Writer, editor, tutor, and former Director of Education for Harbor House Ministries, Bronwyn Harris discusses her powerful and important book, Literally Unbelievable: Stories from an East Oakland Classroom.
The systemic racial and socio-economic inequality in American education continues to leave vulnerable populations of children behind, but mere statistics cannot possibly tell the whole story. As a new teacher thrust into the classroom mid-year-in the part of Oakland, California that police call "the Killing Zone"-Bronwyn Harris learned to make her own way as she helped parents advocate for their children with school officials and law enforcement, all while enduring a revolving door of school administrators. As intelligent, hardworking, funny, and loyal as any schoolchildren their age, Harris's students were also incredibly empathetic in the face of staggering trauma and instability. But she quickly realized that her teacher prep classes had not covered making reports of child abuse, teaching traumatized children, helping students cope with difficult emotions, or keeping a class calm during a lockdown. Literally Unbelievable chronicles the lives of Harris's students and shows the difference a caring teacher and support from the greater community can make.
"Lovely, important, heartbreaking, inspiring." - Anne Lamott, bestselling author of Hallelujah Anyway, Bird by Bird, and Help, Thanks, Wow
"This book offers an accessible, sobering introduction to under-resourced public schools for those wishing to learn 'what it's really like.' But it also conveys the profound richness and importance of the students that this system has left behind. This should be required reading for all prospective teachers, policy makers, and researchers." -Emily Penner, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Education UC Irvine