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The Griffin

As I sat in AP English I was gripped with anxiety. I had no idea what to expect, and even
though it was my last semester of high school, I felt like a freshman again, nervous to be in the
seat I found myself in. I had heard the teacher was a loose cannon. Back straight, I looked at my
friend Madison who was sitting to my left. At least it will be an easy day today. She nodded in
agreement and we continued to talk about the teacher and what we might possibly do for the rest
of the class after she had covered the basics of the course and what we would be doing over the
As I glanced around the cluttered room, my senses were met by a massive overload. The
first thing I had noticed when entering the class had been the odd smell. It was not particularly
displeasing, but it was most definitely strange, and when you entered the room it hit you like a
brick wall. It was musty and reminded me of a retirement home, but had a sharper edge to it,
something I cannot put into words. After getting hit in the face by the smell, you would continue
to stumble- literally. To say that the room was cluttered, would be a massive understatement. The
white, cinder block walls on all four sides were invisible due to the junk that was piled up, lining
the walls as if to guard them. Sitting in my seat, silently looking around, I heard the low murmur
of the students in the class talking. All wondering what the teacher would say or do on the first
I leaned back in my chair a little, attempting to get comfortable in the cold, uninviting
desk. Then it happened. A tall, hunched woman entered the room, grey hair covered her head,
except for one pink feather that stood out light a light in a dark room. She introduced herself as
she waked into the classroom, stating her name to be Sally Griffin, all the while never making
eye contact with the class, but instead going to the seat behind her desk in the corner of the room

farthest from me. After telling us who she was, she proceeded to tell us practically nothing about
herself. We went straight into the three books we had to read over the summer. Giving opinions
and expressing how we felt about them. After a few minutes of this, someone spoke and asked
something all the students were thinking about but did not want to say. Are we turning in our
summer reading assignments? Oh yeah, just put everything on the table up here. The
squeaking of shoes and desks alike could be heard as everyone brought their massive booklets of
work they had done; some over the span of a couple months, and others over a couple days. As
everyone made their way back to their desks, Dr. Griffin began to talk.
Take out a sheet of paper. You are going to have your first graded assignment. It will
count for a test grade. Talk about Wuthering Heights. Compare the two estates in the novel and
what they represent. You need to write at least two pages about this, turn it in when you are
done. Everyone in the class let out a nervous gasp. This was a first, and not one I was happy to
be a part of. I had never had a teacher give a test on the first day of class, let alone a two page
paper on two houses in a book. I thought that the houses were just houses. I mean yeah they were
important for the plot, being a setting that the characters lived in and interacted with one another,
but how were they symbolic?
As the semester continued, conversations and questions similar to this would be asked.
Every question on a test was a deep one that required an incredible amount of thinking, and the
average grade on tests were usually failing. Every class challenged you to really read the
material you were supposed to, and not only that, but to think about it deeper than the surface
story. I found myself asking what the symbolism of a female character running away from her
father meant not just to the plot, but what the deeper meaning was. Did it reflect the views of
society at the time that the book was written, did it symbolize the struggle of finding ones self,

or did it speak to humanity as a whole? As we read through Hamlet, we examined each

character, and by the end, I felt like I knew them inside and out. What made them happy, sad,
how they would react to any given situation, and most importantly, what it was that made them
tick. Going through Our Eyes Were Watching God, we examined the idea of horizons. What that
term meant, how it was presented in the text, which characters looked to it, which didnt and who
reached it, if it was even possible. This got me as a person to really think. What made me tick?
What were my goals? Was there meaning and symbolism behind my words and actions? All of
these things influenced me, and changed the way I thought. It made me go deeper, to question
more. Things that I wasnt sure about, I did more digging, and things I did hold to be true, I put
to the test. If they held the test, then I knew my belief in them were justified, and that I would
defend them with every fiber in my body. In addition to affecting my personal intellect,
judgments, and beliefs, it also carried another kind of weight. Shallow literature no longer
interested me as much. Works that had no deeper meaning felt like baby food, and I had grown
out of that. I wanted meat.
This was far from the only way that Griffin challenged us. Not only did she get us to dig
deeper in literary texts, but she also got us to dig deeper in our personal ideology and beliefs. She
would impose her own and tell us to either defend what we believed, or to change it. At first I
became very angry because I found that most people in the class would merely take in everything
that she said to be true. I on the other hand, would constantly argue with her in front of the class,
not only trying to defend my philosophical and world views, but to let others see that they had
the ability to decide for themselves what was accurate and correct. I remember specifically one
day she walked into class and proclaimed boisterously There is no such thing as truth, and facts
do not exist. I was shocked at her audacity. To my surprise I saw heads nodding in agreement

all around the classroom. I believe that there are absolutes. That there are truths in the world
that are foundationally needed, and are true, I somewhat slowly remarked, careful with my
words to keep from an effective rebuttal. What do you mean? she responded. Well if you state
that there is no such thing as truth, then how do I know that this is true?
These types of conversations in which she forced us as a class, and us as individuals to
face what she said and to either mold to it, or to fight it, was something that I will forever be
thankful for. Her ability to get us as students to look past the surface and search for something
deeper is a skill that has not only affected my reading skills, and the way that I write, trying to
add depth to my topics, but is something that has had effects that reach far past the classroom. I
look for deeper meaning in peoples actions and words, trying to get to the root of why these
things are being said or done, not only what they mean.
Even up until the last days of school, she left lasting impact on me. I made a ninety-two
in the class, one point short of an A, but far higher than the average person in the class. (the
top fifteen in my graduating class were all in it.) I remember being angry with her, wondering
how a teacher could have the cold heart to give a senior who was graduating a B when all they
needed was just one more point. Two days after I found out what I made in the class, we had
graduate practice where we practiced lining up and getting in position for the ceremony. As we
waited to get ready, everyone was talking in groups, scattered among the hallways of the school.
Teachers were walking about, checking to make sure everyone had what they needed to in order
to practice, and that they were not doing anything stupid. As I stood talking, I noticed that Griffin
was walking bye. Some-what joking and halfway serious, I told her that we had beef. As I
explained why I was upset with her, she sat there with unmoved eyes. At the end of my
explanation, she told me this Conrad, I dont know what your grade is. I just put things in the

computer and it gives a grade that I did not look at. But those things are irrelevant. Youre
already accepted into college, and your future employer will not care what you made in AP
English, and the grades dont matter. After high school, this grade is irrelevant. What matters is
that youre one of my favorite students, you actually listened and responded, and would argue
with me. I wanted to be mad. I really did. But when Griffin gives you a compliment you are
more taken aback and honored than if the president gave you a compliment.