I am so glad I took the opportunity to volunteer at Central High School to translate for Parent-Teacher conferences! It was a great experience. I also appreciated how many people showed up to help. The waiting room for the families was filled with 232 students from the past and present, and I'm sure many others who just wanted to help out.
Because there were so many volunteers, I was just able to go with one father and his daughter to see two different teachers, but this was an extremely valuable experience. I realized a few things, mainly about academics and some challenges of being bilingual.
The student I talked to was really doing great in school, turning in homework and paying attention in class, she was also very talkative and polite with her teachers. But the problem was (in two separate classes) that exams had been especially challenging. In English class, the teacher even mentioned how it was very unfair that what was bringing her grade down was two exams that were required by the district, and they were nearly impossible to study for. The English teacher talked about how it might be harder for a native Spanish-speaker to do well on these exams, but that all of the other elements of the English class were geared towards teaching all levels of grammatical ability. Also, the teacher suggested meetings after school that could help the student with her English grammar. I realized that sometimes a person who was raised using a different language will have to put a lot more time into learning the language that they are being taught in. In many instances, those who were raised with a different language, such as immigrants, will not have the time to dedicate to all of this extra work, because they are doing the basic things to help them survive in a new environment.
In terms of translation, I was able to talk fairly quickly with the father, and the daughter helped out a little and was very interested in what I was doing as a student at the university. She spoke Spanish and English fluently, but the administration obviously had a translator there in case any student wanted to falsify information between teachers and parents. Translating was fun and I suggest that anyone who wasn't able to make it this time should try to help out in the future! (It's not as hard as you might think).