[September 2017] Constant comparison creates unnecessary stress

Inklings Editorial

With PowerSchool finally up and running, students experience greater ease in accessing their grades. However, the influx of text messages as soon as an assessment is posted has also started again. “What did you get?” “How did you do?” “Good or bad?”
Rarely do peers ask about the content or what they need help understanding. Students are more preoccupied with the grade they receive on an assessment rather than what that says about areas in which they need to improve.
Instead of focusing on our own academic achievements and growth, we have developed the tendency to compare ourselves and our grades. We have even created apps such as MyHAC and PowerGPA that calculate an unreliable “live GPA,” serving as another form of constant comparison.
Wanting to know where you stand in a class is inevitable; it can be helpful in determining if a class is the right level of difficulty. Yet, many students feel uncomfortable when asked to share their exact grades with peers for fear of being ashamed. Still, the fear of not having any way of knowing where they stand is even worse.
We need the help of teachers and the administration to keep students from comparing themselves with others.
In order to solve this dilemma, teachers should present the class average on an assessment prior to handing it out. By doing so, students will be able to understand where they stand relative to the whole class without having to directly compare letter-grades with the person sitting next to them.
Furthermore, even just a brief statement in which teachers formally express their dissatisfaction towards “grade talk” can be helpful in dissuading students from engaging in this competitive behavior.
Ultimately though, we are the ones asking about grades, telling about grades, creating GPA apps and using GPA apps. Measuring success based on our own expectations and abilities is what will really change this culture. Learning for the sake of learning is what will really change this culture.
High school is hard enough as it is. Comparing ourselves to others doesn’t make it any easier.