Dealing with disapointment


It is Friday evening and I am feeling down and disappointed. You see, I applied to be part of the Google Teacher Academy that is coming to Sydney in April. And I, along with many other amazing educators was not successful. Now please don’t get me wrong, this post will not be a rant about the how and why of I was not chosen. I am deeply disappointed but I will move on, I will find other ways to learn and grow as a teacher.

Instead I am trying to use this situation to learn from and reflect on. In particular I have been thinking how do we as teachers help, guide and assist our students to deal with such disappointments?

The sport staff at my school tell me that every year the interference from parents gets worse, that it gets harder and harder to deal with parents who are deeply disappointed and even angry when their children do not make the ‘A’ team in everything. I too have had parents come to me anxious and upset when their students were not made school captain, or performed badly on an important national test.

Last year one of the key words for our year group was resilience. In class we talked a lot about developing resilience but whether we actually helped our students learn it, is hard to measure. Without deliberately causing disappointment how can we teach our students and families to become more resilient? To realise that not everything in life can go their way, all the time.

Pernille Ripp wrote a reflective post last year on her pain at missing out on an edublogs award.  She was not complaining about missing out but merely pointing out how disappointing any award ceremony is for those who miss out. Pernille is a teacher who dislikes awards in her classroom and reading her post I really understood her perspective. Yet as I write this I cannot help but feel that it is only by missing out sometimes, by not getting the award, or not winning the prize, or by not making the team, can our students and their families ever truly learn the resilience they will need in life.

And as for me? I will have to show resilience when reading of those more successful that me on twitter tonight. You see I was really, really hoping I could go. I had planned how Google would be my focus this year. And now I will need to find something else.

Luckily for me, this afternoon I also read this tweet.

@deangroom If you didn’t make #gtasyd, come play with virtual worlds and games. No limits, no rejections. A lot less typing.

And that reminded me, that joining and taking the training for Quest Atlantis was also on my ‘to-do- list for this year. So now I have no excuse for not getting on with it!

Leave a Reply


  1. Commiserations on not getting into Google Teacher Academy – based on the amazing work I’ve seen through your blog and twitter, you certainly deserved a spot.

    However well done for turning your disappointment into such a positive post. You’re right – resilience is something we all have to develop and the only way to do that is to face disappointments and deal with them. There is nothing tougher than watching our students go through such trials (or colleagues for that matter) but we have to take comfort in knowing that it helps make them stronger people in the long run.

  2. Judith

    As you know, I missed out too. I often think that missing out makes the times when you win/get in all that more special. Some of our best athletes never win major championships, but winning isn’t special unless you’ve known how to lose. I like your positivity!

  3. Barbara

    Me too Jenny. Very disappointed. Thanks for putting it in perspective for me. I will try and be more resilient.

  4. Dean

    As it happens, Google are visiting Macquarie University next week — they want to talk about ‘pain points’ in technology, relating to use in education. It’s a round table discussion, so I’ll raise this issue, as I’m curious.

    1. How are they going to scale this idea to meet demand (or is it more PR than social action).

    2. Why are 70% of teachers in NSW excluded from the project – surely it makes sense to lobby NSW DET to allow these tools into the classroom. Is there some vendor issue involved?

    3. On what principles is this personal action plan being built (if any), so we can see the theory behind their exploration of teacher-education.

    4. Is there an opportunity to run the program via institutions, who could easily support an online co-hort of several hundred)

    5. Why their ‘resources’ are in an exclusive network – and why is that better than making them freely available to all educators – who are without doubt ‘self-directed learners’.

    6. How are they assessing the depth of teacher knowledge in Australia – and how is this program different to the US/UK model.

    7. How to they (if at all) evaluate the impact of this course in learning and teaching practice of teacher participants.

    8. What was the hypothesis behind the way they called for participants – and how do they plan to follow up with those people who spent time submitting but not successful.

    Once again, and don’t get me wrong – but those most able to participate (access, equipment and experience) seem to have been selected – and the idea of failure raises it’s head yet again. For me, most of the people going are self-directed learners, well able to deal with accrual of knowledge and already have great insight and skill. It seems rather bizarre that they would run a small event for a small co-hort of ‘successful’ teachers.

    Do we love these products so much that we might be willing to give up others? What value is the badge – or is this more to do with Apple Distinguished Educator tactical marketing?

    Here’s the bottom line. A great teacher, with using simple tools will be amazing in the minds of their students – and learning takes place in the mind, not on the internet. Even greater teachers do this with far less tools and resources.

    As to QA – it is an evidence based, research focused community – with tremendous support and passion for learning. It has no commercial agenda. I don’t think you’ll be dissapointed – and guarantee your year 5s won’t either. Typing on a page is just typing on a page. QA is about identity, immersion, environment and narrative – with goals of social-action.

    I still maintain, that spending a week with teachers, exploring games and virtual worlds will give them more insight into learning preferences of youth than anything else right now.

    But seriously, who’s going to let a teacher out for a week to come and play video games … unless of course they’ve read the Horizon Report or reading “Reality is Broken”.

    I wish my year 5 was in your classroom. How different his world could be.

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  6. Thank you for raising such interesting points Dean, you are so right in so many ways. Just why Google want to maintain such exclusivity for their ‘apps’ is still a mystery to me. As a self directed learner without much ‘tech’ support at my school I can only give so much time to learning new skills as I also teach full time. If Google will not support me in my learning I will have to look elsewhere. I know that once I take on the challenge of virtual worlds I will find a network of teachers and educators waiting to help me and my students. Catching your tweet was a timely reminder for me, as Lucy Barrow put it ‘everything happens for a reason’. Yesterday that tweet was my reason to stop caring that I was not one of the Google ‘chosen’ ones! It is their loss, as I cannot take on the challenge of putting my school onto Google apps for education by myself.
    I would love to know more about The Horizon Report you mention, thanks again Henrietta

  7. This is not an easy one to deal with at all. When I received my invite (back in ’08) I applied at the same time as my husband – and I got in and he didn’t. AND he had way more expertise and things to offer than I did. He was very gracious to me and I ended up having an amazing experience at the GTA. I really like the way you have reflected on how our kids must feel when they miss out. Especially the ones who have this time and again. Try again – it is worth it!


  8. I feel for your disappointment Henrietta- after the last six months where I have experienced a number of totally unexpected disappointments to the point where I felt my quest to be part of this amazing period of change in education was probably a waste of time. The way you are so surprised when you put so much into the application and then not really having it explained why you weren’t selected compounds the disappointment. I know that I am starting to emerge from my fog of confusion and find new ways to develop. I know that you will and I think that the whole idea of only a few being chosen is so against the whole spirit of the change in education. If they truly wanted to improve the abilities of teachers,and then the the world of the kids, there would be several in each state- including the already disadvantaged rural areas. If Google really wants to make change they need to improve their approach to training. The pain you feel is real but as you point out, resilience will find you a way through.Something great will turn up soon !!

  9. Martin

    Thank you for you candour. I am appreciating your generous contributions and ideas more and more. Dealing with disappointment is so often well beyond the sphere of the children’s experience given that so many of them live with an ever inflated sense of entitlement. The children of our experience are all too often appeased without experiencing disappointment and have done since they were toddlers and younger. Intentions are all too often misguided as parents simply refuse to see their children confront disappointment. In many respects the efforts to promote the development of resilience in the classroom make very little ground as the default experience of our students is all too often an easy out from the parents. Your relationship and the example you set for your students will leave a lasting impression but an intangible that will go without a clear cut measure for some time yet… power to you H. You are a legend in the classroom…

  10. Mick Prest

    Henrietta, thanks for “grieving” a bit it allowed me to vicariously do the same instead of just shrugging it off. I have been really pleased for the three people I know who got in, but missing out on anything one has a run at always hurts a little!! I join the chorus of those surprised you didn’t make it (I heard you speak a couple of times at uLearn in Christchurch). Keep up the good work, your enthusiasm is quite infectious – I find a dose of Dean Groom always gives me a clearer focus on reality!!

  11. I have been totally overwhelmed by the supportive comments I received from this post. Thank you to all who took the time to read and respond to my words. I am humbled by your words and thank everyone of you for them. Life is full of disappointments and I really believe it is only by meeting them full on and knocking them on the head can we emerge as better people. Life is good.

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  13. Anne Mirtschin

    Hi Henrietta, I join those who applied for the Google Teacher Academy and were not successful. However, I think we should all take great pride in what we are doing and move on with the innovative work that we are doing. Each of us felt enough pride in what we are doing to put in an application.
    Titles are something but friendships, networking and support are always the most valuable in any successful uptake of technology or learning and that is what is evidenced here in these comments.
    Wishing you all the best for 2011 and keep on sharing those conversations!

  14. Henrietta, it must have been VERY steep competition, I can’t think of anyone better suited than you. That being said, I love the way you take this experience and apply it to the ways that we prepare students- this is what makes you a master teacher! I hope you will pursue Quest Atlantis, I am excited to hear your thoughts!

  15. Britt Gow

    Hi Henrietta,
    I join the club of disappointed Google Academy applicants and thank you for your refreshing and positive attitude in this post. I wish you well for Quest Atlantis, while I continue with an online VCE class, new position as year 7/8 co-ordinator and assisting colleagues with web2.0 tools and the Ultranet. That will be plenty to keep me busy this year, and maybe next year Google wil come to Melbourne I will decide not to apply 🙂
    Keep up the great work you do in the classroom and let us concentrate on kids needs and not technology giants whose major interest is not students, but competition.