Friday, October 10, 2014

Murphy's Conference

After eight years, I was feeling pretty confident that all my student-led conferences would go off without complication when I headed to school this morning. My homeroom kids were well-prepared; some had come in at lunch yesterday to finish up, but despite it being the first time for them to lead such a meeting, I knew that they were ready and able. I had carefully scheduled the times as well-- knowing that the allotted 20 minutes is often a little too short, I had limited the sign-up slots to 2 per hour. I had also put my interpreter requests in early; this year in addition to a couple of Spanish translations, I needed an Arabic and a Vietnamese interpreter as well, so I gave the office plenty of lead time. I was certain nothing could possibly go wrong.

I was right...

until about 10 AM. My Vietnamese family showed up, but there was no translator. When I checked with the main office, they told me none were available. Sometimes in a pinch, the student is willing to interpret for his parents, but this time, my student flapped his arms wildly and told me he really didn't know much of the language. Back at the office, they gave me the information for a telephone translation service we subscribe to, but when I tried to call from classroom phone, the long distance area code wouldn't go through. Fortunately, I had my mobile phone, and so we set it in the center of the table and spoke loudly and slowly, that is after I explained what we were doing to the person on the other end of the line. It went surprisingly well.

Later in the day, I had not one conference, but two, stretch to an hour and 20 minutes. The first parent spoke so fast and at such length that I never got a single one of my polite let's hurry this along strategies into the conversation. The second time we quadrupled our meeting was for a student who is really struggling, and I couldn't begrudge her or her mom a single second. 

And truthfully? The same must be said for every family I met with today. Their pride, questions, and concern all reminded me that every student is somebody's child, somebody's treasure. More often than not, they just want to make sure we are doing right by their kids. I get it.

It's a sloppy job, but some days I feel pretty good at it, and lucky to do it, too.

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