Today I have another confession. Strange how writing for the world wide web makes me more inclined to reveal the skeletons in my closet…Well, here it is:
I don’t like group work.
Now this confession might not seem that radical. People usually understand where I’m coming from to a point. But there are some assumptions attached to Groupwork Haters, and here are just a few:
- They are obsessed with their grades.
- They don’t like people.
- They don’t like fun.
I reject all of these claims—except for maybe the first one—but no more so than your average Amherst student. Generally, however, I’m a fun-seeking individual, even in the classroom. I get a kick out of an especially rowdy class discussion. I love when a professor drops the occasional f-bomb here and there. Frankly, my distaste for groupwork surprises me. But after some reflection, I have a few ideas why I prefer to act as a one-man wolfpack.
Firstly, the types of projects groups are assigned are usually pretty cheesy. Powerpoints, posters, skits—none of these things excite me intellectually. And when you’re not excited about the work you’re doing, it’s pretty miserable even if it’ easy. And to make matters worse, groupwork makes relatively easy assignments super time-consuming. Have you ever had to coordinate schedules with a Smith girl? Suddenly you are much more invested in PVTA…always unfortunate.
But beyond mere logistics, I also find that a strange dynamic develops in student groups. A dynamic I will call Boss-Slacker Syndrome. This noxious condition, which I’m sure all of you are familiar with, can only lead to animosity. Because when a group is infected with BSS, it divides into two. On one side we have the Boss. She either fears that the other group members are not invested enough, or she simply believes that her ideas are better than the others’. The Boss may seem like an arrogant figure, but you’d be surprised at how many kind, decent people fall into that role. Before you even realize it, you’re delegating who does what, when you’ll meet, and how you’ll present. You’ll be the one who compiles all the individual work into one cohesive group product.
On the other side, there’s the Slacker. The Slacker may very well be a lazy individual. But she might also just not be the kind of person who asserts her own authority. She has no problem yielding to the rising Boss. Regardless, there is inevitable tension between the two. The Boss feels indignant because she does everything goddammit! And the Slacker is annoyed because the Boss is just so damn bossy!
These are poor learning conditions. And they can lead to some awkward situations. One time, I had to make a poster with my best friend at the time, Devon. I had assumed the role of Boss, and she, the Slacker. It didn’t really bug me much, because she was my friend, and it’s sort of in my nature to seize leadership. Well, everything was going fine. I had just drawn the title at the top of the poster, and I thought it looked pretty good. Then, Devon decides to outline it with red marker…a fatal move in my opinion. Not only did she choose a bad color, SHE DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THE LINES STRAIGHT! Suddenly, I am transformed into a psycho control-freak. I couldn’t help it! I am visibly fuming. Devon looks at me, and says, “You don’t like it.” I shake my head, and pretend (poorly) that “it’s all good.” But it wasn’t all good. And the rest of class crawled by in painful silence.
I’d like to take a moment, however, to make a distinction between groupwork and teamwork. Groupwork is something that you are assigned. And a group is just a collection of people who have been given a communal task. Teamwork is (usually) a choice. A team is a collection of people who actively seek out to accomplish a communal task. So when someone joins a team, she knows cooperation is the name of the game. But when a student enters a classroom, she has a soloist mentality. She’s looking out for number one. Only once she’s forced into a group does she have to have a more collaborative outlook.
Now I love being part of a team. I play in the orchestra, I work with a staff, and I’ll gladly be anyone’s pong partner. I like the camaraderie that teamwork creates. Groupwork, on the other hand, does not provide me with the same sense of unity.
So while other students get together to work on lab reports and chit chat, I’ll sit alone in a dimly lit room, reading to myself…well, it’ll be properly lit because reading in the dark is bad for your eyes. But you get the point.
Doin me since 1991,