Ms. Gruwell describes the startling process of change that her students have undergone since the “Toast for Change.” Tommy, in particular, has impressed her by reading all the assigned books. Before then, like Sharaud, he was an intimidating disciplinary transfer who even scared Ms. Gruwell a little. To celebrate Tommy’s achievements, Ms. Gruwell gives his father a call, surprising him by delivering good news instead of the bad news he is used to.
The change Ms. Gruwell has noticed in her students is not only one of general attitude or social behavior. Rather, the emotional connection that students have been able to find with certain books has even led them to perform better academically. Ms. Gruwell’s phone call to Tommy’s father demonstrates her belief in positive reinforcement and making everyone in the students’ lives supportive of their achievements.
Cheered by her class’s enthusiasm, Ms. Gruwell ends up typing her students’ letters to Zlata and considers sending them to her. She agrees with her students, concluding that there is indeed a war taking place in Long Beach—one that makes her students feel that their lives are tragic and that the violence cannot be stopped. Ms. Gruwell and her students engage in a shared effort to raise money and, when Ms. Gruwell finally finds what might be Zlata’s address, she sends the letters to her.
Ms. Gruwell demonstrates her own capacity to learn from others when she accepts her students’ descriptions of their environment as a war. At the same time, she refuses to give in to her students’ fatalistic attitude, instead trusting that small actions such as raising money for Zlata to come are efforts that promote non-violence and give the students’ hope in their capacity to achieve anything.
In the meantime, taking advantage of Holocaust survivor Miep Gies’s upcoming trip to California, Ms. Gruwell plans for the historical figure to come meet her students. Gies was Anne Frank’s father’s secretary and was responsible for finding Anne’s diary. To prepare for this visit, Ms. Gruwell invites another Holocaust survivor, Gerda Seifer, to come speak to her class.
Ms. Gruwell demonstrates her commitment to making learning interactive and emotion-filled when she invites Holocaust survivors to come speak to her class. She trusts that these experiences will make the learning process more vivid and significant for her students.