Well, it’s day 3 of my self-inflicted (yes, you read it right!) May-Hem challenge and I’m going to be focusing on comparisons today. I think it’s pretty natural to compare yourself to others at times, but it’s not always healthy.
A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it; it just blooms. – Zen Shin
Recently, I have been involved with a forthcoming book filled with messages from mums to their children. In mine, I recalled experiences throughout my life where people have judged me based on my appearance. From being called names as a child to the same thing happening several decades later, unkind words can come from people of any gender, any age, anyone really.
Over the years, I have grown a lot more comfortable in my own skin. Like I’ve said before, I know and accept my flaws.
Just because I have sticky-out ears doesn’t mean I shouldn’t tie my hair up.
Just because my teeth aren’t straight and are naturally off-white (long story short: my teeth didn’t all grow through, so I wasn’t allowed a brace until they did; I had my last baby tooth removed while I was at uni!) doesn’t mean I shouldn’t smile with an open mouth.
Just because I don’t have a model’s physique doesn’t mean that I should cover up in baggy clothes all the time.
I could spend days, weeks, months comparing myself in many ways to others, but when it comes to my appearance, it wouldn’t be beneficial to me nor anyone else.
So, can comparison ever be useful? Initially, pondering this, I thought I was planted firmly in the ‘No’ camp. However, after much deliberation, I’ve decided that it possibly could.
As a teacher, I’ve been subject to and carried out many lesson observations over the years. Initially, I felt very nervous (in fact, I still do) and like I was being judged (I was!), but I also realised that fellow teachers watching my lessons were comparing their lessons and classrooms to mine, picking up ways to help children learn their times tables, discovering new ways to display key information and methods for encouraging TAs to have high expectations. I, in turn, gained the same sort of things from spending time in other people’s lessons.
When you first start teaching, before you’re thrown in at the deep end with being expected to teach lessons, you spend time watching the class you are going to be (sort-of) in charge of for a few weeks. You assess how the teacher maintains a reasonable level of noise, how the teacher gets the most out of those who behave inappropriately to hide their struggles and how to mark. Of course, you learn lots of other things, too.
Once you do finally qualify, those observations of others shouldn’t stop. If we do not feel that we can do better, we can become complacent. No one benefits from that. The trouble is, many of us suffer from performance anxiety, possibly as a result of the old-style Ofsted inspections where you would be given a grading (1 was outstanding and 4 inadequate). Unfortunately, some schools still do things this way.
So, while being observed can be nerve-wracking as we know people are judging us, it does not have to be a negative process. Comparing your practice to that of others does not have to a negative thing either. There is so much to be gained if that’s what you want.
Lesson observation is just one example of when comparing yourself to others can be beneficial. Can you think of any others? I’d love to hear from you. Email email@example.com with your suggestions.