For most people, our first involvement in peer group activities occurs in preschool or kindergarten. We learn how to work together to clean up the classroom or we sing a song about the months of the year as a group. Maybe we even participate in junior versions of sports where teams are formed or work on mini-projects with each other. From early on, we’re encouraged by society to be able to “play nice” with each other.
And it makes sense, really. Groups frequently get more done than individuals can. Groups are more efficient, oftentimes. They can provide safety and security. We can sometimes learn more about ourselves by looking at the groups we associate ourselves with.
That said, much like definitions, groups can also be confining. If you don’t want to go with the majority, it can lead to strife or even chaos. You can become the outcast, black sheep, or lone wolf of the group. Or, conversely, you might realistically be able to accomplish more as an individual, because you’re not trying to deal with a committee or democracy.
Now, in some instances we – as people – may have the ability to choose who we want to work with or what group we’re a part of. But by and large, I’ve found that the groups we’re in tend to be determined by default characteristics or happenstance, rather than deliberate action or inaction. Your family, for instance. Or your coworkers. Or the people of the religion you were born to. You may have minimal things in common, but you share the sense of belonging to a certain mini-culture. And it does have an effect on most people.
This is something that’s on my mind, because this is the second week of my third quarter in nursing school. And the thing that I was informed of – or warned of, you could say – during the nursing orientation session way back in April has come to pass.
“You will have to collaborate. Nursing is not a one-woman or a one-man show. It’s a circus in which even the bit-players do have their importance.” The dean of nursing said that and I winced on the inside, because even in kindergarten, I would have preferred to spend two hours picking up blocks and books and crayons by myself, rather than spend fifteen minutes doing it with a group. Because (horror of horrors) what if one of the other kids didn’t realize that all the red crayons should go together? What if they tried to but the picture books with the story-time books? What if they didn’t stack the blocks in the box so that the lid would go on right? My five-year-old heart couldn’t handle the stress.
Eventually – after my second or third time out for disrupting the “tidy time” by throwing tantrums over these sorts of things – I realized that I would not always be able to convince the other five-year-old kids to clean up properly. Sometimes they wouldn’t put the red crayons with the red crayons, no matter how much more sense it made. It took me even longer – maybe the second or third grade – to realize that it wasn’t because they didn’t know any better . . . they just didn’t care about the same things I did. Once in a while, sure, I’d find another odd-ball kid who realized that it made sense to be organized and neat, but by and large the other kids just didn’t give a damn about making sure the vocab cards got sorted alphabetically.
I’d hoped that things would change as I got older. I imagined that groups were something that would settle down as we all got older. I was very wrong about that, of course.
When I entered high-school after being home-schooled for years, I quickly came to dread group projects. Inevitably, there was someone (or multiple someones) who didn’t care about the group, who didn’t want to work together, or who simply didn’t understand what we were meant to do and instead just sat there and doodled. I couldn’t stand the thought of getting bad grades and I still can’t. Part of my submissive nature makes me want to please authority figures and teachers definitively fall into that category for me. I want to get good grades, because it makes people happy.
Well, not my peers so much, but other people.
And a big thing about me is that I’ve never really cared for the majority of my peers.
Which is why, when two classes this week forced me into a group with others, I instantly started trying to think of an out. It was a reflexive thing. I’m going to end up paying $40,000 over the course of eighteen months or so to get my associates in nursing from this school. I decided on that, because it’s the best school in my area for this thing. But I don’t want to waste a single instant in my classes, because I’m paying an enormous amount of money (for me anyway), to be in them.
In Health Assessment – which is a class with an accompanying lab, where we learn some “basics” of the nursing process – I am going to be working with two other girls on a project that’s due in week 9. It’s a fifteen minute Power Point presentation on a specific culture and how their believes may be influential within the health care setting. We ended up grouping together, because we sit at the same table and it was simple. I’m the oldest of the three of us, even though I’m only twenty-four. I’m also the only one without any experience in the medical field. 21 is an LPN in a pediatric unit and 22 is a med-tech in an out-patient cardiology office. That worries me, somewhat.
I am normally the quiet one, the follower, the one that goes with the flow.
I can’t be that in this group. We’d never get anything done.
I had to prompt them to select a culture. And then had to make them specify, because “Native American culture” is a very broad thing. After some more prodding, we ended up with “Cherokee culture,” because all three of us have Cherokee blood. We’ll see how they do with the sections they’re supposed to be working on.
In Microbiology – which also has both a lecture and a lab component – we work in groups of four. Myself and another member of my group (we’ll call her Fish) were together last semester in A&P II and I thought of her as something of a go-getter in that class, but I already know that won’t be the case this time. The first thing she said was, “I don’t care about all these little microbes. It’s like Chinese to me.I don’t understand any of this.” Another woman in our group agreed wholeheartedly and spent the instruction’s introductory lecture eye-rolling and giggling. Then, the fourth member of our group came in, ten minutes late . . . and it was 21, from my other group.
After the introductory lecture and the instructions on the board for that lesson had been gone over, the instructor told us to get to it. We were meant to make a wet mount slide using L. acidophilus and a drop of water, to substitute for the fresh yogurt sample we were meant to compare to the prepared yogurt sample, because we didn’t actually have fresh yogurt. It wasn’t going to be a difficult thing – there was a capsule of L. acidophilus in our lab box in the center of the table and slides and slipcovers on the counter.
“So, what are we supposed to do?” – Fish
“I don’t know. Look at the fresh yogurt?” – 21
“Well, where is it? I don’t see any yogurt. . . ” The Eye-Roller
I looked from one of them to another, hoping they really hadn’t been that oblivious.
“Hang on, I’ll ask, ” 21 stood up and summoned the instructor over as I’m going, “Guys, there’s no fresh yogurt. We make the substitute with the L. aciophilus powder.”
The instructor comes over. My lab partners explain that there’s no yogurt. The lab instructor waits for the punchline. Asks them, “Did you read the board?”
They say, yeah. But then they say it doesn’t say anything about the yogurt.
But it does. On the second bullet point.
We made it through the lab, but just barely. And by the end of it, they were all saying, “Well it’s not like we need to pass with more than a D in this class. And it’s all easy.”
Yeah. Okay. Whatever you say.