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Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writer Teachers and Erin Gruwell Paperback – August 18, 2009


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Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writer Teachers and Erin Gruwell + The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Original edition (August 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767931726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767931724
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Erin Gruwell is the Founder and President of the Erin Gruwell Education Project, a non-profit organization that funds scholarships for disadvantaged students and promotes innovative teaching methods.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

FOREWORD
ANNA QUINDLEN

Any columnist who makes sweeping generalizations is looking for trouble, but I once did just that in an essay I wrote for Newsweek. “Teaching’s the toughest job there is,” I said flatly, and the mail poured in. Nursing is tough. Assembly line work is tough. Child rearing is tough. There were even a few letters with some of those old canards about the carefree teacher’s life: work hours that end at 3 p.m., summers at the beach.

I imagine that the people who believe that’s how teachers work don’t actually know anyone who does the job–if they did, they would know that classes may end at 3 p.m., but lesson planning and test correcting go on far into the night, while summers are often reserved for second jobs, which pay the bills. But I’m lucky enough to know lots of teachers, and that’s why I stuck by my statement. More important, I’ve taught a class or two from time to time, and the degree of concentration and engagement required–or the degree of hell that broke loose if my concentration and engagement flagged–made me realize that I just wasn’t up to the task. It was too hard.

But if hard was all it was, no one would ever go into the profession, much less the uncommonly intelligent people who, over the years, taught me everything from long division to iambic pentameter. I don’t remember much at this point in my life, but I remember the names of most of the teachers I’ve had during my educational career, and some of them I honor in my heart almost every day because they made me who I am, as a reader, a thinker, and a writer.

So when I first read about Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers, it came as no surprise to me to discover that the truth about teaching was that it was sometimes a grueling job with near- miraculous rewards, for students and for teachers alike. In Erin’s first, internationally known book, The Freedom Writers Diary, you saw this mainly through the eyes of her high school students, young men and women living with combative families, absent parents, gang warfare, teenage pregnancies, and drug abuse. Above all, they lived with the understanding that no one expected them to do anything–not just anything great, but anything at all. They’d been given up on by just about everyone before they even showed up in class.

Except for Ms. G, as they called her, who was too inexperienced and naïve to get with the surrender or the cynicism program. Her account of assigning her students to write candidly about their own lives and thereby engaging them in the educational process, of how many of them went on to college and to leadership roles in their communities, is a stand-up-and-cheer story. That’s why it was turned into a movie, and why Erin’s model has now been replicated in many other schools.

That first book contained the stripped-bare writings of those students, but in this one, it’s the teachers’ turn to give the rest of us a window into how difficult their job can be. In a way I never could, they answer the naysayers who question the rigor of their jobs. Here are the real rhythms of a good teacher’s life, not bounded by June and September, or eight and three, but boundless because of the boundless needs of young people today and the dedication of those who work with them. These are teachers who attend parole hearings and face adolescents waving weapons, who teach students they know are high or drunk or screaming inside for someone to notice their pain. “Sitting at the funeral of a high school student for the third time in less than a year” is how one teacher begins an entry. There are knives and fists, and then there is the all-too- familiar gaggle of girls who are guilty of “a drive-by with words,” trafficking in the gossip, innuendo, and nastiness that have been part of high school forever. One teacher recalls a reserved and friendless young woman with great academic potential and a wealthy family, and the evening the maid found her “hanging, as silent as the clothing beside her, in the closet.” Another gets a letter from a former student with a return address in a state prison, with this plea: “I know you’re busy but I would be very grateful if you would write to me.”

Yet despite so many difficulties, these are also teachers who weep when budget cuts mean they lose their jobs, teachers who quit and are horrified at what they’ve done and then “unquit,” as one describes it. Some of them have faced the same problems of racial and ethnic prejudice or family conflict as their students, and see their own triumphs mirrored in those of the young people they teach and, often, mentor. One, hilariously, writes of how she is “undateable” because of the demands of her work: “I’m going to have a doozy of a time finding someone willing to welcome me and my 120 children into his life.”

Teachers had an easier time when I was in school, I suspect. Or maybe back then the kinds of problems and crises that confront today’s students existed but were muffled by silence and ignorance. Certainly I was never in a classroom where a student handed over his knife to the teacher. I never had a classmate who was homeless, or in foster care, or obviously pregnant.

And yet many of the teachers here speak my language: of pen pals, class trips, missed assignments–and, above all, of that adult at the front of the room who gives you a sense of your own possibilities. “Isn’t that the job of every teacher,” one of them writes, “to make every student feel welcome, to make every student feel she or he belongs, and to give every student a voice to be heard!”

And so I stick with my blanket statement: It’s the toughest job there is, and maybe the most satisfying, too. There are lives lost in this book, and there are lives saved, too, if salvation means a young man or woman begins to feel deserving of a place on the planet. “Everyone knows I’m gonna fail,” says one boy, and then he doesn’t. What could be more soul- satisfying? These are the most influential professionals most of us will ever meet. The effects of their work will last forever. Each one here has a story to tell, each different, but if there is one sentiment, one sentence, that appears over and over again, it is this simple declaration: I am a teacher. They say it with dedication and pride, and well they should. On behalf of all students–current, former, and those to come–let me echo that with a sentiment of my own: Thank you for what you do.

More About the Author

ERIN GRUWELL, the Freedom Writers, and her nonprofit organization, The Freedom Writers Foundation, have received many awards, including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award, and have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Primetime, Good Morning America, and The View, to name a few. Erin Gruwell is also a charismatic motivational speaker who spreads her dynamic message to students, teachers, and business people around the world. She lives in southern California.

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This book is a must read for all teachers and parents.
Tchur
We are all in this together, and each of us has a responsibility to do what we can to change education and make education and educators a top priority in this world.
J. D. Jones
Anything written by Erin Gruwell and her Freedom Writers is must reading for students, parents, all teachers, and anyone who works with or knows kids.
Dr. Sally Ann Michlin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Jones on September 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
After hearing about Teaching Hope, I was skeptical. I am a student in the teacher credential program, and I have never really felt aligned with the future educators and instructors. I didn't think that I would be interested enough to read what teachers would write. I thought it would be just another extension of the teacher's lounge, all negativity. However, I am a fan of the Freedom Writers and the Freedom Writers Foundation, so I picked up a copy of the book.

I have been absolutely moved by this book. It is not full of truisms or blind positivity, but is chock-full of truth and the hope that comes from such truth. Not only could anyone learn something from this book, but it is also a poignant, hopeful book for future and current educators. The adversity and challenges educators face to simply foster a positive environment in the classroom where all students have the same access to educational success is dumbfounding. However, these teachers oftentimes overcome such adversity and learn valuable lessons from their students. We are all in this together, and each of us has a responsibility to do what we can to change education and make education and educators a top priority in this world.

I've always wanted to sit down and interview all kinds of educators to hear their most moving and inspiring stories, so I could have a better sense of what to expect from being a teacher. Now, I won't have to. This book begins a much-needed dialogue with the people who are on the front lines every single day. If only law-makers and Congress would read this book, we would see a very different, more hopeful state of education in this world. The world is a better place with the Freedom Writer Teachers making a difference.

I would also highly recommend The Freedom Writers Diary 10th Anniversary Edition, which has ten new journal entries, spanning the past ten years since the diary was published. The new entries make the book even more powerful.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Barbara on September 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
Finally a book that speaks to the truth about the obstacles, heartaches and triumphs that teachers face in the classroom everyday. With all the nonsense about testing, NCLB and politics, here is a book that honors teachers and most importantly, the children in their care.
Colleges should have this as required reading, and the issues this book brings to light should be part of the curriculum. Too often young men and women leave college, enter the classroom and feel like they have been so ill prepared for the reality of teaching. We lose potentially amazing teachers simply because they felt unprepared and overwhelmed.
Be prepared to laugh and cry throughout this book as you are led on a journey from the first day of school, through a typical roller coaster year, to the triumph of graduation. You will celebrate children who overcame insurmountable objects to achieve success and have a new found respect for the profession of teaching after reading, Teaching Hope.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tchur on September 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a must read for all teachers and parents. It gives an small insight into the lives of teachers from the United States and beyond - but more importantly, it shows the commonalities that are shared by all teachers. Written in a style that documents the hopes and frustrations that teachers face from the beginning of the year through the end, it personalizes education, and allows all readers to share in the common feelings and thoughts of any teacher who has spent time educating our youth. Every reader is guaranteed to find at least one story that speaks to him/her. But most importantly, it provides a sense of hope for those who practice the art of teaching - one of the most important, transformative, and rewarding careers.Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writer Teachers and Erin Gruwell
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Trudy Swenson on September 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is just like the Freedom Writer's Diary only it is written by teachers. It is in the same format and has the same heart-felt rawness. Who would have thought that teachers go through this much in their everyday lives? This book is an inspiration to everyone, not just educators. I couldn't put it down. I laughed and I cried. It is truly a compliment to the Freedom Writer's Diary, and all that the foundation has accomplished. It is everything and more that I have come to expect from Erin Gruwell. You won't be disappointed no matter who you are or what your age.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Diane E. Craig on September 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is another great book to encourage teachers to listen to their students. Erin Gruwell understands the needs of her students, and gives us inspiration to follow her lead. I have shown the Freedom Writers DVD to my senior early childhood education majors to hopefully enlighten their calling to serve the children of today to become leaders of tomorrow. In Teaching Hope, we have read excerpts in class to think about how the little things we do with and for our students makes a difference in how they perceive themselves as responsible citizens in a democratic society. Using teachers' stories with preservice teachers helps them to foresee the future, and to help them establish sound relationships with students, colleagues, and families. This book addresses the teachers' need to feel confident in working through challenging situations.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Vanessa on August 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
Teachers from every state, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin islands detail the realities today's classrooms. It is a must read for anyone thinking of joining the profession, for anyone with a school age child, for anyone who was ever a student especially those of us who had a teacher who made a real impact on our lives.
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