Parent Perspectives

Talking to Schools

By Bienvenida Espinosa

During the production of "20 Days to 10th Grade" and "Diplomas and Dropouts," La Plaza producer Angélica Allende Brisk had several conversations with Bienvenida Espinosa, the mother of Zahira Lerebours, a student at Charlestown High School. The following are excerpts from two interviews. In the second interview, conducted a year after the first, she was still struggling with the same issue of getting information from her daughter's school.

Summer 2000
Q: Has the school given you information about the MCAS?

No. I haven't had any information about that. I would like to have some information about the MCAS because I think it's supposed to be an exam that Zahira will be required to take, and if she doesn't pass this exam I don't think she can graduate. But I haven't had any information about this. Nothing.

Q: Why do you think you haven't?

In the first place, I haven't gone to the school because for me to go and get information there I have to take an interpreter. This is a problem. So I haven't had the opportunity to go to the school with an interpreter, and maybe Zahira could serve as my interpreter, but I don't want that. If I need to ask questions about her, she might not translate well for me. I want to have someone from the school or outside the school there to interpret for me so that I can get this information.

Q: Do feel that you can participate in Zahira's education? How can you and your husband participate?

Yes, I would like to be involved in whatever program or information session in the school. I would also like it if the school informed me of every problem, of everything that is happening in the school. I used to have that communication with Zahira's previous school. And I was always in the school, I was in meetings, I was involved in every way, I even worked in the school. And I really liked knowing what was happening with my children as well as how the school is dealing with them and the other children.

Q: What would you consider a good teacher? What do you like to see in the classroom?

I like a teacher who is really strict with the student and who feels responsible for each child. Because a lot of the time the student does the work and the teacher doesn't pay attention, and when the student sees this they lose interest. This has happened with my younger son. He'll tell me, "I give my work to the teacher on his table, but he doesn't pay attention." I respond, "So when this happens, you have to hand the work directly to the teacher, not just leave it on the table." But I would like it if the teacher had more responsibility to the student.

Spring 2001
Q: Have you had communications with the teachers this year?

It seems like a joke, but it's been a long time since I talked with Zahira's teacher, they don't even send me notes. And I always received reports. In fact, I went to the school guidance counselor and asked that she send me a weekly report on Zahira. In the first week she sent me a report and then never again.

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