When a teacher tells me that we’re doing a group project, I don’t immediately groan in disgust. However, when Mr. Howard told the science class the groups, I wanted to transfer Mrs. Else’s class, which is infamous for being very boring.
Mr. Howard, that sick, sick man made me in a group with Jamie Lovegreen, Alivia Mirror, and Jacob Taylor. That was the worst news I’d heard since Grant Imahara died. Like any good 2010’s movie, there were the stereotypes of the jock, the nerd, the popular one, and the shy one. Mr. Howard decided to put all of those in one group. I don’t know what was going on in his head, but it definitely wasn’t good.
As I listened to him speak, I resolved myself to try to convince him to let me switch groups after class. However, he left exactly no time for that, letting the groups split up and converse and strategize for the rest of class. Our group was assigned to work out in the hallway, as the other groups had taken up the space in the classroom.
While I walked into the hallway, my head hanging in both disbelief and acceptance, I was aware of the rest of my group following me. I assumed I’d be the leader of this group, because everyone else isn’t exactly the brightest. I had been doing that for years in various different group projects. The strategy had never failed me.
The project was supposed to be about researching animals behaviors, so we had to pick an animal and find out how they live. How the group dynamic is and how they work together… or don’t. By the time we got to a part of the hallway that was clear, I had already decided what animal the project would be about. We were going to research elephants. They are interesting and it’d be fun.
Apparently, though, my partners had other plans. As soon as we sat down in a circle, Jamie proposed researching birds of paradise without looking up from her phone. Alivia quickly put a stop in that idea by saying that lions would be interesting. That left Jacob and I, sitting quietly, trying to find an opening in the conversation. I’d figured I’d waltz in there and be the leader. I was sorely mistaken. If we have both a popular person and a jock-type person, there’s bound to be some bickering about “who’s the leader.”
After a very passive aggressive argument between Jamie and Alivia, it left us all without a real plan. I figured this was my time to assert my place in this group. I explain my plan about the elephants, and a whole sales pitch of how this would be the best animal to research.
I pictured myself standing up, with a wind blowing my hair as I explain the project. I imagine a single spotlight shining down on me. I could see this scene in my head, and I looked amazing. I looked like a hero …but as laughter filled my ears, I realized that what I was imagining wasn’t real.
“HAHAHAHA! You-you really… HAHA! You really think you looked so cool!” Jacobs laughter rings through the hallway. And… yes. I did think I looked cool. I thought I was the smart one. The one who could actually get this group a good grade.
Jacobs laughter snapped me out of my fake glory. He snapped me back to reality.
For the rest of the day, we eventually decide on researching elephants, although I suppose they just felt bad at me. We decide to make a poster to explain it, as opposed to a PowerPoint or a paper. It would be the most fun, if anything else.
We decided to give each other different roles in our group. There isn’t necessarily a leader, but there’s people for each task here. Jamie was in charge of the actual poster, when that time came. She’d be in charge of making things pretty, which followed her skill set pretty well. She didn’t complain when we told her that. Alivia was to be in charge of just keeping everyone on task, which still isn’t the leader. She knew what everyone was doing, and made sure we were doing it. Jacob was in charge of drafting the poster and writing the sentences and making everything sound right. I, though, had the most important job: the actual research part of the research project.
The next time we had that class, we started on the project. I immediately went to my most trusted sources, while Jamie and Jacob figured out what the poster would look like. They wanted to print out pictures and make it look like a scrapbook.
While we were talking I heard a conversation going on in the classroom, from Mr. Howard to the rest of the class.
“Alright, class. We need to remember to watch them. We need to find a way to observe them without them knowing. As I assume you all have your hypothesis, you should subtly start finding ways to go into the hallway to see how things are getting on.”
As the conversation continues, it becomes apparent that the conversation was about me. My group.
They were supposed to be watching us. Observing and researching us as we were supposed to research the animals.
Mr. Howard put us in a group together for a reason. He put us together to see whether we’d get along or not. It’s his own experiment with his own students.
Once I get back to the circle and relay this information to the group, we decide to make a plan.
Just as they’d flipped the project on us, we decided to change it up once more. We decided to embrace our stubborn selves and not get along… at least not openly.
We’d let them think that their hypothesis just simply isn’t working out, while we would know all along.
Throughout the rest of the time, I become vaguely aware of how complicated this experiment had become. It was kind of like a lot of alternate realities, all different beliefs layering upon each other. Everyone trying to figure out what each other is thinking. Trying that hard to get in someone’s head begins to mess with your own.
Even though we got an A, we deserved more for everything we had done. As Mr. Howard described that the majority of the project wasn’t real, we just smiled; safe in knowing that we knew all along.