11 December 2013
The Freedom of Education
The movie Freedom Writers, directed by Richard LaGravenese, shows the power of teaching, and Freedom Writers is a perfect example of a teacher who changes the lives of her students. The teacher in the movie, Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank), is the central character and is portrayed by the director as a confident Caucasian woman who is eager to teach for the first time. Gruwell changes the lives of her students in the movie Freedom Writers through her methods of teaching, her context of teaching, and her relationship with students through her teaching. The portrayal of Gruwell in the movie stands as a strong example to those preparing to teach of what good teaching looks like with difficult circumstances. All time citations to Freedom Writers are cited as (hours:minutes:seconds).
Teaching is more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Teachers develop methods to be able to reach out to the needs of the students. Gruwell, at first, thought that it was going to be easy, teaching English to a bunch of freshmen. However, she was wrong and had to find ways to connect with these students. Her students weren’t the typical high school freshman. That is, going to school to get an education to go to college and become successful. These students come from all different races and backgrounds; from Latinos to Blacks and Asians to Whites. After two weeks or so of not being successful in teaching her students, Gruwell tries something new. This scene (00:29:16 – 00:36:54) basically sets the tone of how Gruwell changes her teaching methods. Eva (April Hernandez), one of her Latino students, explains that where they live and how they live is all based on the color of their skin. Another one of her students, Marcus (Jason Finn), this time being a black student, yells angrily at Gruwell for trying to understand their situations because she will never be able to understand their pain and suffering. In Race in the Schools: Perpetuation White Dominance? Judith R. Blau states, “ For Americans, realities of cultural difference seem distant, like something college students discover in study-abroad programs or in the Peace Corps,” (3). This scene with Marcus shows Judith’s point. Erin Gruwell didn’t realize that her students were all coming from different cultures and were facing personal problems due to these cultural differences. She then realizes that she underestimated her class and has to change her methods of teaching.
Teaching methods range from plainly talking to the student to taking them on a field trip. Learning methods are essential to be an effective teacher. Not all students learn in the same way. Education has a certain amount of psychology to it. Something that psychologists call self-efficacy has a lot to do with how a student learns in school. Self-efficacy is defined as “how capable one feels to handle particular kinds of tasks,” (Snowman 278). Another clip (1:49:18 – 1:50:25) shows one student, Andre (Mario Barett), being confronted by Gruwell about the self-evaluation he did on his work in the class. Gruwell was very upset at the fact that he gave himself an ‘F’ because he thought that was the grade he deserved. This is a perfect example of self-efficacy at its finest. Self-efficacy helps influence whether people think optimistically or pessimistically, act in ways that are beneficial or detrimental to achieving goals, approach or avoid tasks, engage tasks with a high or low level of motivation, persevere for a short or lengthy period of time when tasks are difficult, and are motivated or demoralized by various failures. (Snowman 282) Andre had low self-efficacy due to his current circumstances of dealing with drugs and trying to get by everyday but not putting his schoolwork as a priority (1:42:30 – 1:43:13). The self-evaluation was a good way for Gruwell’s students to see that they were progressing and to see what needed to be worked on. Self-efficacy works...
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