Students and teachers express themselves at WCHS


Photo by Ananya Pandit.

On Valentines Day weekend, a group of WCHS sophomores craft heart-shaped personal pizzas to celebrate their appreciation for one another in a heart-themed gathering.

By Ananya Pandit, Staff Writer

From wearing a butterfly beret, to the music sneakily playing in one’s headphones during class, self-expression is everywhere. Not only does self-expression permeate almost every facet of our lives, but it dictates how we perceive ourselves. Needless to say, self-expression is a necessity. 

Self-expression is a way to resist conformity, allowing individuals to explore what interests them regardless of what is accepted societally. How self-expression manifests itself is multifaceted. 

Commonly, students will express themselves through their appearance. At WCHS, students enjoy a relaxed dress code, allowing them to engage in physical manifestations of their identities and self-expression to a greater degree.

“I think the main way I express myself is through my clothes and style, and that’s something that’s changed the most over the years,” WCHS senior Zayla Ihsan said. 

Just like in Ihsan’s case, self-expression is fluid. It waxes and wanes throughout life, depending on interests, friends, as well as one’s professional and personal lives. 

According to Psychology Today, self-expression is one of the most important ways to connect, grow and navigate life’s challenges. In adolescence, this is especially important, and in the case of Gen Z, the current group of teenagers and young adults, it is defining. 

Having spent a whole year online, many students have likely become more reliant on social media to feel a sense of belonging and connection in a time of self-isolation. Social media platforms such as TikTok gave students access to fashion inspiration, the ability to learn about new topics, find new music or media, and provide them with a window into someone else’s life in a quick 15-second video clip. During online school, students found new hobbies and became part of a community, a rarity at the time. 

“Covid affected my self-expression by introducing me to a new hobby. Since I was online more and I had more time, I picked up crocheting,” WCHS senior Lola Bolado said. 

Still, self-expression and individuality on social media is a nuanced topic. Though social media platforms allow users to explore creative outlets and their identities, the way in which it is rewarded can sometimes make users self-conscious of the way they express themselves. From the way one acts to the way one dresses, everything is scrutinized. 

Social media’s love for creativity and self-expression is limited, and online communities ridicule concepts that are outside of their creative comfort zone. Additionally, this admiration for creativity has turned toxic on platforms such as Tiktok: the greatest insult for many teens is being called “basic,” both in terms of personality and style. 

“It’s discouraging when people in real life and online judge you for the way you express yourself. You can’t dress up too much, but you can’t be ‘boring’ either. It makes showing what you believe in, something you no longer want to do anymore,” Ihsan said.

Self-expression, though commonly exercised through personal style or appearance, can also be through subtler forms. One can even express themselves through listening to music.

“I really like this song called ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else,’ originally by The Kinks,” WCHS history teacher Paul Jacobson said. “Those kinds of [rock] songs appealed to me when I was in high school.” 

 Jacobson’s classroom, even more than a learning environment, is an experience. His space is filled wall-to-wall with colorful posters, magazines, music, and sports-related paraphernalia. Walking into his classroom and spotting a Ramones poster or a cross-country trophy, one can immediately recognize who Jacobson is. 

Alongside teaching AP NSL and Global Issues at WCHS, Jacobson is also the coach of WCHS’s track and cross country teams, allowing him to express his passions in his work.

“I would say I express myself through sports, music, and teaching,” Jacobson said. “I want to have an influence, something that drives me.” 

The concept of self-expression during adolescence is one that is timeless and relevant through every generation as teenagers and young adults seek answers about their identities. However, in Jacobson’s life, this race to find meaning never fully subsided. 

“I don’t think it’s ever going to change,” Jacobson said. “The search for identity is something everyone goes through. Even now, as an adult, I’m drawn to things that try to provide answers to questions about the meaning of life.”