Bronwyn is a writer, editor, teacher and tutor in California, and the author of Literally Unbelievable: Stories from an East Oakland Classroom. She is a veteran of the Oakland Unified School District, where she was an elementary classroom teacher and passionate advocate for her students and their families. You can find more information about Harris and her work at

Articles by Bronwyn

Ethnicity Check Goes Outside the Box

I recently served as a reader of scholarship applications. The process included a complex algorithm for inclusion and took several criteria into account, like GPA, test scores, native languages, income level, assets, essays, parental education level and ethnicity. While providing this service, I came face-to-face with a misconception about race and ethnicity: Appearance predicts what language people speak.

A Place to Play is a Release from Prison

When I was a kid, I attended two different elementary schools in the same town. They were very different. One was large, suburban and within walking distance to downtown. The other was very small, outside the city limits in an agricultural area and had a significant number of Spanish-speaking students.

Affirming Many Variations of Family

When I was growing up, most of my friends’ families had a mom and a dad. A few parents were divorced and that meant stepdads and stepmoms were also in the picture. That was about the extent of family diversity in my experience. During my teaching credential program, I learned about children having two moms or two dads. I made a mental note to remember this. I have discovered that family configurations are limitless and I now work to be inclusive, aware and respectful.

Segregation Is Still Part of Our Classroom

Through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, I’ve been working with a little girl from the neighborhood where I used to teach. I think very highly of this group and have only had good experiences with them. However, at a recent area-wide picnic, I noticed something disturbing. Most (not all, but the vast majority) of the children being mentored were African American or Latino. Most of the adult mentors were white or Asian. Again, this was not without exception, but was apparent.

Seeing the Child behind the Anger

Many of my third-graders are very angry. They have good reason. Growing up in the most violent area in Oakland, many have lost family members to violence or experienced racial injustice. They distrust the people who are supposed to protect them. Anthony was one of my angriest students. His father was in prison. Anthony told me that he wanted to kill his father because fathers aren’t supposed to leave their families. He was 6 years old at the time.