Saturday, April 21, 2012


I am not a team player. I be neither a borrower nor a lender. I do not share well. I am happy to take my toys and go home. Yet, I still manage to occasionally feign being a productive member of society.

So what's the deal with kids these days being forced to "work collaboratively" on project after project? Does it really take more than one 10 year old to google a few facts about the state capital of North Dakota, print out pictures, and glue stick them to a poster board? I am trying to raise my children to be self-sustaining citizens. If they can't count on Social Security and Medicare being there for them, why should they be held hostage to whether a classmate remembers to save the report on her flashdrive in preparation for the next day's report, or whether a boy's mom has the starter yeast for the Amish Friendship Bread to represent Pennsylvania in the food festival? My children have been trained from an early age that while mommy will not step foot in your classroom or take even a token interest in your homework, she will go to Target on her lunch break and buy printer paper, Sharpies, and even the occasional dry erase board off the sale rack.

When I was in school, I do not recall being herded into groups under the pretense of demonstrating how the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It isn't. Let's be honest. Groups are made of two types of people: Bossy ones and lazy ones. I get the feeling that my children simultaneously fall into both categories: Bossy when foisting their ideas on the group, and subsequently lazy (and bitter) when their ideas are summarily rejected. Total chips off the old block.

Back in my day, the one "group" in which we were required to participate was for team sports. The nonverbal cue that we were to "work together" was the fact that we were also forced to wear identical outfits. Team sports are basically a group project with uniforms and an audience thrown into the mix. There were the dominant ("bossy") kids who had a natural affinity for the sport, and the chubby ("lazy") kids who died a slow, painful death every day at practice or games. To add to the futility of it all, the sports we had to endure were field hockey and lacrosse: two forms of recreation that we would never again encounter in any aspect of our lives. Ever.   

Despite the grueling years of pointless preppy physical pursuits, I noticed that my cohort of high school classmates includes a large spattering of lawyers, doctors and professors. Heavy on the bossy, light on the lazy. Alumni notes make little mention of professions where group skills might come in handy, such as camp counselor or NBA player. 

Oftentimes, I would be blissfully unaware of my son having any group assignments. I would be cruelly edified of the fact only at the end of the semester, when my son has to do a "self-assessment" of his accomplishments and future goals for the upcoming semester, school year, and, presumably, retirement. My son, knowing this "self-assessment" was being handed in to his teacher after being forced to share it with me (yes, I have to sign off that I reviewed it with him), would stick in a vague goal about "working better in groups." Me, ever the probing psychologist, am compelled to delve into this goal: "Who else was in the group?"I ask, as I guzzle some Pinot Noir and stick a spoon in a jar of peanut butter. It seems to go without saying that teachers lump "learners of different styles" together in these groups, resulting in him invariably being assigned to work with a number of take-charge girls, and attentionally challenged boys. He lists the others kids in his group. "Say no more," I assure him, and sign off on the "self-assessment."

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