Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn

I'm sure we all can think of people (in education or not) that play it safe. They don't take many risks, but also don't really do anything noteworthy. Then there are the risk takers. Trying new stuff and sometimes falling on their face. But these people also sometimes succeed, and when they do they are doing amazing things.

My husband might laugh if I told him that I identify more with the risk taker. That's because when it come to my personal life like finances, buying a house, buying a car, raising kids, I don't like to get too crazy. I drive a Honda CRV, for goodness sake! However, when I'm talking about trying new things in my job, I'm a lot more willing to "change it," "try it," "let's see what happens!"

Does this look like the ride of a risk-taker? lol

The thing about being a risk taker is you have to put yourself out there... and there have been plenty of times, some embarrassing, that haven't worked out. And, while I love social media for connecting with my PLN, there is an aspect to social media where I'm really just putting forth my best, curated version of my life and career. I won a teaching award, yay! I was elected to the ICTM board, yay! I got a new job as instructional coach, yay! Of course I want to share all of those great moments. I'm super proud of them. But if I never take a moment to share the disappointments, it might look like I'm living a pretty charmed existence. I don't want to give the impression that I'm perfect or even that extremely lucky.

So, I'm taking this post to briefly describe a few of those near-misses, disappointments, and hard times in the hopes of rounding out what I'm putting out there. As many of my colleagues like to say, "Fail forward!"

Civil Engineering
I got my bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. I loved math and science and thought this was a good fit. It wasn't. I won't even tell you my GPA. I did graduate and worked for a few years before deciding to finally admit it wasn't for me. I went to grad school for teaching and haven't looked back since. Well, except to break out this pic every once in a while!

Maybe you are surprised to see this one on the list, because I now am, in fact, a National Board Certified Teacher. But back when I first submitted my portfolio entries, my score came up short! I was really disappointed at first and not sure I wanted to resubmit. In fact, it cost a good chunk of change to do so. In the end, I did redo a few parts and was able to achieve National Board status. A positive in the end, but it was a bumpy road!

Two years ago I was so honored to be nominated by my friend, Sendhil, to apply. I did so and was excited to be chosen as an Illinois state finalist. In the end, I didn't get it and I was super bummed. If I was still in the classroom this year, I could have reapplied, but since I'm not a classroom teacher I'm not eligible. So, instead I decided to nominate someone! My friend Lauren Slanker was an obvious choice for me. She's a great science teacher and I'm really hoping she gets the chance to become a PAEMST!

Presentations at NCTM17, ICE17, ISTE18, TMC17
I really enjoy presenting, either in my own district or at conferences. I've been lucky enough to present at quite a few! But, my proposals don't always get accepted. In fact, this past year I feel like I went though a bit of a slump in proposal acceptances, getting "no thanks" from NCTM, ICE, ISTE, and TMC. It's always a bit of a hit to the ego when you feel like you have something you want to share and are rejected. But this is definitely a situation where you need to just keep putting yourself out there. Also, reading tips from people, like Robert and Dan shared can be helpful too!

So there is an incomplete list (there's more!) of some of my biggest fails in recent years. In some ways, it helps me really appreciative of the opportunities that do work out. No one is perfect and if you are a risk taker, there will be fails. But the only way to grow and learn is to keep putting yourself out there. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you... learn!


  1. It is always interesting to here the background of those things we put on our resume! Everyone has struggled to get where they are and we rarely here that side of the story. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing!

  2. I love learning about all of your 'biggest fails' but it is even more inspiring to hear what you have been able to take away from them, especially the connections with others from the experience. Thank you for sharing this Annie!

  3. Thanks for being willing to be so transparent!


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