Oct 31 2012
When There is No Common Language with the Parent
Last night we had a Parent – Teacher Night for the parents of the new 10th graders. Their children were not invited. The idea is for the parents to have an opportunity to meet and chat with all the teachers that teach their children before the official Parents Night , that fateful evening when grades, behavior and other weighty issues are discussed.
One of the parents came with her son in 7th grade, as her interpreter. She doesn’t speak any of the languages known by any of the staff members.
It’s a tricky situation. I made a point of speaking directly to the mother, making eye contact with her, then waiting for the son to translate. I’m well aware that one is supposed to engage with the person, not the imterpreter. However, in this case, the interpreter wasn’t a paid proffesional, but a child. I didn’t really engage with the son at all. I think that may have been respectful of the mother but I’m not sure about the son.. He was obviously well practiced playing this role. He was very patient too.
I tried hard to focus on the good things I was saying about her truly brilliant child and not be judgemental. I admit that it is difficult to ignore the fact that the parent has been in the country for approximately 10 years and still doesn’t speak a word of the language. I guess that just highlights how talented her child is, to reach such academic achievements. I know her life is very difficult and there probably haven’t been many opportunities.
Nonetheless, it is an awkward situation.