Despite Erin Gruwell’s striking success with her difficult group of students, she feels criticized, envied, and ridiculed by the other teachers, who make fun of her upper-class appearance, thus labeling her without knowing her in exactly the same way they labeled her students. When Erin discovers that a fellow teacher has looked into her private e-mail, she decides that she wants to leave Wilson High.
The other teachers’ hostility to Erin’s teaching methods suggests that many teachers are more concerned with other issues than the well-being of students at school, demonstrating childish intolerance toward what they do not like or understand.
When Erin tells the principal that she is planning to leave, he is shocked and tells her that her students will be disappointed. At that moment, Erin realizes that she has been hypocritical and that she, too, has stereotyped all teachers into one category when, in fact, several teachers have been supportive of what she has done with her class. She also realizes that, if she leaves Wilson, her children will be the ones to suffer the most and will conclude that she, too, like so many adults around them, has given up on them.
Erin applies her own teaching to herself, realizing that she has failed to notice the subtle differences among individuals. Erin decides to stay out of a sense of moral and social responsibility toward her job and her students, realizing that her professional decisions affect many people besides herself.
Erin decides to stay at Wilson and, in addition to her original class, is given new groups of students whom no one else wants to teach. She realizes that what many of these students lack is hope, as some of them even believe that they are more likely to die before they are sixteen than to graduate.
Erin once again trusts that students do not misbehave or perform poorly out of malice but, rather, that they are the reflection of their environment, which does not give them trust and self-confidence but, rather, fear and hopelessness.
Adapting herself to her students’ life stories and interests, Erin plans a curriculum that will keep them engaged. She chooses the diaries of two adolescent girls of the same age as her students, Anne Frank and Zlata Filipović, because she believes her students will be able to relate to their stories of survival in brutal wars filled with ethnic hatred, given their own knowledge of racial divisions and gang violence.
Erin once again adapts her teaching to her students’ lives and interests, making sure to choose works that will interest them on a personal level and, as such, allow them to remain intellectually and emotionally engaged in classwork. In doing so, she trusts that her students will benefit from reading classic works of literature such as Anne Frank’s diary.