“It was easy to be great. Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking. These nights are accidental and statistical: Like lucky cards in poker, you can count on them occurring over time. What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the abominable circumstances.” – Steve Martin, entertainer
It’s easy to get discouraged when running a makerspace. I know I do. After a year and half of hosting weekly, lunch hour, makerspace workshops in our library, I still struggle to stay optimistic. I still succumb to doubt. At the beginning of each lunch hour event, I question myself. Often, it sounds like this: “How many people will show up? Is this even a project students like? Is this a dumb project? Did I do enough to get the word out? Will it just be me here for the next 45 minutes? Oh, please, please, please, I hope someone comes by and starts making something soon!”
I have hosted events that have drawn 50 students – so many that there simply wasn’t enough tools to go around. A 50 student event feels like a massive mosh pit of making. It’s electric. Then, I’ve also hosted events where everything is set-up, and it’s just me sitting there by my lonesome. And, it’s not like students weren’t in the library at the time either. It’s just that no one was interested.
It never gets easy to accept failure because I take it so personally sometimes. Makerspace is something I had a hand in building. If makerspace fails, then it feels as if I’ve failed.
There are a few things I tell myself to get me through the tough times
One, the makerspace is like all other school program like orchestra, athletics, or art. Not everyone likes art, orchestra, or athletics. And, that’s okay. Not all students wilI like makerspace (even though it’s super cool and useful!). And, that’s okay.
Two, people in the sales industry often say it takes 7 times for a salesman to contact a client and ask for a sale before they get a yes. Similar, I am trying to get clients to say “yes” to my events. It’s possible that I have not reached the magic number of 7 yet for many of the students in my school.
Three, it’s easy to be great one time. It’s easy to have one awesome, earth shattering event if I put enough resource to it. But it’s hard to be good, consistently good. It’s hard to host regular events that are good all the time. Strive to be consistently good, and people will come. No one wants to come to an event that is “great sometimes.” But, people will want to come to an event that is good all the time.
Four, we’re going to knock it out of the park next time, and when we do, it’s going to feel awesome again!
If you’re running a makerspace and it feels like it’s a constant cycle between highs and lows, I can sympathize. I can sympathize with the low turnout to scheduled workshops and events. I can sympathize with the drop off in volunteers when times get tough or busy. And, I can sympathize with the snide and/or patronizing whispers coming from other colleagues about your “project.”
Yes, failure is something we need to embrace, to welcome, and to learn from. But, it doesn’t ever mean it’s easy. To be truthful, it’s not. Nor, does it mean you need to do it alone. Because, there are tonnes of people who suffer or have suffered the same set backs. If you’re running a makerspace in your school and things aren’t going as planned. If iit feels like it’s a horrible failure and you just want to curl up and cry. Then,feel free to contact us. We can share war stories together and I’m sure we’ll both be better for it.