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I graduated from Collegium Charter School in Exton, Pa., in 2018. Until about two months before I graduated high school, I still had the nervous expectation that I was supposed to know what I wanted to major in when I went to college. I knew I loved creative writing and reading literature, so I should probably be an English major—but what would I do with that? I loved talking to people, I led a bunch of clubs in high school, but I didn’t know what I wanted to be, and that was scary.
- Daijah Patton
Around that time, I asked one of my favorite English teachers, Ms. Lawrence, how she knew what profession she wanted to pursue. She said, “Daijah, I was a math major at first. You can be whatever you want to be in college, but something will click for you. This job isn’t about money at all to me, it’s about the connections, the impact, and the knowledge that I get to provide students for their future. Teaching was my calling, and it’s something I’ve become so passionate about.”
And that’s exactly when I knew that I wanted to be a teacher.
Fast forward to my sophomore year in college, I am a declared English major with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Secondary Education. A mouthful, I say. Here in Arcadia’s School of Education, we are HUGE on getting students into the field as soon as possible, and by the field I mean into all levels of the schools around us. My first couple of field placements—at Science Leadership Academy, AIM Academy, and Abington Friends School—I actually took with my first-year class ED110, but my next placement would be all on my own, so I was a little nervous. My field placement for the fall semester was a quirky tenth-grade English classroom at Cheltenham High School.
Every Wednesday at 6:15 a.m., I would internally groan when my alarm went off, a not-so-pleasant memory of waking up early in high school and hauling myself to school by 7:30. Cheltenham recently started a Project-Based Learning (PBL) program where students in all grades can apply to create community-based projects that challenge their reading, writing, and creative skills. It also teaches them how to work as a team with advanced technology and tools that might help them in their future careers. I got to observe the school’s amazing PBL English teacher, Lyndie Dubbs. I learned a lot from her and from the students, whom she considers her own.
These sophomores were unique, goofy, but more than ready to tackle any type of work that was thrown at them. Every day I’d come in and be greeted by twins that were as intelligent, yet different as they come; drilled by another student who wanted to know “How lit are the Arcadia parties?;” and questioned by another with, “Out of all the schools around here, you really came to the Ham?” Throughout the semester, students were working on a mosaic as a group, learning the ins and outs of cutting wood, staining, and spackling. These are things I didn’t learn how to do in school at all. The mosaic and many other projects were hung around the school to showcase more student-made work, and some were donated to other schools. Community partners also sold them at local shops, and some were displayed in the district. Aside from all this amazing stuff, they also just had a “normal” high school English class with Ms. Dubbs.
When it came down to the real stuff, sometimes they were wary, but weren’t we all at that age? My favorite unit was when they read The Perfect Storm, a story about a group of almost-retired fishermen who get caught in a crazy storm, going to the place no one goes. After reading the story, the students watched the movie based on the book, and just about all of them were on the edge of their seats, making connections to the story and predictions about what was going to happen next. They were so engaged, and I loved watching it all unfold, seeing these students grow while I was there and open up to me.
On my last day there, Ms. Dubbs told the students, "This might be the last time you guys see these college students this week; wish them luck!" The students could not believe it was our last day, and they started shouting, "What!?" "No way, we're gonna miss you!" And that is it right there. Those are the bonds I want to create with students. The passion that goes with teaching is unmatched. Fieldwork is an excellent opportunity to see what it's going to be like when you are teaching, to see how other school systems work, but more importantly, it allows you to create connections with people you never thought you would, and it is so fulfilling.
If you're interested in majoring or minoring in Education, Educational Studies, Secondary Education, and more, I highly recommend getting in touch with the School of Education for more information. And if you’re looking for more information on Cheltenham High School’s PBL programs, this video (right) captures how enriching it is.