Friday, March 26, 2010

Collaboration

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day, which is all the more upsetting because the day before that was so very wonderful.

My class is in the process of studying film genre and the last two days have been all about the thriller. I have been mesmerised by the arrival of a new teacher who is able to bring Plato and Aristotle into a conversation about "The Bourne Identity." I have also felt deepest gratitude as he slowly and respectfully discussed the portrayal of women in thrillers, and I felt great joy as he hypothesised about the reasons that women are generally attracted to the genre.

But that was two days ago, and yesterday we had to break up into pairs and write our own 9-page thriller scene. We were given half an hour to work separately on our concept and general storyline, and an hour to discuss our ideas with each other and come up with one scene using a combination of the best aspects of both stories.

Easier said than done.

I was paired with a young, enthusiastic young man. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm was limited to his own work and not to the collaborative process. I had a feeling it would end badly when he didn't even turn up to our arranged meeting-place. By sheer luck I had his mobile number in my information brochure, so after wasting 15 minutes searching for him throughout the campus I called him and reminded him that we had to work together. He had settled himself at a computer in one of the small study rooms and had been busily typing away, actually writing the script, before we had even begun to discuss our story and plan.

Now.

I am a mature woman. I was not particularly enamoured with my own story, but I did think it had a few interesting elements. I hate conflict. I have years of experience working lovingly with young adults. But I consider this course of study I have undertaken to be my "Me Time," my time to talk and learn with other adults, NOT my time to patiently and painstakingly teach a young person about the realities of the collaborative experience.

After ascertaining that my partner was indeed intent on writing the script himself, had no interest in my ideas, and was eager to criticise both my working method and my typing speed (I type too fast apparently), I packed my bag and threatened to leave the room. As young adults are wont to do, he cunningly went in for the final kill at that moment, attempting to soothe me by telling me that he understood my heightened emotions, after all... I have so many family pressures, being an older woman and a mother, that it's no wonder I'm irrational.

I am proud to tell you that I did not scream, cry or storm out of the room at that moment. I actually stood my ground and forced myself to slowly...calmly...explain to him my particular point of view. To his credit (he was, I admit, looking a little scared) he said "I can see that you are angry," and he did begin to show a glimmer of comprehension. That glimmer was enough for me. We decided to take the pressure off for the moment, we wandered downstairs and grabbed a couple of coffees and sat in the sunshine on a bench. After a while, we returned to our notes and painstakingly re-navigated a small section of the scene. He apologised, I apologised and we returned to the classroom and explained to the teacher that we were not able to complete the entire assignment.

As luck (or bad luck) would have it, the other groups also returned with half-written scenes, so we will now be presenting our work on Sunday afternoon. This means that my little friend and I have to continue meeting and working together for the next two days.

I will now admit to you that I sobbed in a toilet cubicle after the class, and sobbed periodically throughout that evening. I know it's trivial, I know it's ridiculous and virtually meaningless in the scheme of things, but crying makes me feel better. I realised yesterday that I have invested my new course of study with far too much meaning, and that my tendency towards perfectionism is indeed a terrible handicap. I'm also fighting a very strong urge to call in sick on Sunday.

20 comments:

sophanne said...

Miss E-

I read often, don't comment much.

You kicked that fella's arse.

You will go with full intention of doing the task at hand on Sunday.

You rock!

Jeanette said...

Way to go Eleanor!

Sophannes comment sums everything up!

You rock - now and most certainly on sunday too!!!

/ Jeanette

trash said...

Seriously? He said that and you didn't smack his immature, proto-adult arse? Well done and further kudos to you Eleanor.

Don't call in sick on Sunday. Go, work it and once it is over tell your tutor next time there is a collaborative assignment you wish to be partnered with someone who does not require the meaning of 'collaborate' explained to him.

Tuli said...

Oh, Eleanor. I don't know if I could've handled the situation as well as you did. I would've wanted to smack Young Man upside the head with my book bag.

Good on you for taking the high road.

And honey, there's no shame in crying in the toilets. If crying makes you feel better, do it all you need to.

herhimnbryn said...

Good on ya! You did what you had to do. You will do the same on Sunday too.
Sugest you arrange something just for you to enjoy afterwards...

Jodie said...

I'd be fighting the urge to dob on him to his mum !!! (or slap him).

kim at allconsuming said...

I hate. HATE! team based projects. This is not because I am a bad team player. This is because I am the one who expends all the energy getting the poor team players to work as part of a team. OH my GOD you've made me all hot just at the thought of it.

kim at allconsuming said...

And you know, even God rested on Sunday.

Red Dirt Mummy said...

Mature-age study kinda sucks when you have to deal with immature jerks. I have a friend in a similar situation - returning to study after some years, with a home and family to keep running and straight-from-school students who are doing her head in. Sounds liked you kicked butt in a big way and should be seriously proud of yourself - you kept it together, made the situation work and I'm pretty sure you will have an ardent admirer in your little friend from now until the end of time. And there's no shame in having a wee sob, at least you didn't do it in class ;)

Stomper Girl said...

Eleanor. You are my HERO!!! Oh my God. And, you know, it is FINE to have a cry afterwards but you actually should have been tap-dancing upside down on the ceiling for your legendary handling of an irritating young man. I bow to you. I really do. Do NOT ditch Sunday. You are awesome.

blackbird said...

DON'T YOU DARE call in sick.
I nearly sobbed reading this.
The nerve.

I have, of late, practiced the Not Sobbing at work in situations similar to this and I am PROUD, PROUD I TELL YOU, to call you my friend.

Kate said...

It sounds to me like you put the 'mature' into 'mature age student' in the best of ways. Well done handling that!

I, too, hate conflict. Which often surprises people, because I have such a big mouth. And yet in situations like that I will often lie down and let myself be walked on because it is TOO HARD and TOO STRESSFUL. Good for you for not doing that - I think you helped everyone that man will interact with in the future, as well as yourself.

That's the sneaky thing about the patriarchy (yes, I went there!), it lets people (men) forget that their assumptions are just that and other people (women) feel like it's rude to question them - when the rudeness is all on the other side.

And I'm all for a therapeutic cry. And requesting a different partner next time.

kmkat said...

What everyone else said. (Especially Sophanne.)

Consider this: the proto-adult, self-centered, usually male and chauvinistic ass is especially prevalent in the film world.

Mary said...

Oh my darling girl...

your cheer squad are here for you.

Brioche and coffee before AND after on Sunday should see you just about right..

RW said...

Holy Moly Eleanor.
You handled the situation beautifully.

I will be thinking good thoughts for you Sunday.

Paola said...

I dunno how you did it but KUDOS to you. I wouldn't have had the steel nerves you had.
I am joining the cheerleader group here!
Go Ele!
Go Ele!
GO!!!
GO!!!

YAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!

Badger said...

Oh, dude. I missed EVERYTHING while I was out of town.

But I will tell you this, if I ever decide on a second (well, third if you count mothering) career in tag-team wrestling, I want you for my partner.

P.S. I cry when I'm angry, which is M.O.R.T.I.F.Y.I.N.G. and stereotype-reinforcing and awful. So I bow to you for being able to keep it together long enough to get to the bathroom.

Duyvken said...

So sorry I didn't pop in the other day to read this.
Hugs from me and if it makes you feel any better I spent much of Thurs crying periodically because a woman at the shops told me off because JW was being loud and she was sick of parents not taking responsibility for their children.
I felt awful, and so small, and so pissed off, and quite indignant. Not a good mix really.
Hugs from me.

Suse said...

Oh I was out of town too and didn't read this until Monday night. I am dying to hear how Sunday went.

You are a heroine for not slapping that twerp.

alice c said...

Sometimes the best relationships have the most unpromising starts. I can think of a little boy who bit another little boy (no names, no pack drill) at the age of three and ended up being best friends. Now OBVIOUSLY I am not suggesting you bite people who do not cooperate on team assignments but I am suggesting that finding ways to work with unlikely partners can be surprisingly rewarding.