A social media trend took over this summer. As I scrolled through my feed, my friends began posting their “7 Day Challenges” ranging from books, music, movies, and personal photos. The challenge required participants to post pictures of their seven favorite books, albums, or movies without any comments. Seems easy, right?
I found this one week challenge fascinating, especially when my friends posted their fave books. (I’m an English teacher. I nerd out on books). One particular friend, whom I admire as an incredible educator, played the game and posted several of my favorite titles. I loved leaving her comments daily under her posted book cover photos. However, this friend is one who sees rules as mere guides. She sidestepped the “no comments” part of the challenge by engaging in conversations as friends commented below her pictures.
On the third day she posted, I didn’t recognize the title, “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. Through the comments, she encouraged her educator friends to read it. She commented, “If you’ve ever cared about the baggage that students bring with them to the public school setting, look no further than this read.” As a trusted colleague and friend, I immediately ordered the book.
One word: WOW! Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee between 2008-2009 through their struggle to obtain and or maintain a roof over their heads. Winner of a Pulitzer Prize, Desmond opens readers’ eyes to the struggles of Americans living in poverty, many who rely on government assistance to survive. Each chapter is riddled with heart-wrenching stories coupled with meticulously researched data on the American housing market including the history of urban living and the challenges underserved families experience.
As I turned each page, I thought about my students. I have heard the excuse “We moved over the weekend. I couldn’t get my homework done” more times than I can count. And until this book, I never really believed my students. I grew up in two houses during my childhood. Following college, I have lived in two apartments and two houses. Reading this book brought to light the transient and chaotic lives my students endure. Desmond often describes families receiving eviction notices with less than five days to leave or face police actions. I began to believe that my students were sadly telling the truth.
This book also reminded me of an experience I described in a previous blog post that took me around the neighborhoods and communities of my students. This experience left a deep and impactful impression, and this book brought those feelings rushing back. It also reminded me that it is so easy to get caught up in the day to day “get it done” teacher mentality. It reminded me to stop and think about the baggage, figuratively and literally, our students bring to school daily and how I must act with compassion and without judgment.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Regardless of the age or content you teach, this book offers insight and the opportunity to think about your students in a new way.
As my friend commented, every educator should read this book. But I now ask, what other books should every educator read? Leave a comment below. I would love to continue this enlightening journey!