The Sting of Rejection

I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing this post. I don’t want to come across as a complainer…I am incredibly blessed to have a career I love, and I feel that my hard work and commitment to my profession has paid off tremendously in the past few years. We all go through slumps at some point, and I feel like I’ve been having one these past few months. As I reflect on what it feels like to not have the success that I’m always striving for, I think about what it feels like for our students. When you try so hard, give something everything you’ve got, and then come up short, it’s hard to stay positive.

Often as educators, we don’t put ourselves out there and apply for grants/awards/etc. because we might not get it. And when you don’t, it stinks! It hurts! It’s upsetting!

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This year, we submitted our entry for the Follett Challenge and worked our tails off to promote our entry. We were so close! If we had been just a few spots higher in the voting, we would have won something. But we didn’t. I gave it my all, but that wasn’t enough in this case. We put together a great video and it was great publicity for our library program, but that doesn’t help with the sting of not winning. This was our second time entering the Follett Challenge.

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My best friend (who is also an ELA teacher at my school) and I wrote a Fund for Teachers grant this year. For almost two months, we stayed after school for 30-60 minutes most days of the week to research and write our grant. We put so much time, effort, and energy into writing this and were so pleased with what we submitted. We wrote this grant because we got an email about the seven submissions that were funded from our state the previous year, and they were seeking more entries from our area. We were very hopeful and anxiously awaited the email that would let us know if we were funded. Alaina and I travel together every summer and were excited about the opportunity to travel and put together an awesome cross-curricular unit with the help of this grant. We didn’t make other travel plans for this summer, because we knew if we got the grant we wouldn’t be taking another trip. When we got this rejection letter and found out that only two projects were funded from our state, we were heartbroken.

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Last year, I was selected as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders…an incredible honor. I thought I would apply one last time (this was my third year applying) for the Outstanding Young Educator award. I’ve been very involved with the Librarians Network with ISTE for years. Our group is large and very active, so I really wanted to see a librarian recognized for one of ISTE’s big awards. Even when you aren’t surprised or devastated by a rejection, it still doesn’t feel great.

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This one stings the most! Two years ago in Hartford at AASL, was part of four awesome, packed out presentations. It was overwhelming to do so many presentations at a big conference, so I only submitted one proposal for AASL in Columbus. I thought it was a great session proposal and it included some of my library friends that I love and respect the most in our TL community. I’m so disappointed that I won’t be presenting in Columbus this fall. AASL is my absolute favorite conference and speaking is one of my favorite things to do (especially with a group of other awesome library leaders), and I’m beyond bummed that it won’t be happening this year.

I think it’s important to be thoughtful and reflective at a time when pushing on and dusting yourself off just doesn’t feel so easy. At times like this, do I feel like I want to back off a bit and quit trying so hard? You bet I do. But what kind of example does that set for my students? How many of them feel like this all the time? They try so hard, put in their best effort, but they still fall short. How can we encourage those students to keep trying? So while I’ve experienced this feeling of not quite making it several times in the past few months, I’m trying to use it to gain some perspective. Relate this experience to my students so I can better connect with and encourage them. And most importantly…I’m going to keep trying and putting myself out there because that’s what I want them to do.


16 thoughts on “The Sting of Rejection

  1. You are spot on–we grow from these failures, but admittedly it smarts to get the word that whatever was rejected. I have heard of so many rock star librarians this year who were turned down! I expect we will see a lot of maker fair material instead. Sigh. Chin up, as you have much to be proud of and it’s truly their loss not to select you for any grant, proposal, or award. Love you sweetie! Channel a little Katy Perry’s “Roar!”

  2. Hello Tiffany,

    I must have received your post because I was following the Follett Challenge. As an author, I understand how hard it can be to put a ton of effort into a project and have it not be accepted or not win anything. But also as an author, I’m grateful for librarians like yourself who are working hard to help your students learn and move forward. Winning an award is fun, exciting, but the thrill only lasts a few weeks (if that ). Each day you go to work, you are striving to make a better world for your students. That is a huge accomplishment! You ‘re “winning” each day. Keep up the good work.

  3. Thank you for sharing so honestly. It is easier to share our successes but I think this post will resonate for many, as it did for me.

  4. You are a very skilled and competent librarian, Tiffany.
    Consider this – I’ve never met you, and yet I utilize the resources you make available. I follow your blog, and your opinions and suggestions hold sway with me. In this profession, I realize that even those who should know better often do not recognize true leadership and expertise. Haven’t we all seen amazing librarians fired due to budget cuts? How crazy is that? About as crazy as you not getting the grants and recognition you deserve!

  5. Well said. Patience,perseverance, and power to speak only when VITAL, are vital when these are our challenges. You make me so proud!

  6. thank you for sharing these experiences. I cannot tell you how wonderful and brave you are for being so honest. These are hard to take—but YOU are not defined nor defeated by these experiences. Keep being the rockin’ librarian that you are and keep inspiring us all!

  7. I apply for a lot of smaller grants. I have received about $20,000. in various grants from DonorsChoose in 9 years. I work in a Title 1 elementary library. It is low pay, extremely stressful, aggravating and draining. But I love it. I do ask myself why sometimes though, after sending 5 kids to the office in 1 library class, what I am doing here with defiant, disrespectful kids whose parents are in the same mode? I try not to take things so seriously and put things into perspective. As a parent I get it more. You might try volunteering in a high poverty elementary school sometime to get a different view of library work. Your life sounds pretty good from here….

    1. Nancy, as a fellow librarian at a Title 1 elementary school I cannot agree with your comment. Tiffany has taken this opportunity to be open and honest about her feelings of rejection following a string of responses that are unique to her. Disappointment looks different for each and every one of us, and it is important that we respect that feeling, much like Tiffany asked us to think of how our students must feel when this same thing happens to them.

      It sounds like you feel called to work with the low SES population at your school, much as I do. While these students deserve passionate, skillful librarians, it is important we remember that ALL children deserve this same thing. In our current economic climate every school librarian faces challenges; I ask that you do not choose to belittle those of a fellow warrior in our field. The internet is a much more powerful place when we choose to lift each other up instead of tear each other down.

  8. Tiffany-
    I am just now reading your response to a submission you made the first of this month. I am so sorry that you didn’t make it to the AASL Conference in Columbus- however, please don’t feel defeated because I must tell you that I attended the Conference in Hot Springs Arkansas in March that you presented and I must say it was absolutely fabulous! The tremendous enthusiasm you showed, the pride in what you do in your own library and the awesome ideas you shared made me feel like going to my library and ‘moving mountains’! I really enjoyed every minute of your presentations, ideas and your personality! The conference was exactly what a new librarian as myself needed! I have enjoyed reading your posts in your blogs and plan to use some of your ideas as well. Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough -I hope that I get to attend more of your presentations and sessions in the future!

  9. Please don’t be discouraged! It’s unfortunate that all of these rejections happened close to the same time, but don’t let them get you down. You have a lot to share.

  10. Tiffany,
    Remember this- the work you do has a ripple affect to others in ways you will never know. While you may not have been awarded a grant here or a presentation there, look for the opportunities the come through from another direction. You are AWESOME and the work you do is making a difference. I got a grant because of you. I was able to redo my library in genrefication and a big part of my grant proposal came from the foundation of your work in sharing how your process went that I found on your blog. While it isn’t an ITSE presentation, your blog is far reaching- all the way to Minnesota in this case- and goes farther than you’ll know. I have no doubt that you will continue to impact and we will see you back on the conference schedules soon as well as winning those grants you work so hard for. You won’t know how far you can go unless you take the risks to try. I get pumped up from your work and your willingness to both try things and share things. You know the satisfaction of success and you are still on the path- no worries. You are still rocking it!

  11. Wow, you even help us learn by writing about losing! I think we have all been through this rejection phase in our careers and it does sting. But look at it this way, you have influenced so many with your blog and online presence. I have never had the opportunity to attend ISTE, but I have learned so much by discovering you online. I even did a district presentation for our librarians and I gave out your presentation web address as a resource. Cheer up, many of your fellow librarians who have never met you think your pretty awesome just by the things you have shared online with us. If you are presenting in the near future in Louisiana, please let us know where and when. I live in Mississippi and could easily manage a trip to Louisiana, especially if you are close to New Orleans. I do a book talk for 6th graders in October called Boo Dat! where I focus on authors and scary stories from NOLA, so I would love to add a little more research. It is by far, the kid’s all time favorite book talk!

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