The movie “Freedom Writers” was about Erin Gruwell, a young teacher who accepted a position teaching freshman and sophomore English at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Mrs. Gruwell dramatically transformed a chaotic class of hardened inner city youths. This class was consisted of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Juvenile Delinquents, gang members, one Caucasian, and underprivileged students from poor neighborhoods. At first, it was difficult for Mrs. Gruwell to relate to her class.
The students brought their gang warfare from the streets into the classroom, the only thing they shared were their hatred for one another and the understanding that they were simply being warehoused in the educational system until they were old enough to disappear. Despite Mrs. Gruwell’s students’ refusal to participate in class, she attempted to engage them on a daily basis. Until, a racially motivated gang shooting witnessed by a Latino gang member Eva occurred, following an ugly racial cartoon; becoming the most unwittingly dynamic teaching aids.
Mrs. Gruwell angrily started telling them about the Holocaust. However, only one student knew about the Holocaust. The teacher decided to take on two jobs, one as a lingerie salesperson and the other as a concierge at the local Marriot, in order to purchase supplies to reach the students in a different way. Her husband began to worry; she told him it was only temporary. She moved the students around, out of their racial divisions. She attempted to show the students that they were united by playing the “Line Game” with them.
Her most effective form of teaching aid came in the form of a black and white composition notebook. She gave each student a notebook and asked them to write in it every day. They could write in any form they wish, as long as it was continuous. She told them that it was completely private and she would not read their journals unless they put them into the locked cabinet in the back of the classroom. She decided to rebuke their hatred of one another by having them read The Diary of Anne Frank and wrote about their own experiences in a daily journal.
This sparked a transformation in the classroom, compelling them to listen to each other and force her to take off her idealistic blinders and take in the kids’ survival stories of their undeclared war on the streets. Mrs. Gruwell began to connect with them. She brought in music from the ‘Hood, literature from another kind of ghetto, and The Diary of Anne Frank. With these simple tools, she opened her students’ eyes to the experiences of those suffering intolerance throughout the world and the struggles of those outside their own communities.
The students raised money to have their hero Miep Gies, the lady that helped Ann Frank, flew in to speak to them. Miep Gies told them she is not a hero; she just did the right thing. Lastly, Mrs. Gruwell told her students that for their final project, they will be typing up their journals and binding them. She told them to give their book a title. In the end, most of her students graduated and went on to post-secondary education, leaving behind s legacy.