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Freedom Writers Diary : How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,9780385494229

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

by
ISBN13:

9780385494229

ISBN10:
038549422X
Format:
Trade Paper
Pub. Date:
10/12/1999
Publisher(s):
Broadway Books
List Price: $14.99

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




Summary

Straight from the front line of urban America, the inspiring story of one fiercely determined teacher and her remarkable students. As an idealistic twenty-three-year-old English teacher at Wilson High School in Long beach, California, Erin Gruwell confronted a room of "unteachable, at-risk" students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaustonly to be met by uncomprehending looks. So she and her students, using the treasured booksAnne Frank: The Diary of a Young GirlandZlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevoas their guides, undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding. They learned to see the parallels in these books to their own lives, recording their thoughts and feelings in diaries and dubbing themselves the "Freedom Writers" in homage to the civil rights activists "The Freedom Riders." With funds raised by a "Read-a-thon for Tolerance," they arranged for Miep Gies, the courageous Dutch woman who sheltered the Frank family, to visit them in California, where she declared that Erin Gruwell's students were "the real heroes." Their efforts have paid off spectacularly, both in terms of recognitionappearances on "Prime Time Live" and "All Things Considered," coverage inPeoplemagazine, a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Rileyand educationally. All 150 Freedom Writers have graduated from high school and are now attending college. With powerful entries from the students' own diaries and a narrative text by Erin Gruwell,The Freedom Writers Diaryis an uplifting, unforgettable example of how hard work, courage, and the spirit of determination changed the lives of a teacher and her students. The authors' proceeds from this book will be donated to The Tolerance Education Foundation, an organization set up to pay for the Freedom Writers' college tuition. Erin Gruwell is now a visiting professor at California State University, Long Beach, where some of her students are Freedom Writers.

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii
Zlata Filipovic
FRESHMAN YEAR---FALL 1994
Ms. Gruwell's Diary Entry
1(29)
First day of school
6(2)
Racial segregation at school
8(1)
Getting ``jumped''
9(2)
Race riot on campus
11(1)
Buying a gun
12(2)
Death of a friend
14(2)
Gang initiation
16(1)
``Rushing'' a sorority
17(3)
Tagging
20(2)
Proposition 187: Discrimination
22(1)
Dyslexia
23(1)
Juvenile hall
24(2)
The projects
26(1)
Russian roulette
27(3)
FRESHMAN YEAR---SPRING 1995
Ms. Gruwell's Diary Entry
30(17)
Gang rivalry
33(1)
Romeo
Juliet
Teenage love and running away
34(2)
Coping with weight
36(2)
Learning about diversity
38(1)
Oklahoma bombing
39(1)
Farewell to Manzanar: Japanese internment camps
40(1)
Overcoming adversity panel
41(2)
Father figure vs. absend father
43(2)
John Tu
Freshman turnaround
45(2)
SOPHOMORE YEAR---FALL 1995
Ms. Gruwell's Diary Entry
47(32)
Homelessness
51(3)
Cystic fibrosis
54(1)
Shyness
55(1)
Twelve Angry Men
55(2)
Honors English
57(1)
Medieval Times
58(2)
Lesson on tolerance
60(1)
Toast for change
61(2)
Change for the better
63(1)
Testifying in murder case
64(3)
Teenage alcoholism
67(1)
Shoplifting
68(3)
Anne Frank's diary
71(1)
Teen diarists
71(2)
Zlata's Diary---Bosnia vs. L.A. riots
73(1)
Article on Bosnia
74(2)
Peter Maass
Zlata
76(2)
SOPHOMORE YEAR---SPRING 1996
A Letter to Zlata
78(1)
Ms. Gruwell's Diary Entry
79(29)
Meeting a Holocaust survivor
84(1)
The woman who sheltered Anne Frank's family
85(2)
``Moment''
87(2)
Zlata accepts our invitation
89(1)
Dinner with Zlata
90(1)
Diverse friendships
91(1)
``I am a human being''
92(2)
Terrorism
94(2)
Day of tolerance: A field trip
96(2)
Doing speed
98(3)
Basketball for Bosnia: Weight
101(2)
Zlata's Letter
103(1)
Divorce
104(2)
Friends join class
106(1)
Letter from Miep
107(1)
JUNIOR YEAR---FALL 1996
Ms. Gruwell's Diary Entry
108(31)
Racist teacher
112(2)
A grandmother's death
114(3)
Race riot
117(2)
Grade accountability
119(1)
Suicide
120(1)
Running away
121(2)
Getting a job
123(2)
Misogyny
125(1)
Molestation
126(3)
Boyfriend abuse
129(2)
Domestic violence
131(2)
Child abuse
133(3)
Death of brother
136(3)
JUNIOR YEAR---SPRING 1997
Ms. Gruwell's Diary Entry
139(53)
Anne Frank's friends visit
142(1)
Masking fears
143(1)
Living in the projects
144(3)
Dyslexia
147(1)
Letter from Miep
148(2)
Student editing
150(1)
Abortion
151(1)
Catalysts for change
152(2)
Freedom Riders
154(2)
An American Diary...Voices from an Undeclared War
156(2)
Fund-raiser concert
158(1)
Freedom Writer poem
159(1)
Freedom Writers unite
160(2)
Strict father
162(2)
Arlington Cemetery
164(1)
Lincoln Memorial: Freedom Writers have a dream
165(1)
Covering up the swastika
166(1)
Hate crimes
167(2)
Holocaust Museum
169(1)
Dr. Mengele's experiment with twins
170(2)
Dinner with Secretary Riley
172(1)
``Stand''
173(2)
Secretary Riley receives Freedom Writers' diary
175(2)
Candlelight vigil
177(1)
Departing D.C.
178(3)
Returning a family hero
181(2)
Murder
183(1)
Jeremy Strohmeyer
David Cash
184(1)
Peace march for Sherrice Iverson
185(2)
Senior Class President
187(1)
Separation anxiety
188(2)
Staying together
190(2)
SENIOR YEAR---FALL 1997
Ms. Gruwell's Diary Entry
192(29)
Cheryl Best: Inspiration
195(2)
``Eviction Notice''
197(1)
Financial problems
198(2)
Illegal immigrant
200(2)
The first Latina Secretary of Education
202(2)
Pursuing filmaking
204(1)
Road not taken: Contemplating college
205(1)
Finding a mentor
206(2)
Being a mentor
208(2)
Los Angeles Times article
210(1)
A letter from prison
211(1)
Deadbeat dad
212(2)
Sorority hazing
214(2)
Fear of losing a father
216(2)
Death of a mother
218(3)
SENIOR YEAR---SPRING 1998
Ms. Gruwell's Diary Entry
221(51)
GUESS? sponsorship
223(2)
Spirit of Anne Frank Award
225(2)
New York City roommates
227(2)
Celebrating Anne Frank
229(1)
Abuse of power
230(2)
Peter Maass: The role of a journalist
232(1)
Book agent
233(1)
Getting published
234(1)
Basketball playoffs: Teamwork
235(2)
A lesson from Animal Farm
237(1)
Attitude adjustment
238(3)
Introducing Senator Barbara Boxer
241(1)
Attention deficit disorder
242(2)
Homosexuality
244(1)
Prom queen
245(2)
``Whoever saves one life saves the world entire''
247(2)
Breaking the cycle
249(2)
Football all-American
251(2)
Baseball dilemma
253(1)
A college acceptance
254(1)
Fear of abandonment
255(2)
Teenage pregnancy
257(2)
Southwest Airlines
259(1)
Computers for college!
260(1)
The giving tree: Crackhead parents
261(2)
Graduation Class Speaker
263(1)
From drugs to honors
264(3)
Overcoming the odds
267(1)
Graduation!
268(4)
Epilogue 272(6)
Acknowledgments 278

Excerpts

Freshman Year

Fall 1994

Entry 1 -- Ms. Gruwell

Dear Diary, Tomorrow morning, my journey as an English teacher officially begins. Since first impressions are so important, I wonder what my students will think about me. Will they think I'm out of touch or too preppy? Or worse yet, that I'm too young to be taken seriously? Maybe I'll have them write a journal entry describing what their expectations are of me and the class.

Even though I spent last year as a student teacher at Wilson High School, I'm still learning my way around the city. Long Beach is so different than the gated community I grew up in. Thanks to MTV dubbing Long Beach as the "gangsta-rap capital" with its depiction of guns and graffiti, my friends have a warped perception of the city, or L B C as the rappers refer to it. They think I should wear a bulletproof vest rather than pearls. Where I live in Newport Beach is a utopia compared to some of neighborhoods seen in a Snoop Doggy Dogg video. Still, TV tends to blow things out of proportion.

The school is actually located in a safe neighborhood, just a few miles from the ocean. Its location and reputation make it desirable. So much so that a lot of the students that live in what they call the "'hood" take two or three buses just to get to school every day. Students come in from every corner of the city: Rich kids from the shore sit next to poor kids from the projects . . . there's every race, religion, and culture within the confines of the quad. But since the Rodney King riots, racial tension has spilled over into the school.

Due to busing and an outbreak in gang activity, Wilson's traditional white, upper-class demographics have changed radically. African Americans, Latinos, and Asians now make up the majority of the student body.

As a student teacher last year, I was pretty naive. I wanted to see past color and culture, but I was immediately confronted by it when the first bell rang and a student named Sharaud sauntered in bouncing a basketball. He was a junior, a disciplinary transfer from Wilson's crosstown rival, and his reputation preceded him. Word was that he had threatened his previous English teacher with a gun (which I later found out was only a plastic water gun, but it had all the makings of a dramatic showdown). In those first few minutes, he made it brutally clear that he hated Wilson, he hated English, and he hated me. His sole purpose was to make his "preppy" student teacher cry. Little did he know that within a month, he'd be the one crying.

Sharaud became the butt of a bad joke. A classmate got tired of Sharaud's antics and drew a racial caricature of him with huge, exaggerated lips. As the drawing made its way around the class, the other students laughed hysterically. When Sharaud saw it, he looked as if he was going to cry. For the first time, his tough facade began to crack.

When I got a hold of the picture, I went ballistic. "This is the type of propaganda that the Nazis used during the Holocaust," I yelled. When a student timidly asked me, "What's the Holocaust?" I was shocked.

I asked, "How many of you have heard of the Holocaust?" Not a single person raised his hand. Then I asked, "How many of you have been shot at?" Nearly every hand went up.

I immediately decided to throw out my meticulously planned lessons and make tolerance the core of my curriculum.

From that moment on, I would try to bring history to life by using new books, inviting guest speakers, and going on field trips. Since I was just a student teacher, I had no budget for my schemes. So, I moonlighted as a concierge at the Marriott Hotel and sold lingerie at Nordstrom. My dad even asked me, "Why can't you just be a normal teacher?"

Actually, normalcy didn't seem so bad after my first snafu. I took my students to see Schindler's List in Newport Beach, at a predominately white, upper-class theater. I was shocked to see women grab their pearls and clutch their purses in fear. A local paper ran a front-page article about the incident, describing how poorly my students were treated, after which I received death threats. One of my disgruntled neighbors had the audacity to say, "If you love black people so much, why don't you just marry a monkey?"

All this drama and I didn't even have my teaching credentials yet. Luckily, some of my professors from University of California-Irvine read the article and invited my class to a seminar by the author of Schindler's List, Thomas Keneally. Keneally was so impressed by my students that a few days later we got an invitation to meet Steven Spielberg at Universal Studios. I couldn't believe it! The famous director wanted to meet the class that I had dubbed "as colorful as a box of Crayola crayons" and their "rookie teacher who was causing waves." He marveled at how far these "unteachable" students had come as a junior class and what a close group they had become. He even asked Sharaud what "we" were planning to do next year as an encore. After all, if a film does well, you make a sequel--if a class surpasses everyone's expectations, you . . .

. . . dismantle it! Yep, that's exactly what happened. Upon my return from Universal, the head of the English department told me, "You're making us look bad." Talk about bursting my bubble! How was I making them look bad? After all, these were the same kids that "wouldn't last a month" or "were too stupid" to read advanced placement books.

She went on to say, "Things are based on seniority around here." So, in other words, I was lucky to have a job, and keeping Sharaud and his posse another year would be pushing the envelope. Instead, I'd be teaching freshmen--"at risk" freshmen. Hmm . . . not exactly the assignment I was hoping for.

So, starting tomorrow, it's back to the drawing board. But I'm convinced that if Sharaud could change, then anyone can. So basically, I should prepare myself for a roomful of Sharauds. If it took a month to win Sharaud over . . . I wonder how long it's gonna take a bunch of feisty fourteen-year-olds to come around?

Excerpted from The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them by Freedom Writers Staff
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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