Upon entering into Maker Jawn as a Maker Mentor, I was used to interacting with young people in a classroom environment. The kids were within my supervision at all times. I met them all at once, and I got to introduce myself as “the teacher”—the person who sets the rules, the person they listened to, and the person they were supposed to ask to go to the bathroom. I learned quickly that this wasn’t the case at Maker Jawn.
My first day in the library, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I sat down at the Maker Jawn table as kids filtered in. One boy unrolled an enormous drawing he had been working on. Some girls came in and grabbed fistfuls of fabric to make pillows. One girl picked up her elaborate miniature cardboard bathroom, and asked Lauren—the established Mentor at that library—for some paint. As I watched Lauren to see where we kept the supplies, I started to understand what felt so different about this job.
Here, I am the newcomer. So many of the kids in the neighborhood have been coming to Maker Jawn programming for many months and years, and I am just beginning to make sense of it all. In some locations, hardly any kids know my name and might be too shy to ask for help from a stranger. Here, I am just beginning to understand, rather than establish, a hidden system of order.
I’m starting to see that simple things like wearing a nametag or appearing at a library over and over again makes all the difference. Things like saying “hi” to the kids who walk in one by one, instead of expecting to introduce myself to a group, helps the kids remember me and is smoothing my integration into the program. What I love about being a part of Maker Jawn is watching each Maker do something different and ambitious, and the reward when a kid calls me over to show me their newest creation.
In a classroom, there is a prescribed curriculum: a snack time, a playtime, a story-telling time. At Maker Jawn the kids set those boundaries for themselves. They don’t always clean up their messes, and they don’t face punishment for making whatever they want instead of what we are “supposed” to make. I am here with the other Mentors to guide and support the Makers, fuel their ambition and help them access their creativity.