Teach With Your Heart

Educational Internship Program

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Teach With Your Heart by Erin Gruwell is an amazing book that can apply to any reader. This memoir is an emotional roller coaster that takes the you right along with the motions. Erin Gruwell shares the remarkable journey of her teaching career. All the way from student teaching to traveling across the country with her students. Erin shows us practical ways to better ourselves. She teaches us that no matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability. If Erin wouldn't have taught with the best of her ability, her students may have continued their lives in fear of living to the next day. Instead, her classroom grew together and made a positive 180 turn with their lives. Students with .6 GPA's began to earn A's. They became confident and excited about the future. All because of what happened inside of the average Comm Arts room in Woodrow Wilson High School. Erin Gruwell decided early that she would teach with her heart. She put her own life at risk to be the best teacher she could be. She invested into the lives of each and every student that walked into her classroom. She fought for her students. She went above and beyond the average expectations for a Comm Arts teacher. Erin Gruwell went from being an underestimated student teacher to becoming a well known public speaker in many countries. Erin teaches specifically how to be the best English teacher, as well as how to be as successful as possible, no matter what life brings.


Teach With Your Heart offers many life stories that can apply to people of all kinds. I personally connected to a few of these events. The first one is how Erin Gruwell connected to each of her students. From the first day of school she could see how "cliquey" her students really were. They separated themselves by race. Erin then played games during class, forcing her students outside of their comforts. They let down all their walls and truly were themselves. By the end of the year, as opposed to separated groups in class; the class was one big family. This applies to me because it shows me that sometimes we need to take a step back in order to move forward. Erin had to push pause on teaching English and work on other issues at hand. Once her class had a family like atmosphere, they accomplished way more than any average classroom. I understand that it is not practical to have a close knit family like situation in every classroom in high school, however we could take more time to get to know each other. Most students interact only in common classes, or an occasional "hello" in the hallway during passing period. If we took time to dig deeper, we may be able to accomplish things never even imagined. Another lesson Erin Gruwell demonstrates is the importance of determination. Erin was determined to be the best teacher she could be. Erin put herself in debt in order to better the education opportunities for her students. If her students had a dream, she would do everything possible to make it happen. This can apply to me in many ways. For example, if I am determined towards my school work I should receive any grade that I so desire. It reminds me that I should put forth every effort I can to accomplish my dreams. Another lesson that I learned from Erin Gruwell was not to always take the advice of others. Many people gave Erin advice of how to live her life and what to do next. This was not bad advice, she just had to decide if it was right for her. As a student, I have a lot of people telling me what to do next. Where I should go to college, what I should study, where I should work, etc. It has come to the time where I need to make my own decisions. Erin went against a lot of people to fight for what she believes in. Lastly, Erin portrayed the importance of patience. In the beginning of her teaching career, Erin was made fun of and picked on. Not only by her students, but by other teachers. She felt so left out that she spent most of her time in her own classroom instead of conversing with teachers in the teacher's lounge. However, Erin was patient and never gave up. She could have easily quit after her student teaching time was through. Instead, she saw hope and continued. She was patient with her students in hope of transformation. This applies to me in the ways that I can be patient. I can learn to be more patient with teachers, and considerate to the fact that I am not their only student. I can be patient with the fact that things take time to develop and not everything will always be right at my fingertips. Overall Erin Gruwell demonstrates many life lessons that can be applied to everyone in one way or another.

How It Applies

Teach With Your Heart is a book that can be easily applied to in many situations. Erin's method of teaching was very different than the average way of teaching. She decided to be different, and do what was best for her kids. Mr. Young does the same thing. His way of teaching is much more strict than the average teacher. However, I have never seen an elementary class so smart. Every student is very intelligent and advanced for their age. I believe that this directly correlates to the teacher. Mr. Young does not let his student do whatever they choose. They have a strict schedule, that in the end is very beneficial. This class is not perfect by any means, but has a new way of dealing with conflict. When a conflict arouses, everyone has a say. When a decision is to be made, everyone has a say. Erin Gruwell also deeply cared about each and every student. Mr. Young does this in a variety of ways. For one, if a student is struggling they do not go unnoticed. He will take time to make sure that students are being to at the point they need to be at. Mr. Young schedules time out of each day for star share. This is when a specific student gets to have show and tell, share about themselves, and show photos. This is a way to make each student feel special. I could also personally apply this book to my own classroom placement. Erin Gruwell had to get to know her students and then adapt to their needs. I can do this in multiple ways. One way is to individually get to know each student in a new level. All students learn different ways and have a different way of learning. I should get to know their learning habits and apply them when I pull kids in the hallway. Every student is at a different level academically. When I pull kids in the hallway I should adapt to each student and do things a little bit differently each time. Although this book is geared toward teaching, it can also be applied to everyday life situations. It reminds us to be compassionate towards others. If Erin Gruwell had not demonstrated compassion, then her students would not have been where they were today. The book teaches us the importance of generosity. If Erin had not demonstrated generosity then her students would not have had the opportunities they had. No matter what profession you are in, this book can be applied to you.


The question that I continually asked myself throughout the book was, "what is the benefit for Erin Gruwell to invest so much time in her students?" Erin Gruwell repeatedly poured into her students. She put herself into debt in order to better the education of her students. Is putting yourself in financial debt really worth it, just to buy a new class set of books? Another question that continually came to mind throughout the book was "at what point do you stop trying?" Stopping to try doesn't have to mean giving up. Erin could have easily just stopped trying. She could have stopped trying new activities. Stopped trying to connect to her students. Stopped trying to give her students the best opportunities. There was a point where Erin could have continued teaching, just because she had to. However, Erin persevered through difficult times and the end result was positive. The outcome will not always be positive, so at what point do we just stop trying?
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