Comparison is the Thief of Joy



Note: Many years ago a teacher told me, “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness.” He was the neighbor teacher whose class everyone wanted to be in. I was the other ELA teacher, new to the school. I thought of this teacher’s words the other day when I was compared–I wear the red ribbon in the picture.

Check out the image-two ribbons, one a blue ribbon, a congratulatory cloth–the other a red ribbon, a meaningless concilatory cloth. Yes, blue ribbon, the victor is adorned with higher growth. Red ribbon gives blue ribbon’s hand a congratulatory shake all the while wondering if maybe she’s been shafted–thinking of how she carried much of the weight of the team through planning, developing resources, and creating assessments. Still, though, she wears the red ribbon. For a second, red ribbon questions why she shares, collaborates, and creates.



Even if meant as a button pushing joke, the data dump of comparison feels like a slap in the face devaluing her. In spite of all the other numbers, evidence, and data, she feels quantitatively inferior. Deflated and discouraged she questions why she has worked so hard. A single number reveals that she is “typical.” She realizes blue ribbon is “typical,” too, and wonders if with all other factors and data if perhaps the single number doesn’t signify that she is, in fact, inferior.


comparisonquote_blog2Discouraged she analyzes the data (data from a new CC test that is compared with half of old test (ELA only) with algorithms that somehow demonstrates student growth in a way the state claims is equitable for all students regardless of achievement level because there is no ceiling effect). Whatever!!  Is teacher efficacy based on a measure comparing two different tests with students with like scores? Is this fair, valid, or reliable? She tries to let go realizing that the comparison was a button pushing joke, but still she hates being pitted against others, and the comparison steals her joy.



Letting go she realizes that the only thing she should compare is her own data, her own scores, her own classes, her own subgroups–this is how she can improve. Otherwise, she will feel deflated, degraded, and discouraged.

She beams as she thinks of all the other factors that measure her worth: rapport, relationship, humor, engagement, passion, dedication, collaboration, grit, perseverance, pedagogy, compassion, leadership, content knowledge. She smiles knowingly at the realization her gifts aren’t represented by a green circle.




Wanting to grow, she lets go of the comparison refusing to be pitted against someone else. She looks inwardly and lets go of competition. She grows. She blooms.




She realizes that she is more than a number. She is her own person. There is no comparison. Secure in being herself, she lets go of the conveyed message that she is “typical” or “less than.” While she realizes that the number represents growth, she also realizes that there is so much that can’t be counted. She realizes that she is MORE than a number. She realizes that she counts. She begins to let go of a number that measures her worth.



short-life-quote-4-475x315Like each circle is a person at a moment of time, she, too, must make the most of her moments. At that moment, she realizes that she, too, has her own unquantifiable green circle. She is her own person. With a new attitude she looks towards the horizon in the distance and asks herself what she needs to do to improve.


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