Working in large groups

I haven’t felt much like writing about college the past week or so as I’ve been finding it frustrating. There’s a whole bundle of frustrations, although the biggest for me have been in the “creation group” work I wrote about last time, frustrations about both myself and the group.

Although we got off to a surprisingly good start back then, I found the next few sessions, in which we tried to create scenes out of our observations of Selfridges, difficult. There were 34 opinions about what should happen and it was very slow work. I’ve realised that in a group of this size with no clear leader I don’t really say anything, or at least, I didn’t on this project. It’s not shyness, but more the fact I have no great insights about how to improve the piece and I think the best contribution I can make is to say nothing, thus reducing the number of competing voices in the hope we move at a faster pace. I suspect though that this can seem like I’m being grumpily stand-offish, and pointedly refusing participation, when I see it as helping by keeping out of the way.

And it was slow going. Even when a couple of people would assume vaguely nominal leader-type roles it still took a long time to reach decisions and move things forward as people added more opinions, interrupting each other, changing minds, confusing issues.

Thankfully, after too much of this, someone suggested that we needed a facilitator, someone to organise proceedings and indicate whose turn it was to speak. I kicked myself for not saying this myself, as I’d certainly been thinking it was needed. Fool. Since then we’ve made more progress, with one person appointed facilitator as the focus: someone to drive things forward and cut off discussion when it’s time to do more work. There’s still too much discussion, too many people with things to say that don’t (in my opinion) contribute enough that’s new to make it worthwhile saying them but it’s a welcome change. Today I was nominated as facilitator, which I greatly enjoyed, although I’ve no doubt there’s huge room for improvement in how I handled things.

There are other frustrations with the group though. The issue of punctuality has been a prickly one — what time should people arrive for our morning creation periods? Personally it’s perfectly clear to me: the timetable says we have a 15 minute warm up before our session starts at 8.30am so you should arrive before 8.15am so you can be ready in time to get warmed up. Unfortunately, even after this was endlessly thrashed out yesterday, today there were only four of us warming up at 8.15 and not many more quarter of an hour later; others were chatting or still arriving. People do have different ideas of punctuality (apparently) but I find it really hard to respect the commitment of people who are late or even only just on time.

But back to a happier tone… today I managed to do forward rolls without assistance, which most people had licked four weeks ago, but I’m extremely pleased with myself. Slow progress in the acrobatics department, but progress nonetheless.

29 Nov 2006 at Twitter

  • 07:00am: Headache gone, still tired. Breakfast at computer.
  • 07:11am: Off into the gloom I go. Long day of college and meetings ahead. Bed is the best place in the world.
  • 01:01pm: I can finally do forward rolls! I am so rocking, even if still less rocking than everyone else in class.
  • 01:32pm: Beach Burrito Cafe for lunch. Yum.
  • 02:18pm: In Foyle's cafe for meetings, with a slab of pear and nut loaf.
  • 05:13pm: Home, having passed two film crews on the walk home. The big lights are exciting and make the world look different.
  • 08:02pm: Finished work, writing up notes from college, kissing girlfriend.
  • 08:42pm: Going downstairs to eat pizza and watch Blumenthal (thanks for the idea ChrisH).
  • 09:35pm: Blogging, sorting out photos, usual time-eating, computer-based activities.
  • 10:08pm: Doing too many things at once so my computer grinds to a halt. COME ON!
  • 10:21pm: Time for bed Mr Square Eyes.