It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Momma Bear is Grumpy

Time for a completely un-daycare-related rant.

Group Projects. Group projects for 12-year-olds in particular.

My daughter has had two of them this term. In the first, her partner was only available to work on it during the class periods devoted to it, though the teacher had made it clear that more time would be required to do it properly. Despite her repeated efforts, Emma could not arrange an evening or weekend meeting. The other girl had piano lessons, swim lessons, drama practice and tae kwon do. (When does she do homework? When does she get to rest and relax, hang out and do nothing? Poor kid.)

This current project: While Emma and her new partner, Nina, (assigned, not chosen) have managed to get together many times, it is clear from this mother’s perspective that only one of them was producing much of anything. Two nights before the project was due, the girls got together here. At 8:00, they pronounced themselves “done!”, all ready for their presentation.

The following night, Emma was up till 10 – well past her schoolnight bedtime – finishing the t-shirts and the pictures that Nina was to have done, which Nina said she had finished. Items which Emma only discovered were unfinished during school that day.

“Why isn’t Nina doing this?”

Emma rolls her eyes. “Because she has ‘stuff’ to do.”

Okay, then. For this project, Emma has
– made two bristol board displays of pictures,
– decorated two t-shirts,
– compiled a tape of sound samples,
– written a dozen descriptions of instruments and mounted them
– made the answer sheet for the quiz she had designed.

Together, the girls have practiced their spoken presentation, gone to the library to photocopy their answer sheet, and, working at my dining room table with me overseeing, Nina has written five descriptions and made a word-search puzzle.

On her own, Nina has done…


Nothing at all.

When they present, they will both receive the same mark.

I know what group projects are supposed to do. I was a teacher once, remember? They are supposed to teach teamwork, division of labour, problem-solving, all that worthy stuff. However, they simply do NOT teach any of that stuff, without an overseeing adult to guide the children into these lessons. The teacher MUST oversee the division of labour, must, at this level, monitor to see if each child is fulfilling her obligations.

Emma doesn’t have the authority to make Nina produce what she committed to produce. If Nina won’t do it, what is her recourse? Why, the teacher, you say! Wrong. When Emma tried to get some help, the teacher said only “This is a group project. You have to work it out between the two of you.” No guidance provided as to just how this might be accomplished; no helping them through the necessary discussion; no following up to see if they did indeed manage it. Just, “Sort it out on your own.” Well, that’s very helpful.

So what happens when one child refuses to do their share? Obviously, the other child, the one who cares, does it all.

What is Emma learning so far?

She’s learning that she hates group projects.
She’s learning that if she wants something done, she’d best do it herself.
She’s learning not to rely on her classmates.
She’s learning not to rely on the teacher.

In short, she’s learning exactly the opposite of what a group project is supposed to teach.


December 11, 2005 Posted by | my kids | 17 Comments