Sunday, March 21, 2010

g-r-o-u-p-w-o-r-k

It spells disaster.



Flaring anger, growing contempt and straining friendships. These are what you have to deal with working in groups.

We have so many group assignments this semester that we often get our own teams mixed up (despite most of us usually stick with the same cycle of classmates). After a series of back-to-back group assignments, I've come to the conclusion that this way of learning is the hardest and the most testing.

First of all, let me give you an advice: unless you don't really care about each other, avoid forming groups with friends. From my observation (and experience), working with friends can be so much harder than working with complete strangers. Don't be fooled into thinking that you can work better with people you like. Honestly, you might not like them very much after a stint together.

The reason for this is simple: friends get offended more easily. This situation is worse for girls, especially the ones that tend to take everything personally. Girls are sensitive creatures, aren't they? And quite a diverse species too. A single comment can elicit very different reactions from them. Consider this exchange:

#1: [to #2 and #3] This is not done correctly. You should include the [bla bla bla] and not just the answers.

#2: Oh I'm sorry. I really didn't know. Can I correct that now? [tries to rectify the mistake]

#3: What do you mean it's wrong?? You are the one who gave the answers! I copied that exactly from your book. Besides, there are too many to be adjusted, it's too late. Biar lah. [storms off]

Sounds familiar? This kind of situation is very common in any group. Some people just don't care. The painful thing about them is that they will bring the entire team down with their 'I'm not doing that' attitude. And so the burden lies with the people who do care. There will always be at least one person in a group that has to finish up the slackers' incomplete work, and you can't expect those unfortunate souls to be graceful about it. And to think that their effort will benefit the very people ruining the group...

Conflicting opinions on how things should be done is inevitable, and it can lead to some very disastrous disputes. Everyone reckons theirs is the best, but not all can have their way. The more frank ones have no trouble airing their disagreement and are generally open to explanatory arguments, while the rest either quietly accept the situation, or don't, but never say a word and become resentful for the rest of the days. This pent-up contempt is dangerous, filling a person with poisonous thoughts, threatening to explode any minute by a simple trigger.

Oh yes, group work is hard work. Especially with friends (or worse, housemates!). Compatibility - or if there is none, tolerance - is crucial in ensuring the success of a group (or at least in making sure the members don't kill each other). It's astonishing what a few team members can do to the group (not to mention your sanity), so choose them wisely. If you don't have that privilege, or you get chosen instead, be strong.

Someone once said "don't be a lone ranger, especially in studying". I agree with that, and I admit I learnt a lot through these group assignments: how to repeat the same explanation for the 20th time with minimum hint of annoyance, how to ask someone to get back to work without saying "shut the darn game off!", how not to glare at people when asked "are you upset?", how to deal with flying accusations when something goes wrong, how to forgive and forget (forgiving is easy, forgetting is not), and a bunch of other life skills.

Love it or hate it, group work is an integral part in the existence of students. Looks like we just have to live with it.

Well, enough ramblings. I have to bark at people now.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

AM? PM?

Do you stay up late into the night to finish your work (or to study)? Can you work effectively until 1 a.m.? Do you find yourself dreading morning classes or have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning? Then you are what I call a night person.

Most students are night people. If you observe any of the 24-hour fast food restaurants near any university campus during the exam period, I'm sure you'll find it packed with students and their textbooks from 9 p.m. to as late as 2 a.m.. In my case, personal observation of housemates' schedule is enough to tell me that most (if not all) of them rather sleep at 1 a.m. than wake up at five.



I'm the kind of person who gets drowsy by 11 p.m. and can't really function beyond 12. But I have no trouble waking up at 5 or earlier and I'm at my best in the morning.

What kind [of Pokemon] are you?

I'm currently preparing for 3 very important tests which will be during the weekend. I noticed that all my friends love burning the midnight oil so I came up with a list of pros and cons of being a morning person to justify my preference (I said preference because this, like your sleeping pattern, can be changed). Now this applies not only in studying and completing assignments, but for some casual past times too (reading especially). However, my view is only based on life as a student sharing a house with other students.

PROS

You are alone. The main appeal of doing work/studying in the morning (and I mean very early in the morning) is the lack of people doing it. I found many advantages of working alone.

  • You won't be bothered by other people. If you are easily distracted or easily irritated like me, you might want to avoid the peak hours. Then you will not feel the stress of the next person pressing on you (we have enough pressure without the added weight, thank you very much). Besides that, you will not be disturbed by inconsiderate actions (singing loudly, listening to music/watching movies/playing computer games without headphones on, chattering, etc.) of others.

  • Other people will not be bothered by you. Of course, you and I might have irritating habits that annoy others as well. But in the early hours of the morning when you are alone, you have less to worry about. No more "will they be bothered if I..." questions. As long as you don't wake people up, you'll be fine. Go and pace around the house as you like.

  • Silence. As what I've mentioned before, nobody is there to sing "so longgg, and good niiiight".

  • Privacy. Everyone respects each others privacy, but sometimes owners of wandering eyes tend to drop in wanting to know what are you watching/listening. They tend to linger around too.

You work after a night's sleep. I can still solve equations after midnight, but it might take me twice as much time than when I do it in the morning. The same goes for reading/memorizing texts. Working/studying in the morning is definitely more efficient in my opinion, since your body (more importantly your brain) is rested after a hard day's work.


Eat away! I think it's quite normal to feel hungry when you're studying. But it is not advisable to eat so much at night since you'll go straight to bed afterwards. In the morning however, you can eat as much as you want and consider it breakfast! Breakfast can be large. (Lame excuse, I know. But true nonetheless)

CONS

You are alone. That's a disadvantage too. You have no one to refer to should you are unclear about anything. You can't even call anyone.

You might have trouble sleeping early. Since you will sleep at a time no one else want to sleep yet (10 or 10.30 in my case), there is a high possibility that your house is still buzzing with activities when you go to bed. Your housemates' exuberance can produce quite a noise (imagine people arguing in high voices, someone playing GTA, someone singing "so longgg, and good niiiight", and someone reciting "CCC is ICP plus RCP minus PDP", all at the same time). You don't want to dampen your their enthusiasm with "oi senyap lah!". What do you do? Put on your headphones and bersabar je la..

You might wake up late. There goes your study time.. If something goes wrong with your alarm and you don't wake up, that moment will just fly by. No worries about dysfunctional alarm clock if you want to study at night.

Wrong estimation can be costly. Imagine this. You have an incomplete assignment due tomorrow. You expect it can be completed within an hour, so you wake up an hour earlier than usual the next day to finish it in the morning. Turns out it takes more than one hour. Now your morning routine will be disturbed in order to finish that assignment. Kan dah susah..



So there you go. Are you a morning person or a night person? I'm the former and loving the fact. But there was this one time when I didn't sleep at all the whole night because of these particularly dreadful take-home tests (which made me got a B+), but that's another story altogether. I might turn into a night person in the future, but currently am content with waking up at five.