The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Teaching From the Heart

A little over a year ago, I took some students with me to meet Erin Gruwell and some of the original Freedom Writers after we had just finished reading The Freedom Writers Diary. They were inspired... and so was I. I had first heard about the FWD when I was in college doing my Bachelor's in English in the credential prep program at CSUN. I saw that there was definitely something different about how that woman taught, and I knew I wanted to teach like that. Maybe not the same lessons, or even in exactly the same style, but with the same...I don't know what one would call it really, maybe.... gusto?

Anyhow, Erin Gruwell herself does a perfectly good job describing what made her experience different in a book she wrote, Teach From the Heart, which she gave me personally on the night I took my students to meet her. She even signed it. :-)

The title of the book really says it all... teach from the heart. It almost doesn't even matter what you teach or how you teach it, but you are bound to make a difference when you teach from the heart. When you teach from the heart, you teach each and every one of them like you would teach your own kids. If they don't "get it," you don't think... "Oh well, let's move on," because you know they need to get it. You rejoice with the student who is proud of her persuasive speech because... well... because she even spoke at all, even if her presentation confused the heck out of everyone. You rejoice because you know its a little victory and because it lifts your heart to see her smile. That's what happens when you teach from the heart.

You know what else happens when you teach from your heart? It breaks.

Teaching, like parenting, is so full of back-to-back highs and lows. One minute I am cringing at the huge number of students who totally missed the boat on the main point of my unit, the next I am brainstorming awesome ideas with my English colleagues, then I am talking about taking a super exciting trip to New York with my drama students, and then I am crying the whole way home at the huge disappointments that can come with loving these wonderfully imperfect children like my own.

But there is always a silver lining. The speeches we have been doing this unit have been about this quote from Robert F.  Kennedy...

“Each time a man stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”


It is one thing to get students talking about standing up for an ideal and sending out tiny ripples of hope. It is another thing entirely to watch the ripples of hope happening... to see one student's act of courage cross other centers of energy and daring. I'm still kind of in the wave right now... but I believe the walls of oppression and resistance are crumbling, one stone at a time.


And the icing on today's cake... another Donors Choose project funded. We are getting the extra literature circle books for our Holocaust literature circle unit.  :-) 

What can I say.... I am lucky and loved. 

Big day tomorrow, time to get some rest  ;-)

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