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Step up to the line if...

Still buzzing with the underlying power of Freedom Writers (beneath the usual American dollop of sentimentality and patriotism and so on), I described the movie to my big Year 11 class. I told them they didn't quite qualify for the 'mature audience' label but I could tell them about the movie all the same.

We had a good discussion on integration, on colours of skin - first I talked about a small boy I'd seen catch fire at a bbq one time (the dad poured an accelerant on the flames, and the fire leapt up the stream of liquid and enveloped the boy standing there), and how his later disfiguration led him to play the class clown - he turned up in a class I was teaching about five years later. I talked about our good friend, Stafford, who survived 33,000 volts of electricity while repairing a rail line fault, and how his burns over most of his body left him needing skin grafts from other donors, and how, being Indian and in the '70s when our technology wasn't great, he had to rely on some pale skin grafts in places and how he was therefore multicultural on the outside instead of the inside like most of us! One girl said wouldn't it be funny if with her mother being Filipino and her dad European she had come out with half a white face and half a tan face! We discussed the idea of poor State school girls being sent to Queen Margarets, one of the snobby private schools in town.

Eventually, we moved onto the 'line'. In the movie, the teacher has a roll of duct tape which she stretches out across the room then invites the students to step from either side of the line up to the line if things apply to them, and it got very heavy when she asked if they had lost a friend to gang violence. Then two then three. Then four or more. Of course I didn't have any tape on hand, but I did have a long extension cord. I laid it across the front of the room and invited the class forward. We had ten minutes left of the lesson. All but four came up, and those four snuck in part way through *g*.
I'd say,
'Step up to the line if... ' and at first it was non-threatening things like, 'if you have little brothers and sisters' but we soon moved to 'if you believe in God', 'if you know someone who takes drugs' 'if you've seen someone get drunk at a party' - the girls really liked it, and were soon offering suggestions of their own. I was impressed with the power that was suddenly evident in the room as people ended up face to face with others they might not usually talk to and girls had to put themselves 'on the line' for what they knew and believed in. It was a fascinating activity, and a lot of girls said thanks as they left.

And that was today. Steve went away for the night to Palmerston North, it's a howling gale and I was going to have an early night but I just noticed it's quarter past eleven. Oh well. It was so windy today you could barely stand or open your car door. I had to hold the big supermarket trolley with my foot to stop it blowing away while I packed the groceries in the boot of the car!

And I'm writing again. Feels okay. I think it was Asher Lev who inspired me to get back into it. That and the impending end of term. Nine weeks and it's ALL OVER!!!


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2007 12:48 am (UTC)
I am soooooooooo glad you're writing again!

The line thing sounds so interesting. That's the kind of lesson you can really get into. That's really cool.
Oct. 17th, 2007 02:57 am (UTC)
-That's the kind of lesson you can really get into.
It's interesting, one of my Year 11s from that class asked if she could sit in on my class this afternoon as she was feeling unwell and the sick bay is awful, so I said yes. I was teaching my other Year 11 class, a bright accelerated group, and this girl suggested we play the 'line game' with them. So we did, and she and I shared the questions. They loved it. The funny thing was the different answers from this very bright group compared to the 'general' class, we both noticed how different they were.

-I am soooooooooo glad you're writing again!
Heh! Funny thing was, I think the second trigger, apart from Asher Lev, was a moment in a film Steve was watching the other night where someone got hurt, and it just made me want to get back to my angsty stories again!!!
Oct. 17th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)
The line lives!
I just read your post and I had to comment!

I was lucky to be one of the Freedom Writers in "Ms.G's" class. I work at the Freedom Writers Foundation now, so I get to work with teachers who are using the book, the movie, or the teacher's guide in their class. I am always amazed by their dedication and creativity, which I definitely noticed in your post.

I LOVED that you used an extension cord - what a great way to improvise! I wish I could share what it feels like to come across a post from a teacher using the same tools that we used back in Room 203, but I'm not that eloquent. I'll just say that it's pretty darn cool.

Hope you have a great rest of the year with your students,


Oct. 18th, 2007 04:38 am (UTC)
Re: The line lives!
Wow, I am honoured to have you visit my journal way down here in New Zealand! I told the girls at school that a real Freedom Writer read about them, and they were thrilled. You are much admired by these students. It's fantastic that you now work for the Foundation. I hope you continue to reach many students.

Inspired by the movie-documentary, the girls have convinced our school librarian to purchase the book now, and even got me to agree to get the teachers' guidebook! So things can only get better around here, as the more we learn, the better we do, huh.

Thank you, Sonia, you really made our day.

Oct. 19th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
Re: The line lives!
Wow Jenny, that's great news! Here are a few resources that I hope will help: Two sample lesson plans: http://tinyurl.com/36fldn Teacher's guide excerpt: http://tinyurl.com/2t2qj3 Read-along book excerpt: http://tinyurl.com/2p3gkf Australian movie teacher's guide: http://tinyurl.com/2rm9wl UK movie teacher's guide: http://tinyurl.com/2j93ks Enjoy! Sonia
Oct. 20th, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)
Re: The line lives!
Wow again! Thank you so much, Sonia. Honestly, the girls were amazed that you contacted me. We are a very small high school, only 300 girls, and they sure have been moved by the whole story of Freedom Writers and all of your stories.

Thanks for the links. I do appreciate it very much. I have teachers who might find running the line game more challenging, and careful plans would help immensely so as head of department, I would be able to offer them the plans - as for me, I just jump in at the deep end and see what happens!!

Our students have not been through what you guys have, but they are from a poorer community than many of the schools around us, we have a big ethnic mix and lots of people who don't speak English as their first language. Your stories touched their hearts.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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