A group study room in Gerstein Science Library.

You Can’t Spell “Group Project” Without “Group”

Midterms. Alright, enough talk of midterms. Let’s talk about something way more terrifying. That’s right. Group projects.   [Cue blood-curdling scream]   For a fair number of us, the end of October isn’t just scary because of Halloween- it’s the start of the dreaded group project. Some of you, like myself, have a class that chooses to toss the final exam in favour of a huge group project.
A group study room in Gerstein Science Library.
That one group study room we've all been in.
There are obviously some positives to this- you don’t have to worry about remembering every amino acid abbreviation, and if you don’t understand something you have a world of resources to turn to in order to figure it out. However, often times the positives are overlooked in favour of the struggle: interacting with people when your grade depends on it. Before I get into things, answer me this: have you ever met anybody/do you self-identify as that one person who does none of the work? I mean, everybody I talk to is “the one who does everything”… Curious. Anyway. When I was four years old, I started taking Hapkido classes in my hometown. I did it for a long time, and learned a lot over the years, but something that stuck with me was one lesson to do with interacting with people in a constructive way. Speaking from personal experience, this is something I need to remind myself about a lot in group work. So, in an effort to a) keep my own stress levels down, b) not take on an unmanageable amount of work, and c) be aware of the impact I’m having on my group’s emotional wellbeing, I think back to my Hapkido days and “The Four Fs”. Firm – Go with your gut! If you feel strongly about something, it’s your right as an equal member of the group to let the others know. If you really are opposed to an idea, work with your group to figure out a consensus. Friendly – Everything you say, say with kindness. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Even if an idea is really not what you need, you can always find a way to be appreciative that someone was comfortable enough to contribute. Fair – Hear other people out. Give everybody a fair chance to contribute and criticize. Do what you can to make sure that everybody gets a chance to voice their opinions in a safe space. If you hear an idea and you immediately disagree, give them a chance to explain where they’re coming from- chances are, you’ll learn something. Forgiving – People might screw you over. It happens, and it sucks. What can we do about it, though? We can understand that there’s an explosive amount of reasons for somebody to not pull their slack on any given day. We can understand that it’s not our place to jump to conclusions about other people. Instead, we can be firm, friendly, fair, and forgiving, in allowing them the help they need. In short: Nobody’s perfect. We all get stressed, we all lose our temper, we all have bad days, weeks, or even years. I’m guessing to somebody, I’ve been that one person that didn’t pull their weight in a project. These four words have never helped me finish my part of a project, but they have helped me interact successfully with people I might never be speaking to if not for that class. All I know for sure is that "Group" doesn't look like a real word to me anymore.    

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