The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them by Erin Gruwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gun violence, sexual abuse, rape, and drug addiction are just a few topics that are a part of the Freedom Writer’s everyday lives. The Freedom Writers Diary, an inspiring and heartwarming book, revolves around 150 minority students and one teacher and how they changed their lives and the world around them. Throughout the book, these students share their experiences regarding various hardships. These students owe most of their success to the one person who motivated and encouraged them to fight on, Erin Gruwell. These students were deemed “unteachable and at-risk” at the beginning of their freshman year, but are now changing the way people perceive them and how they see themselves.
With the honest and blunt entries, the reader is able to gain knowledge of their tragedies and the demons that haunt them. The stories that revolve around intense and serious subjects often make a reader think, “Wow, this could be in a movie.” These stories not only grab the reader from the beginning, but they also make the reader want to continue. As the book progresses and the closer the Freedom Writers get to graduation, the reader can clearly notice the change in writing style and fluency. This resembles the Freedom Writer’s progression, not only as writers, but also as people. However, the word use and fluency raises doubt about who actually wrote these diaries. It is not fully believable that a group of “at-risk” students could write these outstanding entries. For many of the Freedom Writers English is their second language, and it is hard to believe that their diary entries are 100% their own words.
This book not only targets students, but it also targets adults, teachers, administrators, and officials to understand how much of an impact a single teacher can have on hundreds of kids. It teaches important life lessons for students as well as teachers. For example, Ms. Gruwell transformed a “remedial” class into an engaging and thriving class. In Ms. Gruwell’s second diary entry, she explains how unfair the system is when these kids are never given a chance, she says, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you tell kids they’re stupid–directly or indirectly–sooner or later they start to believe it.” Many of these kids have been told they would never amount to anything by teachers, parents, and peers. When a brand new teacher comes in and begins teaching a completely different way, it changes their lives. Erin Gruwell’s freshman class did not know how lucky they were to have her as a teacher, but they soon would. Many teachers would consider Ms. Gruwell’s teaching style to be unconventional, but her crazy antics helped these students thrive. By working extra jobs and fundraising, Erin Gruwell was able to give her students a chance to make connections in life. She was able to take her kids on many field trips to museums, concerts, movies, and even to Washington D.C. to relate her classroom assignments with the global world. Without her guidance and optimism, these students would either have dropped out of school, or turned to the streets. This is exactly how all classrooms should be structured.
Overall, this book is a great read for all ages and captures the true meaning of being a great teacher. Having teachers that are invested in their work can dramatically change the atmosphere of the classroom. This book is a must read for those who are interested in changing and shaping the lives of young adults. ~ Student: Jayden B.
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