Working in groups is a big part of the PYP Exhibition. Lots of learning takes place about how to collaborate, resolve conflict, negotiate, compromise and more. There are often bumps along the way.
Before the launch of our PYP exhibition (see my previous post for more about how we did that), our grade 5 teacher, Monique Donahue; our PYP coordinator, Michelle Roland; and I met to create the groups in which the students will be working together. Monique has been working with the students since school started on identifying passions and issues and using “the former to find the latter and make meaningful connections”.
Using responses to a survey, the whiteboard, and different coloured markers, we identified similar passions and issues and began grouping the students. We took also took friendships, English level, learning needs and more into consideration. Our goal was seven groups because seven staff members had initially volunteered to be mentors. When we finished, the group sizes ranged from 2 to 4 and we were reasonably sure of our selections.
During the PYP Exhibition kickoff, all seven groups seemed to be working well together and continued to do so over the course of that week. This past week, Monique was away on a school visit for the first few days and some issues came up with one group of two. The parents were in contact with Monique while she was away and when she returned to school she spoke with various staff members as well as the students and wrote this amazing email reply to the father of one of those students (posted with permission):
Dear Mr X,
I am following up on your email from Thursday. After speaking with A yesterday as well as with some of my colleagues, I got the impression that A has given up to keep trying to make the collaboration a success. I strongly believe that it is actually possible, but it is a matter of determination and positive presuppositions, on both sides. At this time J is still committed to working together. It appears that the collaboration has been a frequent topic between your family members, maybe more so between A and his mother. I hope this is not a case where a child is trying to get his parent to do for him, what he cannot (yet) do for himself.
However, the whole project should not be a source of unhealthy stress, rather a source of curiosity and enthusiasm. In my experience the PYP Exhibition frequently leads the students to feel empowered to face challenging situations in their own lives and the world around us with reflective hope put into action. For next week, I propose that J and A keep working on the same topic, as this is their first choice, but that they work side by side, rather than together. I will support them individually when necessary, and so will Ms Graff, their mentor, who knows them both well.
I would really appreciate it if you could have another talk in your family to speak about this challenge. Maybe there are personal stories you can share about when you had to work with someone you didn’t like and how you dealt with it. Both A and J are not used to dealing with demanding peer family members, the way many of us are prepared for situations like this when we grow up with siblings, so I expect it to be hard, but definitely possible. Much of the challenges have to do with controlling impulsivity. Some understanding and developing coping strategies might be useful. Here is an article that might help.
Another strategy I would like to propose is to make an effort to get to know J’s family, as a family. I believe most families in my class share more with each other than they realize and that differences are minor, and don’t matter anymore when you get to know the story behind people’s lives.
I hope you find this information useful. I really do care about the children’s success, but I cannot make things happen for them. I merely create the environment. They are ultimately responsible for believing in themselves and others, as well as understanding their own role in the process. And just in case you were wondering, please rest assured that at no time will the academic result of a group negatively impact on a child’s score.
I found this interesting article in the Harvard Business Review about how to work with people you ‘hate’. You might find there are some similarities.
Please let me know if you have further questions or concerns,
Wishing you a wonderful weekend,