Collaborating with the community

Group projects, every student’s favorite part of school. If you couldn’t tell that I was being sarcastic, most rational students hate them. Some may ask “Why are group projects so bad, don’t they mean less work for each person?”  Often times, the kind of people that ask those questions are the kind of people who make group projects so stressful. The lazy kind. However, apart from interacting with other human beings (who are occasionally incompetent) to earn a passing grade, group projects aren’t that bad. In fact, some people might call them beneficial. Moreover, I might not laugh at those people.

First off, group projects teach us to trust. For many of us, trust isn’t something that we give out freely. It must be earned. In group projects there’s always the urge to urge to take over and do it all yourself. Especially when you feel think (sometimes rightfully so) that your group members are incapable of positive input. However, you soon learn that taking that path is both stressful and unnecessary. In order to receive a tolerable grade without earning a headache in the process, trust is key.

On the other hand, sometimes our trust is misplaced. We expect someone to do uphold their part of the project, but they let us down. They either do it poorly, or not at all. Now, while this may be detrimental to your GPA, there is a positive side. You learn a very important life lesson: know your personnel.  Often times, teachers allow students to form their own groups for the project. Instinctively, we usually choose our friends. Sometimes, our friends aren’t the best coworkers. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t choose your friends; I’m saying that you should be realistic. If they’re truly your friend, you should know what kind of person they are. If your friend is lazy, don’t expect him/her to do more than what their capable. When you’re awake at midnight doing what someone else should have finished a long time ago, you’ll know whose fault it is. Your friend, for not doing their work? Or you, for thinking that they would?

Group projects don’t always end so badly. Sometimes you’ll end up in a group that runs like a well-oiled machine. That efficiency is attributed to the group’s ability function as a whole. The ability to effectively work with others is one that has to be developed. It comes easier for some than for others. Admitting when you’re wrong can be difficult. That’s why group projects can be so challenging. We all have ideas that we have to sacrifice for the sake of the projects. The ability to compromise isn’t something that we’re all borne with; some of us have to learn it.

While group projects can be aggravating, they serve a purpose (one beyond torturing students). They train us to thrive on the planet earth. Success in school is primarily earned by the individual. Success in the world is primarily earned by the community. Group projects are a way for the individual to collaborate with the community, preparing him/her for future endeavors in the world.

Now, why is this true? Why does cooperation work better than constant conflict? Because nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day. And every one of us — every one of us and every one of them, we’re compelled to spend our fleeting lives between those two extremes, knowing we’re never going to be right all the time and hoping we’re right more than twice a day.

-Bill Clinton

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