People spend a good portion of their lives learning. We all sit in classrooms, we observe, we listen, and while there is someone there for us, someone to shed light on, to teach, and to guide. There is without a doubt that teachers are an important part of a someone’s life, whether a child or a young adult, teachers are always there. A teacher has an impact on the person a child becomes, and also the person a child strives to be.
The movie Freedom Writer is an inspiring story that throughout the film, Mrs. Erin Gruwell managed to be different as a commendable teacher, careless of the difficulties that surround her learning environment. She was fresh-faced, idealist and was ready to take on the world as she steps inside Wilson High School for her first day of teaching. Her class, a diverse group of racially charged teenagers from different walks of life (African Americans, Latinos, Asians, juvenile delinquents, gang members, and underprivileged students from poor neighborhoods) hopes for nothing more than to make it through the day.
More and more, teachers are becoming a crucial influence in children’s lives. It stands to reason that a teacher’s personality and teaching style can have an impact on children’s academic performance and general development. Mrs. Gruwell illustrated this beautifully in the film, in the beginning of the movie, her class hated each other and the understanding that they are simply being warehoused in the educational system until they are old enough to disappear.
Despite her students’ persistent refusal to participate in class, Mrs. Gruwell tries several means to engage them on a daily basis. However, at first, Mrs. Gruwell was timid and obviously new at her job, the kids caught onto that right away and had no respect for her. To break the ice, Mrs. Gruwell wanted to connect with them and brought music in that all of them would know and can relate to, but that didn’t do much. She took another step and moved the student’s seats in the classroom because they all segregated themselves in racial groups, this definitely caused tension throughout the room and the students took it out on each other.
One of the students drew an offensive picture of another student and passed it around class, this made Mrs. Gruwell furious and explained that it starts with a drawing like this, and then some kid dies in a drive-by, never even knowing what hit him. She then told the students about how the Jews went through the very same thing and they are amateurs compared to the most famous gang, the Nazis. This really opened the students’ eyes and they started to respect Mrs. Gruwell little by little.
Mrs. Gruwell thought one more ice breaker would be good to show them that they are all the same and to bring them together. She put a line of duct tape in the middle of the room and asked the students various questions and if it related to them they had to step on the line. One of the questions she asked was if the students knew anyone that died from gang related violence and most of the students stepped onto the line. That line represented the students coming together because in reality they are all the same. Mrs. Gruwell literally threw her life away to help those kids out.
While she was having problems with her personal life, she took on the responsibility of having three jobs to afford to give her students the best education, whether it was books, school trips and more. One of the books that she bought for her students was The Diary of Anne Frank, it would be a good idea for the students to read literature from another kind of ghetto and with these simple tools she opens her students’ eyes to the experiences of those suffering bigotry throughout the world and the struggles of those outside their own communities.
But then reality steps in to focus when a racially motivated gang shooting witnessed by a girl in Mrs. Gruwell’s class became the most unsuspectingly vigorous teaching aid. It sparked a transformation in the classroom, compelled them to listen and forced her to take off her idealistic blinders. Knowing that every one of her students has a story to tell, Mrs. Gruwell encourages them to keep a daily journal (which she bought for them) of their thoughts and experiences.
After sharing their stories with one another, the students see their shared experience for the first time and open up to the idea that there are possibilities in life outside of making it to the age of eighteen. A teacher plays a great role in developing a student‘s character. It is very difficult, because character is formed not only in the classroom. Despite the fact, the classroom climate influenced by a teacher has a major impact on the students’ motivation, attitude towards learning and character development.
Mrs.Gruwell’s students could see how passionate she was to see them succeed and they got more comfortable and actually wanted to learn. One of her students asked if they could meet with Holocaust survivors and she agreed and got them to come, however, that wasn’t enough for her students, they wanted more. Mrs. Gruwell had the kids write a letter to the woman who hid Anne Frank in the attic and the students got really excited and couldn’t wait. Even after that her students wanted more, they wanted to make a difference, be heard, leave something behind and they soon did.
Mrs. Gruwell made their journals that they were writing into a book, The Freedom Writers Diary. Lastly, the children who grew up in more affluent neighborhoods often do better in school but the poorer the neighborhood on an average have higher crime rates, teenage pregnancy and drug abuse. Mrs. Gruwell experience verbally and visually how her students neighborhood affected them in such a degree. Surely there was nothing she could do to prevent such thing to happen but the only thing she did was to provide them respect, loyalty, dreams and trust overall.
Mrs.Gruwell had faith on her students that no matter what is your social position, or education or where you grew up, what matter is you maintain respect and love and faith in those in need. She finally grew a tough skin and took charge instead of letting them walk all over her, which is how she succeeded in getting their attention. Once she got them to focus on what really mattered and to understand that each clique had some common ground, they hit the ground running and the rest was history. She successfully turned the classroom into a safe haven in the crazy high school they attended.
A teacher is like a sculptor, they mold a personality out of a child-like a sculptor creates a beautiful statue out of clay. So a teacher has the greatest impact on student‘s character, knowledge, values and this affect can go on for years even after they are not in contact with one another. Being very knowledgeable will not immediately qualify as a good teacher. What is more important, is the attitude and the skill of being able to transfer the lessons effectively to the students. Teaching requires dedication and selflessness to be able to impart your learning and knowledge to the students.
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