DeanWhy do we go to school? We are given a great many reasons. But what is the purpose of sitting at our desks for six hours a day? Is it to graduate? To simulate a learning atmosphere that’s close to college? To learn reading, writing and arithmetic?

Is it because we have to? Because our parents make us? Because it’s expected? Yes and no. Is it to learn something bigger — to learn things that will stay with us forever? Absolutely.

School teaches us who we are. School helps guide us. For example: reading. When you read a book, whether you agree or disagree, you find out where you stand on an issue. When you love a character or when you hate a character, you realize the characteristics that you love in real people, and you see what bothers you about real people.

Reading opens your eyes. Just by reading, you can see yourself, meet yourself and discover things that can be hard to figure out in your youth. So just by reading, you find out more about yourself and what you believe in.

Reading also gives us a vast variety of knowledge. Books not only teach us about literary devices, grammar, sentence construction and how to create a plot and storyline. They also teach us so much about the world around us and all the things that are unknown to us. They teach us what’s right for us and what’s right for today. Reading teaches us how to live in the way that we’re meant to.

Also, as it turns out, those dreaded group projects aren’t just torture. Developing those ever popular “social skills” are even more important than we know. (And even more important than everyone tells us.) We’re learning not just how to work together with others — although that’s important, too. We’re learning how to communicate, how to express ourselves, how to share our ideas and how to take risks by doing so.

The more we speak out and trust our own thoughts, beliefs and instincts, the more independent we become. It’s important for us to follow our own paths and listen to what our hearts and intuition tell us. Far too often we get caught up in following the crowd. And when we’re in a crowded classroom, it’s easy for us to try to be invisible. But those are the moments and the places that we should be fighting the most to stand out and to be our own person, to be ourselves. For what could be more important than being an individual?

No one wants to fade into the background in school, despite the fact that that’s what some of us would say we try to do every day. Everyone wants to be remembered by someone — or for something — even though we might be scared to try. So, instead, we hold back and we sit in the back, holding back all the little things that could help push us forward. But we should try, each in our own way.

Because that’s what school really teaches each of us: how to be unique, how to be ourselves.

Perrin Dean is a senior at Willsonville High School. She will contribute a regular column to the Spokesman this school year.

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