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What Does a Small Town Education Look Like?

I’ve lived in Coos Bay, Oregon for five thousand six hundred ninety six days. I have been alive for five thousand six hundred ninety six days. And, like most of the people who live here, I was born in the local hospital. Living in this outlying town from the moment I was born means my physical world has been reduced to sixteen thousand people. Not being around a diversity of people makes it difficult to view different perspectives. It took me a while to figure out that I need to explore how people other than me—people with different beliefs and backgrounds—act and make decisions in order to grow. In this small town that seems like its own little world, open-mindedness isn’t popular. But in order for me to learn, I need to explore life and what it has to offer. 

In elementary school kids started to be sorted into the “Talented and Gifted” program, otherwise known as “TAG”. When I wasn’t selected to be in the TAG program, I started to compare myself to others subconsciously. Not only in intelligence, but in every other way possible. Was it the way I acted that the teachers didn’t like? Am I not good enough to be considered talented or intelligent? I started working harder and harder to be like those who received special attention. I was taught that success was based on how highly others thought of me. 

In middle school, I was told to start going to the Talented and Gifted meetings. Teachers said that the way I thought was special and that I have a bright future. I was finally important. I spent all of my time working on my relationships with other people besides my family, and when I got home at 7:00 PM I was drained of energy and didn’t have the ability to spend time with my family. As soon as I got home I would lock myself in my room and do homework, not even bothering to say hello to my family. Looking back, I understand now that this hurt my relationship with my family, but at least the people at school liked me, right? 

When I started going to Northwest School, I was amazed at how different it was. There are so many after-school activities and so many people with different interests. I really enjoy how people share their genuine opinions, instead of only saying things that they know the majority will approve of. Although I have only been to the school in person once, I can tell that I will really benefit from all of the new opportunities. For example, the wide variety of outdoor adventures and the kindness of the teachers. I am so excited to learn and grow alongside so many wonderful students and staff. 

Where I live (and in many other places), it’s normal to put on a front around others. I was constantly shown one way to act and a nice box to fit into. The people who fit in that box were singled out by teachers and treated specially, so I modified myself to be like them. Going to this new school with many talented people and being around a diversity of students shows how much I was missing just by thinking that the level I was at was as good as it gets. Living in a small town can mean being isolated by a unified way of living and a certain expectation of how to act, while also restricting the diversity and extent of your education. Now that I have gotten a taste of a more diverse and connected community, I cannot wait to explore and grow more. 

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