77 pages 2 hours read

Erin Gruwell and Freedom Writers

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

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1999

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Key Figures

Ms. Gruwell

Ms. Gruwell is an English teacher at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. While most of her students come from low-income backgrounds and live in neighborhoods where gang violence is common, Ms. Gruwell is from a middle-class family and lives in a safe neighborhood in Newport Beach.

Throughout the book, Ms. Gruwell describes her teaching methods as “unorthodox.” She teaches books that she thinks the students can relate to, asks them to write about their personal experiences, takes them on field trips, and invites guest speakers to visit their classroom. She also pursues outside monetary support for her efforts and seeks attention for her class from the media and public officials. Ms. Gruwell’s students respond positively to her teaching and say that she is different than other teachers, who “drone on” and “lecture.” Ms. Gruwell describes herself as a “mom” to the students, and when the students wonder about the morality of their action or inaction, they frequently hope that Ms. Gruwell won’t find out.

Ms. Gruwell often struggles to gain support from her school administration and other teachers to stay with the class until they graduate. She believes this is because of rules about “seniority.