Put a Sticker on It

How Self Expression in an Academic Setting is Necessary to a Healthy Learning Environment

Put a Sticker on It

In definition, individuality is ‘the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind.’ Now this concept might seem simple, but when looking deeper there is a large spectrum of ideas and concerns that can come along with this one word. Individuality and self expression are things that are often taught to people at a young age, it allows people to mold themselves into their own version of themselves. But how important is individuality really?

In an article by Scientific American it is mentioned that there have been studies comparing the quality of work done by students who were allowed to ‘customize’ the materials they are using, versus those who weren’t. It was found time and time again that when students were allowed to personalize their materials, whether that be a sticker on a computer or a keychain on a pencil case, higher quality work was produced. This can be attributed to the fact that when these students personalized the materials they created a personal connection to the materials, and with that, the work they were producing with said materials. When allowed to experience a small form of self expression and uniqueness in our work, we are able to create a connection and produce higher quality work. 

Now, a sticker on a notebook is a very small scale example of the importance of individuality and self expression. In an interview with DeForest Area High School’s School Counselor, Emily Hendricks, she mentions how when considering post graduation plans, individuality is a very important factor. 

“…it’s [individuality] a big factor because when we’re looking into post-secondary plans you all are unique… You don’t cater to that school’s needs, they need to cater to your needs. So, that is a big part of it.” 

Yet another important idea brought up by Hendricks was her take on whether or not an early understanding of one’s individuality can help with making more concise plans for post-graduation. 

“You build your individuality and yourself and your identity by different experiences, people you come in contact with, so that’s ever growing.”

So with these points, Hendricks brings up how even with our takes on our own individuality changing all throughout life, there is a certain point where an understanding of said individuality will help when coming up with post-graduation plans. Yet with this there will always be room for change and growth in our own lives, as we make our way through life our forms of self expressions and how we view ourselves as a person will change. 

What about how students themselves feel about these things? Sophomore student at DeForest Area High School, Abigail Fahler gives her take on whether or not she sees individuality as important to her school life. Fahler mentions that individuality is something that is very important in her life, but when it comes to social situations it can cause some problems.

“I think it’s not as easy to find as many friends, as it would be if you went along with the trends and maybe not as many many people like you but I found myself finding closer friends who love me for me.”

So individuality is very important in many aspects, but it can be difficult in social situations if you fall outside of a certain trend. But is this really a problem? Or does it open up a door for us to create more meaningful relationships with people who can appreciate individuality and expression as it is. 

Fahler also connects her sense of individuality back to her work, she explains the limitations of a curriculum and how opportunity is the most complicated factor. 

 “I feel like if the curriculum was updated, especially in stuff like English class, to be more of what our generation could actually connect with, I would definitely connect more.”

Opportunity, something that can be different depending on who your teacher is and the classroom atmosphere that is presented. Fahler brings up the lack of opportunity specifically in the English curriculum. Contrasting this view there is the point of view of English teacher at DeForest Area High School, Kate Boyce. She explains how opportunity for self expression is something that is highly valued, and things can be adapted to different students if necessary to allow for students to express themselves in her class. 

“If someone doesn’t speak in a discussion,… they need the opportunity to express themselves in different ways…If writing is a struggle maybe we do something orally, if physically writing is difficult.”

Although this is not an exact change from the outlook Fahler brings up about the actual content in the curriculum, Boyce still shows an effort to accommodate for different variations of self expression in an academic setting. 

Boyce is not the only one with this point of view. An anonymous survey sent out to teachers at DeForest Area High School brought in many points of view on self expression in an academic setting. With this, when asked how they felt self expression contributed to the learning and social environment in class, one teacher replied as such,

“ {It’s} Good to have different perspectives and learn to live with each other even if we don’t agree with what others value or how they present themselves.”

This shows how self expression can be an amazing tool in learning from those around us. Itr allows us to explore different points of view and connect to different parts of the world around us. It also allows students to experience different outlooks on life and form their own opinions while exploring that area themselves. 

Self expression is necessary in an academic setting as it creates a work environment that produces higher quality work. Whether that be students being able to connect to a topic through materials or through topic selection, or if that’s through experience with their peers. The individuality of every student allows for a diverse environment that encourages open mindedness as well as respect among students.