Davisby Sampson Davis, author of Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home (Spiegel & Grau, February 2013)

It was my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Speights, who made education fun, exciting, and, most importantly, helped me to feel that I was one of the smartest kids in her class. Maybe she inspired all the kids to feel the same way, but nonetheless it was her grace, witty remarks, and dynamic teaching style that managed to penetrate my young impressionable mind and divert me from the stark reality of poverty, crime, and drug infestation in my hometown of Newark, New Jersey, where the high school graduation rate falls well below fifty percent. Just like my mother, Mrs. Speights often echoed, “Education will save your life”—and it certainly did. To Mrs. Speights and all educators, I humbly thank you for being heroes to so many students, including a kid who once didn’t believe he could become a board certified emergency medicine doctor, a philanthropist, and an author.

My latest book, Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home is my way of giving back to the many educators who helped me escape the thought that education wasn’t for me and the belief that I wasn’t good enough.  You have both championed and inspired me—and I thank you. (more…)

Last year I retired from a profession that was probably the most challenging, the most frustrating, and in many ways the most rewarding profession that I’ve ever held. When I rolled my wheelchair out of my high school English classroom for the last time, I had to take a moment to recognize and honor all that I had gained from the experience. My reasons for choosing not to return to the classroom are complex and varied, but one thing is without doubt: to watch a student read, process, and discuss a work of literature is a thing of beauty.

I recall so well my freshman class’s heartfelt reactions to the suffering of young Elie Wiesel as we became immersed in the story of Night. Class discussions revolved around the cruelty of humankind and the necessity of hope, and their journals reflected just how engrossed they were in the journey. They experienced a similar reaction when the students (who were, like the school, about 92% Caucasian) dove into the life of Richard Wright and his shocking experience of growing up in the Jim Crow South in Black Boy.  During our conversations we explored topics such as the use of the “N word,” poverty, racism, religion, and, of course, the cruelty of humanity. (more…)