Life’s True Test – Group Assignments

Anne Hambuda

Once at university my course coordinator went out of his way to try and get me to work smoothly and cooperate effectively with a fellow student with whom I did not get along.

We didn’t have any personal issues with each other, but being in the same group for an assignment caused us to clash.

When it comes to schoolwork, I like to do things ahead of time, I like to be prepared, I like to ask questions, and I like to submit work I am proud of and care about.

This other dude, on the other hand, was what I would consider a waste of tuition fees.

He was barely ever in class, and when he did show up, he slept through it all. When it came to assignments, his tardiness was so ridiculous, I wondered why he was even there.

Normally, I don’t care how other people choose to live their lives.

If you don’t care about yourself, that is your intrinsic right as a person. If you are okay with a mediocre attempt at education and a lacklustre approach to life, be my guest.

My only gripe comes in when it starts to affect me.

I have worked on three separate assignments with this dude. Let’s call him ‘Monday’.

On the first one, he submitted subpar work. I think he’s a pretty intelligent dude, but the effort he puts into things is lacking. So, I ended up doing it all, and he got 96% for doing absolutely nothing.

On the second assignment, we fought the entire time and I had to drag productivity out of him.

And because my lecturer really hates me, I was paired with this fart for a third time, so I took a different approach.

I did not force anyone in the group to contribute. I did not raise my blood pressure or yell and scream. I simply moved forward with those who worked.

If you did not participate, your name would not be attached to my work.

Still I could not win. My lecturer begged and begged me to be lenient, to give Monday a seventh, eighth and ninth chance, and to include him in my work.

I obliged as best I could, pasting his past-due entry at the bottom of the assignment on the condition we would be marked separately, as I’d already replaced his section by then.

What I was supposed to learn is how to get the job done in situations that aren’t ideal, and to work with people like Monday.

Which I think was a fail.

More than anything, what I’ve learnt is that some systems will carry lazy people along to the top – either to maintain pass rates, or out of endless sympathy and pity or whatever other reason.

I’ve learnt that you don’t have to try very hard to get by in life, and that those who actually take pride in their work will be considered mean, antagonistic bullies who can’t just let the poor useless students be useless in peace.

But I guess it’s my own fault for being naive enough to think some spaces can be pure meritocracies.

And don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect. I have had moments where I could not show up with my full potential or effort. But the difference is that I experience remorse and I express it to those I let down.

But he is not like that.

Monday will disappear for days at a time and care very little about how it affects everyone else. Monday is smug about his uselessness, and arrogant enough to think he is above doing well at school.

As he puts it: “No one in the real world cares what grade you got at school.”

To me that’s what someone who has bad grades would say to make themselves feel better, but maybe he is absolutely right.

Maybe grades don’t matter so much, but what bosses do care about is whether you show up consistently, whether you are dependable, and whether you can be relied on to deliver quality work on time.

Either way, I seriously think I own shares in that dude’s degree.

I’m being the bigger person by not stating that outright to him, but rather venting in this column.

I’m trying to be a nicer person, you see.

I’m trying to practise grace even for the undeserving.


Maybe that’s the lesson I am meant to learn.

If only I wasn’t so petty and didn’t love holding grudges so much.

– Anne Hambuda is a writer, social commentator and poet. Follow her online or email her for more.

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