Drug abuse, discrimination, homelessness, criminal behavior, violence, incarcerated
family members and gang activity are only some of the troubles the students at Wilson High
School in Long Beach, California faced on a daily basis.
When Erin Gruwell appeared as a first-
year high school English teacher, she fostered an educational philosophy that valued acceptance,
tolerance, diversity, communication and perseverance.
Her philosophy and commitment
changed her students’ lives.
The educational philosophy illustrated in
many parallels to the five Marianist Characteristics of Education: Educate for Formation in Faith,
Provide an Integral, Quality Education, Educate in the Family Spirit, Educate for Service, Justice
and Peace and Educate for Adaption and Change.
According to the Marianist Characteristics of Education, the foundation of an education is
based on a formation of faith.
, the students of Wilson High
needed to have faith in Erin before they took her seriously; Erin needed to establish herself as a
reliable source and trustworthy teacher.
In order to do that, she asked questions and prepared
lessons that related to her students.
While remaining true to herself and who she was, she
tweaked her lessons to accommodate the students in her classroom.
Once her students realized
that she was not just another teacher who did not set expectations and accept less than what they
were capable of, they began to let their guards down.
As Erin’s faith in the students grew, the
students’ faith in Erin grew.
Another part of the Marianist Characteristics of Education is to “Provide an Integral,
This characteristic calls for a well-informed, professional administration,
faculty and staff.
Unfortunately, Erin and the students did not have this vital support.
Convinced that the students at Wilson High School were “unteachable,” the administration and
faculty were reluctant to help Erin make a difference.
Two of those less-than-optimistic people
were Advanced Placement teacher Brian Gelford and Department Head Margaret Campbell.