My worst parent - A little language barrier

Tes Editorial

I suppose in hindsight I should have known that the truth can get lost in translation. But at the time it never occurred to me as I sat opposite a mother and father during a bustling parents' evening.

I was discussing the merits of their Year 8 son, who had been an ever-present threat during my induction year as a young English teacher in Wigan. The family had moved over from Spain earlier that year and Jose had obviously benefited from English lessons in his native country, as he spoke the language well. His parents, however, did not.

This presented a problem in knowing how to explain to his parents that Jose might benefit from less shouting, not disturbing his classmates and less swearing. Step forward the interpreter - Jose himself.

Knowing little Spanish, I left it to Jose to translate my assessment of how he could improve. At first, things seemed to be going well as I explained that he was a bright boy, with lots of enthusiasm. His parents smiled and nodded.

As I got to the crux of the matter, explaining how Jose should behave as well as any other pupil in the class, I noticed that despite what Jose was saying, the nodding and smiling continued. Jose was not being truthful in his interpretation.

I was now faced with a choice. Either I allow the darling couple to remain unaware of their son's behaviour, which would mean that Jose would soon be found out if they passed by a more diligent teacher that evening, or, through the use of a pen and pad, I could illustrate Jose's problem.

The smiles stopped, the chuckling turned to chastising and Jose's parents thanked me and left. A future at the UN awaits for such a talented translator.

The writer is an MFL teacher in Rochdale. Send your worst parent stories to features@tes.co.uk.

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