The Freedom Writers

The Freedom WritersSoon after The Freedom Writers, a movie based on the book The Freedom Writer’s Diary by Erin Gruwell and her students, was released to theaters, I viewed the movie and posted a review here. I know some educators don’t like this kind of movie in general and didn’t like this movie in particular, but I enjoyed the movie and found value in using it in the classroom in order to teach the power of written expression and finding one’s voice. In addition, I think the movie is a great way for my students in particular to understand a broader spectrum of the American experience. Finally, as the movie centers around how Gruwell’s students were affected by a work of literature, I think the movie shows the profound connections we can make between literature and our own lives if we avail ourselves of the opportunity. I think the movie would work well in an English class, but I like to use it in writing courses as well.

The question is, what can you do with the movie? When my students viewed the movie last year, we used it as a springboard for discussion about several important issues, including racism, anti-Semitism, and abuse, and how these issues impacted the characters in the movie. We frankly discussed Erin Gruwell’s sacrifices and the fact that she did move on to working with the Freedom Writers Foundation and no longer teaches.

If you are interesting in using the film in your own classroom, there are many resources available to you:

Please share other resources you know about in the comments.

9 thoughts on “The Freedom Writers”

  1. I have not viewed this film yet, and I intend to do so, but I have an admitted bias: I tire of the white person enters the school and saves the minority children cliche in film and books. It's also frustrating to hear these people, when the stories are based on true tales, are often not teaching any more.

    However, having said that, I need to overcome this bias and see the film.

    Many of students enjoyed the film, and I may be able to incorporate it.

  2. Like DrPezz, I, too, was skeptical to see this film for the same reasons. While I had been told from other English instructors that it was a descent film, I didn’t quite know how it would ever work its way into the classroom. However, the first post was extremely helpful in making me realize that I do need to see the film and try to incorporate it into one of my courses. The resources were very useful and I cannot wait to see the film and start working on its lesson!

    Kelly A. Mezick

    Auburn University

    Auburn, Alabama

  3. I saw the movie while I was studying to be a teacher and now that I have my own English class (on a First Nations Reserve). I fully intend to show the movie as a way to show my students the importance of learning and getting an education.

    Gord Burt

    Senior English Teacher

    Carry the Kettle First Nation

    Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

  4. I am a Freedom Writer Teacher who went through one of Erin Gruwell's teacher institutes in November 2007. There are 150 of us throughout the United States and Canada. Each state has at least one Freedom Writer Teacher. If anyone has questions about using the materials or methods in their classroom, feel free to contact me.

  5. It's teachers like Erin Gruwell with love, courage and a true realness to make a difference in young adults lives that give me hope that some real teachers do exist. I grew up in the 50's and 60's when teachers taught because they really cared and not because it was a job and have the "it's just a job" mentality like so many have today. I thank God for real teachers like Erin who dispite her own personal problems for being the person she is still held strong and made a difference in lives where life meant nothing to them. God bless you Erin and when I saw the film it brought tears to my eyes. I grew up in South Central Los Angeles in the 60's and know first hand what your young adults went through and there should be more not just teachers but people like you. It's lacking today for real. Most teachers don't need to be in this field because they simply don't give a damn nor the administrators.

  6. I have yet to utilize Freedom Writers in a classroom without getting an amazing response from students. While I teach in a rural, Southern high school, it never ceases to amaze me when the students identify with the characters and cheer for their successes. I teach AVID, a class with similar goals to those of the Freedom Writers, and I assure anyone that Erin worked more hours than seems humanly possible to help her kids succeed.

  7. I would like to know how I can become involved with the Freedom Writers Institute. I currently teach English and am finding it difficult to keep at-risk students involved in my class.

  8. It shouldn't come down to race. She didn't do anything except show the students that she cared, regardless of race or where the kids were coming from, and that's what brought them together. I'm sure they didn't all succeed, but some did where they wouldn't have. So what if she's white? The movie wouldn't be a lot different if she weren't as long as she could reach kids. I teach a program called AVID that takes that middle of the road kid and tries tto get them to see the importance of education. It's not easy no matter what color you are as a teacher or what ethnicity of student you teach. Teaching is hard, especially when kids don't value their educations. Again, good for her for the success stories she has.

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