Today is International Teacher’s Day and last night I met one of the most inspiring teachers of our time. A person who shared the story of the 150 Freedom Writers from room 203, at Wilson High School, Long Beach California. The writers, who were destined for a life of poverty, violence, teenage pregnancies and worse, were reached by Erin, and were given the opportunity to change the ending to their narrative through the writing of a diary. Erin turned classroom 203 into a home, a place where there was hope, a space where the students belonged, a space where they could dream of a better future, where they ultimately changed their future.
“I believe in the power of legacy and the power of words.” Erin explained. She described how she got through to her 150 fourteen year old English students by showing them that they were not ‘dumb’, ‘stupid’ or ‘nothing’, as they had always been told. She showed them what they had in common, firstly with each other, and then with the protagonists of the literature that she chose for them to read. The Rookie 23 year old teacher didn’t know how she was going to get her students to change, so she thought to herself, “If I can’t make them change then maybe Anne Frank can.” She added, ‘Anne Frank changed my students’ lives.”