Bronwyn Harris began her teaching career in East Oakland in January 2000, teaching first-graders who had already gone through one teacher and six substitutes during that school year. In the first five minutes of teaching, one student threw a book at her head and she realized she had no set curriculum with which to teach them. In addition, she was a “roving teacher,” meaning that she moved classrooms every three weeks.
Teaching at this school did not get easier as she transitioned into teaching third grade, but the students were incredible: creative, thoughtful, loving, angry, at-risk, misunderstood, valuable, and overlooked. After eight principals in less than eight years, Harris had to face the fact that she couldn’t keep working in such an environment and left the school district, but has stayed in touch with many of her students.
During her time teaching, Harris would tell many of her middle-class white friends about what was going on at her school, and found that many of them didn’t believe her, which is how the title of the book came to be. This also strengthened her resolve to write down the true stories so that people would know this side of life in the Bay Area.