Tonight was “parents night” (Elternabend) at Benjamin’s school.  When we found out about it last week, Dan suggested I be the one to go (since we were supposed to go without kids).  I jumped at the chance.  I was so excited to go — a chance to learn more about the program of instruction at B’s school (we know it’s a Montessori program, but only have the vaguest knowledge of what that means), to meet some other parents, and have a few hours out on my own.  Excellent!

Somehwere, in this fantasy, I apparently forgot that I DON’T SPEAK GERMAN.  Right.  Oops.

I understood less than 10% of what was said — mostly numbers, dates, and words that are the same in English.  There’s a picture day coming up (I don’t know when), there won’t be any field trips until spring (I don’t know why) and there’s apparently a significant issue with where parents park in the morning when they drop their kids off (that was the part I understood the best — VERY helpful, since I don’t have a car).  The teachers were a little surprised I had come.  I was the only parent there who didn’t have a working knowledge of German.  (I suspect the others just didn’t come, since I know there were some English-speaking parents who were absent.)

It was a one hour and twenty minute lesson in humility.  I paid close attention, and tried to pick out everything I could.  I participated as best I could in the get-to-know-each-other game they had us play (which involved reading and writing in German).  I’m definitely feeling more empathy for Benjamin and the trouble he’s having adjusting to kindergarten — even though everyone means well, not speaking the language is a huge challenge, and it’s very isolating.  I understand, even more, why he feels lonely at school.  I felt lonely and I was only there for a little while.

One of my biggest concerns with Benjamin attending public kindergarten here in Austria is that I will have trouble communicating with his teachers.  One-on-one, we seem to do fine, but in a group setting like this, I’m definitely not keeping up.  I’m just going to have to trust that they’ll make sure I know what I need to know.

I’m glad I went.  As hard as it is to go and be clueless, it’s much better than staying home and being isolated.  At least I was there, trying.  I want the teachers to know that I want to know what’s going on — I want to be involved.  I definitely think they got that message from my being there this evening.  At the end, I stayed and talked with one of B’s teachers.  She said there wasn’t anything that I missed this evening that I urgently needed to know.  We talked about how he’s adjusting to kindergarten, and she told me how much he likes snack time, and how sweet he is with they other kids, and they with him.  (Apparently, the other English speaking children look out for him, and if the teachers misunderstand him, there are several that jump in and make sure he’s getting what he needs . . . which is AWESOME to hear.)  The teachers really like him, the other kids seem to like him, all that’s left is for him to like being there.

One Response to “Elternabend”

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