Back to the elementary school on the Northside. This time I knew exactly where to go, and I arrived promptly at three pm for my two-hour volunteer shift. The students in the library were finishing their snacks, and Ms. C welcomed me. She remembered my name, and she told the students,
“Everyone start finishing up, we have homework to do, and we have volunteers we need to show some respect because they are taking time to help you all to be better students. Thank you, Mr. Steve. Everyone thank Mr. Steve.”
“Thank you Mr. Steve!”
Well that was nice, I thought. I’m sure I turned a little red.
When the students finished their snacks, they were separated into groups for activities based on finishing their homework. Some of the students from the unruly room I observed from last week sat a distant table. “Mr. Steve, Mr. Steve” one said, and when I looked five young men waved at me.
As students lined up to leave the library, one student from that classroom approached me to shake my hand. “What’s up, New York?”
“What’s up, Kentucky?” I said.
I worked with Marisela, a student Ms. C brought over to me. This was the student she said needed extra help with her English.
Marisela, a second grader, sat next to me. She didn’t have any homework, so we decided to read a book together and do some writing. I walked her over to the small section of Spanish books in the library. I randomly selected one book, Los Three Ositos it was called, a play on Spanglish. Marisela seemed excited with this choice.
We brought the book back together and read it. The book mixed SPanish and English in character names and a few words dropped here and there in Spanish. It was a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, told my an Abuelo to his grandson, Emilio.
Marisela’s family moved from Chicago she told me. Her older siblings were born in Mexico. I asked her which language she spoke at home.
“My mom and dad, only Spanish.”
Her siblings were all bilingual she said. She also said, when I asked her which language she preferred, “English.”
“Because I get good grades at school,” she said.
While I was working with her, Ms. C pulled me aside. “One second, Marisela, we need Mr. Steve for just a few seconds.”
Ms. C asked me to help translate for a parent. I agreed.
A woman approached me along with an instructor asking about her child? I learned that she was looking for her son, last name Montiel, that she was supposed to pick him up at a school on this street. I asked the teachers if they recognized the surname. They asked Ms. C and she said there was no child with that name. I translated this, or langauge brokered this to the woman, and she asked me to call her son’s school, because she called earlier, but the people on the line couldn’t communicate with her. She’s was visibly upset, because she wanted to locate her son who should have been home well over two hours ago; it as already 4:45. I called the school and spoke to a secretary who explained that she had spoken to the mother, and gave me the directions and address to the bus depot where her son was waiting. “Thank you for helping, I just couldn’t talk to her,” she said.
I translated for this mother the issue, and she thanked me. She left hurriedly to find her son.
When I returned to the school library with Marisela, she was already drawing an illustration for her own book. I sat with her and told her what just happened. “I have do that for my mom too,” she said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Speak English,” she said.
Her father arrived to pick her up around 5, and I stopped to chat with him in Spanish. I asked him if he had ever been to the Mexington Libarary. He answered in the negative. I wrote down the library, and also some quick directions. I explained the kinds of programs there and also the bilingual staff and different programs for youth and parents. He said he would try to stop by. He thanked me for helping Marisela, and she also thanked me.
“Hasta luego,” she said.