Parent Teacher Conferences
This past week, some Spanish students from the University of Illinois went to Central High School in Champaign to volunteer as interpreters for Spanish speaking families during parent teacher conferences. This was an awesome opportunity for us- and it was pretty tough! My overwhelming thought while we were having these conversations is how difficult and frustrating it would be as a parent to not be able to communicate directly with the adults that spend the entire day with their kids. Not being able to communicate successfully with your child’s teachers could create a dependency on the child as a sole communicator of what is going on at school. I imagine it would also be very difficult for parents to know what questions to ask or expectations to have if they themselves had never been to high school, or had been to high school in another country. Parent-teacher conferences can be emotionally intense; both parents and teachers want the students to do well, and all parties are very invested in that success, so good communication is especially important. I made a conscious effort to communicate what was being said with the correct emotion, but I really found that to do this well would take a TON of practice! Being able to find the right words was hard sometimes, especially to communicate things that were said colloquially.
My impression while I was there was that Lorena Rodriguez, the bilingual secretary, is an indispensable resource for the parents, teachers, and students. While we were there, she set up the families with the student translators and offered directions. More importantly, she spent time with each family, checking-in to see how the meetings went, how the parents and students were feeling and making sure everyone’s questions were answered. It was clear that she was constantly checking up on the families and the students throughout their high school careers and was invested in each student’s success. For a high school with a high level of bilingual and second-language English speakers to be successful, it takes people like Ms. Rodriguez, and clear policies that dictate the necessity of open lines of communication with students and families.
I have immense respect for people who translate and interpret on a regular basis—this was the first time I interpreted in a semi-professional or academic setting and it was definitely a challenge, but was also something I enjoyed a great deal!