I hated school. I can't count the number of times I faked being sick so I could stay home. I can still vividly remember one particular day, sitting in the junior high school parking lot with my mother, pleading to stay home from school. I tried every excuse I could think of and refused to get out of the car. She wasn't having it that day. "You are going to get out of this car, and you are going to walk into that school," she said.
Only now, as a father with two kids of my own, can I begin to understand her deep frustration. I was a smart kid. I had all the potential in the world. Both of my parents had graduated first in their high schools, attended good colleges, and went on to be successful in their lives. With all the opportunity they could provide, there was no reason for them to expect any less from me. According to all expectations, my academic career started out just fine. I coasted through elementary school, getting top marks without studying and in spite of my excessive absenteeism. Once I hit junior high school though, the coasting just didn't cut it. In the first quarter of 7th grade I got a C- in two subjects.
I'd never had less than a B and that C- was dangerously close to a D. Along with the poor grades came multiple report card comments from teachers saying things like "not working to level of ability" and "homework not consistently done." In the second quarter, I got a C in four subjects, including math, where I'd always been a good student. I wasn't happy or proud of that, but I was a skateboarder and that is all I wanted to do. I had no desire to go to college, nor an appreciation for how a quality education (or lack thereof) could affect the rest of my life. I was going to build a skate park and own a skate shop and I certainly didn't need math for that! I can only imagine how my two valedictorian parents felt when they saw that report card. It was time for an intervention.
Not long after receiving that disappointing report card, my mother had a talk with me that changed my life forever. I'm sure there was more to it than this, but I only remember one thing she said: "If a C is the best you can do, then your father and I are ok with that." It was a simple statement, yet brilliant in its illumination and equally powerful in its inspiration. This was not the best I could do. I knew that. They knew that. And I knew they knew it. It just didn't sit right with me, so that third quarter I applied myself. I went to school, I did my homework, and I made significant improvements in many subjects, including moving from a C- to an A+ in science!
My mother's influence had changed my attitude, but my previous lack of diligence had left me lagging behind my peers. My learning strategies and confidence still needed improvement, especially in math. Here, it was my father who came to the rescue. In addition to being a driven MIT graduate, engineer, and successful business person, my father was an amazing teacher. He possessed incredible intellect, a sincere desire to teach me "the right way," and boundless patience.
My first tutoring session with my father led to immediate and dramatic improvements in my math grades. More importantly, my father gave me an understanding of how to study, how to prepare for a test, and a feeling of confidence that fills me to this day. In fact, I can remember the exact moment that confidence began. It was after a pre-algebra test in 7th grade. It was a really tough test which most of the class failed. Even the smartest kid in the class (who always looked down on me as a "stupid skater boy") had done poorly. He looked at his grade and then looked back at my test with a smug look on his face, as if he was expecting to see a failing grade that would make him feel better about his lackluster performance. To his chagrin, I had received a perfect score. In fact, not only did I get 100% on the regular test questions, but I answered all the "bonus" questions too, leading to a score of 123 points out of 100. I will never forget holding that paper with "123/100" circled in red at the top. Nor will I forget his reaction. My hard work had paid off. The pride and confidence I felt was overwhelming. At that moment, I knew I could do anything if I just tried my hardest and, perhaps, had a little help from a great tutor.
All of the above life-changing events manifest clearly in my 7th grade report card. By the end of that year, the "Not working to level of ability" comments had changed to "Improvement shown" and my grades had improved significantly. With my new found confidence, skills, and after-dinner tutoring sessions with my father, I never looked back. I continued to apply myself, getting help from Dad when needed. By senior year in high school I had been moved up to the "advanced" level classes and achieved A+ grades in AP calculus, AP physics, and AP chemistry. I was even selected to be a "science aid" to an elementary school genius who was doing chemistry at a high school level.
What a difference a few years can make! Notably, in my senior year, I was able to succeed without much tutoring from my father. He was extremely busy and, being over 20 years out of school, found that calculus and AP chemistry weren't exactly the easiest things to pick back up for impromptu tutoring sessions. He couldn't help directly, but at that point it didn't matter. He had already given me all the tools I needed. He taught me how to study. He taught me how to think for myself. Most of all, he taught me to have confidence in my ability to learn and do anything I set my mind to. In spite of a rocky start, I ended up 10th in my high school class. I did well on my college entrance exams, attended Cornell University, and graduated with honors.
Sometimes I think about that frustrated kid who hated school and didn't even want to go to college. I think about how he became a lifelong learner, passionate and engaged, constantly learning and doing new things. I think about and appreciate what a significant difference my mother's positive influence made. I think about what an incredible difference my father's tutoring sessions made. My path in life took a sharp turn for the better in so many ways because of their loving and thoughtful intervention. I can't imagine where I'd be today had they not taken those simple yet profound steps.
Receiving additional educational support doesn't guarantee everyone can be a straight A student or get into an ivy league school. However, I do believe everyone can benefit from a positive influence, increase their scholastic ability, and build skills and confidence that can last a lifetime. Understandably, not every parent has the time, knowledge, or quite frankly the patience, to help their kids directly, but that doesn't mean they can't give their kids the best opportunities to help them succeed.
Fuzl aims to provide the best possible environment, technology, content, and support for anyone that wants to excel in their educational endeavors. As the founder of Fuzl, and as the father of its first two students, my personal goal is to create an experience that lives up to the example my father set for me all those years ago. If you have a sincere desire to learn, and the motivation to strive to do your best, welcome to Fuzl!