Defining "Friend"

Harleyville, Penna., USA
(near Philadelphia)

I was reminded this weekend of a conversation we had in our pre-semester Arabic class in Tubingen, Germany, years back, about the definition of the word “friend.” He was speaking about how his American students misuse the German word “Freund” as if it were equivalent to “friend” in English. A friend in German, he explained, is someone you might not talk to for years at a time, even decades, and then you call him up and tell him you’re moving to a new apartment, and he drops everything to come and help you pack. It was similar to a perennial complaint I hear from European exchange students who say, “In America, everyone you meet says they’re your friend, and no one means it!”

But it turns out that I have a lot of friends in the German sense of the word. When I posted on Facebook that I had gotten these interviews, I immediately got a slew of invitations from friends to stay at their places while interviewing in their cities. In the last 3 weeks I’ve gotten together with more than a dozen people that I haven’t seen in 7 years or more. In many cases, we’d barely even been in contact over those years, but they’d been following my exploits, and were ready to welcome me right back into their lives.

Philly Teaching Fellows
I wish I could say I was impressed. I’m no expert, but this was my fourth interviewing event, and I’ve done a fair amount of recruiting and training of teachers, so I feel that I have a leg to stand on. I was very disappointed in the quality of the applicants in Philly. And they only interview 50% of applicants, while the other programs all say they interview 75% of their applicants. what does that say about the quality of applicants to Philly? Sad for the kids of the Philly schools.

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