I have been enrolled in an MBA program for the last few years and it’s been quite a ride. One that has sparked significant growth for me personally and ultimately—I hope—professionally. “Leading Organizational Change and Culture” is my most recent and second last course in the program.

No Sympathy Here

During the first week of the course, my professor shared with the class that an important part of the class would be done through…GROUP WORK! I was shocked! The whole program was centered around my own individual learning, geared to my own time as a working professional. How am I going to work together with four other people who live all over the globe? We are required to have weekly zoom meetings and create assignments as a group. Our first assignment ended up resulting in a lower grade than what I had hoped. Why? Because, in my opinion, one of my teammates didn’t pull her weight!

I started to lament to my kids about this problem…and to my surprise, they had no sympathy! Sofia basically laughed at me and said, “Welcome to my world.” She, then, went on to quote (perhaps even a bit sarcastically) what she is sure my professor would have said to validate group work: “That’s what it will be like in the real world” and “It’s a global world out there and we need to be able to figure out how to collaborate.”

My experience as a student and my ensuing discussions with Sofia illuminated an ongoing challenge I know many of our students (as well as their parents) face. Our teaching and learning are moving more towards collaboration, creative problem solving, enterprising, and focusing on group communication etc. It’s true—most of my own work experiences in the real world come in the context of teamwork. Anything accomplished in terms of projects, change leadership, and important decisions are usually accomplished in the context of a team coming together to produce something.

I would suspect I am not alone.

Growing Pains

Putting my parent hat on, I am, at times, frustrated by ACS’ push towards a different type of learning that highly values group work. My mind moves towards thoughts like: “It’s not fair that my kid is painted with the broad group brush by her teacher” or “Yes, it’s the real world but my kid is still learning the fundamentals of life and isn’t ready to ‘confront’ the laggard.”

I’m sure I’m not alone here– actually I know I’m not alone because I’ve heard this from other parents.

How about when we have to drive our kids all over town, so that they can meet in their groups (outside of class) only to realize that one of the members couldn’t make it, so they have to do it all over again the next day! Yet…somewhere in my bones, I can appreciate my children having to go through these growing pains of group work because I know they are navigating and learning important skills.

I also look at what students produce at Presentations of Learning (POL) nights and other exhibitions of learning and I am blown away by our kids’ ingenuity and entrepreneurship! The projects they produce, and the ideas fostered are far-reaching, thoughtful, and enterprising! It sparks hope that our world will be a better place as these kids continue to grow up! Often, this learning is done in the context of groups.

Root of It All

So…wearing all three of my hats:  as a student in my MBA program, as an Executive Director at ACS, and as a parent who is nurturing kids through this stage of life, I am a bit torn by this whole topic. However, there is one thing that I know is crystal clear:  working with others builds relationships, building relationships promotes community, and community is a hallmark of ACS, even with all the bumps and bruises along the way. And I believe God has His hand in it all.

I guess I just convinced myself…bring on the group work!