G::jj&Erin Gruwell is a first-year English teacher at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Although she was a student teacher at Wilson High the year before, this year she would teach on her own. Not only would she teach on her own, as a teacher with little to no seniority, she was given the "unteachable" students, those who are more concerned with gang activity and matters of "turf," rather than the study of Shakespeare, subjects and predicates.
Wilson High is located in a so-called "safe" neighborhood in Long Beach, California, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. Its "safe" location, makes it a desirable educational institution, so much so that many students will take two to three buses just to get to that particular school. This means that wealthy students will attend classes along side poor kids from the projects. Gruwell states that every race, religion and culture is represented.
Throughout the years, the predominately Caucasian population at Wilson has evolved radically to include African Americans, Latinos and Asians who now comprise the bulk of the student body. Although Gruwell stated that she initially (and naively) wanted to ignore skin color and cultural differences while student teaching, she was immediately confronted with both.
What happened next created a turning point for both teacher and students. After a student created a large lipped caricature of a particularly difficult student named Sharaud, Gruwell pointed out that caricatures were a common tool of the Nazis during the Holocaust. When not one student knew what the Holocaust was, Gruwell immediately changed teaching strategies and eventually began teaching these so-called unteachable students information to which they could relate, presenting titles that teach tolerance such as the Anne Frank's diary, Schindler's List and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo.
As time goes on, Gruwell uses all the resources at her disposal to make history and literature come...