TIME TO CELEBRATE OUR FREEDOM TO WRITE! II
Once upon a time there was a teacher. Her “student-teaching experience” sent her to a high school where she was assigned to a class of “low-performing students.” Walking into that classroom was a moment mixed with fear, courage and hope. She already knew that one student had allegedly threatened a previous teacher with a gun; and didn’t know what to expect from the others. Yet, from that very first day, she saw potential in each and every student. Her dream to “be a teacher” became her hope to help them find a FREEDOM they never dreamed possible—through writing!
The next school year—now a full teacher—she was assigned a sophomore class. That was the year of student “walk-out” protests because of political unrest. She listened to her students, and asked them to keep journals and write about the similarities of the “family feuds” they experienced at home or knew of in gangs to the families of Romeo and Juliet. She also gave reading assignments of books written by other teenagers in times of war: Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank, Zkata’s Diary by Zlata Filipović and Night by Elie Wiesel. Writing these journals helped many of the students as they anonymously passed copies of pages around the classroom and shared their thoughts. Slowly, these students, who once refused to even speak to someone who looked different, became like a family.
You may have heard of this woman—teacher, encourager, speaker, writer. Her name is Erin Gurwell, and she and her students created the book, The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. The book was published in 1999 and remains a “go to” assignment for many teachers, today. I must admit that when I read book, some of the words made me feel uncomfortable; yet, I learned much about the circumstances of these wonderful young people. The movie Freedom Writers was released in 2007. And, there is now the Freedom Writers Foundation that encourages the Freedom Writers method of writing around the world.
OUR COUNTRY, and that Declaration of Independence document, set the stage for Erin Gurwell to dream of and become an amazing teacher more than 200 years later. Her education was filled with the writings of professors, poets, novelists and memoir authors. And she—like the American Revolution patriots—became an unforgettable example of how hard work, courage and the spirit of determination can change lives, and writing was the main tool she used.
Are you an out of the box thinker and writer like Erin Gurwell and the authors of the Declaration of Independence? If you answered, “No, not really,” please consider the following:
- Do you enjoy brainstorming plot ideas? I have a neighbor who loves to read mysteries. So when my plot runs into a wall, I sit with her a while, and ask what she likes best about the plot of the book she’s reading. Those 30-60 minutes kick my brain into gear and my own plot comes to life again.
- Do you like to re-write the endings of your favorite TV shows or movies? My husband (who has done some acting) and I really enjoy discussing “how we’d write that story.” Almost without exception those ideas find their way into my notes for an article, short story or novel.
- Are you learning new things? Each and every time we research background information for our stories we are stepping out of the box of our genre and into the realm of new ideas.
Without exception, every writer I’ve ever met and/or worked with has enhanced my own abilities and given me new ideas—enriching my personal freedom to write new and better works. May we all appreciate and grow in our FREEDOM WRITING, and FREEDOM PUBLISHING, too! ⚓︎