Categorized | Feature

Graham Lockett breaks away from his literal and figurative Amish roots

Dani Klemes, cub writer

For AP Environmental Science and chemistry teacher Graham Lockett, growing up was fairly different than the average childhood realm of playgrounds and schoolyards. Born and raised in Pennsylvania Dutch, an Amish community west of Philadelphia, Lockett had to grow up a bit faster than his peers in the “outside world” did.

“I didn’t have much of a childhood. I was working on my parents’ farm most of the time so I had to grow up pretty quickly,” Lockett said.

Being Amish was not merely a trait, though. In a way, being Amish was Lockett’s identity.

“I definitely was confined. I couldn’t be myself in that community, but at the time, I didn’t know any better,” Lockett said.

Once he reached the age of 16, Lockett, as well as the other 16-year olds in his community, faced a rite of passage known as “Rumspringa.” This period of adolescence allowed Lockett and his Amish peers to venture out into the modern world for a year in order to make an ultimate decision about which world they would choose to remain in.

“When I turned 16, my parents, my sister and I all moved out to California for better education and better opportunities. Since we chose not to return to our home on my 17th birthday, we were shunned by our Amish town,” Lockett said. “My grandparents who still live in Pennsylvania Dutch aren’t allowed to talk to me unless they want to be shunned too.”

For many who move to new states or cities, the biggest change is friend groups or favorite local shops, but for Lockett, the entirely different atmosphere was a huge shock.

“Coming from a religious household, it was weird hearing swearing and seeing girls in such skimpy clothing,” Lockett said. “Also, I remember going to the mall for the first time was so strange.”

In Amish communities, it is a firm belief that life should be lived in the most organic way possible. In other words, electricity and modern technology are strictly forbidden.

“I really wanted to drive a car,” Lockett said.

In addition to regular electrical power being off-limits, cameras and other devices were banned. Since Lockett wasn’t allowed to take photographs, he has no pictures of himself during his childhood. Television was also a major experience that Lockett missed out on.

“All my friends reminisce about their favorite 90s TV shows and Disney movies, but I didn’t get to experience that until much later,” Lockett said. “I remember when I discovered MTV, I would religiously watch The Hills, Laguna Beach, and The OC.”

Social interactions and common courtesy differed for Lockett as well.

“I definitely had more personal space in the Amish community,” Lockett said. “And the Amish kids were way more respectful to their parents.”

Despite the apparent changes to his once-pure Amish life, Lockett adjusted fairly well to his new environment.

“I went to college, then grad school, then I started my first teaching job at 20 years old,” Lockett said. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher and I figured I might as well do it while I have a passion for it…I don’t want to burn out.”

Growing up in an Amish community was a key component in helping shape Lockett’s teaching career.

“I gained humility, ambition, respect, and good morals,” Lockett said. “I never really had many adult role models at a young age so I hope that as a teacher working with younger students, I can be a role model for others.”

Working in an environment full of older teachers with years of experience on their backs, Lockett and his unique personality are refreshing to his students.

“[Lockett] is a really fun teacher…he has a big personality and it’s really easy to relate to him,” junior Cameron Chlavin said.

Although Lockett didn’t get the typical childhood that every child pines for, he’s proud of where he comes from.

“Everything happens for a reason…I wouldn’t change my roots,” Lockett said.

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