Freedom Writers: Journaling Our Way to Better writing.

close up of multi colored pencils

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You have probably seen the movie, “Freedom Writers,” starring Hillary Swank, in which a  passionate teacher stirs her students’ academic interests through journal writing.  The movie is much more interesting than that.  The teacher tries to foster a passion in her students, who, themselves, have come from hard situations; these students had been told that they would not amount to anything in life, and that their future included an early death, gang life, or incarceration.  The sad reality is that this movie was based on a true story.  However, there is a good reality to behold–it comes from the teacher, who decided to dispel the beliefs that had kept her students bound to fear, to anger, and to failure.

I’m not different from most teachers, in that my hope is always to make a difference in the lives of my students.  Sometimes, we (Teachers) enter the field of teaching with lofty ideals as to the kind of difference we are going to make, i.e., turn all 100 of my lower-level reading students into college ready graduates within a school year.  I exaggerate a bit, however, the main thing the teacher ends up realizing is that nothing else matters to a student more than knowing that a teacher truly cares about them.   I believe that teachers receive favorable responses when they demonstrate that (a) they care, and (b) they believe in their students.

Sometimes the teacher comes in trying to fix what just needs care, not an overhaul.  I want my students to know that I care.  Students are not broken–they just need direction.  Most students that I have had the honor of teaching, have an inner character comparable to none.  The teacher just has to tap into that strength of character and help the student to recognize his or her own capabilities.  The teacher that makes an impact, is only able to do so when the student is ready for the impact. There is already something inside the student, which pushes him or her to do better.  What the teacher does is hone what is already there.

Today I want to encourage my English students to tap into the abilities, which already exist within them.  I want to set those writing and reading skills free with my new “Freedom Fridays” section of the course.  I watched the movie (“Freedom Writers”) years ago, and although initially I was inspired by the movie, it is my recent sessions with developing writers, which has propelled me into exploring this new idea.  Sometimes I’ll meet students, who just don’t believe that they have what it takes to write an essay, or a paper.  I want to encourage or challenge those students to join me in writing more.  Consider becoming a Freedom Writer!

Fuel your writing by journaling your experiences and feel free to share those with me, by email, at  If you feel you want to start honing those writing skills a bit, send me your piece.  We can work on it together.  Perhaps your writing just needs a bit of polishing.  Let’s explore and bring your writing to life in my course room on Fridays or right here on my website.  I will choose one writer’s piece to share on my homepage every Friday (on both the course homepage and here on my website).  I want to share your authentic journal pieces with other aspiring writers.  Perhaps you’re unable to take part in our writing club, or perhaps you just don’t have so much time to devote to your writing; by submitting your piece, your work could also end up in our Writers’ Corner Magazine.  I think it will inspire you to see your work displayed.

Journaling does not require any page or word-count requirements, so just get started!  Start where you are comfortable, and lets take this journey together.

Let’s journey to better writing through journaling!  If you’re interested in journaling with me, or for more information, leave a comment below or send me an email.

Improving in ELA

Ways To Improve Your ELA Skills

You have come to the right place!  You have already made the first step in improving your ELA skills by exploring your teacher’s website! By the way, in case you did not know, ELA stands for English Language Arts.  Now that you know what ELA means, we can move on.  :-).

It is so important that in order to improve in any area that you first take initiative.  Be a responsible learner.  Be proactive in doing what it takes to acquire the information you need to succeed.  Think of your teacher as the facilitator, who gives you access to the tools you need to take things even further.  Your own initiative is such a powerful tool in getting to where you need to be.  Do not sit around waiting for answers, go research them.  Then come to class and share with others to see if what you found out matches what others might have found.  In this act alone you will be building a set of sources to return to over and over.  Nothing makes a teacher happier, than a student who takes pride in his or her own learning!

Next, be sure to Ask questions.  Questions are great!  In fact, one of the great strategies to learning and understanding is simply to ask questions.  When you read a book, ask questions as you go through the text.  What does the author mean when she says this?  What does this word mean?  Why does the author include this information?  How does the character feel? etc.  These are questions that will lead to deeper knowledge.  You will only improve by asking questions–asking will not make you seem stupid or “dumb,” as many of my students like to say! “There are no dumb questions”–they are vehicles to greater thoughts and ideas.

Talking to others is a sure-fire way to improve your English language skills.  Speaking is a huge part of learning any language.  Participate in classroom discussions, online forums, etc.  You have a voice that must be heard.  In this class, I want to hear your voice!  Of course, part of that comes with listening.  Be sure to listen to what others have to say.  Part of learning also comes from social cues and developing those social skills that will enhance communication with others.  Listen to your peers, your teachers, your parents, and other school staff to improve your skills.  Become as interactive as possible because teaching others is a great way to enhance what you learn.  The knowledge you achieve is stronger when shared.

Finally, I wish to encourage you to stay positive.  Be confident that you have all you need to grow in this class.  The only thing that will hinder you is you.  I am here to help to take you to the next level, but you will go far beyond where I will ever be able to take you.  See you in class!