Just Becuse I’m Looking and Nodding; or, Words, So Many, What?
This will require the consultation of my notes. Yes, I took notes but in my cheapskate way (yes, come now, you know it’s true) my small notebook is already full. So I ended up writing my notes in a disjuncted manner: some on this page, a couple of lines here, and the balance somewhere deeper in the spiral. I’ll find them all by the time I get to writing about it.
The capstone to a day of cold rain was an open house at Lysejordet Skole for 3. Trinn (parents of Third graders). Of course we had to go, but really what did we expect to get out of it? Truly the setting and participants could have been switched for most any school I have been familiar with in my life. A host of white parents sitting patiently in half circles of chairs in a multipurpose room while white teachers went over the year’s issues of the school in general and grade three in particular.
Except, neither Meghan nor I speak Norwegian. I last took Norwegian when Kurt Cobain and Dick Nixon were still alive. I was so young I didn’t have to get up at all during the night. It was so long ago only bigtime business players and drug dealers had cell phones; you know, crack-collar and white-collar criminals.
I thought my ancient prepartion would help here. It does, a little. I can make out written works, especially those written at the newspaper level of literature. Spoken words, by native speakers? Forget it, I yield. Tonight was another exercise in straining to understand.
We sat is the back row after we walked through the reception line and exchanged pleasantries. I felt like I was wearing a bright lime-colored top with squeecky shoes and noisey jewelerly, “Hey look, yup, I’m the American.” Of course no one batted an eye that I could tell. But when you feel you stick out, you probably do. And since we were new into an established parent scene, I’m sure we did, just like we would have back home.
The schedule was:
Foreldremøte Høsten 3. Trinn
- Info fra AKS with Martin
- Info ved ledelsen
- Felles infor fra lærere på trinnet
- Til Klasserrommet
The evening was planned from 18:00 to 20:00 (24 hour time people, really; it’s better – just like metric). At 18:03 we began with the seven school staffers giving a brief introducation and welcome. And then item 1, AKS. I think I’ve written about AKS (Activity School) before, if not, then see Meghan’s blog for information.
Martin is the very nice young man charged with a difficult job: to control/wrangle all the kids after school lets out into the after-school program. He has to herd cats. He went through his presentation well but my limited interpretation skills picked up that the parents’ questions, of which there were many, were actually criticisms about how unruly and disorganized the program appeared. Remember, parents have to pay for AKS, but it’s Norway, so “Everybody does it.”
18:33 marked the lead teacher’s remarks. I feel she intervened to get Martin off the hook and redirect the meeting. She spoke very quickly, that was an intellectual blur for me. Meghan was getting ashen as the talk went on. I did what I could to keep Meghan involved. I’d lean over and explain the words on the electronic slide show or give my impression of what was being discussed. I was closer to an interpreter of jibberish than fact. “Nottingham: hva er målet?” The first blog commenter who can write what that means wins a postcard.
The classroom teachers took over at 18:47. The room was stuffy, that wasn’t helping. Ulrike talked about the reading curriculum. Cecilie spoke about math instruction.
Laughs all around, Cecilie told the same joke I heard at the Indian Creek PTA meeting about how parents are confused about the new way of teaching math, different process – same answer. Marit explained the Ukens Elver program (another chance for someone to win a card!). Caroline had the big subject for last, the “Trivselsleder” program. That really got the parents animated. I thought I had it figured out. Ha! So smug, I gave Meghan my interpretation of the discourse. Nope, totally wrong. 19:25 freed us from the chairs. Next stop, classrooms
Big people in little, but not too little, chairs with cool platforms for feet. I took Ryals’s class, Meghan took Owen’s. Such kind people. Many parents introduced themselves and gave me their best english. Theirs is across-the-board good, well done Norway (In Norway, English is no longer considered a foreign lanaguage but rather an additional language, so “Everybody does it.”).
In this smaller setting I felt like I grasped just about everyting that was going on. Still, I took notes so I could ask after class. Proudly I understood there was a class kitty for expenses, please contribute 150 Crowns if you can. I picked up on the birthday and gift conversation – 100 Crown limit for presents. Nice!
After the meeting ended, about 20:12, Cecilie was so kind as to speak with Meghan and I about the boys, their progress and her impressions of the trajectory of the class. She handled that like a veteran teacher belying her years. Where did she go to college and who was here mentor?
Meghan and I left the school at 20:27, totally drained. For Meghan, being pumeled with foreign words for over two hours and, for me trying to sift through the conversations for a word or two I could grab onto, we were at our limits. Our boys, our sweet boys and this experiment we’re subjecting them to. I worry.
Adults are too quick to say, “Oh, kids pick up new langues so easily, they adjust so quickly…” Maybe, but they also have little life experince to put what is happening to them in context. Additionally, what is a year for an adult is a fraction of their life. When you’re eight, a year is a massive chunk of your lived experience. I am so proud of my boys for how they are handling this awesome change.
- For parent-school open houses, all handouts and lectures should be available to those who want/need a printed copy to follow along and in the native language of the parent.
- Parents with language and cultural hurdles need to be explicity invited and supported.
- When in doubt, be kind.