Punching Above My Weight

Raspberry Pi, True Confessions

It’s Sunday morning and I wake up thinking about computer monitors. Specifically, where can I get more for cheap, and where will I store them and how will I get them, smoothy and safely, into our multipurpose meeting room at the library every other week. And this gets me thinking about extension cords and how we probably need some more since the outlets are only around the perimeter of the room, and these kids want to look at each other, not stare at a wall.

I’m also thinking about these Minecraft Circuits In Real Life kits, and trying to figure out if any soldering is actually involved despite them being listed on a site called Soldering Sunday, which is kind of like how some folks probably find themselves here in the Robot Test Kitchen and wonder what’s robotic about paper airplanes and marshmallow towers. I have a lot on my mind.

I tell my husband I need to figure out more things to do with the Raspberry Pis that piqued my initial monitor musing. I’m worried that my coding club needs more ideas, maybe a project to bring them back together again since they’ve grown in number and mostly paired up and are working on individual projects. “Are they networked yet? I found these cool soundcards for cheap. What about moisture and heat sensors? There’s so much cool stuff you can do with them! ” he says. I tell him what the ten kids (ten! TEN! This time last year I was happy when I had three!) did last Thursday and how no, they’re not networked and one of the three isn’t working, and we’ve only gotten Minecraft Pi loaded on one.

He reminds me how far I’ve come before asking, “You do realize how much you’re punching above your weight here, right?” Boy, do I. Every day I’m reminded of that.

I’m energized by the enthusiasm of the middle schoolers who come to my coding club every other week, who ask why can’t we do it every week, and who excitedly show me the JavaScript games they’re building together outside of club too. But yes, I know I am punching above my weight, every time they ask me a question and I reply with, “Well, what have you already tried? At which point did you get stuck?” and then ask if anyone in the room has had experience with that problem, and can they come and help this guy over here work through it because that’s the only answer I have.

I’m reminded of it when I read the components lists for simple project kits and need to Google several of the pieces and then only gain a surface level understanding of them.

I’m reminded of it whenever I read about what much bigger libraries (and only a little bit bigger libraries) are doing with makerspaces and technology with their youth and am paralyzed when I think about how I would go about implementing similar projects.

As my friends in tech often say, and as I often feel even in the library world, “there’s a legion of people out there who know more than you and they’re coming fast and furious.” The struggle is to see this not as a threat, but as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to collaborate, to keep on punching. None of us needs to be the best, we just need to keep going.

I am punching above my weight. But I’m punching. I’m thinking about it on Sunday morning when I wake up. I’m looking for answers from colleagues and peers and strangers. I feel like I’m cheating when I ask my tech-field husband’s advice because really, shouldn’t I be able to figure this out on my own? What kind of example am I setting if I’m relying on my husband‘s knowledge to do my job?

On better days, I remind myself that the example I’m setting is the one the Maker movement wants set: I’m setting an example of trial and error, of collaboration, of shared workspaces and cocreation. I’m trying. I’m failing. I’m thinking. I’m learning. Maybe not as fast as I want to be learning, but it’s happening. Like Michelle reminded us, our one-year-ago selves would probably be impressed with where we are. And I need to check myself – constantly – and pull myself back to the present, where it’s about those ten (ten! TEN!) tweens & teens in my meeting room every other week who are doing their own thing, doing things that they couldn’t do a year ago, and not about me one bit.

I’m a big believer in the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets and every time I read through them, I feel better. Coding Club – even as thrown together and chaotic as mine sometimes feels – is giving these kids the opportunity to add to their asset lists. What we’re doing matters, and it’s working, and by perservering when it’s hard, I’m modeling exactly what I hope they get out of it. I’m not in this to help teens become excellent coders, Maker extraordinaires, or jumpstart their app creation businesses. I’m in it for the long haul.

I’m in it to be a part of their community of caring adults who believes in them, supports them, provides a safe space where they are valued, and the skills they need to persevere, and encourages them to keep it up, keep punching above their weight. In coding club, in everything.

One thought on “Punching Above My Weight

  1. This post really speaks to me! I’ve been “punching above my weight” in this exact way for more than 2 years at a small, liberal arts college. Confession: I’m burning out and fast, especially knowing that there are other ways to be part of that “caring community” you speak of. Do you experience any of that?

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