Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 22 2011

Spanish Speakers Not Welcome

My school has a very significant Spanish-speaking population. I don’t know the numbers (our school is so new I’m not sure the demographic data are available anywhere yet) but I do know it’s our majority group. I also know that a parent told me that in Mexico, they were used to having the door slammed in their faces if they tried to do so much as enter the school building. I feel a little bit like my school did the US version of that right back at them today.

We had a parent night this evening, and it was an hour and a half of important information. It was not a meet-and-greet or a how’s-my-kid-doing night… it was a “here are all the things you need to know about the year” night.

And it was not translated. All of our Spanish-speaking parents just got talked at in a language they didn’t understand all night. They missed out on everything important and our school put on a great show of looking like it didn’t care. I felt rude and embarrassed and couldn’t do anything more than translate my own piece. When I asked Spanish-speaking parents how their night was going, they just told me “I’d feel bad if I honestly answered that question.” It was awful.

Thankfully, my principal takes feedback well. I went to him immediately after the event to ask him why he hadn’t had me translate the presentation for him (he didn’t really answer… I think he feels bad putting more work on teachers) and to tell him how upset the parents I talk to in Spanish were. He has already come up with a plan to address communication in the future (HELLO, good leadership) and is writing a letter to parents apologizing for the night and trying to make them feel welcome at the next event. It’s a good step… I hope this is the last time I have to sit through a night as painful as this one.

2 Responses

  1. Elsie

    That is so awesome! Congratulations on having another good impact! :)

  2. CJK

    Congratulations on speaking up and helping to right this cultural incompetency. An apology and corrective action may also make a huge difference, as marginalized folks are not used to anyone every making an apology about these kinds of breaches. You go girl! You were definitely demonstrating true leadership and action towards change and your principle is open to learning too.

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