Bilingualism and Parent Communication
In my past post, I described the lack of bilingual support I witnessed at Garden Hills (in relation to bilingual substitute teachers). While volunteering at Champaign Central High School, I saw quite the opposite.
It was around 5:45 pm as I was entering this unfamiliar and lonely building. There weren’t any signs containing direction information and this lonely building quickly became the size of a mansion. I began walking around until I bumped into a custodian. Luckily, he was able to direct me to the main office. “Go down the hallway and once you hit the end, make a left then a right on the first entrance”, he said. For someone who had never been there, his directions didn’t seem all that clear. Nonetheless, I found my way through the hallways and into the main office.
I nervously walked in, not knowing what to expect. I was welcomed by a very friendly face. This unfamiliar face belongs to Lorena Rodriguez, the bilingual secretary. She was in charge of assigning translators to families who needed them. About eight people showed up to assist as translators and we were all quickly on our way to facilitate conversations between parents and teachers.
The first family I was paired up with reminded me of my own. The parents, who looked extremely tired, were of Mexican descent. The father’s eyes were excessively red probably due to exhaustion or horrible working conditions. This all became worse when I had to translate what their child's teacher was saying. Their child had been cutting class and not turning in assignments. The father’s red eyes were soon accompanied by tears that couldn’t seem to be released. He was saddened by his child's behavior. Soon, we had to go on to the next teacher and then the next.
What saddened me the most was that the parents were not aware of what was going on in their child’s life. Not because they were not interested but because there was this language and education barrier in between. Most of the Hispanic parents I translated for did not seem to have a college education and spoke little or no English. So even if they wanted to, most of the time the parents wouldn’t understand what their child was learning, what projects they were working on, etc…
Nonetheless, I would like to applaud Champaign Central High School for their bilingual support. In my high school, translators were never provided. In fact, my parents didn’t even have to go pick up my report card. But at Champaign Central, every Spanish speaking family was offered a translator to try and eliminate this language barrier. Lorena is also very involved with each individual family and caters to their specific needs.
I learned a lot that day. I was able to assure myself that I would love to work fulltime as a translator. I want to be able to help people understand what’s going on to try to reduce this language gap. I would love to work at a school and help parents become more involved in their child’s school work.