I Bonded with a Third Grader at the DMV

Yep, that’s me, entertaining myself with a window selfie while waiting in line at the DMV

I bonded with a third grader at the DMV yesterday. We were in a wretchedly long line. She was along for the errand with her mom. I had to renew my license, which expired in the spring when all of the DMVs were closed. It was time — waiting any longer would mean that the socially-distanced line would just be colder. So, yeah, first we bonded over the freezing temperature. We both wished we were wearing hats.

A little later, though, there was something more interesting to discuss. A fellow line-stander needed to talk with one of the officials, but was having trouble communicating. My new friend’s mom swiftly stepped in, interpreting Spanish and English. It turned out that this man didn’t need to wait in the long line in the cold at all. (Have I mentioned that the line was long? Have I mentioned it was cold?) Off he went, happily.

Then, I eavesdropped as mom told her daughter how important it is to keep speaking Spanish whenever possible. She told her that being bilingual is a gift, and that she could use that gift to help so many people. Ok, yeah, and then I joined in the conversation. Maybe this was obnoxious of me. This was a beautiful moment between a mother and her daughter, and Educator Lynn jumped in. (As I write, it just seems more and more obnoxious…) But anyway, I apologized for eavesdropping, and then told the third grader that I was a teacher and a principal, and that I completely agreed with her mom. (Didn’t mention the superintendent part. Who cares? Certainly a 9 year old would not, but maybe “teacher and principal” carries a little weight.) Mom explained that her daughter’s father speaks Arabic. The daughter only knows a little. And on we went, more conversation about all she could do in her life, all the people she could impact, knowing Spanish, Arabic, and English.

Of course, yeah, then we talked about how school is going this year. She told me that she is remote for the first two trimesters, and her mom says maybe she will be onsite for the third trimester. She loves math! Math is easy! She does not like Language Arts, but when her teacher invites the students to leave the online meeting and work on their own, she stays online because she knows that this helps her. But, really, she absolutely does not like Language Arts. But again, she really loves Math! I told her that the Spanish/Arabic/English/Math combo is golden.

We chattered on for a bit more, and then she got to go hang out in the car while mom and I kept waiting in the line, both of us lost in our own thoughts and phones. She came back on line now and then, and we jumped up and down in the cold a little. When we got inside, we agreed that we couldn’t feel our feet.

It was normal stuff: a student and an educator connecting about what is great about school and what isn’t, and thinking about the future together. Mom was generous to let me talk with her daughter; she could probably tell that I was starved for student interaction. It was just what I needed after an especially rough week, as well as seven months of hard decisions in an ever-changing landscape.

It is true that we don’t know what the rest of this school year holds. It is true that school won’t be “normal” for a long while, and when it is, it will be forever changed. Hopefully we will have taken the bright embers from this thing to help us improve what we had before.

Whatever happens, I hope my friend keeps her Spanish, and develops her Arabic. We will need her, for sure.

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