Saturday, January 21, 2012

School Interview & Issues of Identity

We've applied for a new school for Zoe, starting next year, for middle school (YIKES!  Next year I'll have a middle schooler!).  The school is an all-girls school that specializes in math, science and technology, the Young Women's Leadership Academy. Zoe is really excited about this possibility, and my job has been to try to manage her expectations -- though it's a public school, admission isn't guaranteed.  The application included teacher recommendations, a two-page essay, and a personal interview -- just as complicated as college application!

Today was the personal interview.  Though it was only 10 minutes, Zoe was pretty nervous about it, which is what I'd expect.  She's quite capable of sailing through it and being quite impressive, but she's also quite capable of turning shy and barely saying a word.  She probably pretty much hit the middle ground (I wasn't allowed in the interview!), but some of that was just luck.  When we got to the room where she would be interviewed, it turned out to be the Chinese classroom!  I think she saw it as a good omen that she could read the characters above the door. There were two interviewers, and one was the Chinese teacher!

If Zoe were applying for a Chinese school, I'd say she was in!  For a math, science and technology school?  Not so sure!

The first question they asked her was an ice-breaking open-ended, "Tell us something about yourself." Zoe told them she was born in China.  The Chinese teacher asked her where in China she was born and how old she was when she came to America.  No problem, Zoe answered that.  The teacher asked her to say something in Chinese, and Zoe told them her name and age in Chinese.  They asked her what her long-term goals were, and consistent with this theme, she said she wanted to learn more about China than she already knew (I love that she had to throw in there that she already knew stuff about China!).  Finally, they asked her why she wanted to attend YWLA, and she explained that she had been bullied at her school for being -- you guessed it -- Chinese, and she didn't think it would happen at a school like YWLA where there were kids from lots of different places. None of this would be a surprise to the interviewers if they read her essay -- she included all of this.  But she also talked about her interest in science and technology in that essay.

So you see why I think she nailed the interview if it were for a Chinese school?!  Not one mention of math, science and technology, though.  Ah, well. It wouldn't be a problem if we stayed where we are -- it would actually be easier for me since I wouldn't have to deal with two different schools on two different schedules.  But Zoe would really be disappointed. . . .

The thing I found interesting, and why I wanted to share it here, is how important, how fundamental, being Chinese is to Zoe identity.  When asked about herself, it's the first thing she shares.  Her long-term goals are wrapped up in being Chinese (in her essay, she said she wanted to be a scientist or a science teacher, but that she wanted to work in both China and America, and help the two countries learn more about each other, so even there, when talking about science, etc., it gets wrapped up in being Chinese). To her, being Chinese is her identity.

I also think it's interesting that she now separates her identity as adopted from her identity as Chinese.  At one time, being adopted would have been the first thing she mentioned, and being Chinese and being adopted meant the same thing, since most everyone she knew who was adopted was Chinese and just about everyone she knew who was Chinese was adopted.  Attending Chinese School, and living in China in 2007, helped her to divorce the two.  Now, this doesn't mean she doesn't think of herself as adopted, that she doesn't still have issues surrounding adoption.  But at least right now, race/ethnicity is trumping adoption.

All musings aside, please say a prayer, light a candle, send out good vibrations, wish us luck, keep your fingers crossed -- we won't know for a month whether she got in, but we can use all the help you can offer!


Anonymous said...

Sending good vibes her way. Hope she gets in.

Linda said...

Good luck, Zoe!!!

Anonymous said...

Wishing good admissions mojo to Zoe! If you think she might do it, suggesting that she write a hand-written follow-up note to the school probably wouldn't hurt. She could throw in something about her interest in teaching science in the note. Good luck!