If they wanted to fly, they flew. If they wanted to disappear, they disappeared. I wasn’t just their mentor; I was their magician.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to mentor 8-11 year olds in a special effects filmmaking workshop in Charlottesville, VA. I helped kids learn how to storyboard, write scripts, direct, shoot, and edit (adding special effects, of course) their short films under tight time parameters.
The best part about mentoring the workshop was witnessing how the kids fed off of each other’s creativity. When brainstorming for storylines, one kid would throw out an idea that another would finish. Sometimes, I would get lost in the crazy chain of ideas, but the kids always seemed to understand each other. It was as if they were speaking a language that I couldn’t totally understand.
They weren’t mad at each other for interrupting story ideas, nor were they too attached to their own ideas to let someone else take their ideas into a totally different direction. I felt, at times, like stepping in and telling the kids to respect each other’s time while they spoke. But, they were collaborating so well, and that’s really what I wanted to teach them: how to collaborate. And sometimes passion to share thoughts trumps what I perceive to be respect for others, but these kids are young and that respect will come with age.
Being a mentor to someone else has made me more appreciative of having a mentor myself. For my fourth year thesis project, I was required to find a mentor to help me through some kind of artistic final project and accompanying research paper.
However, I was a little apprehensive about seeking out a mentor. I felt like there was a stigma associated with the word “mentor” suggesting I was somehow not capable of achieving something on my own. That’s not what it means.
First of all, you don’t know enough on your own. You’re not the best person you can be if you only think for yourself. Just like I realized from mentoring the young kids over the summer, collaboration is so important. Having someone add on to your idea doesn’t make the idea less of your own—it just makes it better and more dynamic. Plus, collaboration is how the real world operates.
Not only does having a mentor hold you accountable to meet deadlines that don’t always seem as rigid when working on an independent project, but it also allows you to have another set of eyes and a built-in cheerleader who is rooting for you at all times. Who wouldn’t want that?
My advice: rethink the stigma surrounding mentors. Don’t let pride get in the way of personal growth and opportunities to learn and collaborate.
My mentor doesn’t make me fly, disappear, or gain super powers, but she helps me solve problems when I can’t figure them out and gives me inspiration when I need it most. My mentor is a magician too, and everyone could use a magician from time to time.