Bringing the World Home
When French teacher Adeleen Brown was awarded the Northampton School for Girls Instructorship in 2018, Dean of Faculty Peter Valine noted that she “enriches the study of the language by delving deeply into French history and culture.” Ms. Brown’s enthusiasm for French culture is understandable: She was raised in a bilingual home by a mother (a college professor who teaches French) from Bordeaux and a father (who also speaks French) from Milwaukee. But her depth of knowledge has only grown over the years, a result of her regular travel to French-speaking destinations and attendance at educational conferences, all supported by professional development grants.
Traveling “allows me to renew myself and recharge,” explains Ms. Brown, now in her eighth year at Williston Northampton. This past summer, she toured Paris, the southwest of France, and Madrid, and attended the Modern Language Association international symposium in Lisbon, Portugal. “As a language teacher, it’s really important to go back to a French-speaking country. And conferences provide ideas, which I take back to enrich my courses.”
An instructive example is the American Association of Teachers of French conference held in New Orleans in 2014, which inspired Ms. Brown to more deeply research Cajun culture and incorporate elements into the curriculum of her honors level Francophone course. She now, for example, has a friend from Louisiana visit the class to introduce the students to Cajun music. “They get to play the accordion and see how important music is down there. It deepens their appreciation for French and for cultural diversity in their own country, and around the world.”
In her travels to France in recent years, Ms. Brown has toured French resistance museums and internment camps, taking photographs and purchasing reference books that have added new depth to her teaching of World War II. To share her appreciation for travel with her students, she organizes regular student trips to Winter Carnival in Quebec City. And because she knows that “when you travel, you really need to speak,” she is piloting a new program in her classes this year using the online speaking-practice app Extempore, which allows students to record their spoken answers to questions.
“I’m always on the lookout for something that will change the way students are learning,” she explains.