I broke a personal record this week.
I finished a project, and a group project at that, two days before it was due.
I’m the kind of person who likes to slap a general “I hate group projects” onto team assignments. Do they generally work out in the end? Sure, but most of the time I finish them thinking that they would have been just as good, and less frustrating, if I had done them myself. I feel like this distaste multiplied even more once I got to college, because at least in high school I had most of my classes with the same people and could figure out what I was getting into.
But, shocking as this sounds to admit it, I really enjoyed putting together the convergence project. Granted, it was frustrating at times, especially when we were starting out. But when I look back, I’m amazed at how well it came together. We found a diverse group of people who were willing to talk to us, we managed to work out the technology issues when they arose, and I didn’t end up seriously considering losing my temper (group projects might be the only time this actually happens).
I can think of a couple of reasons this particular assignment worked out as well as it did. The biggest help was probably working with two people I know and trust. The last few projects I’ve done, for journalism classes or otherwise, have been with people I either didn’t know or barely knew. Going into this project with a team of people I already knew pretty well eliminated the awkward initial phase of figuring out our work styles, strengths and weaknesses. I knew I could trust my teammates to do a good job, which saved me from a lot of anxiety about whether we would end up with workable drafts. I think working with a couple of good friends also helped us all be more honest about our thoughts throughout the process of putting our project together, as well. Generally, working with people is hard for me because I struggle with not being firm in my opinions and letting other people tell me what they want me to do. This time, all of us were able to express our thoughts about what we wanted done and to offer both criticism and praise when it was needed.
This project was also really valuable to me because of how much I learned. My team and I worked with a number of people who have either experienced homelessness or have worked with the homeless community. While I started this project with the suspicion that homelessness was a bigger problem than I realized, I’d never realized how many different organizations work with this issue or how homelessness can look really different for different people. I’ve mentioned this before, but speaking with people at the Rainbow House was probably the most eye opening statistic. Not only did a glimpse into the difficulties some teens experience, I learned a lot about issues facing youth. During an interview with a Rainbow House staff member, I got a packet about how widespread issues like homelessness and child abuse are. It’s kind of mind boggling, and it makes me realize how important journalists’ jobs are, because they have a chance to tell people about these issues and maybe just change how people react to them. For the last few years, I’ve been really passionate about working with youth, and I think this part of the project really solidified some of the reasons why I care so much about working with people younger than me.
Having wrapped up the majority of this project, I can honestly say I’m really glad I had the chance to do it, and that I learned a lot. It’s rare that I even think one of these things when I finish such a big assignment, let alone being able to say both. It definitely had its high and low points, but on the whole I think I caught a glimpse of what it really means to work as a coherent team and that I can use my future career to really help people understand big issues and affect change.