This student realizes that she has changed enormously since the beginning of freshman year. When she returned from a three-week period of not going to school, Ms. Gruwell interrogated her about why she had been gone for so long. The student, who felt powerful after avoiding school, was afraid that Ms. Gruwell might contact her parents. Her mother has always encouraged her to go to school because no one else in her family has had that opportunity.
This student’s rebellious behavior demonstrates that receiving strong parental support to pursue one’s education is not always a strong enough motivation for one to perform well at school. Negative incentives (in this case, fear of her parents) were apparently not sufficient for her to want to attend school.
Once, when she was caught smoking at a friend’s place, the police came and she was sent to juvenile hall. When she called her mom, she lied to her, so that her mom would not know the details of what happened. When Ms. Gruwell tells this student that, despite her very low GPA, she believes in her, the student is deeply moved, realizing that no one has ever told her that. Ever since Ms. Gruwell has showed that she cared for this student, this student, too, has started caring for herself, has stopped skipping class, and has even begun to enjoy school. She is excited to spend next year with Ms. Gruwell again.
Ms. Gruwell demonstrates the power of positive incentives. This student feels more motivated to work hard at school by Ms. Gruwell’s positive words of trust and encouragement than by any form of punishment. In saying these words, Ms. Gruwell gives the student the opportunity to believe in her own worth and to work hard not merely to please others, but to honor her own self. The transformation this student has undergone highlights the power of such self-confidence.