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Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers
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Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  847 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
In this memoir and call to arms, Erin Gruwell, the dynamic young teacher who nurtured a remarkable group of high school students from Long Beach, California, who called themselves the Freedom Writers, picks up where The Freedom Writers Diary (and the movie The Freedom Writers) end and catches the reader up to where they are today. Teach with Your Heart will include the Fre ...more
Hardcover, 265 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Apr 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-that-suck
This book pissed me off.

From what I gather, not having been familiar with the subject matter before reading this, Erin Gruwell was a break-away hit teacher (I know, right?) in an inner city school who won the hearts of her tough, racially diverse students by caring about them and believing in them and by acquiring and spending thousands of dollars to give them the very best, from brand-new books to a trip to Europe.

This book is her memoir.

I think I'm already inclined to be twitchy about the "ide
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of negative reviews about not only this book, but Erin Gruwell as well.

I found this book truly inspiring. As I am about to begin my teaching credential, I am full of enthusiasm. From my experiences in education (I am a teacher's aide at an elementary school) I understand that sometimes senior teachers do not share this enthusiasm. In the first couple of pages she reminiscences about walking into the teachers' lounge and not feeling welcomed, which I feel I can fully relate to. One o
Debbie Moore-hargrove
After reviewing the movie and reading the book, it inspired me as a teacher to care more, give more, and encourage my students to reach for the stars.

I have so much compassion for my students and teaching to make sure they progress, graduate and achieve their goals in education, careers and lives that I let them know and try to stay in touch with them even after they leave my class to assure them they are still important, special and valuable in my life and I trust they feel the same about me an
Andrew Sydlik
Mar 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who want to see the power of literature, those who think racism and classism aren't a problem
This memoir about a high school English teacher's experiences at a forcefully integrated California school is both touching and disturbing. It reveals the ways in which race and class still split people apart and trap them in poverty and violence. With the other teachers and administrators largely being bigoted and uncaring, and the students being rebellious and mocking, Ms. Gruwell faced much adversity. Male students sexualized her rather than respected her, and both her white colleagues and he ...more
Mar 21, 2010 rated it liked it
This is an interesting, engaging read about the Freedom Writers teacher and the major impact she made on the lives of so many of her students. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading her memoir, I am only giving it three stars because it is so idealistic and unrealistic to teach in that way. Gruwell sacrificed her marriage, and worked a second job to buy supplies for her students. Her interactions with the kids were definitely inappropriate, including driving them home, and taking them to Sarajevo, w ...more
Michelle Christensen
Very inspiring. I love the dedication and devotion she had for her cause. I also find it quite sad that she sacrificed her marriage and her family for that same cause. I'm grateful for what she did and how she raised our awareness of discrimination and problems in our educational situation. I'm also grateful for the all the teachers in my life and my children's lives who may not sacrifice their private life but who still give their all for our education. Great teachers come in all shapes and siz ...more
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very remarkable and inspiring story, even though at most times it is unrealistic or difficult for most educators to relate to. Erin's experience is just such an extraordinary one. However, there are enough lessons that elevate and affirm humanity, dignity, the teaching profession, the students, and their community, and enough examples of effective practice and pedagogy, to make it a worthwhile read for educators. The story and themes also make it worth reading for anybody interested in the suc ...more
Sarah -
It's supposed to be inspiring, and Erin Gruwell herself truly is - she spoke to my class of new teachers a couple years ago, and she still cried when talking about her students - but this truly is not realistic. One lucky break after another, really just wouldn't happen. I teach at a fairly difficult school myself (sad to say about an elementary school, but that's life), and there's just no way this perfect storm of events and sponsors and so on would ever happen again.
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A great memoir of a great teacher who started an incredible phenomenon. Not many specifics on how to replicate the formula, but you can draw out what she did as a teacher from between the lines.
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Erin Gruwell's story is compelling and life-changing. I was fully engaged throughout every page and inspired to be a teacher! I'm so thankful Erin was able to share her story to the world not only in the Freedom Writers but also through this auto-biography of her time as a teacher and impact in the lives of her students.
Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I got this book from the administration in the high school where I am the librarian. While I don't teach I do have the unique opportunity to talk to students outside of a classroom setting. I even have TA's that come help me do librarian stuff. Sometimes I get TA's that just need to talk and a few of them have shared with me their stories, slowly at first, haltingly, but eventually after a few stops and starts I get to hear about their lives. Lives that are in many ways so different from my own, ...more
Merritt O'Boyle
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
ehhh. okay, I appreciate the fact that all Erins students graduated and obviously she had a positive impact on many (since they still work with her). let's establish that.

however, this story was so lucky and outlandish...and her tone so annoying.. that the book really grated my nerves. she doesn't talk much about how or what she taught beyond the mentioned book titles they read and their diaries. based on this, the way to be a good teacher is have your class read a book and then introduce them
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, memoir, non-fiction
Erin Gruwell's memoir of her time teaching at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, is an emotional read. She started as a young student teacher and taught for five years, working with some of the toughest kids that the district had to offer. Teaching English and moving up each year with the same students, she was able to build an unusual rapport with her students that intensified as they went on field trips and had amazing opportunities to meet important historical figures like Miep Gie ...more
Oct 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about Gruwell's memoir. On the one hand, what she was able to achieve with her students is admirable and inspiring. Having read The Freedom Writer's Diary years ago (prior to the movie) I was already familiar with Gruwell's story. Teach With Your Heart goes more in-depth for a behind-the-scenes look into both her methodology and personal life. She deserves all of the accolades and credit she has received for her remarkable work. However, whilst reading, I could not shake an ...more
Sara  Liebman
Aug 27, 2009 rated it liked it
I enjoyed The Freedom Writers Diary, so I picked this book up in order to add context to the students' stories. I wanted to know who and what was behind these young peoples' voices. Turns out Erin Gruwell is not nearly as interesting or as talented a writer as some of her students. I am oddly compelled by this story, probably because I am a teacher and the thought of a teacher bringing about what Erin helped bring about helps feed my passion for education.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I think
Christine Fay
Mar 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This memoir by Erin Gruwell is told in a first person narrative. While it was interesting to learn what went on in her personal life and inside her mind while she taught her high school students with her heart and soul, it was also disappointing to find out that she actually ran for Congress and lost. During this process where she was wooed by Congressman Patrick Kennedy to try running for office, she alienated a few of the Freedom Writers by hiring campaign planners that didn’t appreciate the g ...more
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: teacher-books, memoir
I believe I added this to my to read list after reading The Freedom Writers' Diary. At the time I was in the midst of my own inner-city teaching adventure, and was inspired by the stories of her students. I found this book somewhat repetitive, as the beginning basically sums up that book, but then goes on to tell about the years that follow. Again, the students and the teaching inspiring. All the writing about her divorce, running for office, relationship with her dad seemed trite, saccharine, a ...more
Apr 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes to read memoirs or inspiring stories
Shelves: nonfiction, memoirs
I recently saw "Freedom Writers" (the movie with Hilary Swank), which was based on this memoir and Erin Gruwell's experiences teaching underprivileged kids in Long Beach, California. Gruwell is actually a controversial figure--take a look at some of the negative reviews on Amazon to see what I mind. I've also seen some anti-Gruwell comments on web sites as well. I think all her critics are being totally petty and ridiculous.

I found this book to be very inspiring and beautiful. I wouldn't describ
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This is an amazing story of what people can do when they are committed to something. I read this after watching the movie The Freedom Writers. They were both just as powerful and wrenching. The Freedom Writers were students who lived daily with poverty and violence, who believed they lived in a war zone in sunny California, who were ignored and belittled by their teachers. Until young, idealistic Erin Gruwell became their English teacher and taught them the influence of words and the power of ho ...more
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Such a heartwarming memoir that gives the reader a frank look on some of the challenges existing in teaching, yet triumphs over these challenges. The author's belief in her students and passion for her career are contagious. Before I read this book, I didn't know why she ended up divorcing, etc., but getting a glimpse of her perspective and hope, I learned why. I, too, tend to bring work home and spend much time in my spare time, because I have a strong conviction in what I do. Despite some of t ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm supposed to like this inspiring story of hope. Instead, I find myself thinking that there was a lot of good luck and timing involved in this story. Erin taught for a very short period of time and was involved with a relatively limited group of students throughout their high school career. She somehow managed to get the kids to open up, that is admirable. Then when the kids graduated she didn't end up cutting ties, but encouraged them to stay involved in her life. She left teaching high schoo ...more
Sep 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
The teachers in my children's school district are on strike, and one of the issues is being able to make changes in a district-wide set curriculum. I've been fascinated with Erin Gruwell since watching the movie The Freedom Writers, and when I saw this book yesterday (yes, yesterday!), I knew I wanted to read it.

This is a wonderful memoir, detailing the author with all her human ups and downs, successes and failures, and what she learned over the years, since starting work as a student teacher i
Brooks Jones
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic memoir by the lady who has inspired thousands of teachers. Gruwell tells how she got through to her at-risk students at an inner-city high school in Long Beach, with no support from her fellow teachers or husband. This is an amazing story of how she created a family for her students and gave them permission to care about themselves and their own futures. I loved reading her account of how she was able to make things happen, including getting money and transportation for field trips, sc ...more
Jul 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
This book, as I said in my review of Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, is execrable! Her willful ignorance of the lives of her students is inexcusable and maddening, as is her hypocrisy when she is angered by her neighbors' reactions when she takes her students to her hometown. And most of her success is based mainly on her ability to hook up with a local millionaire who subsidizes her class and their books and field trips. How nice for her. She offers very little day-to-day examples of how she tu ...more
Aug 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-bought-ebook
I thought this was sweet and inspiring. This book tells the story of how Erin Gruwell started teaching the students who would go on to become the Freedom Writers, accomplished authors, college graduates, motivational speakers and fellow teachers. She writes about struggling to work two jobs to pay for field trips and special learning opportunities for kids the system wanted to throw away. She talks about meeting Steven Spielberg and Hilary Swank, as well as her terror at giving speeches to thous ...more
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this book immediately following the Freedom Writers Diary. While that book is written from the perspective of the students, this is the story of the teacher's journey. She is an amazing person! I wish I could have that kind of dedication and talent with students. Her story challenged me to think about how I can be better at my job.

The one thing that bothered me about her is that she basically devoted her entire life to her job-- to the point where her marriage broke up and she was in fina
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: class, diary-memoir, race
This book is about Erin Gruwell's teaching experience in an under privileged school district. I'd recommend reading it after reading The Freedom Writer's Diary. I liked it lot because I can relate to Erin and her experience. Plus, I think she's a great role model and has brought to light the issues some youth face. She also had the ability to take her student's experience and turn it into something positive...encouraging her students to write to give voices to youth. Although I loved the Freedom ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you have watched The Freedom Writers Diary then you know the basics of this book, but if you enjoyed the film then you may find that you also really enjoy the book. I don't know that Erin did anything extraordinary with her teaching, but I love how much she cared for her students. Sometimes just showing that you care about the student is enough of a motivation to work harder and achieve success. I'm amazed by her connections and the incredible experiences she was able to provide for her stude ...more
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it
I am only half way through, so I will come back here to edit this review. I am a new elementary resource room teacher. I heard good things about her and bought this book. Naturally, my hope was that I learn things from her that will help my teaching career.

This book is a good memoir, I guess. Did she gave me inspiration? Yes, to a certain extent. Did she show me some tools I can use? No. I admire her for her ability to be creative and make things happen, but she was lucky, too. Who can meet Stev
May 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: urban teachers
Shelves: urbaneducation
this has totally re-energized me and refuled my passion for teaching and for staying in the game and keep on challenging all the things that needs to be changed so that my students can really get a meaningful education.

it's a quick read and gaves a little more background to the movie and gives me a better understanding of how exactly she implemented her currirulum and how much of her life she dedicated to her students...and also how she has continued her relationships with them after high school
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