I finally found the opportunity to watch The Freedom Writers this afternoon. The first time I watched it was I think a year ago at the college, but I didn’t get to digest it due to the group of restless students who didn’t make any good effort to understand the whole story. Upset with the lack of efforts by these students I left the hall halfway through the movie. I was so caught up with my frustration that I forgot all about the movie.
The passion and enthusiasm shown by Erin Gruwell played by Hillary Swank in the movie really inspires me as an educator. Are there any more teachers like Ms Gruwell that would do the extra mile for her students? Personally, I would love to be able to do what she did for the students and to inspire them to want more than what they have been handed with in their life, to encourage them to dream and have hopes in their lives and to be someone, somebody great.
I have always loved reading and when I came here to work at the college and was required to teach reading classes I was dumbfounded for I had been telling my other half that I wanted to teach people to read, to love reading to make reading their priorities, because reading had been my savior when I was growing up. Now, it was handed to me and I was given a free hand in how to handle the class. Allah is Great.
However, in real life, it is not easy to instill the habit of reading in people because first of all one needs to have the thirst for knowledge and the realization that the knowledge that one has is still not enough. I had a firsthand experience of this hard truth with my own students. No matter how frequent and diligent I told them to read a book, they still do not understand the importance of reading in their lives. Some did get inspired but many of them are still ignorant of the benefits of reading. They are too caught up with life as a young adult, dealing with the anxieties of being away from the comforts of their own families and kampongs, too busy with living the new life that they don’t pay much attention to the reason why their parents forked out their life savings for them to be here at the college. It’s a sad truth that I have to face each day, and I take it upon me that this if where I fail as an educator.
Facing this hard reality every day, it is very tempting to just go with the flow, clock in, do what I am paid to do, clock out and never bother about anything else. If they seem disinterested in their studies, if they fail, it is none of my business, because I have done my part and I don’t care if they have done theirs. It is damn tempting I tell you.
But to do that means I would have to forsake the personal vow that I made to myself when I first started teaching 12 years ago, that I will do the best that I can to share the knowledge I have gained and the ones that I have been picking up along the way to the students, whose parents send their children to get education for the betterment of their lives. And to forsake that would mean I would have to betray the students and their parents who came here full of hopes, where some of the parents had even pleaded to me personally to take care of their precious children. To do that means I would have to betray everything that I have believed in my life, the very core of me.
Erin Gruwell and her freedom writers have knocked some senses in me, have reawaken the dying fire inside me. My other half always tell me that he knows the reason why Allah put him where he is, because Allah wants him to serve. The things that have happened to me, to us these past few years, have made me believe the same too, that I am here to serve others. The reason Allah tested us with hardships, toils and tribulations are for us to have the empathy that so eludes many of us towards people who are not as fortunate as us. And these students of mine, who mostly come from kampongs whose parents are not the rich or the famous, are the people that I should serve.
I might not be able to help them to have meals at hotels or take them for a field trip like what Erin Gruwel had done for her students but I know I can do something. I know I can encourage them to reach for the stars no matter what deep shit condition they are facing at the moment, I know that I can give, if only a sliver of hope to them and inspire them to do everything that they can to achieve a great life that they and their parents have dreamt of. It is not going to be as easy as I how typed these words, but I believe when you have good intentions, Allah is beside you. Insya Allah.
So when you feel that the fire inside you is dying out, find the time to watch The Freedom Writers or other such inspiring movies to help you reignite it. Do not give up without fighting.