Freedom Writers

I never intended to watch this movie. I hate movies about teachers as much as I hate TV shows about teachers. Much like my father refuses to watch anything that takes place in a hospital, I have refused to watch anything that takes place in a school. It always just seems so contrived and grandiose. And the moments of pain are so trivialized. You could never really portray that on a screen, because the simple truth is that if you teach, you fall in love. But it’s a different kind of love, and there’s no way a movie could appropriately convey that.

When I was talking about my students to a friend, he said it perfectly. He said that it must be an amazing feeling to watch someone grow, something that he would never experience or understand. Unless he had children, but that it would be different. And he’s right. There’s no way I could every find the words to explain it.

My students in one of my classes begged and begged and begged to watch this movie. And because they have done everything I have asked of them all year, I allowed them to show it to me during our last class meeting of the year.

The “cute” parts annoyed me as I predicted. But what I didn’t expect were the lines Gruwell, the teacher, heard from her father, the administration, her husband and her co-workers. They were all things that I have had heard during my teaching career. And it stung, badly. I kind of hoped that those negative thoughts were somehow unique to the places that I have been. Since I see that they are not, I am saddened for many more kids than I used to be.

And the worst part of all?

Not in the movie at all.

But when the closing credits started to roll, one of my students a bright, cheery girl who refused to do anything for the first semester this year, and who has mastered the 5-paragraph essay as of last Wednesday, stood up.

And all she said was: “We needed you to see that because you need to know that you’re an amazing teacher.”

They really have no idea.

No idea how amazing they are and how it’s me that needs them to know that they are amazing people. Because I’ve never created learning. I’ve always just been privileged enough to watch it happen.

Even now, as I write this, I can’t help but cry. My anger and my exhaustion and my frustration are not about the situation anymore. That ended a long time ago.

I’m just quite simply heartbroken.


1 Comment

  1. hi jana, i happen to stumble upon your blog (via WP) and i must say, i’m glad that i did! the title of this post caught my attention and i was pressed to read on.

    i gather you’re in to teaching and very dedicated to what you do. it’s refreshing to come across ppl like you, pleasing to see your students appreciate it too.

    what better acknowledgement for any work than the sentiments of those who’re directly affected by it. those type of moments are indeed moving and unforgettable. it’s difficult to equal that joy in any other type of work.

    teaching kids is a life-changing vocation. i still remember my high school teachers fondly for the lessons they instilled, the encouragement and belief they gave me. teaching is after all the profession that teaches all the other professions.

    i’m not sure if you’ve seen the film ‘coach carter’ (with samuel l jackson)? it’s very inspirational! it came to mind reading your post. i wrote an entry on my blog some time back with a clip from the film which may interest you.

    here’s the link:

    it goes to show, the value of a good teacher is indeed priceless.

    let your light shine : )

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