Mapping the Future

Freedom Writers

Published On : 19th April, 2021

On Saturday, I saw the movie by the name Freedom Writers. I was extremely impressed by the movie and saw it again the following day on Sunday. Apart from an exquisite looking Hillary Swank and her classy dresses, the movie was a touching experience.

As the movie was based on true story and was based on the book by the name The Freedom Writers Diary. I decided to look for more information about the movie.

What I read about the movie and what I saw was certainly worth sharing and this blog post is about the movie and how a teaching innovation could change the lives of so many students who otherwise were considered discards.

The story

The movie is about a group of students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California and how their teacher Erin Gruwell changed the lives of these students. It is a recent movie of the year 2007.

Gruwell in her first job as teacher is assigned the class of low performing children from multi-racial backgrounds including Cambodians, Mexicans, American Blacks, and so on. These children are with scarred past and a troubled present who live in a racially divided society with everyday exposure to gang violence, drugs, detentions, etc. Her co-teachers are also not very supportive.

On assessing the situation Erin starts relating the children to Holocaust stories. She slowly starts winning the trust of the students and introduces them to writing their diaries where she asks them to write whatever they want, whatever their experiences and feelings are. She promises them that she will not read the diaries unless being allowed to, however she will ensure that everyone writes. These diaries help children to confront themselves; the diaries become a tool for these children to vent out their feelings and causes introspection amongst the students. Transformation is achieved in these children. She gifts them a bag full of books and proposes a toast – a toast for change. Finally, about 150 students who were once known to be not intelligent enough to read higher level books shock everyone by graduating from the school. Many went to attend college.

On this tumultuous journey, Erin has to pay a personal price of divorcing her husband. She faces internal resistance from her colleagues. Yet she with single minded determination continues in her quest and achieves what she decides.

Relation to Innovation

Another great movie, another very touching and inspiring movie. The question now is what it has got to do with Innovation. That is the concluding part of this blog post the relationship between the movie and innovation.

The entire experience of Erin Gruwell is nothing but an innovation that brought about change that proposed a solution to a problem. Call it social Innovation, if you wish to label it, call it process innovation, if you wish to categorize it.

Erin first tries to understand the children from her own perspective. She is faced with a problem, lots of constraints. When the solution does not come by following her own perspective, she starts looking at it from the minds of her students, through their diaries. It is this change of perspective that brings about the core change. It is thinking about the user, in this case her students that bring about this wonderful life changing innovation.

Not only she is creative, with a lot of ideas, she has the extraordinary zeal to implement what she decides. She has several ideas. But she works hard for those ideas to fructify. She does not leave the ideas on someone else’s head for them to solve, but she takes it on her own to implement her ideas. She involves her users (students) at every juncture. She co creates the solution with them. She builds scenarios by relating Romeo and Juliet story to gang wars. She uses storytelling, by creating awareness about holocaust and relating it to the situation of her students. She tries her type of prototyping by inviting holocaust survivors to talk to her students.

In her entire journey, not for once does she assume the needs of students but tries to understand them and offer them solution. The one needed by them, not prescribed by her.

I would recommend all the people involved in Innovation Process anywhere in the world to see this movie and learn from it, in their own context. I would request all the teachers in this world who are fixated by the notion that their children won’t learn whatever they do, to watch this movie and change their notion. A good teacher can transform any kind of student.

It has been a long time that a movie touched me like this.