I totally goofed in thinking that parent orientation was today. It turns out the parents were invited for yesterday. When this struck me about 10 minutes before they arrived, I had a minor moment of panic when I realized that I had no one to translate, knowing the vast majority of parents would need that service in order to get the information I was presenting.
Incidentally, I had planned to allow my kids to stay for the parent orientation today (if it was to be today, that is), so I figured I might as well keep them in the room yesterday. The goal here was to give them an opportunity to share some of the things happening in our room (while I took care of the administrative stuff). In addition, I figured if I didn’t have a translator, they could assume those responsibilities.
Well, once parents arrived at our room today and I asked the kids to translate as I spoke, it became apparent that that wasn’t going to happen as I envisioned it. So I told myself I was going to have to give it a shot – dare to try – and draw on my high school Spanish to do my best to speak to the parents.
I started off shakily, telling the parents I was going to try to speak in Spanish. It was nervewracking. I felt like I was wasting their time. However, they were patient and indicated their understanding of my slow, disjointed speech, which was punctuated with a fair share of “uhs,” “hmms,” and “sooooo, yeahs.”
Thankfully, my students had my back. Numerous times, I stopped mid-sentence in Spanish to ask how to say a word. They were very helpful, and knew some tricky phrases, too, like “believing in yourself.” Maybe my boldness in trying to communicate to the parents emboldened them to dare to try, because the longer the session went on, the more willing were students to help me out. They also came up with several important items we needed to share that I had forgotten in my nervousness.
I ended the session by simultaneously thanking the parents for coming and apologizing profusely for my Spanish. To their credit they were understanding. I told them I had a 96 average in high school Spanish…but that I wasn’t in high school anymore!
Usually when my students find out I understand and speak Spanish to a certain degree, their reactions are a mix of shock, awe, and disbelief. When the parents left today, I asked the kids how they thought I did. A couple gave me a thumbs up, which they quickly changed to a thumbs down. Some gave me the so-so/eh/okay sign. Most, however, said I did a great job. All I could do was thank them for their help and let them know it made it much easier for me to have them there.
I had all day to ruminate upon this experience, and I realized that this was me modeling what it means to truly “dare to try” (or as I had to use my Spanish-English dictionary to figure out for the parents, “atreve tratar.”) I really wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of being up there by myself, exposed to the entire room as a poor speaker of Spanish.
I already know the kids support their classmates’ tries. It’s great to know they support mine, too.