I have always enjoyed travelling, and about six years ago I discussed with my wife the possibility of taking a sabbatical for a semester to teach overseas. She loved the idea and the experience it would give our children. So, I found one organization that offers the opportunity, the Fulbright International Teacher Exchange Program. At the time we owned a business and would not be able to be overseas for a full a year, but there was a semester opportunity in the United Kingdom.
Of course, there were pages and pages of paperwork to fill out, application essays to write, and requests for recommendations to be garnered. I filled in all of the blanks on every kind of form, wrote creative essays, and asked supervisors and coworkers to write about my strengths and my abilities. I was overwhelmed and humbled with how many people stepped forward to get me out of the country. Some even offered to pay for my airfare. I have the best friends and colleagues.
With all of this support, I made it to the interview. I was confident that I would be chosen until I found out my family would be interviewed also. No one can predict how children will act.
We had read children’s books about Great Britain to the kids and watched videos about the country and culture to try to prepare our children for the experience. We thought we covered everything; however, as Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”
During the family interview, one of my sons (about five years old at the time) misbehaved. He played with chairs, an overhead projector, and seemed to sabotage my chances with silly answers. We left the interview feeling like all of our work was for naught. When we asked him why he misbehaved, he replied, “I thought we would leave right then, and I did not pack all of my toys.” It was hard to be angry at his logic.
I learned that miscommunications can happen. I need to roll with adversity and make the most of it.
It turns out that I passed the interviews despite my son’s antics. However, the program allows the teachers from Great Britain to get to pick the exchange position. There were 50 American teachers chosen for two Great British positions. I do not know where the other 49 American teachers lived, but Columbus, Ohio, would not be one of my choices if I was coming from England. I would choose Florida or the West Coast or anywhere else. And, of course, that is what the two teachers did.
Sometimes we do our best, but some things are beyond our control. Nevertheless, we continue to do our best.