How Speaking a Second Language Helps Me as a Teacher

When working with students who were fully bilingual, it was helpful for me to be bilingual as well because not all parents were.  I greatly admired some of my parents who didn’t speak English but saw the value in educating their children well.  When conducting parent-teacher conferences, some parents did of course speak English but most were visibly more comfortable in their first language.  It leveled the playing field so to speak, and put them more at ease when discussing the progress of their child, and seeking to resolve any issues that had arisen.  I see this as important, because even if you don’t speak two languages, it is important to “speak the language” of those with whom you work.  Get down on their level; seek to understand others, and most importantly, listen.  I think this is the biggest factor in conducting a successful meeting with parents.
Back when I was first student teaching, I had a meeting with the mother of a student who was struggling in my Spanish class, despite his Hispanic background, and the help of a Puerto Rican parent at home.  When I sat down to meet with her, I took time to listen first.  She shared with me that as a recent widow, she was seeking the highest grades possible for her son so that he could get scholarship money and other financial aid for college.  She was struggling on her own to provide for her son and to raise him to have the best opportunities in life.  So we agreed that I would give her son the chance to correct several errors in the project he had submitted, in order to bring his grade up.  I told her that this opportunity would not be given to other students, so please not to mention it, but that I like she, had the best interest of her son at heart.  Everyone went away happy, but the student was not “given” a grade he didn’t earn.  Win-win-win.

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