Putting My Arabic to the Test
Parents’ Weekend, just like last year, was quite an experience. It has a pretty stressful lead up, with the nerves that come with having parents in your classroom and conferences with D-student families, but always ends up being a very affirming experience. I left feeling very much appreciated by the parents and their students alike. I also left with a bit more confidence in my Arabic after two great experiences.
First, we had our first swim meet last Friday, which was quite an experience in and of itself – I showed up and learned that I was not only the coach but was going to run the meet (register all the swimmers for the events, find and organize the timers, be the starter for all the events etc). The only kink was that the coach for the other school did not really speak much English. Without hesitation, we switched into Arabic, and did the whole deal in Arabic. I learned lots of great new words (like relay! tatabi3 تتابع) while registering the other students and negotiating various items with the other coach (who insisted on changing lane assignments for his swimmers for no reason at all). The other school brought their high school girls and middle school boys to race our high school boys, but thatdidn’t stop our guys from grunting and cheering when we beat them in relay.
Then, the next day, we had a day full of parent teacher conferences. Most were fairly uneventful, but one student came in with his parents and cheerily said “Mr. Bowman, you can do it in Arabic, right? Or would you like me to translate?” Again, no hesitation, I just went for it. I stumbled over my words, had trouble expressing myself, solicited words I didn’t know from my student, but I expressed my main ideas in Arabic. I mean, the student is one of the easiest to talk about (it would have been much harder had I not been saying “he’s wonderful” in many different ways), but I still felt so proud that I could do something real with my Arabic skills instead of just read Arabic Harry Potter and understand high schoolers swearing.
I don’t get many experiences like this on our compound in the middle of nowhere, so I value every one so much. I’d love to bring on the real world more often than our infrequent parents weekends.