Thursday, October 25, 2007

Back to School

The other morning, as I stepped onto the treadmill, the phone rang. It was my children's school.

Could I substitute for an absent teacher? Yes, I could.

"I don't know anything about history," I said to M as I raced around our villa getting ready.

"You know more than you think you do," he replied.

"What do I wear with teenagers?" I asked. Jeans? A conservative skirt?

Thankfully M had already gone to refill his tea. He would have said, "what you usually wear."

Of course I was nervous, I hadn't worked in nearly 18 years.

But the day went well. The students and staff were polite and friendly. My own children didn't mind that I was in their "world" for the day. My 14-year-old was unfazed by my presence in his class, my 16-year-old held the door for me, and my 18-year-old helped me with a computer question.

By the end of the day I was reminded of how much one learns in school that has nothing to do with school.

"How do you pronouce your name?" an American student asked a Lebanese student as they walked into US History and settled in to their chairs.

"Abdullah, not Ab-DOO-lah," the second fellow said, pronouncing the second syllable like "dull," as in unsharpened.

"In the States people call me Uh-LEE-a, but my name's Alia," a female student said, putting emphasis on the beginning "ah" sound.

These students seemed disappointed but resigned to the fact that their names are often mispronounced. Two other boys, Zaid (rhymes with maid) and Zayed (pronounced zye-edd), are frequently both called Zaid though their names are actually very different.

I don't speak Arabic, except for a few phrases. But I was glad, in this international school setting, that children have the chance to understand each other better - even if it starts with something as small as pronouncing someone's name correctly.

No comments: