Definitely not your average Joe

North Penn senior underwent major change in his educational experience

Joe Mitchell proudly shows off his North Penn tie. Mitchell came to North Penn in the fall 2013 for sophomore year.

Madi Peyton

Joe Mitchell proudly shows off his North Penn tie. Mitchell came to North Penn in the fall 2013 for sophomore year.

TOWAMENCIN – At first glance, North Penn senior Joe Mitchell appears to be just another face in North Penn’s mass of students. He comes with his own story that is unique from most. Attending a public high school of over 3,000 is on the opposite end of the spectrum for Mitchell compared to his previous years of homeschooling.

While most students attend a public or private school for a majority of their lives, Mitchell is a unique student who has had the experience of multiple types of education. Before coming to North Penn, he was educated by his mother, followed by attending an online school.

“My mom went to Columbia University for Education, so for the most part she was the ‘teacher’ of the household. My mom only taught me up until 7th grade. After that, I went to an online school called Connections Academy. I did well there, but I became really depressed because my daily schedule was so monotonous. The screen media began to take its toll on my eyes, and I sort of lost motivation. So after moving to Lansdale, my parents decided to let me enroll in North Penn and the rest is history,” Mitchell explained.

Though this transition can be a daunting experience for some, Mitchell settled in quite nicely in tenth grade after finding his fit. It was a big culture shock for Mitchell switching from homeschooling to public school, but he soon overcame “the common misconception that being homeschooled is a term synonymous to being anti-social.” After getting past the initial hesitations of being put in an unfamiliar situation, Joe found his fit within the mass student body.

“The best thing about North Penn is that it really is diverse. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re into, there’s bound to be people who feel the same way. I went through your standard insecurities,“what if nobody likes me” “what if so-and-so finds me annoying”, but never something that wasn’t alleviated in a couple days’ time,” said Mitchell “I noticed, looking back on it, that I shifted in and out of a lot of social cliques, gained and lost a lot of friends, and I was very socially conscious of everything that I did, but being a senior now, I feel as though I’ve found my clique to stay. I’m really happy with them.”

The first day of school holds minor changes for most returning students, but Mitchell was faced with a first day like no other. He opened the doors to an unfamiliar building filled with brand new faces, and at first, it was overwhelming.

“My first day of high school started two days later than everyone else’s. I enrolled last second so they needed more time to put together a schedule for me. My schedule felt like hieroglyphics and the hallways felt like a labyrinth. I knew how high school worked, but I had no idea how North Penn worked. I often went to the wrong class, called teachers by the wrong name, and I thought it was really weird that I had to ask to use the bathroom,” Mitchell quipped.

Aside from dealing with the social aspects of public school, Mitchell struggled with the educational aspect because homeschooling is a very different and “individualistic approach on education.” He found it hard to get involved in class “simply because [he] didn’t feel like the teacher was talking to [him], or even knew [he] was there.” It was an overwhelming transition, but Mitchell feels that he could not have gotten passed it without the support from one North Penn teacher.

“I’ll always remember my 10th grade English class with Ms. Kinsey. Even though she had just as many students as any other teacher, she always made me feel as though I was home, and that I mattered -which meant a lot, considering my background,” remarked Mitchell.

Outside of the classroom, Mitchell is not involved in any North Penn clubs, but he is currently in the midst of starting one, the North Penn American Sign Language Club (ASLC).

“I’m currently waiting to see whether or not it gets approved. Of all my passions, I love to sign and I want to be an interpreter when I’m older or maybe teach deaf students. The club focuses on learning basic Sign Language and on the Deaf Culture. So, look forward to that!”

Being the new kid has not discouraged Mitchell to make the most of his high school years. Though public school had its challenges early on, he feels that the decision he made to join a public school environment was the right choice. His diverse background and unique experiences have shaped him into the student and learner he is today.

“In some instances, there are times when I feel left out because I never went to any of the middle schools, but at the same time everything that I’ve done has made me who I am today, ” Mitchell said. “All of the good things and especially all of the bad ones -and it’s really hard for me to tell whether or not homeschooling was a good or a bad thing. So, no, I wouldn’t because homeschooling has its ups and downs, but so does public school. Overall I’m happy with how I turned out. I don’t know how I would have turned out if I started public school earlier or later, so I don’t know if it would have been good or bad. I just know the person I become when I started public school at the time I did, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”