Education & Curriculum / Honesty

Being Thankful… For Failing

Pumpkins

Tis the start of the season when we begin to list all the things we are thankful for: Tofurkey, pajama skinny jeans, NFL Sunday tickets, and failing a class in library school.

I know, you probably said, “pajama skinny jeans, really?” but they’ll come in handy on Turkey Day, trust me. More importantly, this post is about being thankful for some of the obstacles we might face during our graduate studies. In particular, it’s about what happens when a set-back like failing a class actually turns out to be the saving grace that motivates you through the remainder of library school.

Now, a quick disclaimer: this post is not meant to downplay library students who are able to successfully balance many responsibilities without having to fail a class, nor is it to excuse the act of failure. The purpose of this post is simply this: you and I will fail at some point in our lives and that’s okay, but how you choose to make that failure work for you is what counts. Failing and giving up are not one and the same.

Here is my story…

By the time the 2013 spring semester rolled around, I was nearing the halfway mark of my program. I started in the summer of the previous year and trudged on through the fall and spring semesters, taking core courses in combination with an elective. I was well underway into the new semester, when I realized that I was becoming exhausted trying to balance my school load with priorities at home and work.

No longer able to properly focus, my school work suffered. Towards the latter end of the semester, I turned in late assignments that were often incomplete and then I simply stopped doing the work all together. My student life slowly unraveled and all I could do was wait for the posting of my final grades. Barely passing my elective, I had failed the core class.

I discussed my situation with the graduate advising office, my advisor, and the financial aid office. I made the decision to take the summer off and made a commitment to myself that I would return in the fall of this year.

My GPA did fall below the program’s requirements and I was immediately placed on academic probation. At Florida State University, this meant that I had one semester to turn my grades around, raise my GPA above 3.0 or I’d get dismissed from the program.

Note, however, that there is a fundamental difference between failing at something and giving up on something. When you fail, you have two choices: try again or quit. Fellow HLS writer Nicole Helregel emphasized the importance of perseverance when she wrote in her recent blog post Obstacles & How to Deal with Them, “Do not see these instances as failures, but rather as learning opportunities that can help you in the future.” Instead, hold yourself accountable and figure out if it’s time for a break, or to revise your current program track.

If you feel that you are in need of a break and it shows in your work, consider these three action steps before deciding to take a break or even leaving the program:

1. Speak with your advisor or graduate advising office and ask them:

  • Will I be placed on academic probation?
  • If so, what are the requirements that I need to meet the following semester in order to lift the probation period?
  • Do I need to fill out paperwork requesting my extended leave from school?

2. Speak with your financial aid department and ask them the following:

  • Will I keep my aid if I take a semester off?
  • Can it only be done in certain semester, like the summer term?
  • Will my aid still be available when I return?
  • Will a hold be placed on my aid?

3. Speak with someone in your support circle: a friend, parent, colleague, professor, mentor, spiritual guide, or anyone who is aware of your situation and can help you brainstorm solutions.

Once you have confirmed that a semester off does not affect your standing in the university or your aid. Take the break. Give yourself time to reflect, recharge, and refocus. Learn about how to improve time management in library school or try something else entirely and make this momentary setback work for you.

So what are some of the obstacles you’ve encountered in library school? What advice would you give to others who might face a similar challenge? Are you too, a fan of pajama skinny jeans?

Be sure to comment below.

Find me on Twitter @msbooksy or if you need some hearty advice on this topic, email me at msbooksy [at] gmail [dot] com.

10 thoughts on “Being Thankful… For Failing

  1. Pingback: #HLSDITL Day 4: Juggling work and school | Archivasaurus

    • Absolutely, the best thing one can do in this situation is to talk with others, share their setback and struggle in order to get the motivation to turn this obstacle into an opportunity. Know that we fail, we’re human. It’s not in isolation, it’s a shared experience so don’t be afraid to open up.

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  2. I failed second year and the wake up call was hard but has ultimately made me focused and more aware that everything has a value and a cost, make your choices with open eyes. I went on to pass and get my degree with no more problems.
    It is not the way to do it but if you do make the most and more onwards, everything you do can be taken as a good or a bad experience, and you take what you can from them.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your personal setback Ruan! Congrats for making it a success story & graduating with your degree. These experiences shape us and taking into account that these are lessons to be learned, we can grow so much more from it :-)

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  4. Pingback: Day 5 of #HLSDITL & My 1st Hack Library School Post! | Library ID

  5. Pingback: What It’s Like to Work Full Time in Library School | Hack Library School

  6. Its funny that I’m reading this and I feel that I too am on the verge of failing this very class. This semester has been very hard. I quit my job, took a contract position, moved to a completely different city for said contract position, had a huge trip scheduled in the middle of the semester (It had been planned way before I even applied to school) and now it looks the contract position I took was such a huge risk that I may not have a job soon.
    My school work has suffered and mostly I feel like I have been hiding my head in the sand. I have made some effort to reach out to my professors but honestly, I just want it to be over! Next semester I’ll be taking even more classes, 3, so that I can graduate sooner because the thought of being in school a second longer than I have to be is killing me inside.
    I don’t know what to do. And I feel that if I tell my professors what is going on they will only say that I am excusing my terrible studying habits which I guess in a way I am. I keep questioning why I am in school to be a librarian anyway. Its what I have always wanted to do and I feel that being support staff in a library only takes me so far career and money-wise. But it just feels like a joke. I’ve worked in libraries so long that most of it feels so silly. I just wish it were over so I could move on with my career.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi CEAH705! Thank you for sharing your story :-) Let me just start by saying that at some point we all hit bottom in order to re-evaluate our surroundings and ourselves.

      It sounds like you have a lot of things that you’re juggling and now is the time to figure out where your goals and basic motivations lie. Is it in finishing library school? If so, then find out if letting go of this one class is something you can do without affecting your overall standing in the school. If you’re at FSU contact graduate advising (they’re on Facebook) and learn of your options. The semester break I took after failing the class, really saved me from giving up on library school. Be very careful about taking three classes as a way to just “get done” with library school. Two things can happen from this perception: (1) You won’t learn anything tangible since your focus will be on getting things done and passing. (2) You’re going to fry your precious brain with the work overload and stress. Only do this if you can handle the amount of assignments. This means you’ve been doing fine (As and Bs with 2 courses at a time) for a few semesters and have now decided to bump it to three. FSU really wants part time students to stick with 2 courses max.

      Note: This feeling that we get about avoiding assignments and forgoing critical deadlines will snowball so be careful about staying in this mindset for too long. Get out of it by telling your professors what you’re going through. It opens up communication between teacher and student and they have a context to go with your underperformance in class. They may also provide advice. It will be a huge stress reliever for you in the sense that you’re no longer holding on to a big secret. So talk to them.

      If anything helps you decide on how to proceed, please listen to this. It’s going to sound super controversial, but it’s a truth I’ve had to swallow during my time as a paraprofessional in library school. Two points: (1) Don’t let the number of years working in libraries substitute your library degree. I’ve been there. There were times when I was thinking in my head, “I’ve done literature searches or spoken to vendors before. Why are they teaching me this. I already know it.” Thinking that way only closes the possibility of allowing yourself to learn something new in that course. (2) Yes, having experience and needing to get a degree to prove that experience is valid can feel like a joke, but….it’s a BIG but….no matter how many years of paraprofessional experience you have (5, 10 15+), the acknowledgement of being a “librarian” RARELY comes to those lacking an MLS/MLIS degree. You’ll see it in every job description and you’ll hear it on the social media, an MLS/MLIS degree is a professional degree. So if you want to be called a librarian, recognized as a librarian, want the money that reflects that title, please take the time to know your options now to help you get back on track and finish library school.

      FSU Graduate Advising: http://ischool.cci.fsu.edu/academics/advising/
      FSU Financial Aid (your aid may be affected if you drop a class or take a semester off): http://financialaid.fsu.edu/

      I hope this helps you!

      -Aidy

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