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Project status: Out of control

Middle-school coding project generating ERROR messages?

Our elder helps a student to decode the issues and get ready to launch.

Dear EWC:

Hello, how are you today? I am 11 years old and in middle school. A few weeks ago, my computer teacher assigned us a coding project. There were 3 levels: Easy, intermediate, and difficult. I chose difficult because I had been coding for a long time and felt confident.

Everybody got assigned a partner. My partner was a girl (I will call her G). We received our projects and G and me got a very hard project. It was even hard for me! But G was having a lot more trouble. She insisted on meeting during lunch and even after school. However, lunch is my time to study and finish homework, and I have tons of activities after school, so it was extremely difficult to clear up my time for her. Whenever we would meet, G kept asking me for help. However, the rule that came with this project was that we could not do anything for our partner. We could only explain. So I started explaining what she had to do.

About two weeks after the start of the project, our teacher announced that the deadline of the project would be coming soon. G and me got nervous because I was about halfway done, and G wasn’t even 1/5 way there. In addition, we had to write a script and film a video of our project and what the blocks meant! This put loads of stress on us, especially since we both had tons of homework to do, let alone after-school activities! One Monday, G came to class and told me that her dad had helped her with her project. I looked at it and it was all messed up. In return, she told me to fix it. First of all, I wasn’t allowed to fix it for her. Second of all, so many things were wrong that I didn’t even know how to approach it! So I refused. G started to ignore me. The next day, we met for lunch again, this time with G’s friend. (I will call her A.) A and G kept exchanging glances and rolling their eyes. This made me uncomfortable and offended. I went to get something from the lunch line, and when I came back, they were whispering to each other. However, when they saw me, they stopped and went back to what they were doing.

I am upset and lost. I’m not sure how to keep working with her! Please give me some advice. Thank you! Have a great day!

Ms.JuliaJ replies:

Hi, and thank you for writing to us! I have a ten-year-old grandson and a thirteen-year-old granddaughter and I know school relationships can get pretty complicated at times.
Middle school really focuses upon working with partners and in teams. This helps you figure out how to communicate with others and to solve problems that might come up on assignments. If you were an adult in a job, the very same process would be in place, working with partners and teams on projects. The rules for helping each other are there so one person doesn’t do more or even most of the work. The rules are guidelines and we have to figure out how to adapt them to what we are doing.

It seems like G really got lost in the project and truly did not know how to do it. It also seems like she needed more time to understand when you explained. Some people understand better when we can see what to do instead of just hearing about what to do. I think she got very overwhelmed and panicked and tried to solve the problem any way she could, which was to ask her father for help. Parents want to help and her dad did the best he could to help out his daughter. I’m sure your parents would do the same for you if you were having an issue and didn’t know what to do about it.

In my opinion, I do think you should work with G to help her learn how to do her part of the project. If there is no time for this, you will have to do more in order to rescue the project so you don’t both get a low grade on it. Tell her that you want to help her to get the project back on track and then immediately schedule time to do it. You will need to meet after school since this is the only real time you have. Helping her is not doing the project for her. This is helping your teammate do her best work so you both can benefit and get the best grade you can. In all likelihood, this is the very same kind of process that you will work with when you are in a career. I can’t really think of too many jobs where you get to work alone and don’t have to cooperate with anyone else.

If you cannot solve this issue between you, then you have no choice but to go to the teacher and ask him/her for help. Teachers are there to guide and help so don’t be afraid to let your teacher know the two of you need some support. Your teacher probably knows that you were more knowledgeable about Coding and that G was not as strong in this area. She may have assigned the two of you together on purpose so that you could teach G what you know. This is a huge compliment to you and to the faith your teacher has in you to be a good partner and leader.
I hope that my answer gives you some ideas about how to complete your project. Again thank you for writing to us and I hope the rest of your assignment goes well!

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