My Fulbright Interview
The interviewing panels were very far behind schedule, so I waited for a long time, chatting with the other applicants. It was interesting to discover that most of the NYC applicants - and some applicants from outside the city - were having trouble getting supervisor and administrative approval for taking a leave of absence to participate in the program. Some principals were concerned about test scores falling, others about NCLB regulations regarding qualified teachers, others about the quality of the incoming exchange teacher. I understand the concerns to some extent, but it's also extremely frustrating. The Fulbright program is a prestigious program; schools should be proud of their teachers for going out and seeking this experience. It is also administered by the State Dept. Besides, standing in the way of your staff's passions and professional growth is the fastest way to drive good people out of your school. Also, I guess it's not the first time that one federal program (Senator Fulbright's vision of international cultural exchanges) should be in conflict with another (NCLB) but it is disheartening, nonetheless. My principal is anxious about it, but she knows that she needs to support me in this.
My interview was very brief. I think that they saw that I'd been through the process before and saw a chance to gain back some lost time. They asked about my choices of countries, and focused quite a bit on what I expected to encounter in Turkey. We talked about how different it might be to be a woman in a Muslim country, and how I would handle that, and also how I would handle any anti-American sentiment that I might face. I knew I would get those questions, and I was ready for them. The role of women in Turkey is an issue that I don't take lightly, as I'm so independent and accustomed to doing whatever I please. Nevertheless, I feel that I would take some time talking to people and paying attention to what is happening around me to figure out how to be respectful while being true to myself and my beliefs. In the end, it seems more important to do exchanges with people from cultures that are more challenging for us, where there might be some conflict, because that is how we all grow and become able to reach out to each other and understand where others are coming from. Anyway, I think the interview went well. Now I just wait until the spring to find out if I have been matched with anyone. Last year, I was very anxious to find out. This year, in my campaign to manage my expectations of actually doing the program, I think it will be easier for me to wait.