Friday, September 16, 2011

Hello, Self

I'm due to give birth in 5 weeks so I'll spare you the promises to write more. Now let's dig in...

I'm in an accelerated program to earn my elementary education degree. I chose the program because I only take one class at a time (lending me some focus) but they are only 5 weeks long (supporting my 4.5 week long attention span). I love the intensity and so far I've been successful. I'm taking 10 weeks off for pregnancy/baby very soon and then I'll be back on track to student teach next fall.

The only part of the program that is not working for me is the grouping aspect. Learning Team work consists of at least 30% of my grade for every. single. class. I finally have myself together as a student so I am actually not bringing anyone else's grade down (which was my fear when I first started). HURRAY! Instead, half of our original cohort proved incapable of completing work, collaborating, finishing what they start, taking ownership, etc.

I managed to avoid working with the people that did not complete their team assignments for almost a year but that's no longer possible. The last 3 weeks have been hard on all of us. For me it has been very difficult because the man in my group that is struggling uses the same excuses I used 5 years ago. Every time we talk it's like talking to my former self.

"I didn't know I was supposed to [follow the instructions laid out in the syllabus]."
"I didn't have time to turn it in."
"I know it's not an excuse but..."
"I'll finish my work 3 days early this week. Just watch!"

And, most painful for me to hear, "I don't need help. I'll do better next time and I'll do it all by myself."

It is a tricky balance. I know exactly why he has accidentally posted the incorrect document twice: he waited until the last second, spent time floundering, didn't know what to do, and when he realized it was already 6 hours late he panicked. I can see very clearly why he has done things that have made it impossible for him to earn a good grade, despite his time and efforts. But he can't trust that I understand, especially when he doesn't understand yet himself. And empathy only worsens his anxiety/upset.

So, as the team leader, I try to work openly with everyone about what their needs are and help manuever everyone into a place where they can succede. I offer help. Then I spell out expectations and consequences and let him make his own choices. I can't drag him (or anyone else) to success in their schooling.

Perhaps one of the things I see most vividly is that "success" for this classmate might mean he flunks out. Heck, it took me 10 years of flailing about in college and life before I finally hit the real successes of understanding my ADHD, understanding my values, and start learning how to grow my strengths while acknowledging my limitations.