Last week there was a Parent Meeting at Alethia's school. Initially, I was hoping that Anthony would be able to arrange his schedule so that we could go together and make sense of what we could considering the language barrier. However, the meeting happened to be at the same time as K-town Middle School youth group, so there was no way for Anthony to come. He catches much more of the language than I do, so I was just not very confident in my ability to understand anything on my own.
I approached one of Alethia's teachers about it (the one that speaks English, Frau Valerie), asking some clarifying questions. She explained that the whole meeting will be in German so I probably shouldn't go, and she could get the information to me afterwards. Well, I'm just not that kind of parent. I know that having Alethia in German school will be challenging at times, but I want to make every effort to be just as involved as I would be if she was going to an American school, and there's just no way that I would miss a parents meeting.
So I started brainstorming. Who could I ask to go with me and help me translate? I decided to talk to my German neighbor (who lives below us) about it. Her kids (now teens) both went to the same kindergarten as Alethia does. So, she would not only know the language, but would also be familiar with the school itself. If you know me well, you would know that this was a big growth step for me. I am not one to go diving into unfamiliar settings by myself anyhow, but then to ask someone I don't know well to help me through it is quite a stretch for me. However, Sebina was very nice about it and said she would be willing to go.
I quickly figured-out that I was the only American parent in attendance. In fact, I later found out that the other American parents from Alethia's class (the ONLY other American parents) weren't even told about it. I guess it was only because I diligently translated the school calendar that I had received the week before that I knew of it.
Sebina took copious notes as I sat there listening hard for a word or two that I could understand. Mostly I felt lost and silly for smiling and laughing when everyone else did though I had no idea why. I was glad to be there though. And afterward Sebina patiently explained her notes to me and tried to answer my questions. Then, she took notes about the questions she could not answer and got the answers for me. I could not have asked for a better translator.
The best part was at the end. Sebina approached Alethia's other teacher, Frau Olga, (the one that speaks no English, so to whom I've never been able to speak with myself) to ask some of my questions. I then, through Sebina, got to ask her about how Alethia is doing. She seemed pleased to talk about Alethia, which warmed my heart. She explained that she had assumed that Alethia and the one other American girl in the class would naturally gravitate to one another, so they had intentionally put them together for things, but that they actually prefer playing with other kids. The other girl is shy and keeps to herself, however, Alethia is so outgoing and friendly. I then asked, "Does that mean that she is independent or is she playing with other kids." And Frau Olga said that she plays with other kids and seems to have made two friends in particular. She has also noticed Alethia starting to understand certain German phrases that they use in the classroom. And she is finding Alethia to be a good listener when she is asked to do something. She also said that her and Alethia are helping each other when it comes to the language barrier. For instance, Frau Olga was reading to her a book about animals and when Olga would point out the animals and use their German names, Alethia would repeat and then tell her the English names for them. She seemed very pleased that they are able to help each other in this way.
This conversation alone made my effort worthwhile. It was good to finally connect with Frau Olga. And it was wonderful to hear that Alethia is doing well. And it was a nice experience with Sebina, whom I haven't had much opportunity to get to know. I know this is just the beginning of these kind of experiences for me, so it is encouraging that this time went so well. Hopefully, next time, Anthony will be able to be with me too.