“Freedom Writers”- tells story of writing therapy transforming lives…

The Freedom Writers movie tells the true story of Erin Gruwell, who taught at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. This was shortly after the Rodney King riots in 1994 when she began teaching a disadvantaged class who were at risk. Many students were from different racial backgrounds, members of gangs who had been in and out of prison and had experienced indescribable violence from extremely young ages. These students would not accept a white woman from Long Beach would know or even have a clue about what they faced every day.

Erin was not dissuaded, most of all she cared. She knew she could make them see they mattered, their lives mattered and they could have a different life. She came up with a brilliant idea, and she utilised writing therapy without even knowing it.

One morning in the class she told them all she had bought them their own diaries. In these diaries they could write anything they wanted, a story, a poem, an account of their day, anything, a song. She specified it didn’t matter about the grammar or structure, what mattered was they could be honest and they could write something. Lastly, she said to them, this is for your eyes only. “Write as if no one else will see. But if you want me (Erin) to read it place it in this cupboard at the end of the day and I will be the only one who reads it.” They took their journals slowly and she had no idea if they were open to the idea or not. But the following day, she checked the cupboard and it was filled with 40 books of students who wanted her to read it.

For the first time in their life, they felt they had a voice and that someone cared.

Erin utilised the power of writing therapy:

  • to write completely honestly
  • to without an audience unless you want to share it
  • to not be concerned with grammar, spelling etc
  • to write every day

These students did this, and you know what happened – through her teaching and this writing, they completely changed their lives. They were able to express the things that were happening to them – in words on a page, and this is the power of writing therapy that can be anyone’s. These students were the first in their families to finish high school and the first in their families to go to college and now they have a foundation that visits schools and inspires other students that they can have a different life.

This is the power of writing therapy. 🙂 I have seen it with the people I have worked with, I have seen it in my tutorials at university when I read their life stories and tell them I will be the only who reads it and I care about their life story. It is one exercise of writing therapy I do with my tutorials. You should see the honesty I receive and the healing they also receive. Below is a link to the movie; which shows an overview of the story. This movie is a stunning account of an amazing woman who used simple techniques of writing therapy along with her desire to see people free from prejudice and hate, and from the violence and poverty they could not escape. She is my hero as are all of those students and the students I have known who have suffered horrendously but who still stand tall and survive. I have known many of these students as well and I have been inspired by them. As Erin says in her talks, when the teacher becomes the student and is humbled by her students. Check it out…takes my breath away.

Freedom Writers Movie

Compassion Book arrived! Kindle Best Sellers list…

Hello,

I am excited my Compassion A Creative Anthology has arrived. I was very proud to be a part of this collection, with two of my stories in this book. Here it is pictured, it has fiction and poetry on the theme of compassion inside that I know you will appreciate and enjoy!

If you are interested to help children in dire need overseas, please click on the link below and order a copy, or you can download a kindle version as well. All profits go to Compassion International to help children in poverty and to give them a future.suzecompassion2

🙂 Happy reading.

Compassion: A creative anthology

 

 

Humans create and understand meaning through story

Recently, I attended a critical thinking workshop to do with my job at University of Queensland College teaching Academic English. Some very fascinating elements were revealed in this workshop, some of which I had heard from other places before. Peter Ellerton a Lecturer in Critical Thinking/ Philosophy from the University of Queensland (2015) said that we perceive life and even facts through story, we are storytellers about our lives, it’s how we communicate with each other and it’s how we understand life and how we create and participate in meaning.

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When I attended a creative writing course at another university, I was also told by my tutor that we receive meaning through story, and throughout history we can see this is the case. Even down to our need to consume television, movies, books, poetry, comics, cartoons, radio plays and much more, we can watch people living their lives and gain a sense of meaning that we feel we sometimes do not experience in our own lives. We are in the midst of living our lives and some of us can see our story being written, but mostly it is satisfying for us to watch the stories of people played out watching the characters living out even to the end, gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. Story has always embodied meaning. It is a very satisfying experience and we often project our lives into it or relate ourselves to it. In the ancient world this was done through plays, parables, poems, narratives and we tell religious narrative stories in all cultures.

In conversation we tell each other mini stories all the time, with a start, middle and ending, with a climax, the peak of a joke, or a funny incident, an anecdote at a party. But this seminar confirmed that scientifically they know we as humans create and participate in meaning through STORY.

This is why writing therapy is so effective,  we tell our stories from a deep place, with honesty and with NO AUDIENCE initially, and therefore we can be experience freedom and writing your life story down is an extremely rewarding and revealing experience. I know this first hand, in my workshop I ask people to write their life story in one page or so, and I have done this three times. Each time I write about different parts of my life, and it has revealed so many things to me about my life to see it as a whole, was so enlightening and also about how I perceive things in my life. This is why this exercise is so cathartic and effective for us, cause we need to see our life as a story that has been told up until this point but it does not define us, and that we are STILL WRITING even now in the present. It is a beautiful exercise.

This was an exciting and intriguing seminar I was able to attend. The quote below also reflects how we must have humility if we are to learn from each other.

“Those who think they know it all, have no way of finding out, they don’t.” Leo Buscaglia 

I really like Leo Buscaglia (also known as Dr. Love was a Professor professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California, 1924-1998) here is another quote from him: poignant, beautiful and true.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Well said Leo, so true. I don’t underestimate these seemingly small acts of kindness can sometimes mean someone pulls through something or not, and I have seen the power of these actions. 🙂

Thanks for reading. 😀

Suzanne

So this is Christmas… : )

So I’m waiting in the woolies queue wondering where Christmas was this year, and this lady in front says she’ll pay for this dear old man’s groceries…he was confused and she paid and she was emotional and so was I! Kindness… Such a rare occurrence to see… He had had a fall and his wife had gone to a nursing home that morning… To really “see” someone else, to feel their pain and show kindness! Wow! The cashier was emotional as well – what a woman this lady was! It was just a simple act to show him someone cared.

I had to find her afterwards in another shop and I said God bless you, you made his Christmas and mine! She was emotional…saying she couldn’t do much for him but that one act of kindness, that was all she could see to do for him! Wow! That’s Christmas!

You start to think human beings are capable of so much evil towards each other, this touched me – when I see a person really “seeing” and caring for a beautiful old man who was bewildered at first and tried to pay and then just thanked her so much.