The Life of Comparison

Mr Macourt (teacher)

In comparison; I’m not like the other kids…  

One of my favourite things about being a teacher is the opportunity to interact with such a large range of students on any given day. They are unique. Unique in their interests, skills and personalities. But something that has stood out to me over the last 9 years is the way in which students compare themselves to each other, limiting and stunting this wonderful uniqueness.  

We see so much talk and advocacy for student freedom and expression. And yet, so often I see amazing young men and women comparing themselves to, and even becoming, their peers in an aim to fit in.    

As a Year 7 Core Teacher in the Middle-School era of the College, fresh-eyed high schoolers aim to stand out by doing everything they can to be noticed. Being compliant in class, being silly in front of peers, trying to find their place in High School. Those small pieces of innocence shine through as a reminder of their interests, hopes and dreams.  

Once a student hits Year 8 the posturing to be ‘cool’ really rises to the fore. Yet, I still haven’t heard a convincing argument for what makes someone ‘cool’. Even when I was in school, I was always of the mind that I’d just spend time with who I liked. If they didn’t like me, they’d surely tell me (maybe I’ve survived life ignorant and unpopular, but I’m happy so I guess that’s a win). I’d encourage all We Are readers to do the same.  

Even more so in Year 9. All of a sudden, everyone has to look a certain way. Yes, there have been some early adopters in this space, but it becomes so prevalent out of nowhere. You just have to look a certain way, otherwise, your value is lost. Heavens forbid you wear the correct uniform to school…  

Year 10 becomes the time to push boundaries. Not even because you want to, but because that’s what people are doing so, in your great comparison to peers, you feel compelled to do so as well.  

Years 11 and 12 are all about ranks, and standing out as a leader so you can get the badge that you want. Getting into the right University or getting the best job so you can speak proudly to others about what you’ve achieved. 

What strikes me is that none of these things are bad. Standing out, being well-liked and looking nice. Even appropriately pushing boundaries where necessary as you become an adult is a useful thing. Getting great marks and being recognised for your leadership are often well-deserved honours.  

But… do we want them because they’re good? Not in my experience.  

This is by no means a criticism of anyone. Being a teenager is complicated and stressful. Finding your place, even in the best of environments, requires nuance, thought, and some really difficult decision-making at times. But I want to encourage you all, you can each stand out without having to compare or conform.  

My Year 11 Business Studies Teacher and teaching mentor said to me on the first day of my teaching career “never lose your sense of wonder. The day kids stop surprising you is the day you should stop teaching.” 

 I pray that each and every teacher at William Clarke is able to enjoy the uniqueness and individuality of each student, as you seek to present the gifts, interests and personalities with which God has blessed you. Whether or not he said, Oscar Wilde has the following attributed to himself, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”.  

It seems, in a world of comparison, a timely and vital reminder for us all. 


*This article was written as a part of Teacher Takeover.