An Inspirational Teacher

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In one of the most powerful scenes in the film, Erin draws a line in the center of the classroom and divides the students into two groups. She then asks a series of questions, telling the students to step up to the line if their answer is yes.

• Do you own the new Puff Daddy CD?
• Have you seen the movie Boyz in the Hood?
• Do you know anybody who has been in jail?
• Do you know where to get drugs?
• Have you ever been shot at?
• Have you have lost a friend to gang violence?
• Two friends?
• Three friends?

As the students stand on the line, they realize they are standing face-to-face with those of other races, backgrounds, and "tribes." They realize that they share certain common experiences despite their differences. The Line Game is a powerful way to practice empathy and openness. Erin tries to connect with her students by talking their language and by referring to cultural artifacts they are familiar with but they immediately judge her as just another white person trying to make them over. Nothing works until she confiscates an ugly racial cartoon that one student has drawn of an African American in the class. She compares it to the kind of drawings of Jews that the Nazis used to inflame resentments in Germany. But to her surprise, Erin discovers that her students know nothing about the Holocaust and the persecution suffered by the Jews. She likens the Nazis to a street gang just protecting their own. Erin then hands out blank journals and tells the students she wants them to write something in them every day. They won't be graded, and she will only read them if they give her permission. For many of them, this is the first time they have been empowered to share their feelings and ideas with others. Another time she has them play the "Line Game" (see Spiritual Moment in Movies at right), and they discover that they share many feelings in common. Next, she decides to have them read The Diary of Anne Frank, followed by a trip the Los...
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