Teach with Your Heart
Educational Internship Program
Gruwell also uses experience as a lesson tool. This includes plenty of field trips and guest speakers. Field trips are extremely good tools for letting students experience their lessons first hand. Most of what I know about Missouri history stems from a fourth grade field trip to Jefferson City. Fifth grade provided an opportunity for us to become businessmen and women during a trip to Exchange City. I learned all about the behind the scenes parts of business. Although field trips generally become more and more scarce as students grow older, they can be especially valuable to high school students. Even a destination as simple as a public library can prove highly helpful to high school students writing research papers. Traveling to the Kansas City Public Library three years in a row helped me to become more invested in my projects and also gave me a more in depth look at my community which I had not yet been exposed to. Public speakers also do a great deal when it comes to giving students a look at reality. Everything I know about fire safety came from a visiting firefighter to our elementary school. The recent Breakfast with the Experts gave me new insights to possible future careers. Field trips and public speakers are not only wonderful learning tools but they also foster lasting memories for students and teachers alike.
Aside from the English lessons taught in her class, Erin Gruwell also ignited in her students a sense of activism and tolerance. It is truly inspiring to read about high school students who did so much to change their futures and the futures of those around them. Being from Liberty it isn't always easy to grasp how dangerous and frightening other places in the United States are. This book really helped open my eyes to some of the real life terrors people my age face in different parts of the country. Murder, drug addiction, and drive by shootings were normal occurrences in the Freedom Writers' world. I've never had to deal with anything so difficult. At the moment my biggest worries are tests and papers and grades. Other teenagers across the country and around the world are facing true difficulties that I will never be able to truly understand. But by reading this book I am more aware than I ever have been when it comes to the subject of teenage murder and crimes.
USES IN THE CLASSROOM
Another way Gruwell related her student's interest to her learning was through analogies. For example, she would try to relate lessons to football after she found out most of her students were interested in the sport. She went out of her way to research all she needed to know to properly incorporate the topic into all of her lessons. She could have went on with her lesson as usual, but she made the extra effort to involve her students. This is a very important lesson for all teachers. By actively involving your students you make the lesson so much more impactful. This technique would also make teaching more interesting. Lessons would be different year after year and teaching would always be new and exciting.
Field trips were also an important feature in Gruwell's classroom. However, while a great source of learning, field trips are not easily accessible because of funding problems in most public schools. A way to remedy this is to create in-class field trips. Similar to a "staycation", an in-class field trip gives the feeling of being away from the class without actually leaving. Many websites offer virtual field trips and there is always the option of leaving the classroom, but staying on campus. Science classes can observe nature around their school and sometimes a change of scenery can be very beneficial to students. When field trips are an option, however, they should be utilized. Field trips allow students a rare, upfront experience to what they are learning whether it be a first hand look at a one room schoolhouse or the chance to experience business up close.
A fourth technique utilized by Erin Gruwell was to invite guest speakers to her class (or take her students to the speaker). In Gruwell's case the speakers were people who had faced adversity in their lives. But anyone who has any lesson to teach can be a guest speaker. The main way this technique is utilized at Liberty North is through their Breakfast with the Experts program. The many different opportunities students have to discuss careers with professionals is beneficial because it allows the students to consider their options before they leave high school. Recently this technique was used at Lewis and Clark Elementary when they invited Gary Lezak to speak to the younger grades about weather. Guest speakers shine a new light on their respective subjects, topics, and lessons. Students are able to learn from people who have real life experience.
- Funding would be a big issue for most teachers. How could a teacher create the same type of experiences as Erin Gruwell did for her students if they have a limited budget?
- It is highly unlikely that a teacher would be able to remain with the same group of students for all four years of high school. How could you make the same kind of connections in shorter period of time?
- The students in Gruwell's class were mostly underprivileged and/or in a minority. She used their struggle as means to connect with them. How could you connect with students that haven't experienced as much hardship? Would they be more difficult to connect with or easier?
- Erin Gruwell had plenty of support from all kinds of different people. Is it possible to make the kind of progress she did with little or no support?
- As class sizes grow larger it will become more difficult to connect with students individually. What methods could a teacher use to make sure they connect with their students on a more personal/individual level?
- Is it common to face teachers that are as disinterested in their profession as Gruwell's colleagues? What ways could we change the profession of teaching that will make it more desirable? How could we truly determine which teachers are dedicated and which teachers would rather be somewhere else?
- Would teachers be more motivated to connect with their students if there were more rewards for the teachers? Is negative reinforcement a better method than positive reinforcement, by not letting teachers go if their students do well on tests rather than giving them a positive reward for teaching their students more than just test material?
- Would education benefit from more news stories such as the ones about Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers? Would more people advocate change if they were more aware of the state of our educational system?