Friday’s Op-Ed piece by David Brooks, ‘No Picnic for Me Either’, got me thinking about my own education and what made it a success. Brooks pointed out that there are
“two traits necessary for academic success: relationships and rigor. The young Obama had a loving relationship with an adult passionate about his future. He also had at least one teacher, his mom, disinclined to put up with any crap.”
This rang true for me. My family support got me to college, but I attribute my college success to one teacher who saw my potential and helped motivate me to work on challenging and inspiring projects. Some people will tell you that I was setup for success because I attended an ivy league college, but I don’t believe that is true. My success started when I became a research assistant for Prof Elizabeth Sklar, PhD during my junior year at college. I started by helping out with a project that required a methodical analysis of the robot kits on the market at the time. Once that project completed, Sklar pushed me to work on more projects and soon I was working on Educational Robotics, Computer Vision and Robotics projects with her and her team.
I am confident that I would have walked away from college with a very different experience had I never found a professor like Sklar. I am not saying that I would have failed out, but I don’t think I would have gained nearly as much.
Is Obama’s push to motivate teachers to be more engaged the right path? Based on my own experiences, I say yes! How many teachers names do you remember? I only remember a few, but those names will likely stay with me forever. Do you think their interest in your success helped get you there? or were you self-motivated?