturally situated, views, without immediately establishing a hierarchy of values between them, I think I've met my goals.

Do you find that you're able to incorporate your areas of study into your IB classroom?

Absolutely. I can draw in many themes between IB themes and my area of specialization. My original area of study was French and Francophone Literature, which later expanded to postcolonial studies of literature and dance.

In one of my IB HL classes, I have shown some French films from the 1930’s featuring Josephine Baker, focusing on the dance scenes in them, which inspired one of my students to write her extended essay in English on the French reception of Josephine Baker. It was fantastic for me to inspire a high school student one of the research areas I specialize in. There are many ways to incorporate studies across literature, postcolonialism and the arts into the IB program, because as the Theory of Knowledge IB core course demonstrates the arts are valid ways to analyze and provide more socio-historical context to issues around gender, race and to explore contemporary societal trends. And I'm passionate about it because I think literature and especially dance as an art form have been really underexploited as a valid form of learning. And it's nice to see that students respond well to being exposed to contextualized music and dance.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to see live performances. I live near the Brooklyn Academy of Music, so I often see live performances there. I also love to sing and I’m currently taking singing classes, and just enjoying the cultural life of New York City.

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