Olivia Goss (center) photographed at the Greenhouse Studio in Seattle on December 22, 2014

Image: Brandon Hill

Last fall Washington voters approved Initiative 1351—which will increase state funding to hire nearly 15,000 teachers over the next four years—by just 40,000 votes. That narrow margin speaks to the inconclusive data on the merits of smaller classes, but the result speaks to an undeniable fact: With 19.7 students per teacher in fall 2012, Washington schools had some of the most crowded classrooms in the country. You won’t catch 13-year-old Olivia Goss discussing education policy or teacher-to-student ratios, but that’s because the eighth grader is too busy taking advanced placement classes at Washington Middle School, practicing the clarinet, and playing ultimate Frisbee. In other words, she’s like a lot of kids today: busy, driven to succeed, and limited only by the resources available to her. —Matthew Halverson
 


 

Would you like some coffee? I’m not going to have any, but you can.
 

My favorite class is the one with my favorite teacher, and that’s French. I had him for French last year too. He’s just really chill and doesn’t like using textbooks, and I’m good at outside-of-the-box learning. My dad says, “If there’s someone out there who can teach you something, go wherever they go.” Or something like that.
 

At the Montessori school I went to for elementary school, I learned to not be afraid of teachers. They didn’t say, “Don’t be afraid of teachers.” But I only had 11 other kids in my class, so I just got to talk to them more. And they were all friendly. So I wouldn’t say I’m friends with my teachers, but I’m not scared to talk to them either. One of my teachers says I compete to ask the most questions in class each day.
 

When I’m confused, I always ask questions to figure out why I’m confused and how to not be confused. And I think that helps me do better because I don’t go home and think, I have no idea what we’re doing. I figure it out.
 

I have a cousin who is studying to be a scientist. She would show us pictures of squids that she dissected. My brother was very squeamish about it, but I thought it was really cool. And I thought it was cool that she had that much drive. I guess I’m inspired by people who have a passion that I can relate to, or by people who try to make a better society.
 

Oh, I like this question. This is not an attainable thing that a president could do, but I would find a way to get things for the homeless and get people jobs. Whenever I see someone in need, I always want to help them. My dad once said that it’s always nice to help just one person, and then you know that someone else will help another person if they’re kind and giving. But I always want to help everyone I see, and it makes me so mad when I can’t. I want everyone to have equal opportunities.
 

I don’t get embarrassed very easily. I don’t like being the center of attention, but I don’t hide in the corner either. And I feel like if I was any less confident, I probably wouldn’t be like this. So I don’t have any problem with how I am now or what I’m doing now.
 

I’m happiest outdoors. I like to swim in the ocean, and I like hiking and outdoors things. There’s a park really close to my house, and I like walking in it. I like the air. It’s fresh and peaceful. The water and the trees and everything out there have been there forever. And I like going places where there aren’t a lot of cars and people. I like people, but I also like not being with people.
 

I never got attached to pop stars when I was younger, but I’d pick Beyoncé over Taylor Swift. I mean, Taylor’s songs are catchy, but she’s just a person who calls herself a country singer who does not sing country. Beyoncé is, like, Beyoncé.
 

I’d like to say that I keep up on current events, but I’m not great about it. I didn’t really know about Michael Brown and the New York thing until people were talking about it a couple weeks after it happened. I was like, “What?” And then I pretended I knew what they were talking about. But I think I’ve caught up a little bit. I don’t get why people care what—I mean, I know because of history. But I don’t get why people care what other people look like and why it matters. 
 

Facebook isn’t really a thing in my grade. Now it’s Instagram and Snapchat. Social media is definitely a big thing in a lot of people’s lives, but I don’t ever really post anything. Most of the time I just look, so it’s not that important to me. If all of the social media in the world went away, I’d be okay. I like writing letters.
 

I love to read. I was really into the Percy Jackson series, which is about a demigod who goes on adventures. But I haven’t read very much this school year, because whenever I’m reading I’m like, “No, I’m wasting time. I’m not doing my homework that’s due tomorrow.” I find that to be an issue, because I used to read all the time.
 

I have a friend who thinks about college for hours weekly and sometimes cries about it. I definitely want to go to college but I have no idea where I want to go. I’ve never known what I want to do. I like everything. Sometimes I’m like, “Maybe I should know where I want to go to college,” but I really don’t know. And I’m kind of happy about that. I’m only in eighth grade.

 

This article appeared in the February 2015 issue of Seattle Met magazine.

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