Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I've had more difficulties with my bus route this year than I did as a new driver last year. The main reason is that I very much butt heads with the principal of this new school.

There are times, however, when I feel rewarded for trying to go the extra mile. And today was one of them.

I had two new students start bussing last week that were unable to speak any English at all. I found out they were from Colombia, South America and spoke only Spanish. When the dad brought them to the bus stop the first morning we were unable to communicate and I only hoped that I was taking these kids to the correct school. Fortunately, it turned out okay.

On the second day they rode, I went to pick up the kids after school. I drop off some students North of the school on my first round and then return for my second load of students to drop off South of the school. On the first day my new students rode, they got on the bus on the second round (like they are supposed to), so I thought they somehow understood this was when they were to get on. However, on the second day on my return to the school to pick up the second group of kids, the vice principal told me that this girl (grade five) was crying quite hard because she thought she missed the bus. She could not be consoled.

I did my best to comfort this girl in whatever way you comfort people using only body language, and dropped her off at her stop - much troubled. This is one of the most difficult parts of this job I have had this year. There have been many communication problems because of the language barrier, but nothing troubles me more than having a child cry in misunderstanding.

I pondered the problem on the way home. Then I had a "moment". Sometimes the answer is so obvious it stares you in the face. Here I am on the computer daily, hooked up to the internet, and I realized that......duh......I could probably find a website that translated English to Spanish.

And I did. The only consolation I have is that the school - the great educational system - did not have the brains to think of this either, because the vice principal was telling me that they could not communicate with this family at all because they did not have a translator.

I came home and typed a letter to this family, introducing myself by giving my name, explaining everything they needed to know about the bus, especially the "second round" that their children would be on after school. I said that I hoped this would comfort their daughter, welcomed them to Canada, and then told them how they could get onto this website to communicate if they could get access to the internet (though a library, or something). I gave this letter to the dad yesterday morning when I picked up his children.

And herein is my reward:

This morning when I picked up his children, he came up to the steps and said - with a huge smile on his face,

"Good morning, Darla," in broken English.

Such a little thing, really, but one that brought tears to my eyes, for it made me realize that he did, indeed, understand what I tried to say. And he was gratefully conveying this to me as best as he knew how.

And I am gratified this morning.


Rachel Peterson said...

Aunty, I am proud of you. I know its hard sometimes to get out of ones "comfort zone" and finding a way to bridge cultural and language barriers is definitely hard. It is so rewarding to see the benefits of what efforts you put forth.

Darla said...

It is, Rach. It really is. It makes me want to try to better communicate with my kids from the African countries. I'm just not sure what language and/or dialect they speak. Spanish is easy to translate via the internet. Other languages are a bit more obscure.

We'll see what happens.

Rachel said...

Darla, you are BRILLIANT!!!! Way to go thinking outside the box!!! I wonder how many others could benefit from people just taking time and thinking....


Darla said...

Rachel, you are always so complimentary to me. You have added to my "gratifying" day. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

¡Eso es gran pensamiento usted mamá atractiva!!!

De su hermana Lana

Darla said...

Hilarious! That translated, by the internet program that I used:

"?That's great thinking you mam? Attractive! His sister" Lana

Makes me wonder how it was translated to that family!

Oh well. I tried. And so did you, apparently.

QuicklyHome said...

Sweet, very sweet.