Friday, October 29, 2010

Student Reflection

by Katie Dudek

Parent-Teacher Conferences

When I was in elementary, middle, and high school, parent-teacher conferences meant one thing: no school.  These two or three days that my teachers met with my parents as well as my classmates’ parents enabled me to sleep in late and spend the rest of the morning watching cartoons like Arthur and Franklin (yes, even when I was in high school) while making plans with friends for the afternoon.  While enjoying my free time away from the classroom, not once did I think about what was going on at these conferences, or how important they truly are.  Now I know.

A few weeks ago, I received an email that was sent to all of the University of Illinois students currently enrolled in the Spanish in the Community course.  It relayed the message that Central High School in Champaign was in need of translators for their parent-teacher conferences.  Although I was hesitant at first, I decided to email the secretary to say that I would be very happy to help.  Not knowing what to expect, I was at the Central High School counseling office bright and early on the day I agreed to volunteer.

It could not have gone better.  Prior to the conferences, I was very nervous about whether or not my level of Spanish would be sufficient to explain to parents how their students were doing in their classrooms.  I soon found out that I had no need to be nervous.  Both the parents and the teachers were very happy to have me and so thankful for my services.  I translated a total of five conferences: two for algebra, one for physical education, one for history, and one for biology.  It was amazing how easily the words just came out of my mouth as I described how the students were doing in their classes and the ways in which they can improve.  I feel my last conference was the most successful.  We discovered that the reason the student was not performing well on her biology tests was because she did not understand the vocabulary.  Not only is she going to retake some of the exams, but she is going to work one on one with the teacher after school, as well as be provided a Spanish version of the text book to help her better understand.  Her mother was so thankful that I was able to help her sort everything out.

What I also enjoyed about the conferences is that while I was not translating, I spent time in the counseling office speaking with the other translators.  It was incredible to hear everyone’s stories and to speak for such an extended period of time in Spanish, which I haven’t done since I left Spain last spring.  One woman who had grown up in Mexico could not stop commenting about how impressive my Spanish was.  She thought it was great that I was volunteering my time like this.  I was flattered by her kind words, and this helped me realize that I just need to be more confident in my Spanish speaking abilities.  I have no reason to be hesitant about volunteering at functions like this, and now am very excited to see what other opportunities are available to me.

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