Next Time Make Sure You’re Holding All The Cards

, , , , , , | Learning | December 2, 2019

(In college, my public speaking professor hands out an assignment that is to be done in pairs, due in one week. Each pair picks another country and gives a five-minute speech about their history, politics, population, economy, etc. She selects the pairs, my partner being a girl I don’t know. We swap contact info and, before I can ask when she wants to get together, she leaves. Our class meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is Wednesday. I wait a few hours before calling her, thinking maybe she has another class. She doesn’t answer. On Thursday, I send her a text but she still doesn’t reply. On Friday, we have class again. The professor gives us the second half of the class to work on the project. The entire time, my partner is on her phone, barely acknowledging me.)

Me: “Do you want to cover political history or agriculture?”

Partner: “Uh-huh.”

Me: “You… want both?”

Partner: “Whatever.”

Me: “Okay. You can cover agriculture since that seems… uh…” *searching for a word other than “easier”*

Partner: “Okay.”

(I go to my professor at the end of class.)

Me: “[Professor], I’m not sure about doing this project with [partner].”

Professor: “Are you not getting along?”

Me: “I just don’t think she’s invested.”

Professor: “Are you?”

Me: “Well…” *shows her my work so far* “I have the basic outline done and I searched the library’s system so I know which books to check out when I go back.”

Professor: “So, what’s the problem?”

Me: “I tried to get in contact with [Partner] and she never replied. Just now I was trying to divide the topics and she was on [social media], not even listening to me.”

Professor: *shrug* “You’re adults now. You’ll have to work it out on your own.”

(I spend the weekend trying to contact my partner while doing research, diving into my own topics while picking up tidbits of her topics along the way. I am adamant that I am not going to do to the whole project, but I don’t want to get a bad grade. Monday comes and my partner isn’t even in class. I send one more text, saying I am going to be at the library Tuesday afternoon — the day before our project is due — starting around five pm, asking her to join me. She still doesn’t reply. By Wednesday morning, I have the entire project done, timed, and organized so that we can go back and forth on our topics. I write our facts on note cards, highlighting the topic line based on whether it is mine or hers — pink for mine, yellow for hers — and put a note at the top of each note card showing what the colors represent. I always try to arrive at least five minutes before class so I can get settled. My partner arrives five minutes late, during another presentation. She makes no mention of why she hasn’t helped, nor has she done any work for herself. I am upset but still give her the rundown on the project, showing her the highlighting and how I broke everything down. For simplicity, let’s say she has topics A, C, E and the conclusion while I have the introduction and topics B, D, and F. We divide the notecards and wait our turn. I should note that I hate public speaking or being the focus of a conversation, so I’m already on edge.)

Professor: “[My Name], [Partner], are you ready?”

Partner: “Yes!” *grabs all the notecards* “Oh.” *laughs* “I guess you need some of these.” *hands back the first notecard with the introduction*

Me: *unsure of why she’s suddenly so enthusiastic* “Yeah…”

(We take our place at the front of the class.)

Me: “[Country] is a land rich with a diverse history, unique cultures and…” *reads the rest of the introduction*

Partner: *reads topic A in a monotone voice*

Me: *reaches over to take the Topic B card*

Partner: *harsh whisper* “I’m not done!”

Me: “What?”

Partner: *reads topic B*

Me: “Uh…”

Partner: *continues*

Me: *whispering* “That’s my part–” *reaches for the card again*

Professor: “Ladies, is there a problem?”

Partner: “No.” *continues reading in a monotonous voice, turning away from me*

Me: “That’s my part!”

Partner: “Shh!”

Professor: “[My Name].”

Me: *bright red and very anxious* “I… I…”

Partner: “[My Name]! Stop! [Professor], can I please just do this? [My Name] is messing me up.”

Me: “She’s reading my part!” *realizes how childish I sound* “We had assigned parts and–”

Professor: “[My Name], please be quiet.”

Me: “But–”

Professor: “OUT!”

Me: “But–”

Professor: “NOW! I’ll deal with you at the end of class. Go sit in the hall.”

(My face and ears are so red I can feel my pulse, but I leave the room without another word. I sit in the hallway, angry and crying, while my “partner” reads the entire presentation. At the end of the class, my partner comes out, looks at me sitting along the wall, smiles at me, and leaves. The professor calls me back into the room.)

Professor: “What was that?”

(I explain the division of topics, color coding, and how I did the work and my partner did nothing.)

Professor: “Do you have proof?”

Me: “There are the notecards.” *opens my bag and begins looking for them*

Professor: “Okay.” *holds out her hand*

Me: *realizing my partner took the notecards* “But [Partner] must have them.”

Professor: “So, you have nothing?”

Me: “But I came to you earlier about her and I… I have parts of it memorized. I can tell you which topics I was supposed to read.”

Professor: “I’m sorry, [My Name]. If you have no way to prove you did this work, I have no choice but to give you a zero.”

Me: “She stole my parts! She didn’t do anything but read! I did all the work!” 

(My eyes burn with new tears.)

Professor: *sigh* “Okay. I’ll give you until the next class to prove it. Otherwise, the zero stands.”

(I called and texted my partner constantly over the next two days, adamant that she admit she did nothing, or at the very least that she had taken over my topics. Still, she didn’t answer. I showed the professor that I had been trying to contact my partner but she just wasn’t answering. With no proof of my work and no word from my partner — who was absent from class again — the professor kept the zero and dropped my grade substantially. Public speaking was a requirement for my diploma, so I had to take the class again the next semester with the same professor. When that project came around again, I spitefully picked the same country. The professor initially refused, saying I’d already done that project. I reminded her that she gave me a zero because I couldn’t prove I had done anything. This time around, I got an A, an apology from the professor, and a lesson in showing your work.)

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