SPS Freedom Writers

I was in a meeting after summer school, talking about some other professional developments that went on this summer and/or go on throughout the year.  One of the consultants mentioned one of the other people from our Springfield cohort.  All of a sudden I was smiling like a moron and thinking warm fuzzy thoughts.  The other person doesn’t work at Putnam with me, but I might get to see him more during the school year now.  It totally made my day.

Springfield Freedom Writer teachers united.  This Is How We Do It.


Today was beyond words. In the short time we’ve been together with the Freedom Writers and Ms. G, we’ve generated something real. We’ve learned, cried, laughed, cried again, and laughed more together as a group, Springfield teacher and Freedom Writer alike.

We’ve learned that we are connected.
We’ve learned that we are never alone.
We’ve learned that healing takes time and can come from the most unlikely of places.
And it’s not even over!!!

Despite the importance of writing and journaling in this trip, so much of what is happening is beyond words.

Now, off to bed. We depart at 7:15AM tomorrow for what promises to be another enlightening and emotional day.


So far this trip has been an amazing experience.  I’ve laughed and cried, made new friends, found out things about myself that I never realized.  All of that while surrounded by the most heartfelt group of people I’ve met.  The other city of Springfield folks are dynamic, funny, kind and a billion other glowing adjectives that don’t begin to touch how supportive and cohesive they are.

Then there are the Freedom Writer Teacher mentors, people who have gone through the Institute before, and now have come back to guide us through this Wonderland or Oz or whatever fairy tale realm you may imagine.  We came through the air like Dorothy, and have our own good witch to guide us, in the form of Erin Gruwell.  These mentors are our tin man, cowardly lion, scarecrow, and maybe even a Toto as well.  Strong, brave, gentle, full of that same love, and helping us along this yellow brick road we travel.

Were that not enough, we’ve met a bunch of the original Freedom Writers.  These people who make themselves vulnerable at these institutes, share their diary entries, their struggles, and come back.  Again.  and again.  and again.  They welcomed us with open arms, with help, and their incredibly generous spirits.  I do not have the words to acknowledge how grateful I am that these people exist to better our world.  More importantly, to help us learn those same skills and pass them on.

So much to process and share, and so many conversations about how this will look in our classrooms, after school programs and offices.

Thank you Springfield for giving me this honor and trusting that I can be part of the group that brings this back to our community.  I feel like not even the sky, but somewhere beyond it, might possibly be a limit.  Maybe, further.  With Erin Gruwell and the amazing family-of-choice that she created I’m not sure there are limits at all.

Good night.

SPS Pioneers - FW Teachers in the Making

While 325 educators across the country have been trained in the Freedom Writers Methodology, SPS’s participation marks the first time an entire school district joins the ranks. The FW Foundation selected our school district after visiting districts nationwide. They could not have chosen a more ripe district.

Your teachers are ready for Day 1 – to soak in every moment of their 13-plus hour day with Erin, Freedom Writer teachers from across the nation, original Freedom Writers and each other.

I have been up for a very long time today, so this post will be brief.

My mentor, George N. Parks, taught, in one of his most famous “starred thoughts,” that “you never get a second chance at a first impression.” The Freedom Writers have definitely made a lasting first impression!

Upon arrival, representatives from the Freedom Writers Institute were waiting for us with smiles and hugs. They were so excited to welcome us into their family, and had never even seen us before! Erin Gruwell greeted us all by name with a hug as we entered the Freedom Writers House where we were treated to a beautiful (and delicious) family dinner. From the moment we stepped foot in California, everything has been done to make us feel welcome, comfortable, and safe.

I know it’s only the first day, but I’m already thinking about my classroom. Last year I opened with “You never get a second chance at a first impression,” totally focused on trying to change the climate of the school, but I don’t think I really ever thought, too deeply, about my own first impression opportunity. What do my students see at the beginning of the year? Is it enough to shake their hand with a smile? I don’t think so. I need to really look at everything about the culture of my classroom. Obviously that culture starts with me. My intentions become instantly clear to a teenager (or at least the teenager thinks they do) whether they are my actual intentions or not. With the preconceived notions about teachers, school, and everything else that incoming students have to twist their perception of my first impression, I need to consider giving them no opportunity to think I have anything but the best intentions to help them grow, learn, and succeed as students and individuals. I want to create the same feeling of welcoming and safety that Erin Gruwell and the members of the Institute have provided for us.

Only a few hours in and exciting things are unfolding here in Long Beach!!


Arrival - The Journey Begins

The excitement is palpable as we all await the bus to bring us to the hotel. A group of high-spirited, friendly Freedom Writer associates welcomed us at the airport. Still no idea what to expect, but wewill be getting started in just about an hour with opening activities.

As i finish my final preparations and airplane check ins, the opportunity ahead of me is really sinking in. I am filled with so many levels of excitement. I am excited to meet and learn from Erin and the original Freedom Writers. I share the excitement they wrote about in their diaries before their big adventures. I wonder if they imagined that so many years later a group of educators from across the country would be creating a diary (blog) about their excitement to meet them? I am also extremely excited for the youth of Springfield. What a wonderful opportunity this will be for all of us. I cannot wait to learn and I cannot wait to teach what I will learn.