This past week at the middle school where I currently teach we had parent teacher conferences. Since my middle school is about 60-70% Latino students, and since I speak Spanish, I always expect a few conferences will be conducted in Spanish rather than English. This round, however, it turned out that almost ALL of my conferences were conducted in Spanish. I honestly really appreciate a good excuse to remember (and verify) that I speak another language! But I’ve got to admit — I was pretty nervous those first few times the answer to my question (“English or Spanish?”) was “Spanish”. My brain started scrambling for vocabulary, I made stupid mistakes, and I felt embarrassed for using words that may not even be real words in front of other adults. I even asked a student once if I said everything right. (She said I did good.) But it was hard! I had to communicate important information on the fly in a professional setting in a diplomatic manner — and I had to do it all in my second language. Needless to say, I felt a little off-balance for much of the evening.
Then today, as I was reflecting back on it, I realized that most of my Spanish-speaking parents probably feel like that a lot. I have the privilege of knowing that when I go into a restaurant or store there will always be someone who speaks my language there to help me. I have the privilege of knowing I can get any book or magazine or form I want in my language. I have the privilege of never having to worry whether someone is judging my intelligence because of my language abilities or accent. Or at least, I do outside of parent-teacher conference night.
I’m not gonna lie — I’m glad I don’t have to worry about those things most of the time. But I’m also glad that I did have to on one conference night, so that hopefully I will remember to have a little more compassion in the future.