The Freedom Writers and how to write your own ending

Featuring Erin Gruwell

Modern day teacher hero, Erin Gruwell is the legendary Room 203 teacher and bestselling author on whom the 2007 blockbuster movie “The Freedom Writers” was inspired. Join us as Erin shares with us, in a deeply personal conversation, this second and even more inspirational part of the Freedom Writers story, the magic of writing and how, in education, love is all that really matters.

(Music by lesfm from Pixabay)

Episode notes:

  • The Freedom Writers have become wounded healers.
  • It was important to have a sense of permanency and stability.
  • The goal was always self-actualization but you cannot have that if your basic needs are not covered.
  • We take our story and we are attempting to pay it forward.
  • During the pandemic they rewrote their curriculum to address those children who were also broken because of the pandemic.
  • Something in our toolkit to help kids make it through the day.
  • Focus on what happened in Room 203 and take the essence, resulted in a teacher training program.
  • Concentrating on the similarities and not the differences in education systems.
  • Change initially was terrifying, because of the many financial implications.
  • The question was how do we do what we used to do and make it better?
  • It can be very demoralizing for a teacher when a kid does not turn their camera on, or they don´t invite you into their homes.
  • The Foundation initially was about not letting that communal feeling of compassion go away.

The Freedom Writers were trying to create something they had witnessed but not experienced personally. When we realized that we could pay it forward in others, that was our calling in life.

  • Classrooms can indeed become a home for the moment, where students become brothers and sisters.
  • Channel our righteous indignation about the injustices that are done to children.
  • Education is the answer.
  • Being in a place with fellow educators and experiencing negativity was soul crushing.
  • Her students were very honest in their disdain for education.
  • As a teacher, things have to be real. I have to create something that is relatable.
  • See our students, hear them and give them a pace where they matter.
  • Emotional work that went along with the academic component, when I learnt to fuse the two it was a beautiful harmony.

You don’t learn to be a teacher and learn the word love, it’s about dotting is and crossing ts.

  • Love has become an important foundation in my work as a teacher.
  • Some kids won’t let you in until they know how much you care.
  • Freedom writers taught me that there is a “get it” factor, for people who get it, where there is a deep sense of connection.
  • People who have power can either abuse that power or embolden others.
  • Writing has been our salvation. Writing is cathartic and purges pain and it can take pain and make it your passion.

The power of the human spirit and the universality of storytelling is that it makes us immortal, it becomes our legacy.

  • My hope with the Freedom Writers and with these students today is that maybe writing allows us to write a different chapter, to write a different ending.

Wish: That educators, teachers, principals, teach to a kid and not to a test. Teaching to a test puts some students outside of success, into a school to prison pipeline, kids who do not know how to play the game stop playing the game.

Links:

The Freedom Writers Foundation

The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them

Freedom Writers: the movie at IMDB

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