As I’ve been reflecting on all that’s happened this year and I look ahead to next year, I’ve been thinking about how things have changed for me and how I’ve grown.
Learning to put yourself out there
When I first started working as a school librarian just over five years ago, I was treading water, trying to get by. I went with the flow of what had already been established at my school – I didn’t want to rock the boat with new things. I tried a couple of times to start a blog, but I didn’t really see much that I was doing as worth sharing. At my lowest point, this was just a job that paid the bills. But gradually, I started to realize that I could create my own program; be my own person. That I didn’t need to do things a certain way simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. And I also started to realize that I had a voice worth hearing; and that others could benefit from me putting myself out there and sharing what I was doing. I started eliminating things that weren’t working for my students and weren’t bringing me joy.
Around this same time, I discovered the Maker Movement and suddenly everything clicked. I’d always loved creativity and I’d always wanted to find a way to reflect my school’s STEM theme in our library. So I started making radical changes in the way our library worked. And I put myself out there and documented everything here on my blog.
There was pushback. There were teachers who complained that the library wasn’t quiet. There were naysayers who said that I was taking away from the emphasis of a love of reading (which I disagree with). There were people who questioned why I was asking for funds to go to conferences so that I could get more ideas (and later, so that I could share my ideas with others). But I kept going because I could feel in my heart that this was the right path for me and for my students. I’m so glad now that I took the risk, put myself out there, and went with my gut. It’s truly changed my life.
Dealing with rejection
Tiffany Whitehead wrote a fantastic post a few months ago on the sting of rejection, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. As I’ve put myself out there more, applying for grants and awards, submitting proposal presentations, writing here on Renovated Learning and for AASL Knowledge Quest, I’ve also opened myself up to more rejection and criticism. I’ve been honored to receive amazing recognitions in recent years, but in addition to those, there’s rejections that you don’t hear about. Like my Follett Challenge entry that flopped miserably. Or the session proposals I’ve submitted that didn’t even get wait-listed. Or the grants and awards I applied for that got rejection notices. Add to that the criticism I’ve heard directly and indirectly. Like that my makerspace isn’t a real makerspace. Or that the Bammys are just a popularity contest.
Rejection and criticism hurt. I’ve never been particularly good at dealing with either – I tend to experience a mix of anger and depression when they happen. But gradually I’ve learned how to handle them better. Because I LOVE what I do.
I love working with my students, helping them to bring out their creativity. I love walking that student over to the book that’s going to change their life. I love collaborating with my teachers on lessons that are fun and engaging. I love speaking to educators around the country (and soon internationally). I love hearing from other schools about how they’ve built LEGO walls, started makerspaces, redesigned their classrooms and embraced creativity. I love getting to travel, see new places, and share my experiences with others.
I LOVE what I’m doing and I know that it’s making a difference for my students and for the people I get to share with. So when rejection and criticism comes around, I get mad for a minute, reflect on how I can grow from it, and then I get back to what I’m doing.
YOU have a voice WORTH sharing
The point of all this isn’t to give myself a pat on the back or to throw a pity party. It’s to help you see that YOU have a voice WORTH sharing. So many of us go from day to day thinking that what we’re doing is insignificant; that no one can benefit from knowing about it. But I’m encouraging you right now to put yourself out there and share your voice. Apply to present at that next conference. Go for that grant to fund your dream project. Make that change that you’ve been thinking about making. And let go of your fear. You’ll probably get rejected at some point. You’ll face people who don’t share your vision. Find what you can learn from that criticism, and then let it go and move on. It’ll change you forever.