The Griswolds have big news! In July 2018, we are making a big international move. Below is something I’ve written and shared with my students and colleagues at my current school. NB: All of the seniors at my school give a speech during their senior year. I’ve been here seven years, so I’ve heard roughly 700 speeches. I decided that as I am moving on to my next chapter, it was fitting to write my own “senior” speech.
This semester I’ve been teaching my students about the Hero’s Journey. Developed by Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey is a way to describe the pattern of stories throughout different cultures and eras. Even across oceans and millennia, there is a pattern to the stories that we humans tell, and Joseph Campbell studied it and described its features.
The first stage is the hero in their normal world. The status quo. But something happens: an inciting incident occurs, and the hero receives the call to adventure. It’s the moment that turns a regular day into an extraordinary one, one that kicks off a journey that takes the hero far from home.
How fitting that just as I’m teaching this story structure, I write to share with you that the Griswolds are heeding the call to adventure. In July we will be moving as a family to São Paulo, Brazil to teach at The Graded School, an American International School.
Many of you know that I grew up overseas with my family. When I was 10 we moved from Cincinnati to Mexico City, and at the end of 6th grade, we moved to Caracas,Venezuela, where I lived until I graduated from high school. I attended an international school in Caracas where 27 languages were spoken. I became fluent in Spanish and conversational in Portuguese. And I always thought that some day my life would lead me back to an international life.
Now that our oldest, Calvin, has started Kindergarten, we started thinking about the educational experience we want for him. We also started to think about the next adventure and challenge for us as educators. Now that our family is complete, the time feels right to set off.
But none of this would be possible if it hadn’t been for Harpeth Hall. When we moved here in 2011 from New York, I thought seriously about leaving the profession. I was coming from 4 challenging years of teaching in New York City public and charter schools. I was approaching burn-out. Borders Bookstore had just declared bankruptcy and I thought, “Well, there went my back up plan!”
I was so lucky to get hired to teach at this amazing institution. Far from burning out, I reached new heights as an educator because of Harpeth Hall. Collaborating and learning with my amazing English department colleagues was a transformative experience. Their experience and expertise, their commitment to the students, their reflection and openness on their own teaching: these things inspired and uplifted me. I became the educator I was always meant to be because of Harpeth Hall. I learned not just from my department, but from all of the faculty and staff. I learned about what a team of people can do when they are all united to work for a common goal. From our administration I learned about grace, about strength, about humanity. And all of these lessons have been formative.
Perhaps most importantly, I learned from teaching amazing students. The students at Harpeth Hall let me be creative, let me challenge myself, let me learn more than I thought possible about teaching and learning. Over my seven years at Harpeth Hall, my students’ dedication, effort, and creativity have made this such an amazing place to work. I will always carry with me the earnest desire to learn and grow that they brought to school each day.
Moving to Brazil and teaching at an international school would not have been possible had we not spent these 7 years at Harpeth Hall. When we were told that we were attractive candidates, I knew that Harpeth Hall was to thank.
So, I feel that I am now writing my own senior speech. I imagine that I am looking out at a theater of my chosen family. I feel gratitude for each and every one of you. For how you’ve pushed me, supported me, questioned me, cheered me on. Our departure, our call to adventure, is not an unhappy ending, but the beginning of an exciting new chapter. It is bittersweet for us, to know that we will be leaving a fantastic place filled with wonderful people. But it also feels right.
We will take each of you with us when we go. Your ears will burn next year with tropical heat because we will be singing your praises and carrying your lessons with us. We hope that we can keep our connection to Harpeth Hall alive, and see this new chapter for us as a new chapter for you as well. A new partnership with the southern hemisphere. Come on, I’m sure Harpeth Hall will spring for plane tickets to Brazil so that you can come check out what we’re doing!!
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
Meg Griswold, Class of 2018