This post was originally published on firstname.lastname@example.org on November 4, 2016. My first post as a college student!
It was a normal day in my college writing class until my teacher (she calls herself our “captain”) threw an unexpected group project on us 40 minutes before class ended. The assignment was to collaborate and come up with a problem and offer a solution.
Unfortunately, I was partnered with three students who all displayed obvious discomfort and lack of confidence with this assignment. I could sense their lack of motivation right away, so I pulled out my laptop and started researching ideas. Figuring out an issue took half the time, and the last half was spent trying to come up with possible solutions. Now, I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but truly my colleagues offered little to no solutions, and I came up with all the ideas. Two of them sat there staring into space and one was just laughing about it.
Recognizing that this assignment was important because of extra credit for the winning group, I had to take charge. I offered to give the presentation on the day it was due if they would research and come up with some more details on how to solve the problem (homelessness in Salem) and email them to me. I would put all of the info into a constructed presentation.
Sounds reasonable, right? They looked relieved when I offered to do the technical work.
With everyone’s part of the project delegated, I gave them my email address, so that they could send me their findings by the next afternoon. (The presentation was due Thursday).
I got nervous and started doing my own work. Eventually, this happened:
I had already made a bit of progress when partner #1 emailed me. He gave some random paragraphs which had no links to where he found the data; and he offered zero solutions. So I replied, saying thank you and asking for clarification and more help…
Then Partner #2 emailed me about 3 sentences saying, “couldn’t really think of anything else.”
And partner #3 sent me nothing…
I became frustrated as I realized nobody was taking it seriously and that I was going to be doing all of the work. But I pushed through and completed the assignment in a few hours that night. I emailed my colleagues again to see if they’d like to suggest any changes to the proposal, and they didn’t.
Before class, two of my classmates asked me how the assignment went. I explained to them how stressed I felt and how I was dreading the presenation. “It’s gonna suck. It’s really subpar,” I explained. Because that was truly how I felt.
I approached my teacher, telling her exactly what had happened, because there was extra credit on the line for this assignment. I felt it would be wrong to let any of my parteners take credit for what I had done. She thanked me and said, “Wow, in all my years of teaching this class, I’ve never had this happen. They won’t be receiving the same amount of credit as you.”
My teacher had a chat with my partners, and we decided that I would present the proposal on my own. I was going to be my “own group.”
So while every other team walked to the podium as a group of 3-5 kids, I gave mine by myself…And that was a very unsettling feeling for me…I felt that I was being looked at differently and the I was at a disadvantage. At the same time, though, I was glad that I was presenting my work as my own.
So, after I read my proposal with the most passion that I could, I looked up, everyone started clapping, and my captain looked proudly at me. She pounded her fist on her desk, saying, “Politician, Jessica! You’re going to change politics!” Now, I don’t know exactly what she meant. BUT, to get that woman to smile and react was a great feeling. (She’s a tough cookie).
Here’s where it got interesting. It came time to offer constructive feedback and criticism to each group one by one, and I was NERVOUS to be criticized…I’m awfully hard on myself when it comes to the quality of my work (and really everything else I do).
“What did you all think of Jessica’s proposal on how to solve homelessness?” Ms. Tobey asked the class.
Much to my surprise, nothing but positive feedback was given! My captain even said, “You constructed it perfectly! That could almost be handed in as an essay.” These words from her are a big deal. Again, she’s not an easy judge.
“But why were you the only one alone?”one boy asked. An awkward silence fell across the room, my partners hung their heads, and before I could say anything, my captain said, “Well, she was a voyager left on her own…”
After everything was over, I was finally feeling better about my work. I had received so much validation. And then it was time to vote for which proposal was best. And that group would all receive extra credit.
I handed in my vote, went outside during our 10 minute break, and walked back in to see this:
See that? “Group Jessica” won. And after all the criticism I put on my self; after all the frustration I felt; after all the nerves of standing up there on my own; this voyager took the victory. And this lone voyager received extra credit, validation from her captain and her peers. Most of all, this voyager learned not to be so hard on herself in the future. And that hard work and late nights pay off. Sometimes we just have to try our best given our circumstances.
“Today had a lot of firsts for me. In all my years of teaching this class, I’ve never had someone get left to do all the work on their own. And I’ve also never had anyone WIN by THAT many points. Give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to a milkshake ” – Captain Chris Tobey