28 English Majors and A One Page Paper

Our final project for the Octavia Butler course was to create a one paged “something” that would be completed collectively by the entire class. When I first learned about the nature of this assignment, my initial reaction was one of panic. I could not imagine 28 individuals working together to create something. I feared that the process would not go smoothly and that not everyone’s efforts would be sufficiently included. I pondered how much simpler the assignment would be if each of us had to create a one page paper on our own. Working creatively can be difficult as an individual, but the ideas of many individuals in one space would certainly be a challenge.

After speaking with other individuals in the class, I learned that many of us had similar apprehensions regarding this one-paged collaborative paper. This knowledge was comforting to me because I was happy to learn that my anxieties were not unique. As a class, we knew going into this project that communication would be a crucial component to our success.

I was very impressed with the democratic ways in which decisions for this project were made. Initially, I feared that the majority of this assignment would be taken over by 3-4 outgoing individuals. But to my surprise, every decision made regarding this project was agreed upon by everyone. That being said, Google polls became our best friend in the beginning stages of this project. People would share ideas with the group that would then be voted on before we moved forward. This way, everyone’s opinions could be heard, and decisions would be made with everyone’s opinions considered.

The structure of the project was only the first obstacle. Once we decided on creating a “How to Guide” for dealing with the traps in Octavia Butler’s fiction, we had to struggle with our next task: making it only one page in length. As english majors, we all have the capability to expand on this topic for well over one page. Making a succinct point among 28 individuals became a very difficult and sometimes daunting obstacle.

This task became a little easier when we began to brainstorm specific traps that Octavia Butler sets up for us. We all shouted out ideas that were written on the whiteboard for us all to see. As a class, we narrowed these traps down to three main issues we all deal with in her fiction. By narrowing our focus, it allowed for us to channel our energy and creativity to specific sections of her fiction. It also created an opportunity for the class to divide amongst ourselves into three smaller groups that focused on one topic. By doing this, we were more easily able to express our thoughts in detail to our group members.  

After collaborating within our groups, we came together as a class to discuss what we came up with. We thought of ways to edit each group’s work in ways that would strengthen our project as well as make each of the three parts work together as a whole. I was very impressed with the manner in which my classmates offered constructive criticism to their peers. It was clear that everyone was taking into account that if their ideas were cut from the project, that it wasn’t anything personal. Everyone was very mature about making decisions that would be best for the project, even if this included massive amounts of tweaking and critiquing.

The experience of creating a one page piece with the efforts of 28 individuals was quite eye opening. Completing this project was certainly challenging at times, but the group’s effort to communicate well and ability to be inclusive to everyone, helped us to accomplish something that we are all proud of. It is quite amazing that 28 individuals were able to have a part of a project that is only one page in length. Each person in the class helped to improve the “How to guide” even further. By having so many sets of eyes working on this project, it incorporated all of our interpretations of how we felt about Octavia Butler’s Fiction and the course as a whole.


This section part of this blog post is a reflection of my experience with our project after it was presented to Dr. McCoy:  


Before Dr. McCoy entered the room, we all sat and discussed the most efficient way to present it to her. We decided that if each of us read a line from our project it would continue to reinforce the nature of us all coming together. As Dr. McCoy entered the room, she sat in the center of all of us in a circle and we began to read aloud our project. By her emotional and positive response to our project, I felt relieved but also not surprised. I feel immensely proud of everyone in our class for several reasons. We were able to share our ideas in a way where all of us were heard and all of our opinions were considered. We talked about how the nature of this project was challenging for us, but also elaborated on how that was a good thing. All of us struggled with certain themes in Butler’s fiction but were also able to efficiently deal with these struggles to help create strong conceptual points in our project.

Next, in our discussion of why we felt we deserved an A on the project, it reminded me of how far we have come as a group. At the start of this project, all of us were well aware that we were pressed for time and that we needed to work efficiently and diligently to be able to produce a project with the level of quality that we all aimed for. Although we worked under time constraints, we still managed to discuss thoroughly the important structural and contextual aspects of this project. In my opinion, it was quite commendable how we were able to reach a consensus on these issues in a timely manner as well as moving forward when everyone felt comfortable. Our system of democracy that we created among the 28 of us also helped tremendously in ensuring fairness and equal representation of ideas. Also, the fact that we were able to effectively break up into smaller groups to discuss specific ideas pertaining to the text in the project, more of our voices could be heard. It is often easier to speak up, especially for shy individuals, in smaller groups. One of the most prominent reasons why I was so impressed with our class is that we were able to disagree and discuss ideas in a polite manner. Often when someone critiques another individual’s idea, it can come off as harsh or demeaning. Everyone in the class was not only open to criticism, but fair and kind with the criticisms that they offered. We all accepted critiques because we had a mutual understanding that we needed to do what was best for the project as a whole.

Of course, it was exceptionally flattering when Dr. McCoy expressed her gratitude to us for creating this project. Speaking for everyone in the class, I can say that we are all extremely proud of the work we put into this project. Throughout its creation, we always kept in mind a concept that we learned in the course: language will always fail us. I felt that as a group, we did an excellent job in keeping this obstacle in mind, as well as intelligently choosing our words and presenting our ideas carefully so that we did not find ourselves trapped.

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