Hello 541 – this is Sofia Penna. I am co-facilitating the discussion on Erin Gruwell’s Teach With Your Heart. Below you will find some of my reflections on the first half of the book. I apologize for posting so close to our next class meeting. I was detained by my grandmother’s funeral. But I hope I’me still able to catch one or two of you!
In our last meeting, Dr. Stearns suggested that the problem with English classes today is that teachers have resigned themselves to the belief that students “can’t, won’t and don’t read”. In Teach With Your Heart, Erin Gruwell’s first encounters with other teachers in her school seemed to take this idea further by denying appropriate reading materials to the “can’t, won’t and don’t” students. The co-chair of her English Department felt that books like The Catcher in the Rye would only be plastered with graffiti and destroyed by these students who were “too stupid to appreciate it” (pg. 33).
For Tuesday evening’s discussion and our own reflections on Gruwell’s memoir, perhaps we should be thinking about what defines “stupidity” in our classrooms. Is it not an act of stupidity to chair an English department believing that segregation in the classroom can serve as a money and time-saving convenience?
Step inside one classroom and see the “can’t, won’t and don’t” students who have been given no books to read. Look across the hall to the other classroom and see the “Distinguished Scholars” who have been given brand new copies of textbooks and paperbacks like The Catcher in the Rye to be placed neatly in their brand new book bags. With this image in mind, who or what inspired Gruwell to erase the line of separation and target the “stupidity” in Woodrow Wilson High School? Did Gruwell’s father inspire her to believe in the potential of the “can’t, won’t and don’t” students? Or did it take the face-to-face interaction with students like Sharaud to awaken Gruwell to the source of stupidity in the school? As teachers, how can we seek daily inspiration to rise above the stereotypes and segregation that we will be confronted with by our peers? Why do we have a duty to unlock the potential of each and every one of our students?
Looking forward to our discussion in class! – Sofia