I know that the small, small number of you who do actually read this blog regularly do other things outside of internet stalking like go to school so I decided to write a ~helpful~ article which I already submitted to Rookie (uh, yeah, that didn’t work.) That’s something you should know about me–I submit lots of things to Rookie. I could put them all up here but this is the second (I didn’t submit the Florence Welch one.)
7 Tips for Group Projects
I think we’ve all been there, done that.
Over 20 moans (and some cries) fill the classroom you’re sitting in. The sun suddenly hides behind the clouds. You can feel your heart pounding. It seems like the beginning of a post-dystopian Ray Bradbury novel, and for all you care, it might as well be. Your teacher’s head is now complete with devil horns that you’re not sure are real or conjured up by your imagination. It doesn’t matter that you don’t get along with any of the other people in your class, or that it’s 8:00 in the morning and you should be fast asleep; you hear “project” and a feeling of constriction surrounds your mind. No matter what you do, you know that you’re going to be stuck for the next few weeks wondering which teacher in which school house in what country started the idea; the idea that working with other people, and, as a result, eating too much pizza and feeling stressed and staying up late, could actually be beneficial.
The most common problem with group projects is obviously that the most motivated person does all the work and the rest of the lazy members are just bound to the project grade, like zits or maraschino cherries or anything really bad attached to something really great. At first, group projects seem completely pointless, even if you’re paired up with people who actually have a normal work ethic. Regardless, I’d like to think (and I’m pretty sure) that the general idea is to help you work with others because no matter how much you are CONVINCED you are going to be an anti social cat lady, you will need money to pay for your cats’ food and this requires a job which usually requires team work and group project tendencies. Anyway, there are a number of things you can do to better your group project experience, thus indirectly letting you get the higher quality cat food in a few years.
1. Get Their Personal Information. In this day and age, it’s pretty easy to contact people, or so it seems. Even if you hate your partners and have made a conscious choice not be friends with them on Facebook, not to look at their twitters, and not to look at their friend’s twitters, you should either get their phone numbers and/or email addresses. If you are friends with them on Facebook and feel this is enough communication for you, be negative and think about the worst that could happen. Your internet could crash, or they could just not be online. Phone numbers are great because in case of a frightening new advancement in your adventures with poster board or PowerPoint, you can call immediately. Communication is key in group projects; if you have the potential to work well but you don’t know if your partners are even in town, you’ve got a problem.
2. Be Prepared. If the teacher gives you a handout the night before to read about the project or gives any preliminary information, utilize it to your best advantage and try as hard as you possibly can to understand what the project is asking of you. This way, you can explain it to your group members and help them if they have any questions.
3. Get to know them. At first sight, your group members may actually suck and upon hearing the teacher call your names, you could feel sick; despite the initial feelings, do not make any assumptions, especially if you do not know these people well. The more you get to know a person, the more you can figure out how they work; even just a conversation starter that’s irrelevant to the project will help you accomplish that task. It’s important not to see your group members as slackers, but as people too.
4. Be Organized. If nobody in your group is willing to be organized, then that’s a job you might have to tackle. This should be done before you do anything else. The second you get the assignment, get a piece of paper out and write down a large box for everyday you have to work on it. Write down all of your group members names and assign them a task. Ask each of them about what they feel they are the most adept at, because even people who slack off can do some things well. If you have what you believe to be a mix of slackers and non slackers, assign easier and quicker jobs to the slackers and larger and more important jobs to the non slackers, just for safety purposes. This may come off as bossy, but the other non-slackers would have probably done the same thing, and the slackers probably won’t care or even object. If somebody does not complete their task one day, then add another the next day.
5. Stick it to ‘em. If your group partners are slackers, chances are they could be “chill” or “lax” people who just “go with the flow”; use these characteristics to your advantage. Tell them everything you need from them. Drill them with questions and NEVER EVER feel insecure about it. If you ask them what they’re doing this weekend and they respond with a nonchalant “I don’t know”, say “Okay, so I guess all day Saturday works for you then.” While it’s hard in general to look people in the eye and tell them what you need, you can’t feel ashamed here; you’ll never know how they’ll react if you don’t try. Mentally declare yourself the boss of the group—part of the problems with group projects are that they often lack a specific direction. Be that direction (not One Direction of course, because then we have other issues.)
6. Be Flexible. Make meeting up and doing assignments as easy as possible for your group members. This does not mean you are doing the work FOR them, it means you are giving them less excuses for not doing the work and giving yourself more reasons to say “I try my hardest.” If your group members live far away and you can drive to their house, offer to meet them there. If you can’t go all the way to their house but you can meet them halfway, then offer that. If you need them to type up something, send them the links to the information you find relevant and always give clear, concise instructions.
7. Things get extreme. If you do all of the above and your group members STILL don’t seem to be trying hard enough, then the first thing you need to do is talk to your teacher if you feel you don’t have the time. You will look like a tattle tale and that is a guarantee; however, if these people are giving you this much crap then they most likely DESERVE to be tattled on. They are not your friends and you probably won’t be friends with them or even talk to them for the duration of the year. Keeping that in mind, disregard the damage to your reputation and try to meet up with your teacher to ask for an extension or tell them about your situation. If your teacher sucks, then either you can give up because it’s only a project and it may mean a lot now but it won’t in 6 months (I guarantee it) or do the work for everyone else. If and when you do decide to do this, remember that procrastination is a no-no and sign out of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Netflix. Time is the enemy; use every single second you can. Don’t stay up past 2 in the morning, because chances are, you’ll be doing this more than one night and you’ll need to be slightly functioning the next day so you can finish the rest.
In the end: Projects are projects and life is life. This project should not be the end of the world for you. If it feels like it is, then understand that a piece of cardboard, a physics motor, a 10 page report, or a PowerPoint that nobody helped you with is not your problem. In the future, try to take classes that aren’t project based if you dislike them. And remember, being a cat lady is always a future option.
All criticisms and compliments (if any) will be accepted! Thanks for reading!!