This morning I entered the building with some students who were headed either to breakfast or to get some work done in the library before school started. The entrance I used has one flight of stairs going up and another leading down. As we climbed the steps, a student was asking me about our current writing contest when we were interrupted by a gasp and the clatter of a book bag hitting the stairs below us. We both stepped to the banister and peered over. Another student sat awkwardly on the edge of a step, tottering back with her legs outstretched in front of her and a panicked look on her face. She had obviously slipped, but how far she had fallen and whether or not she was hurt, I couldn't tell.
"Are you all right?" I called. Her eyes met mine, but she didn't answer. "Are you hurt?" I tried again and started down to her, but I was moving against traffic, so I didn't get too far.
"Esta bien?" a voice to my left inquired. The girl nodded, then climbed to her feet, and continued on her way to breakfast. I turned to the student I had been talking to on the way in. Although she speaks English like a native, her first language is Amharic. She had diagnosed our communication gap immediately and used the Spanish she is learning now to help. I was both impressed and proud of her reaction; as minor an incident as it was, it illustrates what we hope for in our students.