I have developed a pretty thick skin (or so I like to think), but am still vulnerable when people appreciate our work :)
We recently interviewed a parent who had participated in two of our Family Science Courses. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
The family couldn't attend the first session of our CardioVascular Mechanics course and the mom told me that her daughter was so disappointed that she cried!
Getting the Family Science Program off the ground has been such a battle. I got the idea in 2006 after reading an article about the Open Classroom in Salt Lake City Utah and then kept trying to implement it with little success in various schools. We would get 2 parents, sometimes 1 at the sessions and our brave volunteering engineers would continue teaching to the one student and one parent. Sessions at Shenandoah and Trinity were total failures. Many people told me that the model wouldn't work in an urban setting, especially with some of the more jaded LAUSD schools.
But I kept repeating to myself that you have to give everything a second chance. Change a couple of things and try again. And things usually got better the second time around.
We have now done 4 successful Family Science Courses at Shenandoah and 2 at Trinity with attendance between 60-70 people.
We also have some basic formulas down that help us go to new schools and run a pretty solid program. The formula seems simple now, but I guess its not that simple, otherwise the journey would have been much quicker and less interesting.
We even replicated the program up in the Salinas/Pajaro area with the help of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We weren't there at any of the sessions, but the model is sufficiently robust that it can take replication. The little town was so happy with the sessions that they got the local TV station and newspaper to cover it :)
It is an interesting lesson overall, sort of like what Gladwell's book Outliers talks about as well. It takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work to achieve any kind of success. It is about being intelligent and having staying power. It does take about 2-3 years before you start seeing any results and then maybe another 2-3 before you start getting known for what you do.