As another school years winds to a close, I reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of the school year. Hands down, the ugliest moments throughout elementary, junior high and even high school, time and time again, was group projects. At times, I was sure group projects were going to be either the death of me or the catalyst for my incarceration.
Every single one was a cluster. Kids who don’t have each other’s phone numbers or even a last name. Confusion over who was doing which part. Everything (barely) coming together the last-minute before it was due. All my kids ever learned from it was crisis management.
The landmark of all our experiences was in an AP level history class my oldest child’s 10th grade year.
She assigned a class project that involved groups of two working on a comprehensive multimedia presentation. It had to be brought together in PowerPoint, including a movie. All fully referenced with footnotes and a bibliography. Did my son get paired with a responsible, cute, A-type, honor roll girl? No. My son was paired with another fifteen year old boy, who we were unaware had a promising future in fiction. They had about three weeks before the due date.
This stupid project was due on a Monday. The week before the due date, my son’s part was complete. The Friday before, my son’s partner informs him that he is going to Egypt for the weekend. Yes that Egypt. Please remember we live in Texas. So, therefore, he was going to be unreachable all weekend. But don’t worry, he would meet my son early Monday to give him his part in the library, where they would use a school computer to merge it all.
My son tells me this on Sunday afternoon. I spit my wine, and switched to hard liquor. And, of course, he doesn’t have the kids cell phone or home number. My son swears this kid is “his good friend” and “won’t let him down.” So I decide to let this play out. I tried to add his picture to Wikipedia under “gullible”, but decided that might be considered “social media child abuse” by pansy Child Protective Service workers, and I chickened out.
So come Monday morning, my son goes to the library and waits for his dear friend to show up. No show. Not early, not at school AT ALL. The teacher says they can turn in Tuesday, but now it’s already 20 points off for being late.
My son comes home that afternoon, he knows where the kid lives because he went to his house once for a birthday party 6 years before, so I use google maps to find the house address, cross-reference the property tax records to find the last name, then use the internet to find the home number. The FBI has nothing on a pissed off mom.
I call the house and I get the kid’s mother. The kid is not home. She tells me my son obviously misunderstood; her son was camping with her husband over the weekend. I asked her if his part of the project was done, and she says “Well I don’t know what project that is, but I’m sure it is. He’s a good student.” Counting to ten s-l-o-w-l-y in my head, I ask her to have her son give my son a ringy-dingy when he gets home. Oh, he stayed home with a headache that day – and was now out riding his skateboard. Um, yeah. Maybe I will be Parent Of The Year with her as my competition.
So at about 8:30 pm, this kid calls my son and says his part is all done, and, before he goes to bed, he will email it to my son so he can put it into the presentation.
My son waits up, the email does not come by midnight. My son gets up at 4 AM, to an email that’s only been sent 20 minutes before.What is attached, is the most slapped together, half-assed, unreferenced piece of crap project slides possible. Black typed words on a white slides; no color, no pictures. My son cranks up two computers, and start both merging and fixing the second half of the project. My son smeared as much lipstick on that pig as he could, and gets it ready to submit.
At this point, I am livid. You could see me from outer space I am so lit up with this whole situation. Yes, kids need to learn to fight their own battles, but when your child’s trusting nature has been so violated – Mama Bear comes out for a visit.
I show up at the school that morning and I go into the counselors office. The secretary asks if she can help me.
ME: “Do you recognize me?”
SECRETARY: “Honestly, no.”
ME: “That’s because I don’t show up here until sh*t hits the fan. I need to speak to someone about a serious issue my son has had with another student on a project.”
SECRETARY: “I am afraid you need an appointment to meet with someone.”
ME: “No I don’t. And you should be slightly afraid because I am furious. I’m not leaving until somebody speaks with me or you call the police to have me forcibly removed.”
So, this was the end of the grading period, and the grade they receive results in my son getting kicked out of the AP class over 2/10 (0.2) of a point in his grade point average. I called the director of instruction for the school to file a protest. She calls me back, and leaves me a voicemail. She says that after carefully reviewing all of the records and circumstances, she and the instructor decided that the best thing for my daughter is to move her down to the on-level class. You should have seen the mushroom cloud over Cypress, Texas when I got that voicemail.
I called her back. I thanked her for her obviously detailed review everything that it happened; but, by the way, my daughter has a penis – and I hung up on her. I continued to argue with school administration, until it was ridiculous, but ultimately, I lost the fight.
His project partner flunked out miserably. And, ironically, they both got moved down to the same on level history class.
My son ultimately did well in the rest of high school, knocked his ACT score off the chart and got into the school of his dreams. He prefers to do individual projects at this point. But, he will never believe any one who says they are going to Egypt.