In this memoir and call to arms, Erin Gruwell, the dynamic young teacher who nurtured a remarkable group of high school students from Long Beach, California, who called themselves the Freedom Writers, picks up where The Freedom Writers Diary (and the movie The Freedom Writers) end and catches the reader up to where they are today. Teach with Your Heart will include the Freedom Writers' unforgettable trip to Auschwitz, where they met with Holocaust survivors; toured the attic of their beloved Anne Frank (Gruwell had the kids read Anne's Diary in The Freedom Writers Diary); visited Bosnia with their friend Zlata Filipovich, and more. The book also includes what happened with the Freedom Writers as they made their way through college and graduation. Along the way, Gruwell includes lessons for parents and teachers about what she learned from her remarkable band of students.
In this passionate, poignant, and deeply personal memoir, Gruwell tells the tale of her journey through the emotional peaks and valleys on the front lines of our nation's educational system and her commitment to awaken personal power in students and people everyone else discounts. Teach with Your Heart is a mesmerizing story of one young woman's personal odyssey and of her remarkable ability to encourage others to follow in her footsteps.
Teach with Your Heart is marked by the enviable radiance and irrepressible force of nature that is Erin Gruwell and her unbelievable determination to ensure that education in the United States truly meets the needs of every student.
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January 08, 2007
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Excerpt from Teach with Your Heart by Erin Gruwell
"Why do we have to read books by dead white guys in tights?" asked Sharaud, a foulmouthed sixteen-year-old, after he took one look at my syllabus.
Sharaud had entered my class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, wearing a football jersey from Polytechnic High School. He must have known that donning the rival jersey was bound to get a rise out of the other students. He arrogantly strutted around my class, taunting the other players that he was going to take their places on the field, then leisurely strolled to the back of the classroom and took a seat.
As I started to discuss the curriculum, my students rocked in their seats and played percussion with their pencils. Some checked their pagers, while others reapplied their eyeliner. Some slouched, some laid their heads on the desks, and some actually took a nap. This was not the reception I was hoping for on my first day as a student teacher.
I dodged a paper airplane--made out of my syllabus, I quickly realized--and tried to make myself heard over a string of "yo mama" jokes.
I fidgeted with my pearls. I glanced at the polka-dot dress I was wearing--it was similar to the one that Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman--and wondered if I had chosen the wrong profession.
Why hadn't I gone to law school like I'd originally planned? In a courtroom, unlike this chaotic classroom, a judge would bang his gavel with gusto after the first projectile had flown across the room, and any innuendo about his mother's integrity would bring instant charges of contempt of court. I needed a daunting authority figure in a black robe to tell these kids that they were "out of order." I looked around the room, but an authority figure was nowhere to be found. Then came a panicked realization--I was the authority figure, armed only with a broken piece of chalk.
As a student teacher, I should have been able to rely on my supervising teacher, but he had stepped out of the classroom. When I met with him over the summer, he suggested that it would be a good idea for me to begin teaching on the first day of school, rather than easing my way into it. "If you dive right in," he said, "you'll establish your authority from the get-go." From the comfort of his living room, this suggestion sounded great. I had visions of passing out my syllabus and having students stick out their hands like Oliver Twist and ask for "more." In reality, the only person requesting "more" was my supervising teacher, who conveniently snuck out to get "more" coffee and never returned.
After nearly forty years of teaching, my supervising teacher planned to retire at the end of the school year. He had emotionally checked out and was now simply coasting on autopilot. I'd assumed student teachers were to be handled like timid student drivers, with someone ready to grab the wheel when changing lanes or parallel parking went awry. Since my so-called mentor wasn't there to put on the brakes or take control, I didn't know which direction to go except forward.