Julie A. Cunningham

Academic Advisor

Am I the Problem?


Creative Commons License photo credit: Frodrig

I’m thinking through career options right now.  I’ve been on 5 interviews, and have another scheduled.  I’ve heard back from one school- we were mutually repelled by each other. I am waiting to hear back from the 13 schools represented by the other 4 interviews. It’s been a costly process, not just in days off and gasoline, but also the mental toll. I leave each one without any real feel for the outcome ((Most are non-traditional interviews that consist of time in the classroom with people in and out to observe you interacting with students using a random activity during a 15 min. block or a group interview or a writing sample. Very little opportunity for personal interaction and connection.)) and start to question myself as an educator as each day passes by without an email, phone call, or letter in the mail.  Questions like: Who am I? Can I really answer that question? Will people like who I am? Do those issues really matter as much as I think they do? Am I crazy? Will anyone ever see value in my experience and perspective? Will there be a place for a non-traditional teacher in a profession steeped in traditionalism? What is it about me that looks good on paper, but not so much in person? Do I need to be less transparent? Should I be less ‘me’ and more mainstream? Am I the problem?

And that last question is the one that really sticks out….

Am I the problem?

It’s so easy to spot attitude issues in our children that create the very situations that they are trying to avoid.  I wonder if I do the same thing. Is it me? What am I communicating that isn’t acceptable? I don’t want to be the problem. I want to collaboratively create solutions for 21st century education. Please, tell me if I’m the problem! I honestly need to know.

My dad stopped me in a conversation about work environments the other day and said, “… or, you could just learn to deal with it, Julie.” My rose colored glasses are feeling a bit cracked. Deal with it? Really? Maybe I’m just a very naive 36-year-old, but I don’t want to pour my heart and soul into a teaching career and just ‘deal with it’. I want to build relationships, to communicate freely, to share ideas, to disagree respectfully, to learn daily and generally grow with those around me.

Dealing with it sounds like a raw deal. But maybe that’s my problem. Maybe that makes me the problem.


4 thoughts on “Am I the Problem?

  1. you my dear are not the problem.
    you are the solution.

    believe that.
    it’s truth.

  2. Don’t get discouraged! I do think that perhaps what your father is trying to point out is that in order to achieve the kind of situation you and your students both want and deserve you have go slowly and put up with some things along the way.

    When I had just started teaching (25 years ago)I watched a movie about a teacher who goes to an Island off the Carolinas to teach disadvantaged African American children. He made a COMPLETE overhaul at that school and then quickly got fired. I remember being so excited about this teacher but someone older and wiser told me something I’ll never forget:
    If he had been a better teacher he would have made important but smaller changes and at a slower pace. Then he wouldn’t have been fired from this school that no one wanted to teach at. If he had stayed he would have been able to impact the children’s lives more meaningfully on a long term basis.
    You have to put up with some things along the way to achieve change.
    I believe the movie’s name was “the river is wide'” but I’m not sure.

    I hope you get the job you want soon – you deserve it!

  3. Julie,
    I have asked myself the exact same question. I have walked out of interviews knowing that I am the best candidate, that I can do the job well, and that they would fools for not hiring me and then I get that letter 2 weeks later. I sit back and ask what did I do wrong? The other problem I struggle with is as I look around, many of my colleagues work far less than I do, are not strong instructors, complain about their kids non-stop and yet are giving the same amount of praise as I am.

    This year I realized that it’s not me. Nothing different really happened except that suddenly it clicked that it’s them. I need to be the teacher that I wanted to have in HS. I need to push myself harder because my students need me to. I can’t care that the teacher next door has no classroom management or lesson plan as long MY kids are engaged, learning and excited to come to school every day, and that I helped make that happen

    Let everyone else wander around in mediocrity. Today you are going to be GREAT!

  4. Julie,
    You’re not the problem. The system’s the problem. And until more and more teachers/admnistrators/superintedents see the value in what you, and I, are trying to accomplish, we will continue to feel like the problem. Instead, you need to persevere in what you know is valuable: communication, collaboration, teaching 21st. C. skills to your students, and partnering with them in their learning.

    We need to continue to do this because the model of education that exists doesn’t work. It’s mediocre at best, harmful at it’s worst. We need to stop testing, and engage our students in authentic learning experiences. We need to create schools with walls that are so thin, they are life itself. Not 12 years of torture, preparing them for life. Press on. It’s not you; it’s them.