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Shocked by the teenage violence she witnessed during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles Erin Gruwell became a teacher at a high school rampant with hostility and racial intolerance For many of these students–whose ranks included substance abusers gang members the homeless and victims of abuse–Gruwell was the first person to treat them with dignity to believe in their potential and help them see it themselves Soon their loyalty towards their teacher and burning enthusiasm to help end violence and intolerance became a force of its own Inspired by reading The Diary of Anne Frank and meeting Zlata Filipovic the eleven year old girl who wrote of her life in Sarajevo during the civil war the students began a joint diary of their inner city upbringings Told through anonymous entries to protect their identities and allow for complete candor The Freedom Writers Diary is filled with astounding vignettes from 150 students who like civil rights activist Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders heard society tell them where to go–and refused to listenProceeds from this book benefit the Freedom Writers Foundation an organization set up to provide scholarships for underprivieged youth and to train teachers


10 thoughts on “The Freedom Writers Diary How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them

  1. says:

    Erin Gruwell was a first year high school teacher She was teaching tough kids in Long Beach CA Her students are the lowest at the school so she begins with diaries written by others to have them create diaries of their own She was able to stay with these students for all four years of high school Then she decided to teach college to new teachersI teach I teach well An yet I find myself discouraged when I read books like this Not because of the state of education or students in America I find it depressing that to be lifted up as a good teacher you must sacrifice everything else in your life She gives up virtually all her free time her marriage and sometimes even her reputation Perhaps this is why she was only a public school educator for 4 yearsAs a friend put it What the the educational system in America needs are distance runners not flashy sprinters If you are a new teacher please don't read this book Find a mentor who has been teaching for 10 years It will be far practical and helpful for youThe best review of the movie which touches on many of my concerns about the book I have seen


  2. says:

    I will begin by stating that I did not read this entire book I made it through 50 or 60 pages I had not had any intent to read it as I have heard than enough stories about the fish out of water young white teacher who is able to save the inner city youth from the apparent inevitability of failure A coworker strongly recommended the book to me and actually put it in my hand so I decided to give it a chance As I read one journal entry after another I was puzzled by the fact that every entry of every child seemed to be written in almost the same exact voice The vocabulary and expressions used were not what I would expect to hear from a group of high school freshmen particularly in a group of kids that was previously underachieving and hated reading and writing Inner city dialect was juxtaposed with difficult vocabulary and phrasing that seemed adult and dated on almost every page I skimmed through the rest of the book to see if there was any information on how the journals were edited or if they went through any type of writing process with them typically a journal wouldn't go through revision but didn't see any explanation Maybe I was just missing something There also was not any description of how Ms Gruwell was able to elicit the trust of all of her students so uickly so that they would be comfortable writing about their crimes and personal issues and get them to write pages and pages when they had refused to do any writing before It seemed that she was able to have them writing full entries that were elouent and insightful within the first month or two I know that there is truth to these stories I know that this is a real class and Ms Gruwell is a real teacher I just can't get past the belief that these diaries are not fully authentic and that these words have been reshaped somewhere along the line; how can I tell how much and by whom? Why wasn't this addressed? Perhaps if the diaries were in their original form complete with spelling and grammar errors it would make sense As it was I just couldn't trust it These are real kids They have real stories I want to hear them in their wordsI would love to hear other people's opinions on this Did anyone else have this problem?


  3. says:

    True this collective diary depicts racism uite poignantly but what touched me deeply is this how the teens use writing to come out of the confinement of racism and resurrect their self esteem A powerful captivating narrative


  4. says:

    I was pretty disappointed by this book from the get go Diaries and journals are interesting because you are able to experience someone else's life in real time Part of that experience is being immersed in the language personality and emotion of the author The students idolize Anne Frank and Zlata but don't allow any of their own voices into their writing Each entry sounds just like the next with only occasional sentences that feel real and un editedGood writers capture the energy of their experience and these students have seen too much to be as bland as these examples portray The few poems recited although not great at least convey some emotion It's a shame since some of these stories are extremely powerful issues such as homelessness child abuse domestic violence street violence peer pressure all expressed in cookie cutter language that could all be written by the same personI expected to see a realistic progression in the journal entries; I wanted to see improvement as these students grew as writers and people I appreciate a variety of perspectives but I think the book suffered from not having a consistent batch of identifiable characters that progressed over the course of four years Anonymous entries further their cause but detract from the impact and make it harder to own the characters as you readThe book certainly got better as I read The students certainly had some amazing opportunities and I was proud to see them develop as people as the book progressed Perhaps as they got better as writers over the years the later entries were less heavily edited and retained flavorI really wish there had been information about how the book was compiled and edited Certainly she couldn't have gotten these students to write the long winded and introspective entries at the beginning of her first semester Without that information many of these entries feel so forced and unbelieveable that I found it difficult to read them at all Even an afterword explaining that the pieces were elaborated on and edited before the published final draft would be helpful I can understand the students wanting to showcase their best work but I'd like to see information about the processFrom an education perspective I felt like I wasn't getting the whole story about Ms Grunell and her resources It's wonderful that she had the support that she did but it is so glazed over that it seems like it should be within any teacher's grasp That doesn't seem uite fair to many of the amazing teachers that struggle just to keep their head afloat I know that she has another book that is focused on her methods and maybe that has of what I was looking for


  5. says:

    Freedom Writers by Erin Gruwell is one of the most interesting books I've ever readIt is about how one teacherErin Gruwell makes it her goal to change the way students in her class view the worldThe students in her class view the world as one big war zone and have their own goal which is to be able to survive the streets without being killedMrsGruwell takes it up on herself to show the kids the theirs to life then gang violence trying to do so she risks losing her job and husbandShe does alot for these kids she get two extra jobs jus so she can take her students on feild trips to see life changing peopleand to fancy resturants to show the kids that theres is to life them the grimy streets they live onThrough out the story you see how the kids treat her sometimes wih no respect because they think that she'll do the same ting everyone else in their life has done which is lie to themBut you'll see that by not giving up on the students like they've already done on them selves you see how they grow on each other and become one big family and start to become cool friends with people outside of their race


  6. says:

    I work in an inner city school This doesn't uite touch on the way inner city schools really are For instance all the kids' writing is in standard English My kids when expressing how they really feel use what I call Urban English I just couldn't hear my kids in this book I related a bit to the teacher's writing But there are a lot of realities that were not portrayed in this book For instance the teacher had her own room the same room for the 4 years she taught The reality of my urban setting is uite different I have taught in about 15 different classrooms in the 3 years I've been teaching Usually in the urban schools I know teachers move from room to room each period This deeply impacts our instruction I also hated the way the union was portrayed as protecting the seniority of teachers over the best interests of the kids Unions in schools is a very complex situation and as a union activist I feel compelled to point this out My union has done things like ensure that I get a bathroom break books in my classroom and paper for the copy machine


  7. says:

    Unfortunately I did not love the book I wanted to being a teacher who hopes she makes a difference even in some small way in the lives of her students Particularly since it was a true story it had all the potential of a classic tearjerker where this sap is concerned and yet it fell flatFirst of all they edited it so much that it felt fake I think I would have much preferred to see the diary entries as photocopies in the students' own handwriting It would have added a level of authenticity that was sorely lackingThe other major problem with it was that I felt there were things missing If in a regular school in a safer environment students are ridiculed for focusing on their studies I can only imagine what the Freedom Writers were going through with all of the challenges that their lives presented for them I would have liked to have seen of a rounded picture balance between yay us and what was going on outside their academic utopiaI think I would have liked this better if it had been fiction to allow me to suspend my disbelief I felt being a true story it should have felt much real than it did We didn't get to see the whole pictureMaybe I would have liked it better if I'd only seen the movie when I could have said Well they only had so many minutes they couldn't show everythingIronic given that the whole book is about the power of the written word


  8. says:

    An interesting but ultimately unrealistic story of a high school teacher in an urban school in CA who does amazing things with her students The unrealistic parts first the students write diary entries what I missed immediately were student's voices With one or two exceptions they could have all been written by the same student the stories were different of course fresh sad poignant brutally honest dealing with everything from molestation to drugs to violence but the sentence structure and diction had all been sanitized by too much editing I would have preferred to see their original writing Teaching voice is difficult but it can happen Each student's voice like a fingerprint is extremely uniue represented by punctuation marks word choice sentence variety In addition some of the entries become redundantI've been teaching for 25 years now and been involved with three different schoolsunion Happily none of my unions were anything like Gruwell's There is also not a lot about how she originally caught students classroom management is not discussed but extremely important so if you are a novice teacher looking for ideas I suggest Teach Like a Champion instead Finally Gruwell left teaching after about four years If you want to stay in teaching for the long run there has to be clear boundaries between school and personal life to stay balanced and healthy Gruwell did not have that and I wonder if that is one of the reasons she left teaching


  9. says:

    The Freedom Writers Diary is an amazing moving and inspirational piece of art It consists of a collection of diary entries written by the 150 Freedom Writers and their English teacher Ms Gurwell All of these Freedom Writers are students at Wilson High School in Long Beach California where they have been placed in a below average English class with Ms Gurwell as their teacher This is MsGurwell's first teaching experience and it will have a lasting impact on her One of the first assignments she gives is for everyone to keep a journal no one knew just how powerful these journals were to become not even Ms Gurwell Through out these entries you will learn about the hard lives of these incredible individuals their amazing English teacher and their journeys towards changing the world and becoming a second family When you thick of Long Beach the things that come to your mind are probably beautiful beaches expensive boutiues and magnificent mansions However for the Freedom Writes they saw something much different They saw a hostel environment filled with corruption hate and discrimination There were multiple gangs each of different races causing riots in the streets It was dangerous for some of these student to just walk home from the bus stop let alone go out at night Many of these students lost their innocence at a very young age never having the opportunity to be a kid In their journal entries they describe to you first hand the horrors they faced including gang violence shootings the murderloss of loved ones and friends the effects of drugs and alcohol abusive relationships molesters and rapes They felt as though they were at a dead end with no way to turn around until they met Ms Gurwell She couldn't believe the way they viewed their life and refused to accept it In an attempt to change the way they though about themselves and each other she decided to change her lesson plan to studying the Holocaust hoping to teach them about tolerance Ms Gurwell provided everyone in the class with a copy of Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl to jump start into her lesson of tolerance At first the students were reluctant to learn but eventually started to read the book They were shocked by how well they could relate to Anne They said they too felt as if they were living trough a war but an undeclared war Many of the students wanted to continue learning about the Holocaust and even wrote letters to Meip the woman who protected Anne and her family during the war who would later become a close friend of theirs' Ms Gurwell was shocked by their response and continued on having them read Zlata's Diary A Child's Life in Sarajevo The students connected once again with the author of this incredible true story so Ms Gurwell had them also write letters to Zlata who had survived her war She challenged them in their letters to invite Zlata to Wilson and the unthinkable happened She came Ms Gurwell went on to have her core group of students for all four years they were at Wilson and continued to receive kids as the years went on Everyone wanted to be in her class because it was the one place people said they felt wanted needed and safe They would become a family and together have a lasting impact on the world around them As their final project Ms Gurwell had them compile their journals which they had been keeping for four year into a book of their own She would even get 35 computers donated to them from John Tu to help aid them in their process While writing this book they would officially gain their name The Freedom Writers based off of The Freedom Riders who were a group of American and African American student who rode on a bus through the South to protest against discrimination Their book would also lead them into incredible journeys such as a trip to Washington DC where they hand delivered their book to the secretary of education Riley and going to New York City to accept the spirit of Anne Frank award It was the first time this award was given to a group of people and not an individual The Freedom Writers had done the impossible they had gone from a group of kids in a below average English class to published author advocates for change and people who believed in their bright future ahead of them This book is by far one of the best books I have ever read It truly opens up your eyes to the world around you grabbing your attention and refusing to let go I even someone 16 years younger then the average student in this book was able to easily relate to their stories It was also genuinely inspirational I always knew I wanted to change the world but now after reading about the Freedom Writers I know I can I also was inspired by Ms Gurwell I though I wanted to become a teacher but now regardless of where I end up in life I know I want to do something involving the empowerment of the youth because they are the future of tomorrow


  10. says:

    Basic Premise First year teacher Erin Gruwell is given the traditional assignment of her position the classes none of the other teachers want She goes on to inspire them to read write travel and go to collegeI almost feel guilty for giving this book two stars instead of five I mean it's an inspiring story so it should have blown my mind right?The book is made up of students' diary entries so from the get go the reader has to know that this is not professional writing It shows At times the repetition of topics started to actually irritate me It took me far longer to read this book than it probably should have simply because I kept getting bored with it How's that going to inspire my special needs sopho English class?I've heard that some people have problems with the language and some of the content of the stories sex drugs gangs etc Frankly I had no problem there These are diary entries Honesty is to be expected and real life today or in the '90s is not an episode of The Brady Bunch Where I had a problem was in the endless repetition of the kids saying the exact same things telling the same stories with little variation in voice or toneIt IS an inspiring story I have to give it that These kids dealt with a lot overcame a lot and seem to have become better people for it Frankly I remember the classes I had to teach my first year and the juvenile delinuents in some cases this was real truth in those classes I wracked my brain daily as Gruwell did coming up with ways to not only keep them from tying me to my lectern but also to engage these students and get them to learn something Gruwell worked in a racially diverse urban environment where she was the minority as a white woman and got her students to think beyond racial and gang violence She changed their lives in an inspiring wayFrankly as I read the book I found it hard to connect with her story and THAT is what actually bugs me I kept thinking How did she have a life outside of school? Answer she probably didn't Could I be so dedicated to my students as to take another job on top of all of the grading planning and researching I do for school to pay for the extra stuff she did for her students? Answer I'd lose my bloody mindIt was too much for me I admire her and the work she did but she seemed too perfect to be real As much as I love my kids and want them to succeed I'm not staying at school until 11 o'clock every night to individually tutor them By the way she no longer teaches high school at all No wonder she burned out after that kind of effort She teaches at a university according to the Freedom Writers Foundation website and the afterward of the book So after only 4 years in a high school classroom she now teaches others to do what she did I don't think I like thatMaybe I've just lost the fresh faced idealism of a brand new teacher Maybe I'm just cranky I don't know Maybe it's the fact that I'm about to teach this book to a bunch of white kids who live in suburbia whose only knowledge of gangs life in the projects or urban poverty comes from the movies Again with the uestion of how to make a text connect to my students' lives