We learn even at a young age of Elementary school days that working with other people is going to be a part of our lives forever. You may be working with three other children to share the purple play-dough (why was that one always the only sparkly color?) or working with other students on a intensive final project. Whether you’re writing up a proposal with your colleagues or creating a presentation and 20 page paper with your classmates, you need to lean to communicate effectively and share responsibilities. This also goes hand in hand with being responsible and equally contributing to your group’s work and efforts. No one likes that one group member who rides the coat tails of their ambitious group members to that ending “A”. Even if your group members are a bit over bearing about “claiming” parts of the project, speak up and step your foot in. You need to show your professor that you worked equally as hard as your group members and contributed. This shows that you understand the subject matter and caught on to the concepts he/she wanted you to get from the activity.
Being an awesome classmate makes not only your classmate’s lives easier (no one likes making up the extra work that an under-inspired classmate failed to do at the last second) but also makes your life easier as well. You’ll have more concentration on your project and will be able to work with your group members to make your project not only grade-acceptable, but also a set apart from the rest. Make your project stand out and use your personality. Take advantage of all the different mindsets within your group and come up with an interesting and innovative way to present your content to the class. If you want to make sure you’re being the best, most awesome-est classmate you can be, go down this checklist to make sure you make the grade.
1) Be Prepared- Notice how this is number one on almost all of our survival guidelines? That’s because it’s important to almost everything you do in life. Being un-prepared leaves for uncertainty which can lead to quite the mess. It’s one thing to be un-prepared for your own grade, but when you’re working with a group of other people, their grade depends on you, too. You don’t want to jeopardize their grade just because you didn’t feel like writing your portion of the paper or were too busy catching up on The Real Housewives to contribute appropriately. Show up to class, everyday. If you need to miss because you’re ill or have another engagement, e-mail all of your classmates to inform them and send them any of your work that you’ve done. Make sure you have an open line of communication with them so that all messages get delivered clearly. Also, do your reading and bring your materials. If you have to go to the library to get credible book sources, do that.
2) Try not to “pair off”- This happens in any kind of group activity; one student will realize they have more in common with one of the others and they will pair off to bring their own visions to reality. This is a problem because there are more than two people in your group and you all need to communicate openly. Make sure that you’re involving EVERYONE in that vision, and not just the two of you. You never know, the other group members may actually really like your idea and have some awesome touches to add to it. As a group, you can really make your content polish. More critical eyes serve as a fine-tooth comb filtering out any mistakes, typos or gaps in judgement within your argument or presentation. Don’t discredit those other members, get to know them and work with them. The last thing you’d want to do is pair off and then have two different halves of a project and try to tie them together seamlessly on presentation day. Your presentation will be choppy, and only half of you will know what you’re talking about.
3) Stop Making Excuses, Meet Up! Look, I get it. After class you just want to go home and dive head first into a sea full of blankets and pillows on your bed. You want to stuff your face with Ramen Noodles, throw your huge slippers on and lounge until it’s homework time. If it’s the weekend, you want your brain to be as far away from school as it can get. The thought of meeting up with your group members early Saturday morning on campus is about as appealing as finding a cockroach in your Kellogs. Stop being a grouch! You have plenty of time to lounge around and be cozy, so meet up with your classmates and knock the work out of the ballpark. The sooner you get it done, the more time you have to relax. If you sleep in, you’ll still have the work to do at another time, so you might as well get it done as soon as possible! And stop looking at your classmates as “classmates”. That sets them into their own category from your social circle, which makes it feel like a “task” to go study with them. If you were going to study with your best friend in the library at 8 A.M. Saturday morning it wouldn’t be as bad, right? So try to get to know your classmates and be their friend. You might see that you really get a long with them and enjoy working together. If you must, wear your slippers. No one’s judging (except maybe the librarian).
4) Don’t be Judgemental, be Polite and Constructive- Working in a group of students from different mindsets and with different ideas often times can get a bit sticky. I think this is why so many people dread group work. You never really know who you’re going to have in your group with you, and that leads to a bit of uncertainty. You may have 5 really strong-minded people in your group who all think their idea is the best thing ever thought of in the entire world. You may even be one of those people. If this is the case, here’s what you do. On day one, sit down and break up the responsibilities. See how many sections there are, how many sources are needed, and divide them evenly amongst the group. ALL parts of the project are equally as important, so don’t let anyone add more on to your workload because they feel like it “isn’t enough”. As long as the work is divided evenly, then all classmates should be doing their part. If there is conflict over an idea, make sure you approach the situation sensitively. If you tell someone that their idea is “stupid” you’re not only being offensive, but also confrontational. Comments such as that only discourage your group mates and provide no constructive value to the project. Each member should come up with 1-3 ideas for everyone to pass around and share. Then, a group vote and consensus can be made for a fair selection.
5- Be Fun, Friendly and Relatable- Besides doing all of your work and contributing, there’s still more you can do to be an awesome classmate. I know you’re thinking, “What?! More work?” but in all honesty, these tips are something you could really incorporate into your social skills in general. Being closed off, quiet and shy can sometimes make you seem a little standoffish and to yourself, which could halt the communication process or even start it from occurring. Be fun and friendly to work with so that everyone feels comfortable talking to you and being themselves around you. This is most important if you have someone in your group who is very quiet and shy. They WANT to interact with the group, they just may be a bit more shy than the rest. It doesn’t mean they’re mean, don’t like you or don’t want to contribute, they just need a little extra nudge to get them out of their shell. Here’s where you come in! See what they like, what they don’t like. Work with them on the ideas and maybe speak with them on those things to deliver a consensus of your opinions to the rest of the group. The purpose of the group project is to get everyone involved, so if that means working a little more with someone a bit more shy to make sure that happens, do that! You’ll feel rewarded making a new friend who may actually end up being super sweet and funny and maybe you’ll even meet someone you can hang out with outside of class. Make sure everyone’s comfortable. That goes hand in hand with not letting anyone make you feel uncomfortable. You’re just as important as the rest of your group members, so work constructively, together.