Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Group Thing

MANY of my classes require group projects ~ even the ONLINE classes. I have heard about the group projects by others who have gone before me. It's all about the "teamwork" trying to get us ready for "corporate America", blah, blah, blah.

My philosophy on "Teamwork in Corporate America"? Well, it goes something like this...

[enter "fantasy" music here]

"Hey Herb! How do you figure we can get these JackWagons to work a little faster for much cheaper?"

"Well, I dunno, Chuck. Let me ask my wife, since I am just an ordinary man with a pea-size brain."

~Herb consults wife and returns and reports.~

"Well, Chuck. The wifey says we need to make the JackWagons think it is THEIR idea!"

"Will that work, Herb?"

"She says it's fool-proof, Chuck!"

"I didn't know your wife had experience supervising JackWagons, Herb."

"Hmm," replies Herb, scratching his head. "Me neither!"


Anyway, back to the post at hand. I get how a group project can be beneficial, and teach us how to work together to formulate solutions, etc. I get that this is the intent of the group project, anyway. But wanna know what really happens? I'll tell ya what really happens.

What really happens is that 20% of the group does 80% of the work! Growing up, I have been accused of being a little "take-chargey" sometimes. (I know... not a real word. Ask me if I care... No. I don't.) Anyway, even though I don't MIND being in charge, I don't always want to or seek to be in charge. In fact, as long as someone else [who is capable] volunteers to head the group up, I am all for stepping aside. It's just that I do not want to leave the fate of my grades in the hands of someone who does slapdash work. Why let someone else determine your success?

So, recently, in my film class the prof announces that we will have a group project coming up so we may want to be thinking of our groups. He specifically stated group must have between 2-4 people in them.

Immediately, I felt the panic set in. I did NOT want Ms. Know-It-All who ALWAYS sits behind me to be in *my* group. I am always nice to her, and it never fails that every week she inevitably talks to me before and after class. I smile, nod, give the appropriate responses, etc. Truth be told, however, she drives me BONKERS. Mostly because she is extremely outspoken and obnoxious about it. I know what you're thinking, "Sound a little familiar, Emma?" Hardy-har-har. But while I might share *my* opinions on *my* blog, it's a little different *in person*. I HATE confrontation. I avoid it at ALL.COSTS. So, in a group setting I tend to avoid any and all controversial topics that could lead to confrontation, sending me into anxiety-attack mode. Such topics include, but are not limited to Religion, Politics or Utah vs. BYU games.

Seriously, this chick bugs. She will go on and on in class, and then ALWAYS add at the end her "proclamation" at how "open-minded" she is. I'm all thinkin', "yeah... you're open-minded as long as everyone else agrees with you!" So, nope... didn't wanna be stuck in a group with her.

To match Ms. Know-it-all, there is Know-it-all-Kid! He's like 19 or something, and thinks he is smarter than the average bear. He totally has his game face on for any one-up-competition you'd like to engage him in. You've heard about it? It happened to his "friend". It happened to your friend? It happened to him. You saw it? He's been there. You read it? He wrote it. You get the idea... **sigh**

Then there is HorseMan. HorseMan is a kind and gentle creature who is taking a few classes before being shipped off to the glue factory. The problem with Dapple Dan isn't that he is opinionated or loud or obnoxious. Nope, his problem is something else entirely. It never fails that after a slew of about 2 or 3 students have made a comment in class, he will always raise his hand to add his two cents, which is reality is just a summation of EVERYTHING the previous 2 or 3 students just said; only with a ton of "uhs" and "ahhs" added. I feel sorta bad for him, cuz I think he just wants to feel part of the discussion... and yet I don't feel badly enough to want to be in the same group. I don't have a lot of free time, and really don't want to spend it listening to...uh... someone...uh... pontificate...uh... about...uh... everything...uh... we've just discussed ...
Not that *I* am perfect, mind you. I just think that for a group project to be successful, you need the right mix. The trick is to find someone you CAN work WELL with.
As I looked around the room and thought about with whom I *would* like to be in a group, Back-Row Dude caught my eye. Quiet. Unassuming. Always on time, even early most days. Takes copious notes. Never really says much, but when he does ~BAM!~ It's gold! Yes. I'd like to be in a group with Back-Row Dude, I says to myself... But how do I ask him? I've only ever done the half-nod "hello" acknowledgement once or twice (and twice is being generous) and I don't want him to think me a psycho when I charge from across the room to randomly ask him to be my group partner before someone else approaches him.

Class was dismissed and we herded out toward the elevators and stairs. And -- you'll never guess what happened! Back-Row Dude makes small talk with me. This is a good start, although I couldn't muster up enough courage to ask him about the project, for fear he would take it the wrong way and think I was "into him". I just couldn't work it into the conversation, so I let it go.
The next week came and we were again told to start forming our groups and guess what!?!?!

Well, first of all Harley-Chick asked me to be in her group. She informed me that The Red-Head girl and HorseMan were in her group too. "Hmmm.... pass" I told her. I told her I was going to be in someone else's group, but thanks so much for thinking of me! It wasn't REALLY a lie, not really. I knew that if I wasn't in her group, I would eventually end up in Someone's group, right?
Well, that night someone else sat in the seat I usually did, so I moved back one row, which was right in front of BackRow Dude and ~BAM!~ He asked me if I was in a group already and I answered, "Nope... Let's form a group!" I don't know how I managed to pull that one off, getting HIM to ask ME!!! Perhaps I created enough synergy to pull him in, hahahaha!
Anyway, so we picked our film to critique, and we discussed and made notes and formulated a plan for our project. He was very cooperative, always showed up on time, early even. And he participated and gave his feedback. I told him since we already started the work, we shouldn't let anyone else in our group - haha! But that WAS the only time I was somewhat "take-chargey" (I hate the word "bossy"... just sounds... meh.)
Anyway, I really didn't want to let anyone else in the group and ride on the coattails of all of the work we had already started. Plus, we worked well together. No drama, no overly strong opinions that created "issues", y'know? We just ~meshed~. Then after the next class, Ms. Know-it-all was looking at me. I KNEW she was going to ask to join my group. I made a beeline to the door just as I heard someone else propose she be in their group. Whew! Off the hook.
So, in our final meeting, he does it. BackRow Dude makes a Million-Dollar observation. It clicked! It was Gold! We based a lot of our presentation around this, and presented it the following week. He said he was willing to introduce the clip if I would give the main presentation. Music to my ears...
And... we got our grades back and... drumroll please... an 'A'.
So, do I hate group projects? It depends. I don't feel like I have to be in charge... just as long as there aren't any leechers or slackers or overly outspoken, close-minded drama queens. As long as there is none of that -- and everyone pulls their weight, then No. I don't hate them.


Puphigirl said...

I don't mind group projects for the very reasons you stated. But, I noticed in my cohort, I would choose to be in the same group often. We just worked well together, we felt everyone pulled their weight. Then the professor would make a comment that they wanted us all to switch up our groups, to not work with the same people we always work with. Uh...

I like the other people in my cohort, but I don't know their strengths like I knew the ones of my 'group'.

Susie said...

My older daughter is frustrated in the middle of her first group project in college. Not digging it!

Ruthykins said...

i hate group projects. everyone expects good things and my mediocre attempts are never good enough. plus, everybody is supposed to present something. i hate public speaking. overall, the thought of doing a group project sends me into near panic. but good for you for liking it and getting the "group" you wanted.

RhondaLue said...

I hate group projects. Makes me feel I'm back in jr high and what if nobody picks me or wants me in their group?! HA HA

But another reason I hate them...I am efficient with my time and put 3-4 people together and I guarantee 3 of them are time-wasters and maybe have no friends or no life so they really want to stretch out the project as a way to fulfill their social needs. Gosh, that sounds harsh. Don't mean it to be but it's true. Another thing I hate is when you are taking an INTERNET course because your schedule is nuts and maybe you have to do your classwork in the middle of the night and then internet instructor decides to require a group project. WHA??? No time, teach!

SO relieved for you that it worked out. That girl that drives you bonkers? CANT STAND PEOPLE LIKE THAT!!