When Ms. Gruwell decides to make her students more excited about the legend of King Arthur by telling them that those who pass the final exam will attend a field trip to a medieval-themed restaurant, this student and his classmates feel incentivized to work hard. However, over time, he realizes that the learning process itself becomes more interesting than the reward, and feels proud to be able to understand a great work of literature.
Ms. Gruwell’s reward system proves successful, demonstrating not only that it can be good to give students positive incentives to work hard, but also that, once they begin to work hard on something, passion naturally follows—thus proving to students that they are capable of finding complex literature interesting and intelligible.
When he and his classmates pass the test, he feels immensely proud of his accomplishments. However, before the field trip, another teacher tells this student and one of his friends that they will have to wear a tie and not look like gangsters to be accepted at the restaurant. The student feels that he is being discriminated against because of his race but still decides to dress up, despite not owning a tie. However, on the day of the field trip, the teacher tells his friend and him they cannot get on the bus, and the two of them leave, deeply disappointed to be excluded from this event simply because of their appearance.
This teacher once again demonstrates that some educators care more about their students’ appearance than their academic merit. The fact that such discrimination happens at school only emphasizes the students’ feelings of exclusion and inequality. This episode makes it easy to understand how students can be discouraged from investing their energy in schoolwork.
When Ms. Gruwell learns what happened, she gets angry at the other teacher and recognizes the injustice that the student felt. The other teacher ends up apologizing but the student still feels that he cannot forget what happened. He still feels disgusted about being judged for his appearance.
Ms. Gruwell’s defense of her students demonstrates her courage to stand up for what is right instead of letting adults mistreat children. The sense of injustice that the student still feels highlights the long-lasting effects of racism on one’s trust and self-confidence.