I just finished the most amazing book. Teach With Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers by Erin Gruwell. The book is a memoir from a teacher who transformed the lives of over 150 students from a low-income, rough-and-tough, multi-cultural high school in Long Beach, California.
When she was thrown into this crazy group of segregation wars, violence, and failures it was her first day as a student teacher. Her supervising teacher "left to go get a cup of coffee" and never came back, leaving her standing in front of this terrifying group of junior flunk-outs to try and teach the basics of reading and writing. The process was not easy gradually she began to really believe in her students and when no one else would give them their time she invested hers. When they couldn't get new books from the school, she bought brand new ones with her own money. She believed in her students and taught them about the Holocaust which helped them work through their own terrifying lives in the "hood". She took a student on house arrest with no future and helped her graduate from high school and go to college, and a student who carried a gun in his pocket became the face of the Freedom Writer Foundation.
But most importantly she taught them how to write their story. Through the gift of writing they were able to express themselves and share with others their failures and victories. Against all odds they gathered all their stories together and wrote The Freedom Writers Diaries, a book that would bring light to the silent wars that many students go through every day. Erin and I became very close this week and I wrote her a letter to thank her for her inspiration (i'll let you know if she writes back).
I can really only touch on the highlights of this book but what I want to share really is the impact it had on my life. Her career went so much further than just a junior English teacher but it began by believing in her students as a measly student teacher. I guess I never realized the impact that an individual can have on another persons life and the significance that a teacher has on shaping a students future. Now more than ever I am beginning to see what God is planning for me to starting grad school next week.
I am filled with more fears and questions than ever, but at the same time can see how all of my passions are coming together. I can remember a teary conversation I had with C one night when I was feeling at my lowest. He was sweetly trying to help me talk through all of the things I am passionate about and give me some direction for a career. He told me to make a list of the things I like to do and what makes me happy and here's what I wrote...
- Helping kids through tough times
- Being someone who sees the best in people and helps them achieve it
- Planning and organizing
- Being creative and designing new things or strageties
- Seeing kids go to college or get jobs or follow their dreams
- Baking (ok, that was a long shot!)
- Planning parties
When you read these you have to go back to where I was. Bursting at the seems for a purpose and place in the world where I could make an impact. I wanted a job so desperately that I forgot to look at what I was passionate about and what God was passionate about (thank you C for bringing me back to that). I wanted the big career, to my name to be in lights and on web sites, but I forgot that this is God's plan not mine. It's all about finding that sweet spot, "Where my passions intersect God's purpose". I love that I feel so clueless about this next step. I love that I am so dependent on God to show me I can do this and to reveal His plan and not mine.