Call me obstinate. Call me contrarian. Call me the Grinch who stole Christmas. Any one of those might fit, and therefore, I couldn’t argue with them–at least, not logically, and we all know how I love to oblige when logic says, “King me”. (Grin.)
Because even though it’s not Sunday, I feel like stepping into a confessional. “Forgive me, world, for I have sinned.”
World would prime itself for a good finger-wagging.
Without giving it time to respond or launch into some diatribe about how I should shut up and be a good little citizen, I would simply steamroll on:
“I can’t stand group work. I cringe at the very idea. In fact, I shudder at the very mention of the word.”
Let the finger-wagging begin.
There’s more to the story, of course. Group work–that is, working as a team, with (eeeek! Other People)–has left a few scars on my otherwise olive-porcelain skin (along with all of its mosquito-bite mottling). For too many, “group work” came to mean “let’s all sit around and banter about pointless topics and generally remain useless, while one or two people carry our sorry asses. Somebody do the actual work, and let the rest of us know when you’re done so that we can all make sure our names get attached to the finished product.”
You know the type–they may have even scarred you, too–people who had no intention of working and no interest in the progress made, but since they were forced to get into these pointless groups, they might as well have a Socializing Session on class time. They only want a “good enough” grade to pass, but otherwise they don’t really care. Lord knows they’re not actually there to learn anything–a characteristic that will persist throughout their equally-pointless lives, while you’re forced to keep accommodating them. (And they say everybody grows up. Biggest lie ever.)
Meanwhile, you work diligently, because you do care about learning something, and you might actually have some dreams ahead of you–dreams that require better grades than merely “good enough”. “Good enough” doesn’t get you into your top-choice university. “Good enough” won’t get you that rare, coveted internship position. “Good enough” won’t land you that dream job. “Good enough” doesn’t cross anything off your Bucket List. “Good enough” might be good enough for them, but not necessarily for you.
And even if you’re not necessarily a curve-busting overachiever (lord knows I sure wasn’t at that time), it’s annoying to have been handed an assignment designed for seven people (and a workload to match), only to get stuck with six people who expect someone else to do all the work.
Too often, I was that person, and who enjoys singlehandedly doing the work of seven people? Are the other six slackers ever going to repay you the favor? (No.) And even if they ever agreed to, would you want them to? (No again.)
I didn’t care about socializing; I hated being forced to interact with other classmates on any terms except for my own, so even if I didn’t care about the assignment either, I wanted to get it done as soon as possible so that I could have a viable excuse to re-separate myself from the rest.
Damn society for making extroversion a desired/ideal trait and rewarding it, even (and especially) at the expense of a decent learning environment.
Damn the sheeple for falling right into the trap, too, and perpetuating this idiocracy.
I remember the first group work experience I ever had. It was that uncomfortable. “Traumatic” is too strong a word; that would be melodramatic of me; but it sucked just the same.
I was in Grade 3, which puts us somewhere in the 1986-87 school year. My teacher had just returned from a workshop, a yearly event where they all go and get excited about teaching again. The workshop facilitators need to justify their existence by coming up with new themes and concepts, most of which are probably designed to make Aspies’ (kids with Asperger’s) lives miserable. (Is the bitterness too obvious? Sorry about that. 🙂 )
This particular workshop had my teacher all fired up about something new she learned, and (dryly, with a hint of snark) she couldn’t wait to try it out on us.
She wanted us to get into groups. I don’t remember what the project was (hey, we’re talking 30 years ago here), but I do remember thinking, what the hell?? This is pointless.
Apparently, getting kids to work together in groups was all the rage at that workshop.
I hoped it would end up like most moronic fads, and fade out of favor after a while. Kind of like bell-bottom jeans. Or sideburns. Or shoulder pads on women’s blouses. Gone, never to return again.
God(dess), I hoped so.
But noooo, the concept of group work stuck. Emphasis on “stuck”, because that’s how I felt, every time I got stuck with one of these teachers who believed in this crap, and stuck us in groups, usually with no other choice. I mean, it’s not like I felt I could go up to a teacher–or college professor–and say, “I think group work is stupid; can I just work by myself?” These days, I feel ballsy enough to (realistically) consider doing exactly that. But I didn’t have the guts back then. I sure harbored the sentiment, though.
Group work, at best, highlights the difference between those who want to work and those who want to slack off. At worst, however, it puts stress on those who actually have something riding on their school career, those who don’t necessarily want to waste their time blabbering on about who’s dating whom or whose clothing is the most ridiculous.
Teachers might have good intentions. They might have been told that teamwork is the way of the future, and let’s face it: the American public school system is not, contrary to popular belief, intended to churn out little geniuses who have developed their talents and become comfortable with who they are and know what they want out of life. It’s designed specifically to churn out little carbon-copied pawns who cooperate and take orders, graduating with the minimum skill set required to work for someone else, historically in a factory (the business owners who, incidentally, these days, either graduated from a private school, was well-homeschooled, or was fortunate enough to attend a public school that didn’t fit the average mould. Just look up CEOs and business owners).
(I’d love to see some research on this, wouldn’t you? It would be interesting!)
Some teachers had/have less than the purest of intentions. While there are tons of awesome teachers out there who genuinely care about their students and genuinely love the material they’re teaching, there are other teachers who, like the majority of their students, don’t want to be there. And they’re trying to get by with whatever is just “good enough”, too–just good enough not to get fired.
The latter set perceives group work to be their ticket to ride, ride the train of mediocrity, shove a bunch of work on the kids in their classes so they can sit back and read or leave the room (in my day) or surf the internet (these days?). I don’t know exactly what they’re doing these days; maybe they’re checking on their EBay or Etsy listing or their Scentsy account (except that the latter is so 2011).
Regardless, group work has, sadly, failed to die. (About the only way to do it right, if there is such a thing, is to let the students choose their own group and decide who they want to work with.)
And it doesn’t look like it will die any time soon. Because there will always be lazy teachers and misguided workshops that continue to tout this junk.
And until it does die, it’s only going to perpetuate the Laziness Culture and reward the imbalance between the hard workers and the slackers, in favor of the wrong group. And it will continue to sap the souls and spirit of the Good Kids, who are actually there for the right reasons and demonstrate wisdom beyond their chronology.
As I said before, let the finger-wagging begin. 😉