Rejection is a Doorway to Opportunity

Rejection is a common element in my life right now. I have been told “no” many times, all in the nicest ways possible. “We offered the position to someone else.” “We really liked what you had to share, but…” “Unfortunately, this submission will not work with our publication.” Here is a running list of some of my bigger rejections:

  • Two declined manuscripts to Educational Leadership
  • One declined article for Edutopia
  • Two proposals to my district leadership about rethinking my current position
  • Multiple applications and interviews that haven’t panned out

Failure and I have become quite close. I share this because, as I write, I am currently between jobs. (I thought “between jobs” was a cliché, until I actually started to live it.) I am exploring opportunities to stay connected with schools while finding a bit more time to write, publish, and work with other educators beyond the four walls of a schoolhouse. In essence, I am pursuing my dream job.

In the past I have only lightly pursued the possibilities. Last year I applied for a director of elementary education in the Twin Cities, MN. When I didn’t get a call back, I told myself, “Well, it wasn’t my time. I will wait until another opportunity comes along.” I was tiptoeing across an icy pond, unsure about the safety and not wanting to risk it. The problem with this approach is we become reliant on someone else to create that dream job for us. This may never come along. Only we know what we really need out of our lives.

Professional Reflection: How are we helping our students or teachers develop their own dreams?

At the behest of a colleague/mentor, I described and wrote out my dream job. I detailed how I wanted to spend more time writing on a daily basis, as well as the outcomes I envisioned would be a product of my work and collaboration with others. One example: I would love to conduct research on how a more authentic approach to teacher supervision and evaluation would increase teacher autonomy and student engagement. God knows the current system isn’t working. I have been exploring these concepts this past school year. The initial results have been promising.

Will an open position provide for this opportunity? Do the possibilities currently available share the same values I have and honor my most personal and professional requests? In making my desires known, I may be filtering myself out of positions that would not have been a good fit for anyone, employer or employee. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Professional Reflection: How does rejection play a positive role in our instruction or instructional coaching?

I continue to tell myself that rejection is the doorway to opportunity. If one situation does not work out, this means that a better option is just down the road. But I am also a realist. I have a family to provide for and I have responsibilities. Maybe the opportunities aren’t readily available in plain sight. I realize that I might have to create my own doorway to opportunity, even if that means chalking an outline on the wall and busting through the drywall to carve out a pathway toward what I want and we need.

Wherever life leads us, we have to find that balance between what the world appears to provide for us and our responsibilities in advocating for and sometimes creating what we want. I am realizing on this journey that it is taking some people out of their comfort zones, even if they are not along for the ride. They like stability, and by golly so should you. But they are not living out my dreams any more than I am there’s.

Spring can be a tumultuous season. As you may surmise, I am not referring simply to the rambunctiousness our students display as we count down the days. I know that I am one of several educators out there also exploring what’s possible in their lives. Stay with it, I say. Keep your mind open to what is possible instead of only to what is available. Have faith that one rejection might well be a bend in the road toward what you truly desire.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

12 thoughts on “Rejection is a Doorway to Opportunity”

  1. Beautiful reflection. I can relate to your post on many level. My mentor always said, “when one door closes, another opens.” Congratulations on taking a leap to design the door that opens (or at least taking time to think about how you want that door to be painted).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Really needed to here this as I am in for some involuntary changes. Maybe it’s the sign I needed to head in a different direction and be okay with the change I choose to make. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would hire you if I could… I really enjoy what you write (wish I had that talent). You are one of the few principals (or, former principal) that is speaking the truth about what is going on in schools these days. Your honesty and clarity is refreshing. Please keep writing!!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m also transitioning this year and believe I have finally found the right door. The in-between-time is so hard. MY mentor always says, “When one door closes, another one opens, but those hallways can be a b!+ch! Best of luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are correct Amy. The transition can be hard, for ourselves and our families. This experience is also a teachable moment. Our kids know what we value by our actions.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Experiencing a number of professional rejections (which I felt were unrepresentative of my actual value and job performance) has recently led me down a path to explore the real reasons for those “failures”…it has led me to places I would’ve never predicted, and allowed me to learn a lot more about myself. This learning and the steps that have followed are changing my whole life for the better. Rejection was the catalyst for these changes, and for that I am grateful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point Aaron. I am also finding out what I didn’t know about myself, gaps in my knowledge and skills that I need to address. The transition has been a learning experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You just have to find your way to the door that opens to the direction in which you wish to head. Sometimes the door doesn’t exist and you have to create the door and find the key for others to follow you through. You are a great leader with vision. Sometimes being rejected by a choice you didn’t really want in the first place is no rejection at all. Best wishes as you set your sights on the future and find a way to share your potential and possibilities.


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