David Griffin exemplifies the talented, experienced and passionate teachers drawn to Winsor. Now in his second year here, he also coaches Winsor’s varsity soccer and JV basketball teams as well as advising the Amnesty club. A graduate of both Harvard and Wesleyan, he taught for seven years at Newark Academy in New Jersey. Enjoy this glimpse into what
[NOTE: English teacher David Griffin exemplifies the talented, experienced, and passionate teachers drawn to Winsor. Also a class dean and soccer and basketball coach, he shares his thoughts in this Q&A from the Winsor Bulletin magazine and the "Meet Our Teachers" online video series.]
Q: What inspired you to be an English teacher?
A: My parents are both educators—both former English teachers, in fact. So, naturally, I vowed that I would never become an English teacher. Then as a summer job I started running camping trips for middle and high school students, and I understood why my parents found their work so rewarding.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching at Winsor?
A: The people. I appreciate the rich relationships I have with students and colleagues because those relationships enable the kind of learning that makes Winsor special. They also make every day fun.
Q: How does coaching enhance your experience?
A: I’ve always needed to be active to be happy. I experience real joy playing for, coaching, and watching great teams, and I want our student athletes to experience that same joy, first and foremost. The soccer pitch and basketball court are among the best venues I’ve found for encouraging essential skills and habits like grit, honest communication, leadership, and teamwork. When our athletes see those daily habits and skills translate into a winning goal or a clutch defensive stop, I get to see their pride and joy.
Q: In your mind, what three words best describe your students?
A: Curious, determined, and hilarious.
Q: Describe a favorite lesson?
A: I deal a deck of cards to the class. I keep another deck. When I flip a card, the student with the corresponding card has to ask a question or build on what the previous student has just said. When I explain how it works, the students get nervous. The discussion begins slowly. As it picks up, they begin frustratedly raising hands when they have points to make. I ignore them. Eventually, I drop the cards and tell the students to jump in as they please, and the floodgates open. They build organically on each other’s points. In the process, each student strengthens her ability to stay on her toes and make contributions even when it’s uncomfortable, and ultimately the class gets more richness and depth. At the end, we process how it felt. And best of all, I don’t say more than a few words all class.
Q: What do you hope your students take away from your classes?
A: Their stuff. Especially Nalgenes and pencil cases. Oh, and a love of learning and of literature, please.
Q: Alumnae often see writing as a lasting Winsor lesson. How do you nurture girls' writing skills?
A: We can—and do—teach writing skills in class, but good writing is the product of countless individual decisions and contingencies. Writing conferences provide us the opportunity to better understand each student’s intentions, understanding, and skills through conversation. Those conversations allow us to tailor feedback to each student so that she can shape her own ideas in her own voice. That Winsor values such a level of individual attention is a huge part of what drew me to the school.
Q: Speaking of alums, any book suggestions for them?
A: If they come for a writing conference, maybe I can figure out their tastes. But for all alums? Today I’ll say Night Film by Marisha Pessl, My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, or The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.