Freedom Writers

Based on a true story of the Freedom Writers Diary

History & Traditions

* Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA

* Prior to voluntary integration, Wilson HS was a high achieving school

* Following the integration, forced accept at-risk students which created the acceptance of lower academic expectations.

* Because of the integration, the veteran staff were given the honors classes; new and

inexperienced staff were given classrooms with many at-risk students.

* Veteran staff was not welcoming of new staff

* New staff was not provided with the same curriculum resources as veterans

* No evidence of leadership or mentoring for Ms. G.

* No school safety plan for dealing with student violence.

Symbols, Rituals & Ceremonies

Rituals & Ceremonies

* In her first year, Ms. G just showed up for her first day of school, without establishing any classroom management.

* In her second year of teaching, Ms. G. started the year with having each student give a "Toast for Change", which silenced the voices that told the students they couldn't do something.

* Ms. G took the students on field trips to gain more experiences (Holocaust Museum, dinner in an upscale restaurant, talked to Holocaust survivors, etc.).


* The only way the students could ensure their survival was by carrying weapons to defend themselves or their gang. When they felt respected and trusted Ms. G., they no longer felt they needed their weapons.

Conveyors of Culture & Leadership Style

* The environment was a toxic environment.

* Collaboration was not encouraged- each teacher was on their own island.

* The voluntary integration was blamed for the decrease in student achievement.

* Staff knew that eventually the at-risk students would quit coming to school. Student knew that this was acceptable.

* Ms. Campbell (English department head) had a hands-off approach to leadership. She didn't encourage Ms. G to give her students the "dumbed down" texts rather than the real thing.

Type of Culture

Ms. G: At the beginning, she was a Heroine- she wanted to inspire her students to learn. Most of them did not have the expectation that they would graduate from high school. She was also a Compass because she wanted to encourage all of her students to learn.

At the end, she was a symbolic leader- she inspired her students to graduate from high school and move on to higher education. She was also a pioneer- she was very innovative in her teaching and the things she used to motivate her students.

Husband: In the beginning, he was very supportive and encouraging. However, as she dedicated more time to her students, he became a saboteur. His support waned, until he finally left her.

Ms. G's dad: In the beginning, he thought a teacher didn't make enough money and that she was smart enough to run a company and make a lot of money. In the end, he was her biggest supporter- he helped transport students on field trips, etc.

Staff members:

* Negaholics: they said that eventually the students would quite coming to school. Discouraging when Ms. G. attempted something new. Wouldn't give her the necessary resources.

* Pessimistic Taletellers: kept reminded Ms. G. that her students couldn't be successful; told her that if she taught there long enough, she would get the "good" students.

* Saboteurs: kept bringing Ms. G's personal life into conversations in which it didn't pertain; tried to drag down her enthusiasm for teaching- each time she needed something for her students, she took another job.

* Keepers of the Nightmare: kept reminding everyone that they used to be an A list school before they became a reform school. Kept blaming all the problems on the minority students.

Amy Christopherson and Kari Knutson