This weekend we had our usual routine of cleaning the house. This is something that none of really want to do, but a messy house is not a good foundation. As we started to clean and dish out duties I could not help but think of the parallels with school and in particular group work.
My wife has a system. In her mind things need to be to her level, her quality, and her way of doing things. She wants it done to her level of high quality and if it is not to her standards, then you will know.
The next level of group would be me! I am not the one in charge, but will work to make sure the quality is done to a level acceptable. I don’t necessarily want to do it all, but I know life will just be easier if we get it done right the first time. I also realize that I don’t want to run the show, but still want the job well done.
The next level is that hard worker. They work hard, don’t complain and just go to work. That is my son. He can be meticulous and when it comes to cleaning and chores he will not complain, but work hard and do a great job (not the same with homework!).
Next, would be the category of my daughter. She makes the most mess of anyone. Everywhere we go we find a trail and remnants of a lively atmosphere of play which I love. However, when it comes to cleaning and picking up she will find every single reason to not clean.(when it comes homework she will focus like no other). She does not want to do the work and will fight the system in every single way possible.
Last, there is my youngest who is a terror of mess. Everywhere she goes a mess follows. She is only 3 so she is limited in what she can do to clean up, but she will make an honest attempt, but usually just makes more of a mess.
Above is a quick breakdown of a group dynamic for cleaning our house. How many of you can relate to either the cleaning or the idea of group work and these roles? As I was cleaning I kept thinking that this is what happens when we force groups. When we isolate our top kids to lead the groups that don’t really want to be there. In each group at school there is one person that has to step up whether it is the typical system where teachers assign one top kid to a group of unmotivated kids or if kids pick their own groups. It happens time and time again.
Cleaning made me realize once again that education can be fair but not equal. There is no way that Ava will ever clean to the levels of Aiden and Addy at this point in time nor will I reach the expectations of Amanda. That is okay. In school we strive to find this equal balance of work which always leads to frustration because it does not exist. Group work does not have to be equal. We have this false sense of what group work should be in schools, but kids are forced to be at school so that really plays an important role in how we look at things.
Our job as educators is to establish the guidelines. It is up to the students to contribute what they can. The high achievers are high achievers for a reason. They should expect more from themselves and do a bit more work. That is what put them in that level of status in the first place. The kid that has an IEP or struggles with school will not be able to contribute as much. Kids like Addy will find everything in their power to not work despite being guilty of the mess. How doe we get them working? How do we deal?
For one, we have to move away from this “equal” grouping. If grades are going to be assigned to a group activity then students should have the flexibility in choosing their own groups. Make sure all kids have access to learn all material. Jigsawing content does not work. Rarely does a student learn when another student stands up in front of the class and tries to teach their content. It is usually a poorly executed regurgitation of textbook reading. I am not saying that students cannot learn from one another, but we must take time to teach them how to teach, how to craft the 21st century skills to ensure the class is learning.
To wrap this up, whether cleaning or creating group work we must remember
1. Assign everyone duties based on their abilities
2. Group work is not always equal and it should be this way
3. To develop a system where everyone is contributing to the whole
4. Leadership is not easy
5. To not make a mess in the first place