Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Letter of Introduction 2013-2014

Every year I write my students a letter and I read it to them on the first day of classes.  For homework that night they write me one back.  It is maybe my favorite thing of the whole year.  This year, I am posting the letter on my blog and adding photos!  Enjoy!

August 14, 2013
Dear Students,
            Are you excited?  Nervous?  Afraid?  Intimidated?  Distracted?  You may think that I have been through enough first days of school that I am cool and collected and I don’t feel any of those things.  In fact I feel them all.  Some come for a few minutes, and some sit down with me for a whole day.  Perhaps that is why I love teaching so much.  In many professions you don’t get a fresh start every year.  Even though it’s scary and I have alternating high hopes and dire fears, I am glad for this new start. 
            My ritual every year is to write my students a letter where I introduce myself.  I like that I have a chance to take inventory of my life and my heart and articulate who I am today.  I didn’t make this up—my 11th grade English teacher did it and I still have her letter.  Even though you probably won’t remember most of the things from this letter (in April someone will say, “You lived in Mexico City?  I didn’t know that!”  It’s okay, it happens every year) but I think it’s a nice way to start the year. 
            Odds are you have already sized me up quite a bit.  Maybe you asked friends or classmates who have had me before.  You looked up on my bulletin board for clues about me; you are scrutinizing my clothes to see what they say.  Those things say a lot about me, but there is a lot that is not visible.  In The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a fox tells the Prince, “The essential is invisible to the eye.”  I have always found this to be true. 
            For example, you probably can’t tell that I grew up outside of the United States, that I moved from Ohio to Mexico City when I was 10 and then to Caracas, Venezuela when I was 12.  I graduated from an international high school and came back to the States for college.  You can probably guess I speak Spanish, but not that I also speak enough Portuguese to live in Brazil for 3 weeks on my own, which I did after I graduated from college. 
            You may notice I have a loud voice, an energetic personality and a dramatic style, but would you guess that I was a theater major and then got my masters in educational theater?  You probably can’t tell from my accent but before I lived in Nashville I lived in New York City for 6 years.  In that whole time, I never owned a car, I taught students from all over the world in public and charter schools and I dreamed of moving to Nashville. 
            By now you’ve probably put it together that I am relatively young, and hopefully you think I am a little bit cool, and maybe you have even started to wonder if I live in East Nashville.  You’d be right!  I live in a house built in 1935 close to The Pharmacy, Mas Tacos and just down the way from Jeni’s Ice Cream.  To go along with this, I of course have a mutt dog that I adopted from a shelter with a cool name.  His name is Django, after the famous jazz guitarist with only 3 fingers.  And yes, we grow our own vegetables and we have chickens.  I don’t have any ironic tattoos, and I don’t own a lot of vintage clothes.  I missed a few requirements for hipster membership, but I’m close. 
            The chickens are a recent addition to our family, and let me answer all your questions at once.  No, we don’t have a rooster, and yes they still lay eggs even without one.  We have three Black Copper Marans and three Buff Orpingtons.  The coolest part is that I built their coop by myself with free wood from Craig’s List.  I only had to pay for the hardware (hinges, latches, screws, etc.)  It took me three full days and a lot of blisters.  I had never used a circular saw before, but in YouTube I trust.  I learned as I went and still have all my fingers!  Win!

Safety First!

The basic frame

Sawhorses and saw
The finished product!

            Because my husband also teaches here at Harpeth Hall, that cat is probably out of the bag.  Mr. Griswold teaches middle school science and many of you may have had him as a teacher.  We have one son, Calvin, who is 19 months old.  Many of you may even remember me pregnant two years ago!  Calvin spends his days at a day care near 12 South.  He likes to play in his sand box, chase the chickens and build with Legos.  He is starting to talk a lot and he babbles all kinds of nonsense, too. 
            The small stuff you will probably learn as we go along.  I wrote a novel last November and I am in the process of editing it.  Everyone thinks writing the novel is the hardest part, but actually, editing is much harder.  My goal is to finish editing it, send it out to be read by some trusted friends, edit some more, and then try to get a literary agent.  The agent will then try to get it published on my behalf.  No, you can’t read my novel yet, but that day may come soon.  It isn’t written for teens, and there may be some content that your parents might object to, so let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.  I may share excerpts of it to help me teach about grammar and writing. 
            I love reading fantasy.  I’m not even going to pretend like I always read highfalutin books.  I like those too, but you will often see me reading something that involves demons, warlocks, space travel, parallel universes and epic journeys.  On a side note, despite loving to read those genres, that is not the genre of the novel I wrote.  My novel is literary fiction, which means it is realistic and I tried to write it with some beauty and style.  I’m a sucker for love plots, and in some ways, my novel is a love story (with a lot of heartbreak and strife in the middle.) 
           I ran a triathlon in May.  I chose theater over sports in high school, so this was no easy task.  I had thyroid cancer in late 2012 and my thyroid was removed last December.  After that, any excuses I had about not going to the gym just seemed really trivial.  Training for 5 months and completing a triathlon was possible because I had a brush with my own mortality.  After cancer, who cares if your legs hurt or you’re tired?  The triathlon was in the Cedars of Lebanon Park and I swam 200 meters, biked 10 miles and then ran 2 miles.  I did it in 1 hour and 13 minutes.  I didn’t win anything, but I finished and I ran the entire 2 miles without walking, even though the last mile was uphill and I was really tired.  I hope to be able to do another triathlon in the future. 





            I haven’t really talked about myself as a teacher and what I value in students.  I guess it is a lot like who I am as a person: I love taking risks and trying new things.  I like figuring things out as I go.  I like diving into challenges.  I like authenticity and realness.  I believe all good writing is related to TMIs, because only when too much is shared do we realize that we are not alone.  I am a passionate person and when I am not passionate I try to find the hidden joy in the task.  I strive for originality, but I take as much advice as I can.  I hope that you are willing to meet me with some passion and fearlessness of your own.  I have never regretted taking on a single challenge, even the ones that made me fall on my face.  It is only when we test ourselves that we see what we are truly made of. 

Sincerely,

Meg Griswold


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