posted April 15, 2015 12:08 PM by
posted April 12, 2015 3:58 PM by
We have two weeks left in the spring semester. Two weeks! But is that going to keep my friends and me from going out when we have course work and final projects looming over us? Absolutely not!
I'll keep this brief, because now that I've spent all of today procrastinating my work, I should probably start doing it. (Well, I probably should have started doing it at the beginning of the term, as recommended, but it's too late now.)
Here was our day in pictures:
Brunch at Scollay Square. Evidence of cocktails omitted.
Me and fellow SLIS student Amanda Baker, Massachusetts State House in the background.
Photo courtesy of Samantha Quiñon, all rights reserved, 2015.
SLIS student Christina Benedictus "shooting the duck" on Boston Common.
Photo courtesy of Meaghan Kinton, all rights reserved, 2015
And then we went to the movies and saw The Longest Ride, but really we just went to look at Scott Eastwood.
He's a good actor, okay? Meme by Sara Davis.
posted April 10, 2015 3:33 PM by
I am a student at SLIS. I have two young children. They take a lot of time and attention. I am their primary caregiver.
My first two semesters at SLIS, I intentionally scheduled classes and schoolwork in such a way that it barely impacted my kids. Everything was done while they were at (their) school. Even my library shifts are primarily during their school hours, and a grandparent typically picks them up when I work later. Things are much easier for me when the girls' schedule isn't disrupted.
Not so much from now on. I'm pretty much done with required courses, which are offered at a variety of days and times each semester. From now on, I'll be taking classes that are only offered once a semester, or even once every other semester (or even once every two years, but I don't even want to think about that). This means that I have very little choice as to when I go to school, and my kids' schedule will now depend on my schedule, instead of the other way around.
So when the Fall 2015 schedule came out, I had some choices to make.
Option #1: take back to back classes Monday afternoon and evening, and find someone to pick the girls up from school, bring one to and from gymnastics, feed them dinner, and put them to bed (Andrew often works Monday nights).
Option #2: take back to back classes on Thursday afternoon and evening, and find someone to pick the girls up from school and hang out with them/feed them dinner until Andrew gets home from work (around 7pm).
Option #3: take a Thursday afternoon class and one online class, which means I only have to find someone to pick them up and watch them until 4:30 (many more options when the time is only an hour and half -- a friend, a babysitter, a grandmother, aftercare at school).
Andrew voted for Option #3 (while saying he would support whatever I wanted to do -- but acknowledging that Option #3 would be better for the family), and the girls would certainly vote for #3 if they had a vote. I am torn. Option #1 is pretty much out, because there's just too much to do around here on Mondays to leave it to a babysitter. Option #2 sounds good, and #3 is good too, but I'd really rather take an in-person class than an online class. So my vote is split between #2 and #3.
But whose vote is most important? Shouldn't it be my choice to take the classes I want to take, the way I want to take them? Actually, no. Part of going back to school in my 40s, starting a second career, is knowing that my family actually does come first for me. It's OK to have their concerns in mind when I'm figuring out my class schedule. And I really, really wish that the classes I wanted to take were offered at 9am -- but they're not. So we'll all deal with it.
Are there other parent/students out there struggling with scheduling and family? I'd love to hear from you!
posted April 9, 2015 9:49 AM by
As I mentioned last week, April seems to be the month of literally everything being due.
My biggest struggle--like every semester--is trying to learn to write for particular professors. I have my own writing style. I use it when I blog. I use it when I do my NaNoWriMo months. I use it in emails and Facebooks posts. I write the same way pretty much everywhere. But when I have to write for class, I try to spruce it up. Most people realize that you speak in different "registers" depending on who you're speaking with: friends, family, professors, clergy, strangers. This also tends to happen with writing. When I write for school, I try to focus on certain facets of writing which I pretty much ignore otherwise. These facets are generally concepts I've been taught in school: don't use "I" in academic papers, don't end sentences with prepositions, make sure you have a thesis, avoid passive voice, and other "standard English" rules.
However, one thing I always seem to forget is the subjectiveness of writing and the ultimate determination of the professor. Since I have my undergraduate degree in English Teaching you would think I'd remember this from my own days of grading essays. I don't. I also read a lot of young adult books. Young adult books have the benefit of not needing to be pretentious. They can drop literary writing styles without doing away with excellent, fluid writing. Sure, there are also books which are simply not well-written, but there are so many books which just use a different style than adults are used to. I think I tend to adopt more of a YA style of writing than an "adult" style.
Professors get to judge whether something is well-written or not. They can make assumptions on how much time and effort a student put into a piece based on their subjective decision about the quality of the work. This has created a mindset of "writing for a professor". As I mentioned last week, I have 24 papers due in one class. I really need to know how to write for this specific professor. But I don't. She's given me some feedback which is really valuable. However, overall I still don't feel like I know what she's looking for.
So here's the revolutionary idea I'm going to use to write my essays. I'm trying to write what the papers deserve. That's really what professors want, right? They want to know that the assignment was undertaken with full dedication and seriousness. They want us to apply the concepts we've learned to show that we have, in fact, learned the concepts. So instead of focusing on my professor, I'm focusing on the work itself. Ultimately, it's the best I can do. Wish me luck.
All the Best - Hayley
posted April 4, 2015 2:43 PM by
For a few hours every Thursday I have started to go to the archives of Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre (JMBT), which has its facilities in the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, a beautiful field stone building in the American Gothic Revival style just off of Harvard Square. There, two other SLIS students and I are taking an inventory before processing the collections, as part of a grant-funded project to process the archives of many of Cambridge's dance companies.
Two weeks ago, my first time seeing the JMBT archives, I knew our goal was ambitious. The collections comprise everything from institutional records, to costumes and props, to old promotional material and performance recordings. They are crammed into four large rooms in different parts of the church, much like I imagine industrial-sized, hastily packed storage lockers to be (if such things exist).
Battling through the dust and teetering piles of boxes, we have to move records around Tetris style to wind our way from item to item before noting it in our spreadsheet.
Admittedly, this style of inventory is challenging and not always fun, but it's getting easier as we continue to work. At the same time, it's very exciting to be involved with this kind of project. There isn't a lot of money for dance heritage, so dance archives are in a grey area where standards are still evolving. Also, companies in Boston and Cambridge have largely been overlooked and overshadowed by those in larger cities. Given these challenges, it's a great feeling to learn alongside more experienced archivists and to be able to contribute to the profession while best practice guidelines are still elastic and being developed.
Above: A corner in the "Nutcracker Room" of the JMBT Archives.
Photo by Samantha Quiñon, 2015, all rights reserved.
posted April 3, 2015 10:29 AM by
As I've written before, I keep a log of all the books I read. I don't really do anything with the list, though. Occasionally I'll have trouble remembering an author or title and it comes in handy, but it's more just something I do for no particular reason.
At the beginning of this year, I read Jessamyn West's blog post about the way she tracks her reading, and decided to give it a try. A cursory look back at 2014 made me think that my reading was pretty evenly distributed between male/female authors, fiction/nonfiction, and authors of color (the categories she tracks). So, for the first three months of 2015, I tracked all that information, sure I would come out with a diverse, inclusive list.
I was kind of wrong, and kind of surprised about that.
Here's what I read in January, February and March 2015:
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Euphoria by Lily King
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Active Bodies by Martha H. Verbrugge
Will's New World by Arthur C. Hodges
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Snowflake Bentley by Gloria May Stoddard
Honeydew by Edith Pearlman
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
The End of Eve by Ariel Gore
My list is pretty evenly split between fiction and nonfiction (7/9), but the authors are almost entirely female (14/2) and white (13/3) -- I thought there would be more male authors and authors of color. However, I don't want to get hung up on those particular categories -- this list includes books by authors who are young, old, LGBTQ, famous and obscure (including a self-published book by a friend of my father). There are a few current bestsellers and some that were published many years ago. In the last three months, I read novels, memoirs, academic nonfiction, YA and a very helpful parenting book. So, even though the list skewed white female, I feel like my reading is pretty varied and includes different perspectives, which is important to me.
We'll see what the rest of 2015 holds.
posted April 2, 2015 9:49 AM by
As always, the final full month of a semester is filled with the insanity of every class wanting to fit in the rest of the assignments before class is officially over. I have papers upon papers (seriously, I have 24 papers due in one class this month--short papers, but still 24 of them) and a few rogue assignments as well as discussion board posts.
So what do I decide to do?
Camp NaNoWriMo. Camp is the equivalent of regular National Novel Writing Month, however, it occurs twice (April and July), and people are free to set their own word count goal. Writers can also work on a variety of works, a novel isn't the only option.
I've also been enjoying the presence of two friends who have moved in with me. Hence, my life has become unexpectedly busy.
I've been enjoying walking with the warm weather. I also started listening to podcasts! I had downloaded several podcasts to listen to during the 43 hour drive from Montana, but I didn't end up listening to very many. Now I've become obsessed with Stuff You Missed in History Class. It allows me to listen to something without totally blocking out the noise of traffic and people. I like to be able to hear if someone tries to get my attention or wants to run me over.
Do you listen to podcasts? Leave me a link to the best in the comments!
All the Best - Hayley
posted April 1, 2015 10:14 AM by
Rogue librarianship. That's what I discovered this past week and it was glorious.
I recently had the good fortune to meet a librarian who is subject to scandal in the funniest way possible. While I won't share the librarian's name or identity, I did gain permission to tell you all about my new acquaintance's mischievous antics.
Some of you might be familiar with the blog "Awful Library Books." In case you aren't, the blog showcases found library materials that are out-of-date, offensive, or just plain weird, making it a great site for a daily giggle. Some recent featured titles include "The Breakthrough Fish Taxidermy Manual" and the curious "The Hospital Doctors, Nurses, and Mystery Workers." The situation that I share with you began as preparation for this site: as a frequent submitter, the rogue used the Boston Public Library's tagging feature available in their catalog to keep track of strange titles worthy of future "Awful Library Books." Anonymously, the librarian added the tag "awful library book" to items that they wanted to scan and submit to the site later on. The tag did not go unnoticed, however. My acquaintance was emailed (through the BPL catalog) by several librarians at the Boston Public Library who were none too happy about this label, especially as they initially had no idea that the tagger in question was a fellow librarian.
Then, a reporter at Boston.com picked up the story and wrote an article about both the "Awful Library Books" blog and catalog tag, explaining the practice of weeding books to the general public. The BPL librarian interviewed sounds a lot more understanding and light-humored than he allegedly was when he contacted my new acquaintance. I definitely recommend giving the article a quick read, if only to discover more very strange titles that the Boston Public Library still has in circulation "for research purposes."
While the whole situation is rather outrageous with its anonymous vigilante, angry librarians, and media interest, it definitely brings up real questions about the weeding practices within public libraries. Specifically with the Boston Public Library, which maintains a massive off-site storage building that supposedly houses these weed-worthy titles and whose main Copley Square building is currently undergoing a massive renovation, it brings up a lot of questions regarding the institution's priorities. Where do we draw the line between archival significance and materials that are out-of-date, ridiculous, and simply taking up valuable space? Are titles like "Why Cats Paint" really that important for research purposes?
Let me know what you think, or at the very least enjoy the cringe-worthy titles in the various links I've shared.
posted March 30, 2015 7:48 AM by
posted March 29, 2015 10:44 AM by
My takeaway from the 2015 Simmons College Graduate Student Symposium: I should go to more events on campus.
Logistically, it's easiest for me to come to campus only when I have class, so that's pretty much what I do. Earlier this winter I submitted a paper to the Graduate Student Symposium, and was happy to be selected, even though I knew it would require a little schedule juggling on my part. So, this past Friday (not usually a school day for me!), I arranged for my kids to go home from school with friends (thank you, Alenka and Caroline!) and made my way over to Simmons for the afternoon, hoping that the logistical challenge would be worth it.
It was so completely worth it. So. Completely. Worth. It. The symposium was well organized and the presentations were professional, interesting and relevant. I ran into several classmates I haven't seen this semester due to opposite course schedules (hello, Celeste, Gretyl and Jahan!) and met SLIS students with whom I've never crossed paths. I was impressed with the breadth and depth of the presentations, even (especially?) the topics I knew little about. It was also fun to talk about my own area of interest -- summer reading programs at public libraries -- and I got some great ideas from post-presentation discussions, which I'll test on my own kids this summer (oh, the benefits of having kids when you're training to be a children's librarian!).
Participating in the symposium made me realize that I should make more of an effort to attend events on campus, even on the days I don't have class. Between faculty lectures, student organization meetings and career forums, there's at least one event each week that sounds great. I'll work on that -- part of being at SLIS should include taking advantage of all that Simmons has to offer, which is really quite a lot.
posted March 28, 2015 9:09 AM by
Many bloggers on this site, myself included, have written about how group projects and teamwork are the bedrock of many SLIS courses. But what if you are taking a class online? Does that change? Not at all. Online students do just as much group work as face-to-face students, except sometimes they have to get more creative to accomplish their goals and finish projects.
This semester I am taking Metadata (LIS-445OL) online. A good friend of mine took it in person with the same professor in the fall. After the class got started, I showed him the syllabus and asked if he saw any major differences between the work for the face-to-face class and the work for the online one. He said the professor used different examples for some exercises, but that all the assignments and modules were the same, and I was happy to hear this.
At the beginning of the semester, I worked with my group to compare our individual work against each other's. This ensured we were all taking away the same lessons from class. Now that we're more than halfway through, we recently did a presentation together on a niche metadata standard called PBCore. Normally we would have met in person and divided up the work, but since we have group members who do not live locally in Boston, we used forums on Moodle (SLIS's online learning platform), Google Docs, Google Slides, and e-mail to communicate and share documents. This is my first online class, and I was surprised that presentation we handed in was just as good as any I've done in other groups for on-campus classes. This also says a lot of about my group though. I'm really grateful that the members dropped what they were doing when a new piece of communication about the project came through. It was a tough week of work, but well worth it.
posted March 23, 2015 11:56 AM by
Okay, well, I'm technically a library clerk, and a part-time one at that. But still, it's a start! I started my first shift at the Boston Architectural College tonight and I am extremely excited to sit in their high stools behind the reference desk and do a whole lot of homework on the catalog computers!
To be serious though, this is my first real job in a library since I was a shelver during my freshman year in undergrad. Throughout the night, everything felt so familiar and yet so incredibly different. For example, I worked at the humanities library at my college, which was absolutely massive and contained the bulk of their print resources. Here, most of the stacks start with NA, and the periodicals seemingly take up half of the library's collection. But even with the limited amount of call number prefixes, there is so much to explore. We have closed stacks and reserve titles that hold so much promise. During my break I scanned the closed stacks and saw titles on theatre architecture, Japanese gardens, and ancient Rome. If I weren't already working full time and trying to finish my internship via LIS438, I'd want to enroll in a few classes here at the BAC.
The one part of the job that I find a little daunting could be the reference aspect, which is probably the biggest aspect of the job other than manning the check out scanner. I have little to no architectural knowledge - I know enough to sing along to Simon and Garkfunkel's "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" - so I'm hoping that I learn just as much as the students do here on a daily basis. Thankfully, my fellow library clerk is a former student and current teacher so I can unabashedly hide behind her if my database searching skills fail me. So everyone, please wish me luck and maybe I'll include some fun architecture trivia in my next post.
As an addendum, sadly I don't have any updates on the love triangle mystery that I discovered during my archival internship. I'm worried that if I do research on the World War II soldier in question, I will learn something that will break my heart. So once I find the courage, I'll let you all know!
posted March 21, 2015 11:53 AM by
Only after experiencing this week, the first week back at SLIS after Spring Break, can I now fully express why Spring Break is a myth. As an adult in graduate school, I was not expecting beaches and cocktails with umbrellas in them, but I was looking forward to some sort of respite.
Here's why that didn't happen:
- Boston broke the record for most snow in a winter that week. And then the weather was great long enough for me to wear non-construction worker boots for all of a day for the first time in months before I had to ditch the cute shoes.
- All of my friends were either out of town or took a five-day short course on corporate library management, so I couldn't really socialize with anyone.
- I still had to go to work and my internship.
- I had a paper due over the break for one class and another group assignment due two days after.
- Everyone acted like I should have been very rested and refreshed this week, when the only difference between the two weeks was that I did not have to go to the only class I have in person on the main campus. So basically, I had a four-hour Spring Break. But I'm not complaining, because I got to sleep in, so it was a great four hours.
posted March 20, 2015 9:08 AM by
Last week, my husband, Andrew, our daughters Katherine (8) and Sophie (6) and I took a short trip. Between the four of us, we took the following reading material:
- Seven magazine back issues: The New Yorker (Andrew and me), High-Five (Sophie), Cricket (Katherine) and American Libraries (me).
- The previous Sunday's New York Times (I only read Sunday Styles, but I think Andrew read most of the rest of the paper).
- Honeydew by Edith Pearlman. Edith is a good friend of my mother-in-law, and also an amazing writer. Her books have been nominated for (and won) many prizes, and her newest collection of short stories is outstanding. I recommend it highly.
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I've heard lots about this book, but never felt I needed it, since my kids have always been pretty good talkers and listeners. However, a few recent episodes made me think I should check it out (literally, from the library), and I have to say, it's pretty great and the strategies totally work!
- Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. This tremendous book was recommended by the librarian at the girls' school. I read it out loud to Katherine and Sophie and we finished it in about two days.
- School Days According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney. I read this entertaining and pleasant book out loud on the plane home. I'm sure our fellow passengers were thrilled (and would be even more thrilled if they knew there were 12 Humphrey books all together!).
- Table of Contents by John McPhee. This was Andrew's, and he kept reading snippets out loud. I think John McPhee is excellent; my favorite book of his is Coming into the Country.
- Katherine, an avid reader, brought some books of her own: a Warrior Cats book, and something she got from the Porter Square Books Fresh Ink program.
I'm not really sure what this assortment of books, magazines and newspapers says about my family, except that I'm no longer in the "buy a People Magazine in the airport" phase of life. I guess I'm just really glad that my whole family likes to read.
What do you read when you travel?
posted March 19, 2015 4:26 PM by
Before moving out here, I was too stressed out by the moving process to even think about many things to do in Boston. When I got here, I was dedicated to my classes and getting back home at a somewhat reasonable hour since I was used to an 8 minute commute and had to transition to an hour commute.
However, with two friends moving out here, and my growing irritation at cool things happening without my knowledge, I've tried to be more adventurous over the last few weeks.
I tried to go to a signing for Marie Rutkowski, author of the amazing Winner's Trilogy, but alas her plane was cancelled.
I did go to the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. For being in relatively small buildings (think a traditionally sized college campus building), they both had extensive collections. I particularly appreciated the glass flowers in the HMNH and the first level of exhibits in the Peabody. I hope that the Peabody receives funding to remodel their other two floors!
I even went out on St. Patrick's Day! We went to Ned Devine's, which I was informed by two separate people is "touristy". Alas, I'll never grow into a true Bostonian. But I still managed to have a couple pints of Guinness and enjoy some great food and music.
Today, I'm going to the MIT Communications Forum where Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling and fellow Simmons alum, will be discussing the prevalence of dystopias in young adult literature.
With my focus on school, I occasionally forget all the cool opportunities available to me simply by living near Boston. I want to take advantage of my time here. I have no idea where I'll end up when I graduate because I have no idea what kind of job I'll find. Hopefully, I'll remember to keep track of all the neat events and places around me.
Know of something cool coming up in Boston? Let me know in the comments! I'd love to see you there!
posted March 16, 2015 4:23 PM by
posted March 15, 2015 12:25 PM by
My friends and I have a sort of tradition, though I don't know if that's really the proper word. Maybe it's habit or ritual or pattern. Anyway, I'm talking about how we always congregate monthly at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) for its "First Fridays" event, which happens on the evening of --you guessed it-- the first Friday of every month. We do this for many reasons. First of all, the MFA is beautiful, and it's a completely different experience seeing it lit up at night. It's also only about two blocks from the main campus, so the location is convenient. Additionally, we all get in for free with our Simmons student IDs. (This is also true at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which is literally right next door.)
Just to reiterate: We have an amazing museum nearby open late with plenty to explore and free admission. If those aren't enough reasons to go, the event also sells drinks for a reasonable price (rare in Boston) and has a tasty assortment of light snacks. On top of that, a deejay spins music, which people more inclined (or intoxicated) than I am to dance seem to enjoy. All of this serves as the backdrop for a night when my friends and I catch up and forget about pressing assignments.
So if you're ever in the neighborhood when the event is happening, feel free to join us. We're the slightly tipsy, nerdy, dressed down patrons huddled together walking room to room either in awe of the artwork or making snarky, elitist jokes about it (which incidentally is a great way to blow off steam).
A view of First Friday from the third floor of the MFA. Photo by Samantha Quiñon. All rights reserved 2015.
posted March 13, 2015 3:00 PM by
Jessamyn West, who lives in Vermont and blogs at www.librarian.net, is really great. Her most recent blog post details two presentations she gave to local parents, one on apps used by teens and one on internet safety. There are so many great things about her presentations:
- A librarian is proactively meeting with members of her community to introduce and discuss issues around technology.
- She's helping parents keep current with technology used by teens today. I think it's super important for parents to know what their kids are doing, but I'm sure many parents aren't exactly sure how to go about getting that knowledge.
- Jessamyn herself had to learn a new technology to give this presentation (Snapchat). She's a pioneer in library technology (maybe that is overstating it, but she certainly knows a lot) and she still had to learn something new! It's all about lifelong education.
- Because of her presentations, local parents talked with each other, shared strategies and ideas, and generally built community. Look what librarians can do!
One of my classmates in 488 (Technology for Information Professionals) recently made the point that adults have to be authentic and knowledgeable when discussing and using technology with teens. As librarians (and personally, as a parent) we should make every effort to know about the technologies teens are using. I'd love to attend a presentation like the one Jessamyn West gave -- anyone out there interested in teaching it?
posted March 9, 2015 11:35 AM by
I've been thinking about the phrase "I have a lot on my plate" lately. It seems like if my schedule were this figurative plate, it would look like I just left an all-you-can-eat buffet. In the last week I have ended a job, started a new job, worked a shift of my internship, and set up an interview for a possible second part-time job at an academic library... All while trying to keep up with my school work. In addition to all of this, I'm trying to make time for my friends, family, and (lastly) sleep. Sometimes when one's schedule is so packed, it's hard to remember what exactly one is working toward.
But thankfully I've been utterly caught up in the romance that can happen with archival work. Previously, I mentioned the series of love letters between a young couple in the 1940s that is a large part of the collection in which I'm working, but recently I found several other letters written to the young woman of the aforementioned couple from a completely different man, a young soldier, during the same time. There were so many letters between the original young couple that I've been skimming them for notable places, peoples, or dates, but I can't help but read each of the young soldier's letters word for word. He's an amazing writer, definitely someone who believed in the lost art of letter-writing. He writes about the unnamed places he's been, the horror of war. In one letter, he poignantly makes the observation that he often hears the sound of faraway planes and bombs and thinks that he is dreaming of an imaginary place, only to realize that home is the imaginary place, and these war sounds are his frightening reality. From what I gather, it seems that the young woman wrote to him out of the blue and they had been paramours before college. He knows she's dating someone else, and yet he asks her several times, "Why did you write me? Why won't you tell me?"
The story for me is irresistible. I know I'm incredibly lucky to find such a plot jumbled with 19th century stock shares and probate documents (which are interesting but in a completely different way). I hope I have some time while creating this finding aid to research this young soldier and see if he survived the war. Perhaps he and the young woman met again, later in life, after she had married her college sweetheart. Perhaps he died, and that's why she married in the middle of the war so suddenly. It's quite a mystery to me how archivists can resist being great novelists!
This was just a little note, in the whirlwind of school and work and life, to appreciate the little romantic moments in your studies. It can be romantic in the literal sense like mine or Romantic in the literary sense, but I hope that you find and love what it is you are pursuing here at Simmons. Until next time, enjoy Spring Break!
posted March 6, 2015 7:07 AM by
So far, every class I've taken at SLIS has had a major group project component. The people, topics, work style and product in my group projects have varied widely -- from the fabulous, all-on-the-same-page group I'm part of in 404, to a frustrating experience in 401 with a classmate who missed every meeting and turned in subpar work. Working on one group project this week, I realized that my partner and I had completely different comfort levels with when to turn in our assignment (I trend early, she's fine with right at the deadline), which made me think about the similarities (or lack thereof) between group projects and real life.
Why a Group Project is Not Like Real Life
- There is no boss. In real life, someone is in charge. Group projects run the risk of floating along until someone takes charge. Or, someone tries to take charge and the rest of the group doesn't like it.
- You cannot get fired, but you're also not getting paid. In real life, if you mess up, your job is at risk. On the flip side, if you do a good job, you might be recognized for a promotion. There are no real consequences to doing a lousy job in a group project, and also no benefits to putting in extra work. (Of course, your grade can be both a benefit and a consequence, I suppose. Still, you won't be getting a bonus or a pink slip based on your group project work.)
- You don't necessarily know the personalities or capabilities of your partner(s). How was I supposed to know that one of my group members last semester was chronically late and ultimately wouldn't turn anything in? Had we known that ahead of time, we would have started a lot more meetings without her, and assigned her a much smaller piece of the ultimate project. In real life, you're much more likely to know the habits of your colleagues.
Why a Group Project is Like Real Life
- Real life requires interaction with other people. It's crucial to know how to work -- and work well! -- with a variety of personalities. Group projects are a great way to learn that skill. Yes, some people will drive you crazy, but you still have to work with them.
- Different people have different strengths. Successful group projects, just like successful workplaces, build on individual strengths. Learning how to capitalize on group members' strengths (and work around weaknesses) is important, and it's great to learn that skill in a safe environment.
- Work often requires give and take. During the first few weeks of a recently finished group project, my kids had six snow days AND a week off for February vacation. Suffice to say, it was hard for me to get much schoolwork done during that time. My partner really carried the water for a few weeks, and when she had a major work and personal crisis toward the end of our project, I was able to pick up the slack. Overall, we probably did the same amount of work, just at different times, and we had support when we each needed it. I hope we would have supported each other the same way in the workplace.
What do you think of group work? Love it and learn from it? Hate it and put up with it? While there are times I'd certainly appreciate doing schoolwork solo, I understand why group work is such a major component of the SLIS curriculum.