Teacher as Neighbor, Neighbor as Teacher

Michael Sarbanes
45 min readJan 22, 2021

“Neighbor teaching” — teachers in low-income schools live in the same community as the students they teach. The idea is simple — and almost completely absent from conversations about school reform in low-income communities. The prevailing assumption seems to be that this practice is impossible or unimportant to improving education or communities. As a result, it is largely invisible where it does occur or unimaginable as a purposeful component of a strategy for educational transformation.

What might it mean if a school in a low-income urban community set out to ensure that a significant portion of its teachers lived in the same community as their students? Or, coming at it in another way, what if a critical mass of teachers at a school in a low-income urban community decided to live in the same community as their students?[1] What might it mean for teachers? For students and families? For schools? For communities?

A quick internet search for “teachers living in communities where they teach” is instructive. In area with hot housing markets, there are numerous discussions of teachers being priced out of gentrifying cities like San Francisco. In this context, it is almost a truism that it is important for teachers to be “part of the community where they teach” –e.g. “’It’s important for teachers to live and make roots in the communities where they teach,’ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.[2]

By contrast, a search for urban[3] teachers living where they teach in low income communities revealed only one result — a posting to an urban education blog that discussed what it could mean for a school to have the teachers live where they teach. And the author tagged it as an impossible pipe-dream. After positing that this practice could mean that “[A]ll adults would have high expectations for children regardless of race, color, income and zip code because we would all share in the responsibility of raising neighborhood children”, the article concluded “It was a good fantasy while it lasted.” [4]

Perhaps the silence itself speaks volumes. Many urban education reform efforts emphasize recruitment and training of high quality teachers who will impact children’s experience in the schoolhouse. However, these efforts seem to take as a given that communities will continue in the long run to be segregated by race and class, and that the home addresses of teachers in these schools will follow the same patterns of segregation that characterize how most Americans, including their students, live.

The assumptions underlying this silence may include:

1. where teachers live is irrelevant to their capacity to reach and teach their students;

2. where teachers live is unrelated to the effectiveness of the schools;

3. where teachers live is unrelated to the health of the communities where students and their families live, and/or;

4. living where you teach is beyond the pale of a reasonable expectation for an urban teacher in a low income school. One prominent work on educational reform begins the discussion of improving schools on its opening page with the foundational expectation that teachers will not be neighbors with their students. “Like many teachers, Ms. Sparks grew up in the neighborhood where she now works. Neither she, nor her parents, nor any members of her extended family, however, live there any longer –some time ago all escaped the violence and general decay for safer and more prosperous communities….” The subsequent description of a school turnaround includes nothing about altering this foundational expectation.[5]

Based on my own experience living for over two decades in the low-income urban community where I now teach, I want to challenge these assumptions and hold up “neighbor teaching” as a real, feasible, actionable practice for urban teachers. I further want to suggest that this practice, even at a small scale, could be transformative for teachers, for students, for schools and for communities. I would argue that this practice –undertaken by a small but critical mass of teachers and schools, and supported by schools and school systems — is ultimately one essential component of creating sustainably transformative schools in low-income communities.


Despite the prevailing silence, there are important exceptions to this prevailing silence and traditions of practice that are deeply aligned with a neighbor teacher idea. For example, there is a long tradition in many African American communities of teachers living in and being deeply involved in community institutions and providing both formal and informal leadership in the neighborhoods where they teach or similar communities. [6] In my work over several decades with community organizations in Baltimore, it was typical to find teachers or other school staff (either retired or active) playing key roles in community advocacy. This historic neighbor teacher role may be less apparent and influential now than in earlier decades because of the significant movement of African American professionals, including teachers, out of urban neighborhoods where poverty has been increasingly concentrated[7]. Nonetheless, this is still a strength from which both schools and communities in many neighborhoods draw and provides yet another reason why the recent decline in the numbers of African American teachers is of concern. [8]

In the field of teacher formation , another related idea is the concept of “community teachers” –teachers that have an intimate personal knowledge of the resources and challenges in the communities where they teach.[9] This marks an explicit attempt to build into teacher formation a recognition that personal knowledge of and relationships with the community where students live are essential to excellent teaching. The neighbor teacher could be thought of as a subset of this broader concept of a community teacher, with a neighbor teacher’s knowledge and relationships emerging in large part from their own networks and daily patterns of living in the community.

The neighbor teacher idea also connects to a long American tradition of social justice and faith-based activism grounded in living in community across race and class divisions as an intentional practice and basis for action for justice. This was essential to the settlement house movement of the 1890s-1920s[10] and has been an important element of civil rights activism in the 1960’s and beyond. [11] This idea has also been present in a range of faith-based responses to injustice. The Catholic Worker movement, growing out of the work of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the 1930’s, offers a powerful example of a search for justice based in living with those most affected by systems of injustice. Some faith traditions still hold an expectation that the leader of a parish live in proximity to the house of worship, although this has also weakened over time. The same concept underlies the widespread faith-based community development movement, which is often articulated in terms of “three R’s” — relocate, redistribute, reconcile. Living in the community –relocation — is considered a first and essential step.[12]

Finally, the practice of “neighboring” as an expression of justice values is going on in the daily faith journeys and moral action of many thousands of people every day who live in lower income communities, even when the option exists to move away. This is simply part of their commitment to living out their values. Many neighborhood leaders I have worked with in low-income communities had the option to live elsewhere, but made a conscious, intentional decision to stay in their homes and be active in their communities as a dimension of “servant leadership”.

So, there are many traditions in our social fabric that neighbor teachers can draw from and connect to. Nonetheless, while these traditions and practices may exist in the background, by and large, in the discussion of urban teaching and school reform, the possibility that teachers might live where they teach is generally assumed to be beyond the horizon of possibility.

Now, decades into efforts to reform urban schools, is it time to challenge these assumptions and develop an explicit model and practice of a “neighbor teacher”, a particular kind of community teacher who also lives in the neighborhood alongside their students and their families?[13]


Like most simple ideas, “neighbor teaching” sets into motion a whole parade of more complex questions, which fall into three basic categories: 1. Why ?: 2. What is involved?; 3. What are the implication s for policies and practices? Each of these is summarized below and discussed in more depth later.

1. Why neighbor teaching? I suggest the following potential impacts:

o Impacts on the practice of teaching:

§ Potential impact 1: Neighbor teachers would teach more effectively in the classroom.

§ Potential impact 2: Retention rates could be higher for neighbor teachers.

§ Potential impact 3: More teachers could be developed over time drawn from the neighborhood itself.

o Impacts on effectiveness of schools:

§ Potential impact 4: Partnerships between the school and families and community resources would be stronger.

§ Potential impact 5: The neighborhood would be more supportive of children’s academic and civic identity.

o Impact on families and communities

§ Potential impact 6: Students and families would have access to wider networks of social capital.

§ Potential impact 7: Neighborhoods would be stronger and have higher collective efficacy.

2. What’s involved? Being a “neighbor teacher” is a particular path, with particular challenges, rewards and considerations. Based on my experience, these are some major practical issues:

o Navigating and learning from race and class complexities;

o Gentrification challenges;

o Establishing appropriate boundaries;

o Safety;

o Finances;

o Ugliness and beauty

o Building intentional community;

3. What are the implications for public policy and practice? While “neighbor teaching” does not require any government action whatsoever in order to happen, there are ways that schools, school districts, local and state governments can affect the practice of teachers living where they teach. These include:

o Placement of teachers;

o Recruitment from communities and special pipeline programs;

o Community schools;

o “Live where you teach” housing incentives

o Faculty housing developed from vacant buildings;

o Minigrants to support neighborhood projects that teachers are involved in;

o Connections with networks of faith and other institutions;

o Financial incentives

A. Why neighbor teaching?

1. Impacts on the practice of teaching;

Potential impact 1: Teachers would teach more effectively in the classroom. There is a growing body of scholarship that asserts that effective teachers activate the life experiences of students, creating mental space for learning in the physical space of the school by understanding and engaging with their students’ out-of-school context.[14] What is sometimes perceived as lack of student motivation may in fact be a lack of context and connection for the topic in terms of what matters in students’ everyday lives. Particularly for teachers who are not from communities like the ones where they teach[15], living in that community together with students can mediate this separation, even if it does not completely eliminate it, and helps create a shared perspective and vocabulary of daily experience that the teacher can then draw on. If the neighborhood is a shared experience, more and more experiences form a bridge between teacher and student, rather than a barrier. For example, when my science class was doing a unit on the water cycle, we illustrated the impacts of runoff using photographs from places my students and I both pass on the way to school, as well as the stream in the park adjacent to the school. Students recognized the background for each of the pictures which helped to connect the in-class work to their own paths to school.

This shared experience includes both positive and negative. On the positive side, one of the essential insights in low-income neighborhoods, which is largely invisible if you are not living in the community, is the richness that is woven into the fabric of daily life. I have experienced my neighborhood as rich in compassion, kinship, vibrancy, spontaneity, humor, resilience, human contact, and delight in and high hopes for children. These experiences help inform my expectations and respect for families and students.

The connection is also true for negative shared experiences –shots fired, homicides, police insensitivity or brutality, trash dumped, poor health outcomes, lack of quality food nearby, unemployment, violent and property crime, neglect from public services, etc.. These experiences make abstract conversations about systemic racism into concrete daily realities for teachers, even if they are white, middle class, and grew up far from a city neighborhood. Teachers are more likely to understand the impacts of systemic racism, rather than viewing its negative consequences as a series of unconnected and unfortunate “bad things that happen to my students”. Thus, a shared sense of reality –both good and bad — reinforces the notion that teacher and student are in this together, and the joy and challenge of education for both teacher and student can become part of transforming life in community, rather than an isolated, disconnected activity that occurs only while the schoolhouse is open.

Potential impact 2: Retention rates could be higher for neighbor teachers

Teaching in low-income communities is difficult, as the statistics on retention bear out. [16] Many people who come into teaching highly motivated and with a real commitment to kids and to education as a path to a more just society still end up leaving teaching after several years. Some of the challenges have to do with the day to day work of teaching — large class-sizes, high mobility rates, students with special needs, and attendance challenges. Some have to do with frustrations with administration and bureaucracy. But, in my experience, what makes these irritants into “exit-the-profession” barriers is often something much deeper. I believe this is in part because teaching in low-income urban schools means encountering each day — in relationships with students we care deeply about — the consequences of our national legacy of race and class inequality –toxic stress, housing instability, mass incarceration, substandard housing, unequal health care, trauma. The joy we get from teaching and supporting the amazing resilience of individual students can get overwhelmed by the sadness that comes with witnessing the impact of the barriers that our students face. This weight is made heavier by the current absence of any credible national vision for how our students or their families are going to be able to participate in the economic mainstream of the society. For teachers who are further separated from their students by different background, race or class, the weight of this realization is compounded by the unfamiliarity of the experience.

I have known some colleagues react to this weight with a degree of resentment — “I don’t need this. If they don’t want to learn, I can’t make them.” Others –including some wonderfully skilled and dedicated teachers — have managed by drawing a clear (but ultimately harmful) distinction between their students (and the families and communities from which the students come — “My kids are awesome, I love them. But their parents are a problem, and the community is a nightmare”. This separation of the student from their surroundings flies in the face of the reality of students’ lives and ultimately this dissonance also becomes dispiriting for teachers as well as children. Sometimes, almost imperceptibly, conversations among teachers about student challenges drift into a condemnation of “dysfunctional” parents and families. (“That child has lousy hygiene. Well, he isn’t going to learn how to take care of himself from the mother; she is the same way.”). Or some teachers slip into a kind of poverty voyeurism popularized by shows like “The Wire” (“There were three people shot around the corner last month. That whole gang of guys around the liquor store is just there everyday just waiting for someone else to get shot. It’s so sad.”)
Perhaps most insidiously, teachers can view and present the goal of education to kids as enabling them to “get out”, to escape their community in order to pursue a geographically distant middle class version of the American dream. This message, common in my experience among teachers of all racial backgrounds, converts educational from a striving for community empowerment and transformation to a desire for competitive individual achievement. This immediately, and unfairly, places most of our kids and their families in the position of being failures for not “escaping”. It also cuts children off from the rich legacy of community struggle and respect for education that is the historical birthright of communities of color in the United States. In this powerful tradition, the educational enterprise is not simply the concern of the individual, but is part of how an entire community liberates itself and builds a better future. [17]

While one might think that a teacher living in the community where they teach could create even more burnout among teachers, I believe that, if done with a lot of awareness, “neighbor teaching” can in fact do the opposite. It can provide an intervening layer of meaning, experience and relationship that can transform the teachers daily contact with the legacy of race and class inequality into a source of renewed commitment and strength, rather than an unacknowledged source of draining exhaustion.

Potential impact 3: More teachers could be developed over time drawn from the neighborhood itself.

The presence of teachers in the communities where students live could provide, over time, a natural structure for recruitment, support, encouragement and networking for potential teachers from the community. This could mean: teachers reaching out to college graduates in the neighborhood for immediate recruiting; reaching out to current or potential college students in the community to urge them to consider teaching; identifying high school, middle school and even elementary school students as potential teachers and giving them that personal, concrete guidance and encouragement that can open up a whole profession as a possibility; referring potential teachers from the community to teaching pipelines designed to encourage teachers from the community (as discussed further below). The timetable for actively recruiting 5th graders who could be great teachers may seem long, but a 5th grader could be a college graduate with a teaching certificate in a dozen years. Considering that urban school reform has been presented as a continual crisis for over three decades, then a dozen years seems like a pretty reasonable time horizon.

2. Impact on effectiveness of schools

Potential impact 4: Partnerships between the school and families and community resources would be stronger

One of the enormous strengths of many urban neighborhoods is a dense network of social contacts –based on kinship, friendship, familiarity, helping each other out, shared experience –that exists informally at the street level. Word of mouth is swift and carries weight. Relationships are varied and networks can be extensive. Often, several students in my class will be connected by important formal or informal family ties (sometimes of blood, sometimes not), but these relationships may not be known to the school.

In addition, in the community, almost every child has a network of adults around them who care about the child and can be mobilized as a resource to support the child. These networks can be complex. They may revolve around the formal parent or guardian of record, but may also be a grandparent, aunt, uncle, godparent, family friend, neighbor, coach, pastor, or parent of a child’s friend. These networks beyond the formal legal parent/guardian are typically invisible to the school. But they are often very visible at the neighborhood level. A neighbor teacher would have access to this neighborhood perspective and could potentially access these networks in different ways than a school-limited teacher.

One question is whether a neighbor teacher would be welcomed in trying to mobilize these networks of support for a student. My experience is that there is tremendous support and respect in communities for anyone who is seen — based on many small but carefully observed interactions over time — as genuinely interested in the welfare of children. If a teacher is known in the community, a great deal of support for children’s success in school (whether attendance or behavior or participation) can be mobilized from these networks without a great deal of extra work on the part of the teacher.

Similarly, a neighbor teacher would know of and be positioned to efficiently access community resources (houses of worship, community centers, businesses, community groups) which can support the educational success of children. Frequently, these groups may be open to, even actively looking for, ways to be involved, but they often lack of the basic actionable information –how to connect, what needs to be done, who to contact. Without the first step being clear or being made, potential resources may never find their way to the school, child or family. A teacher living in the community –and deliberately making an effort over time to know what resources exist — would be able to help overcome these initial hurdles and make those initial connections. They would also have access to the informal feedback on how well the school is reaching out to, welcoming and utilizing community resources. For example, in my experience, to connect a community volunteer who is a well-respected elder in her church, she needed first to be connected to the school (“here’s who to call”) and then to be able to easily give feedback on the school’s response (“I haven’t received a call back”), and for the teacher to give a quick nudge in a hallway conversation to the person who was supposed to call. Then the connection was made. This made it possible, without a great deal of time invested by the teacher, for this volunteer to be present in the classroom once a week.

The community teacher can provide and gather much of this connecting information in the course of daily life, without needing to add another meeting to a teacher’s already overcrowded workload.

Potential impact 5: The neighborhood would be more supportive of children’s academic and civic identity.

The neighborhood context defines a child’s identity in powerful ways. For most children, this neighborhood effect is more broad and more deep than that of the school and is second only to a strong family culture. When a child experiences the family context, the school context, and the neighborhood context as all aligned around the same values and expectations, the child is far more likely to reach and exceed those expectations. Where there is not alignment and the school is working in a different direction than or without an understanding of family and/or community context, the impact of school is likely to be episodic and diffuse and less likely to be effective.[18]

The specific issue of academic expectations is illustrative. High expectations at the school are necessary for children to internalize and live up to high levels of academic achievement, but school expectations alone are not sufficient for most kids. The credibility of high expectations set at the school level can either be undermined or strengthened by the messages communicated within the community. Moreover, academic expectations are shaped in a popular culture that communicates low expectations to children of color with devastating frequency[19], so enlisting community supports for high expectations is all the more important.

The presence of teachers in the neighborhood, who in their day to day lives are tapped into and mobilizing neighborhood networks of support for children, could have a subtle but significant impact on a child’s experience of the community context. To change a child’s experience of the neighborhood, it is not necessary that all aspects of the community life emphasize the importance of school, support good habits (regular attendance, homework, etc.) and celebrate student success in school. But it is essential that some significant aspects of the community context provide this support in identifiable and visible ways, rather than sending a message that the school enterprise is useless, unimportant, or hopeless. There are deep reservoirs of support for education in most low-income communities, but they are often untapped or limited to family networks, while negative messages about education in the community and the wider popular culture are obvious.

In other words, the community context may be complex and many-sided, but within children’s experience of the neighborhood, there must be some strong and clear pro-education component and message. This could be as simple as neighbors reading books with kids on the front porch or stoop during summer, or asking about what books kids are getting from the library, or spreading word of mouth about summer camps and helping kids and families make summer plans, or neighbors providing informal rewards for improvements on report cards. At middle and high school levels, it could involve referrals for summer jobs or camps, letters of recommendation for jobs, links to sports teams or other out of school activities., or just consistent encouragement.

The informal networks of relationships within neighborhoods can reinforce school messages about the importance of school. In my experience, low-income community contexts are resiliently pro education and characterized by a profound respect for education as an aspect of community renewal and uplift. Murrell states, ”One part of the African American tradition of education is the theme that education is for the development of the community.” [20] Usually, schools do not connect with this latent potential in communities, because interactions are occurring solely within the schoolhouse and without intimate knowledge of community networks. But the presence of neighbor teachers, woven into the fabric of daily life and relationships, could help to connect with, mobilize and engage that potential.

3. Impact on families and communities

Potential impact 6: Students and families would have access to wider networks of social capital.

Many urban students live in communities that are socially isolated from networks that can help them (or their family members) to land a good first job and find employment opportunities that can turn into a career. As research in Baltimore demonstrates, this is particularly true for African American students, with major rippling impacts across time. The economic and social isolation of many urban communities results in many young students who graduate high school never making the transition to long-term steady employment.[21] More than a gap in individual hard or soft skills, students often struggle to find the access to initial employment opportunities. A neighbor teacher could act through informal networks of relationships to connect students with networks beyond those available in their family or otherwise available in the community. This impact could be dramatically expanded if, as part of a community schools vision, a school offered links to job readiness, training, and placement services and the neighbor teacher’s role was to connect recent graduates in the community with those supports. In this sphere, we should not lose sight of the positive impact on younger siblings still in school of seeing an older sibling getting established in meaningful employment after graduation. If graduation marks the beginning of something good, the whole educational enterprise makes much more sense than it does if, students witness, as is too often the case, that graduation means the beginning of nothing much.

4. Impact on neighborhood:

Potential impact 7: Neighborhoods would be stronger.

The quality of life in neighborhoods depends on a complex range of factors, some of them national or regional in scope, but some more within the control of residents of a neighborhood. A powerful concept for understanding this impact is the idea of collective efficacy. [22]Collective efficacy is usually described as a composite of social cohesion (e.g. “Do you trust your neighbors? If a fight broke out in front of your house would anyone intervene on your behalf?”), informal social control “(If kids were hanging out during school hours in your community, would someone intervene?”), and social network exchange (“Do you visit at neighbors’ houses? Would you ask neighbor to look after your house/pet while you were away? Could you easily borrow a “cup of sugar”?). [23]

A whole range of indicators, from crime to health, are shaped profoundly by collective efficacy — by the quality of the relationships between residents and the degree to which residents feel that they are able to solve problems and take action together. It is also well-established that neighborhood factors which can be affected by collective efficacy also have an impact on students’ attendance, levels of stress, and capacity to learn. [24] Teachers living in communities where they teach could supplement and support existing patterns of social capital. They could also activate new networks among parents and students. To the degree that teachers get involved in working with neighbors on neighborhood issues (from beautifying vacant lots to advocating for community resources, to supporting decent affordable housing options, to engaging kids informally in constructive ways, to sharing resources, etc.), they are also in a position to learn, model and teach civic agency. Many teachers are active citizens in their communities where they live; being a neighbor teacher allows them to combine their educational mission of empowering their students with their own civic engagement in community life.

B. What’s involved?

A community teacher living in the urban community where he/she teaches faces some very real considerations, opportunities, and challenges that make the work and private life more complex. The thoughts about these challenges below are based on over two decades of living in the low-income community where I now teach.

1. Navigating and learning from race and class complexities: A neighbor teacher will confront daily complex issues of class and race and will have to figure out how to navigate those and learn from them. The specific complexities that need to be navigated will vary based on the teacher’s race and socioeconomic background. Almost by definition, regardless of racial background, differences in class are implicated. Teachers living in low-income communities will typically be one of the most educated and best-paid members of the community. A teacher has completed at least a bachelor’s degree, often a masters, and educational attainment is a major determinant of class identity in American society. Depending on their own background, they may or may not be personally experienced in the stresses of poverty. If not, there is much to learn from one’s neighbors. I remember getting a lesson from a neighbor child about hunger (which I personally was fortunate to not experience as a child). It was approaching the end of the month when Kayla stopped by the house as we were eating dinner. After sharing a meal with us (which she did fairly often), she asked if she could take a plate of leftovers home. As she put together four plates, it became clear that this was much more than a casual request; that night, she was going to be the one to feed her family.

In addition to class differences, most teachers in low-income urban schools are white while their students are African American or Latino, and most teachers grew up in middle class communities. Murrell states that an essential feature for a community teacher is to have a well-developed sense of racial identity. This is essential to make it possible for teaching — situated in a highly complex racial history and dynamics — to tap into that history and those dynamics as resources for engaging and empowering students.

For white teachers who seek to be teacher neighbors, this means a lifelong commitment to exploring, uncovering, understanding, countering, and challenging implicit assumptions and biases woven into the American social fabric. It also demands a lifelong personal commitment to uncovering those same assumptions and biases within oneself and a willingness to be aware of ways that those assumptions may be at work in any given interaction. Given the complexities and pain inherent in the history of race in our society, this requires humility, awareness, and an attitude of constantly learning, often from mistakes and misunderstandings. Over time, being a neighbor teacher lays bare the ways that the structures, attitudes and practices of systemic racism shape the day to day life of community residents, including one’s students and their families. It also generates a degree of solidarity, where being anti-racist is not an attitude of disinterested benevolence, but rooted in deep self-interest and important relationships. The relentless dismantling of systemic racism has become more and more a real and personal goal as racism affects the quality of daily life for me, my family, and my neighbors with whom I share relationships and neighborhood life.

2. Gentrification: The neighbor teacher lives in a community in order to be with their students and families. So, gentrification –which I define as a change in neighborhood markets and conditions such that low-income people are displaced and higher income people take their place — is contrary to the purpose for which a neighbor teacher chooses to live in the neighborhood where he or she teaches. So the choice of community is important and the specific conditions in any given city are important. However, in many low income neighborhoods, conditions can be improved significantly for a long time without sparking gentrification and these improved conditions will benefit students and families significantly. For example, in most Baltimore City low-income communities, there are enough empty and vacant homes in need of rehab that a small number of teachers could move into the community without the risk of displacing anyone. The problem, of course, is that housing markets traditionally do not value income or racial diversity. The risk if a market gets better is that a runaway market can displace long-time residents, as has happened in many neighborhoods across the country. Most communities lack a plan and resources to ensure affordability for lower income families if conditions do improve. These are issues for neighbor teachers to advocate for along with other residents –to be a voice against gentrification and for improved community conditions. For example, in our community, we were involved in providing community letters of support for an apartment complex on our block to become long-term affordable housing, managed competently by an established non-profit organization. This improved day to day living conditions (the previous owners were ineffective) and ensured decent affordable housing in the community for the long term.

3. Establishing Boundaries: A neighbor teacher who is open and accessible to children and families can soon face a trickle, then a stream, then a river, then a flood of knocks on the doors, questions, requests for fruit, bicycle pumps, plyers, etc. Children of all ages hunger for positive adult attention that sees and respects them as individuals. In many urban communities, with parents working multiple jobs and often cramped housing conditions, children are outside often and for long periods and looking for something to do and someone to connect with.

So boundaries become essential. For the neighbor teacher, the demands for attention from children can quickly become overwhelming. As in most things, the vast majority of children (and parents) will respect clearly articulated boundaries enforced with a firm and loving hand. For example, we have a rule that children that want to play in our yard need to ask permission (I can scarcely recall not giving permission, but it means we meet every child who comes to our yard). When the streetlights come on, it is time to go home (we have a call and response poem about the streetlight that most of the kids can recite by heart). In the yard, the rule is no fussing, no fighting, no cursing, no trash, respect each other, have a good time. If those rules aren’t respected, any adult can ask the children to leave and to come back (depending on the infraction) in an hour, a day or a week. By and large, kids respect these rules, and older kids will teach the younger kids what the rules are for our yard space, but consistent enforcement over years is the key. In the early days, we had lots of children in and out of our house all day, but when we had our own children, this became overwhelming and problematic in a small house, so usually we interact with kids sitting on the porch or the patio or down in the yard.

4. Raising children: Teachers who have children of their own and want to be neighbor teachers face a challenging set of considerations. Based on my experience as a parent of three, I am wary of any abstract advice about raising kids. Any parent must raise their kids with careful attention to each child’s specific, unique personalities and needs. I do think, however, that neighbor teachers will need to contend with a powerful implicit narrative about raising children. This storyline operates to make parents who have choice about where to live –including teachers — never even consider living in urban neighborhoods where they teach. In general, the narrative for young middle class parents (like teachers) is that one’s primary duty as a parent is to buy into a “good” neighborhood with good schools and get as far away from “bad” neighborhoods and schools as possible. “Good” means “safe” streets, “good” schools, “nice” neighbors, plentiful recreational activities, “nice” places to shop. All of these adjectives tend to be highly racialized and class-ized, so that low-income urban communities are painted with a broad brush as deficient in all of these respects. The conversation with real estate agents usually proceeds from this unspoken basis, with predictable consequences in terms of what neighborhoods these families look at and where they end up living. Within this unchallenged set of assumptions, conversations about “where to live” focus on the particular house or yard, and there is little conversation about the values underlying the choice.

My wife and I have used another perspective about raising children as a guide in thinking about where to live, centered around notions of values, sufficiency and example. We explicitly discussed what we thought would be sufficient for our family –what would help us live out our values in a way that nurtured our children. For example, we felt that a basic acceptable level of safety and educational possibility was essential and we would not compromise that for our children. To assess what that meant, we needed to have a clear-eyed understanding of potential risks, challenges, and possibilities based in the realities of urban life rather than the stereotypes about it. We also committed to consider safety and educational opportunity in light of what we could do by actively working to produce that sufficiency at the family block and neighborhood. In terms of safety, this meant an active engagement with the community, particularly at the block level. In terms of education, our sufficiency meant being involved in our children’s school and tapping into the school system’s network of innovative schools. In other words, we defined our idea of what was sufficient and then thought about reaching that sufficiency through what was already present in the community and what we could bring to it, rather than relying solely on patterns of residential segregation to provide those goods.

Meanwhile, we also carefully considered the example of values we were giving our children. We wanted to bring them up in a way that acknowledges explicitly the race/class divide around which so much of our society is organized and refuses to cooperate with that sorting and the evil bound up in it. In other words, where we choose to live, how we choose to live, who our neighbors are and how we act as neighbors, is part of the moral instruction of our children through example. They may resist this example or criticize our implementation of it, but their parents’ choices mean that they need to contend with that divide as a vital and visible moral issue that calls for them to take a stand.

Safety: The discussion of crime and safety has to begin with a recognition that this is the most race-coded conversation in our society. The notion that non-whiteness is associated with criminality and violence is centuries in the making in our society and has grown even more pronounced as a code around racial hierarchy in recent decades after it became socially unacceptable in most circles to be explicitly racist. So, the conversation about “good” and “bad” neighborhoods, about “safe” and “unsafe”, “violent”, etc. is deeply shaped by frames around race. However, it is also the case that there are more violent crimes in low income communities, and even more in low income communities of color, than in upper income communities.[25] The causes of this are complex and involve many forces far beyond the control of community residents.

However, it is also the case that, like most aspects of city living, safety is primarily and fundamentally a block-by-block question. One of the most significant facts in crime prevention is that 3% of addresses account for a large majority of violent crime. In other words, it is not the case that neighborhoods that experience high levels of violent crime are experiencing that violence uniformly across the community. It tends to be highly concentrated geographically. So there are blocks in low-income communities that are as safe or safer than some blocks in upper income communities –both statistically and practically. For example, my block has high levels of collective efficacy and natural surveillance (neighbors know each other, it is a dead end street, neighbors work different shifts so there is someone home on the block at most hours of the day) and correspondingly low levels of crime. However, just a few blocks away, there is a corner where the picture is quite different and street drug activity with its attendant violence is common. So the fundamental question in some ways is “how safe is your block” rather than “how safe is your neighborhood”? That said, there is still the possibility and occasional reality that crime or violence that originates several blocks away may spill over (e.g. a man shot a few blocks away ran from his assailant into our block before collapsing and being taken to the hospital by police). So, we accepted a somewhat elevated risk that this spill-over could somehow affect our family. However, this risk has to be balanced realistically against risks of being affected by random spillover if you were living elsewhere, and balanced against other risks (e.g. being hit by a drunk driver) that may exist to a heightened degree in “safe” suburban areas where driving long distances is a feature of daily life.

Finances: The basic financial realities of being a “neighbor teacher” are particular to the situation and a neighbor teacher should give these attention, lest finances be seen as an imaginary barrier or become an unforeseen strain. Money should be a clearly considered part of the decision. By and large, the cost of housing is significantly lower in low income communities than in higher income ones. So a teacher who chooses to live where they teach can save on purchase price for a home, monthly mortgage payments or monthly rent. (This positive could be increased by programs specifically focused on teachers that provide closing cost supports or reduced purchase prices, as discussed below.) This can allow neighbor teachers to put money aside for college savings or retirement that might otherwise go into mortgage payments and commuting costs. There would also be potential savings in commuting time and mileage.

On the other hand, in low income communities, the value of the home is less likely to appreciate significantly over time (indeed, since anti-gentrification is one of the basic premises of being a neighbor teacher, high rates of appreciation would in fact be problematic). This means that there will be less equity built up in a home which could be tapped for college tuitions, one time purchases, home improvements, health care needs, or supporting elderly parents, etc. In general, a prospective neighbor teacher will have to think about the relative importance of higher monthly net income compared with building wealth in light of their own unique family history and situation. However, it is quite possible that neighbor teaching can make reasonable financial sense.

Ugliness and beauty:

One of the challenges of living in a low-income urban community is there is often a great deal of deterioration born of disinvestment — vacant houses, abandoned lots that no one cares for, trash dumped in alleys, potholed streets. As the environment communicates a disregard for people, some people respond with a commensurate disregard for the environment. I have spent enough time over the years picking up trash that picking up trash has become a sort of meditation for me. The trash tells a sad story –thin black plastic bags that are wrapped around every purchase in the corner stores, not as a convenience but as shoplifting control for storeowners who do not trust their patrons, sugary drinks driving diabetes rates, alcohol and tobacco reducing life expectancies and ruining people’s health.

But the difficult aspects of neighborhood life also makes more extraordinary and wonderful the expressions of beauty that arise in the midst of this story –the carefully tended garden, the community mural, the carefully tended sapling, etc. I remember one of our neighbors, a young girl of about 8, who went to church with us, and on a fall walk when the leaves were changing, when there was plenty of trash at her feet, pointed up to the trees, turned to my wife and remarked with wonder “Look, look, there are treasures all around”. The gift of eyes that can see in that way is precious and something that teachers should know, recognize, cherish, develop, and honor in their students.

Intentional community:

The modest proposal that begins this essay suggests a potential goal of a significant portion of a school’s teachers opting to be neighbor teachers. That might mean 5–10 teachers in a K-8 schools catchment area. A small but significant group like this would help to have a constructive impact more quickly in the daily life of a community than a single teacher and family might have. It also would help to establish a community of people sharing similar values, similar questions, similar challenges, and similar enjoyments. I think this can take many forms. I know of some people choosing to live in low-income communities (usually faith-based) who share houses, while others have individual households but on the same block or few block area. A group of teachers of this size would also most likely reflect a diversity of backgrounds –racial, socioeconomic, experience — which could help the whole community of teacher neighbors connect in multiple ways with the rest of the neighborhoods. An intentional community of people living across the usual race class divides is important for practical reasons, for mutual support, and for moral support –by which I mean quite literally the support of each others’ moral vision. My wife and I have lived in our community for 24 years, and in the past ten years with others on our block in an intentional community. I would also suggest from our experience that living in an intentional community committed to radical neighborliness is a profound context to deepen and live out one’s faith, whatever that may be, and one’s commitment to teaching.

3. Policies to support teacher neighbors:

One of the beauties of the practice of neighbor teaching is that it is possible for teachers to “just do it”. It does not require external resources or a high level policy commitment from public or private sector. It requires no public permission or funding. However, like most things, neighbor teaching can be harder or easier and there are a range of things that could happen at the school or district level that could make it significantly easier for this practice to take root.

o Placement of teachers: One of the major challenges to being a neighbor teacher is getting a position in the particular school in your community and remaining there for many years (assuming of course that the teacher is performing well in their professional duties.). This could be encouraged and supported by district human resources office and principals. It is the case that for some teachers the physical location of the school where they teach will be an insignificant factor, while for neighbor teachers it will be of prime significance. Human resources decisions should take this into account as much as possible.

o Recruitment from communities and special pipeline programs. One of the benefits that can arise from neighbor teachers is an informal identification, recruitment, and support for potential teachers who are living in the community (whether they are currently already working or are students with the capacity and calling to teach). However, this important informal function needs to connect to a formal pipeline that provides information and counseling and encourages and supports community residents. In other words, there should be a way to engage with the formal teacher recruitment system that offers a boost rather than an obstacle for neighborhood residents that a neighbor teacher identifies.

o Community schools to harness partnerships identified by teachers. A neighbor teacher will come across a wide range of situations that need other community resources –e.g. the family with no furniture, no heat, in need of grief counseling, looking for work, needing eyeglasses, etc. An active community school would have established connections for such services. The neighbor teacher then adds value by connecting neighbors with those services through the school, but is not left alone to try to figure out how to meet a bewildering array of needs; this would be a recipe for burnout. Neighbor teachers could make a community school much more effective and a community school could make neighbor teachers more valuable to families in the community as a point of connection.

o Live where you teach incentives. There are a range of incentives specifically available to teachers and others more generally available to homebuyers in Baltimore City (as in most cities). A clear packaging of existing housing incentives would be an excellent first step. [26] A specific home counseling function (e.g. within a non-profit encouraging city living) which understood and supported neighbor teachers also would be an enormous support. One of the challenges for a neighbor teacher is that the real estate industry basically has no framework whatsoever for understanding the motivations and the particular circumstances around a home purchase or rental decision by a neighbor teacher. So, a neighbor teacher not only has to figure out the complexities of buying/rehabbing/renting a house, but has to do so more or less on their own, contrary to the recommendations and patterns of information that a real estate agent is likely to put forth.

Similarly, programs that support neighbor teachers in fixing up homes would be extremely helpful. I became pretty handy in our several decades in our homes and have done most of the work on our house myself, but that should not be expected or necessary. A little help navigating the maze of decent contractors and conflicting estimates would make a big difference. Finally, a small revolving loan pool to assist with closing costs or renovations, specifically focused on supporting neighbor teachers, could have an outsized impact for a small investment with negligible risk, perhaps as a program related investment from a local foundation.

o Faculty housing developed from vacants. Some elite private schools often offer faculty housing as an incentive to teachers. This is based in a recognition that the faculty is the heart of the effectiveness of a school, and an investment that connects teachers with the school repays enormous dividends to the school. In many city neighborhoods, it would be possible to focus on a small number of vacant houses on particular blocks near the school and to either rehab them — possibly with a connection to a local high school construction class or with a local community development corporation to get that work done. It will also frequently be helpful to have support from city housing code enforcement since, for many vacant properties, it is very difficult to find the owner and move them to sell or fix up the property.

o Minigrants to support neighborhood projects that teachers are involved in. Teacher neighbors are likely to come up in the course of daily living with a number of small projects that can have a big impact at the block level (e.g. fixing a vacant lot, planting trees, summer art camp, books for kids during summer, etc.). A minigrant program at a local foundation that was specifically looking to support neighbor teachers in such projects could create a great deal of impact for a small investment of money.

o Connections with faith and other institutions. Many faith institutions and other groups are looking for ways to connect in personal and meaningful ways with people in low-income communities. However, they often have little connection with these communities, and are at risk of interacting in one-off actions that have not lasting impact or in ways that are paternalistic or reinforce stereotypes and patterns of power. Neighbor teachers can provide an access point to communities that is based in the teacher’s long-term relationships and occurs in ways and on topics that are identified by community residents. Resources and networks from such institutions can make a significant difference in conditions for families in the community.

None of these supports require a large investment of new money. One of the potential powerful aspects of “neighbor teaching” as a practice is that the “benefits” are simply a function of living daily life based in a certain set of values. Moreover, the practice will vary in specifics according to context. There will be as many kinds of neighbor teacher practice as there are neighbor teachers, because each block, community, school and individual teacher will bring their own unique perspective.


In a time where our society has become profoundly “sorted” and separated, and where schools are being asked to do more and more to overcome the effects of that sorting, there may be something compellingly powerful in neighbor teaching. As a seed is simple and small, living where you teach may be a simple act. But it can also make a radical statement of community, connection and care for children that is an essential part of what our children and communities need and deserve.

A Neighbor Teacher Story:

My wife and I have lived in the Irvington community in southwest Baltimore City for 24 years. Irvington lies along Frederick Road, the nation’s oldest “highway” dating back to colonial times. The current neighborhood plan was established in the 1870’s. Residents are 85% African-American at last census. A statistical picture outlines some challenges: Irvington is somewhat more poor than the city as a whole, with a family poverty rate of 35% compared to a city-wide average of 28%. 77% of childen live in single-parent households compared with a city-wide average of 65%. Household median income is $36,000 year, with 36% of households earning less than $25,000 per year. 11% of adults over 25 have a post-secondary degree compared with a citywide average of 29%. The neighborhood is deemed a food desert based on the percentage of the population without access to automobiles who do not have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. A two-block commercial district has an excellent thrift store, but otherwise is long on convenience stores, bail bonds, liquor stores, and carry-outs, and short on anywhere to sit and eat, have a coffee, or buy fresh produce.

However, the challenges these statistics suggest are accompanied by many assets. The built community is incudes large amounts of green space due to two large cemeteries, a venerable Catholic boys school, a public school and adjacent recreational fields, a former monastery (now a drug treatment center for adolescents), and a stream valley (Maiden Choice Run) which defines the southern border of the community. The diversity of housing stock is remarkable, from subsidized apartment complexes, to row homes of various sizes, to duplex brick homes, to freestanding Victorian houses, and even a large original mansion house from the neighborhoods founding.

As for our block, our house lies at the end of a dead end street at the top of which sits a 60-unit apartment complex with long term affordable units. At the time that we moved in, the block included multiple empty homes and was about half homeownership and half rental, with some of the rental units held by one of the city’s more notorious slumlords. Moreover, the apartment complex was not competently managed and there was occasional spillover of drug activity from it. We advocated for this to become long-term affordable housing, operated by a well-respected non-profit, and this has both provided decent housing opportunities and made the block safer. Over the past twenty years, the portion of properties owned by homeowners has increased significantly, and currently none of the houses are owned by speculators. Property values have increased modestly over two decades, on average probably about 1% per year. The profile of children on the block including the apartment complex is similar to the profile of children in the schools in the community.

Over the past decade, an intentional community of about a half-dozen households –which we informally call the Collins Streamside Community — has come together on our block, who support each other in a range of ways and are committed to being a positive neighborly presence in the community, particularly in supporting children and families and respecting the natural environment. [27]

Over the years, we have been engaged with children and families in the community in a variety of ways. I was an officer of the Irvington Community Association for about 10 years and coached basketball at the local recreation center for about a dozen years. We began attending a small Episcopal church with an aging population in the community and many neighborhood children started to come with us. Ultimately the congregation became about a dozen older adults in the sanctuary and about 20–25 children with Jill and me in Sunday School downstairs. While spiritually very rich, this arrangement was not financially sustainable, so the congregation ultimately voted to dissolve. Each summer, we raise funds to send some children to a week-long sleep away camp sponsored by the Episcopal Church and usually do a summer art camp at the Peace Park, a former trash covered vacant lot at the top of the block which neighbors have converted over the years into an attractive open space at the top of the block.

We have always opened our yard to neighborhood children and families. Our side yard was originally a city owned lot which had become a dumping ground for trash. The previous owners of our house purchased the lot from the city for one dollar, and took 18 dumptruck loads of trash out of it. It runs along the stream and includes a large are of woods and an open grassy space with a tire swing and basketball/volleyball court. The stream valley is a magnet for children who come from around the neighborhood to play and some parents also come down to walk or just rest on benches near the stream. We ask children to check in at the house so we can meet them and to adhere to simple set of rules worked out over the years. Over time, this has been a way to meet and be in relationship with several generations of children and their families.

I became a teacher several years ago after twenty plus years of work in public and non-profit sector on a range of urban challenges. This included work as the executive director of the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the Citizen’s Planning and Housing Associations, Baltimore’s oldest citizen action organization. For the seven years prior to teaching, I was a member of the senior leadership of the school system as the Executive Director of City Schools Office of Engagement. There I was responsible for the school systems engagement with community resources, parents, media, foundations, and businesses. After several decades of systemic community development and education reform work, I felt called to be in the classroom in my community teaching children from my neighborhood and surrounding areas.

I am now a teacher at Green Street Academy, a public charter school with an emphasis on sustainability as a core value which is located near my home. I often walk from home to the school, which is located in a beautifully renovated building which was originally built as a school in 1926 and subsequently became a church. The church continues to worship on Wednesdays and Sundays in the auditorium of the school and is also actively involved as a partner with the school. I typically encounter in the course of a day about a dozen children at school whom I know and who know me from the neighborhood.

[2] More Teachers Can’t Afford To Live Where They Teach, NPR, March 24, 2016 http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/03/24/470710747/more-teachers-cant-afford-to-live-where-they-teach

[3] The focus of this discussion is on neighbor teaching in a low-income urban context. Many points would be the similar in a rural or suburban setting, but there would be nuances that would be different. My own experience is in Baltimore City, so I leave it to others working in those contexts to explore those distinctions.

[4] “Places like North Philadelphia would have more young scholars and families who are actively engaged in ensuring that their child’s teacher understands why a child’s attitude may be different on a particular day. Increased communication between teachers and families would lead to improved academic performance. There would be more trees and flowers planted in the inner-city because teachers would share resources and knowledge with families to help beautify their neighborhoods. Civics teachers would make time to help high school students understand the importance of their vote and history teachers would tell children the truth about their heritage to improve their self-efficacy at a young age, There would be more positive role models for children (and adults) to emulate because neighborhoods would be filled with working class people instead of drug dealers and users. All adults would have high expectations for children regardless of race, color, income and zip code because we would all share in the responsibility of raising neighborhood children. Philadelphia’s tax base would increase because more children (and their families) would be removed from generational poverty. Finally, Philadelphians could stop arguing over traditional public and public charter schools long enough to begin working together to get equitable funding for all students…despite the type of school attended…. It was a good fantasy while it lasted. The reality for many low income children in Philadelphia is that some teachers have no desire to live in the neighborhoods where they teach and there are no rules that even require them to live in city. So, we can only hope that one day, more inner-city teachers will want to live in the neighborhoods where they teach before the neighborhoods become gentrified. At least we know that teachers can afford the homes in these neighborhoods.” Fantasy Island: Why Philadelphia Teachers Should Live in the Neighborhood They Teach, Quibila A. Divine, March 31, 2016.

[5] Bryk, Organizing for School Reform, 1.

[6] “Teachers In the Movement” website, https://teachersinthemovement.com

[7] “Black flight to the suburbs on the rise”, William H. Frey, www.brookins.edu, Friday, July 31, 2015

[8] Mother Jones, “Black Teachers Matter”, September/October, 2016. “Where Did All the Black Teachers Go?” , The New York Times, April 20, 2017.

[9] Peter Murrell, The Community Teacher, 4. “The term community teacher denotes the accomplished pracititioner in urban teaching and learning. Community teachers draw on a richly conteztualized knowledge of culture, community and idneitity in their professional work with children and families in diverse urban communities….Community teachers have a clear sense of their own cultural, political, and racial identities in relation to the children and families they hope to serve.”

[10] The Settlement House Movement, John E. Hansan, Ph.D. https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/settlement-houses/settlement-houses

[11] “Freedom Summer: Black Leaders, White Allies”, PBS American Experience

[12] John Perkins, Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development

[13] One practical question concerns defining the “same neighborhood where a teacher’s students live”. For purposes of this discussion, “living in the same community” means: 1. Coming into contact in the community setting as well as in the school settting –in other words, students know the teacher lives in the community and sees the teacher in that context; 2. Teachers experience at least to some degree on a daily basis some of the same conditions that challenge students (crime, police insensitivity, grime, neglect, market dysfunction, lack of public resources, etc.) and some of the strengths and beauty that exist in low-income urban communities (rich networks of relationships, patterns of sharing and kinship, shared cultural resources, histories of resilience, etc..) As discussed later, it is not the case that teachers will have precisely the same experience as students and their families; by virtue of their education and relatively stable income, teachers live by and large in a different set of possibilities. But an understanding of students’ reality should be based in lived experience rather than theory, in relationships that exist beyond the school walls, in shared elements of daily life rather than observation from the outside.

In some situations, figuring out “same community” is straightforward –e.g. an elementary or K-8 school with a defined catchment area. Even here, there can be variability within a catchment area so the criteria above can point to specific areas within the catchment zone. In other situations, the question is more nuanced. For example, in Baltimore City, where there is citywide high school and some middle school choice, there are some schools with strong geographic leanings (i.e. most kids come from a particular section of town) , but some schools truly attract city-wide, such as selective high schools or some charter schools which by law are open to citywide lottery. In these cases, “neighborhoods where students live” could mean neighborhoods that are demographically comparable in income, race, and ethnicity to neighborhoods where most students live, or possibly where the school’s most challenged families live. In these cases, some of the beneficial overlapping neighborhood effects of teachers sharing neighborhood space with their students would be diluted. However, some of the potential impacts on effective teaching would still remain.

[14] Christopher Emdin, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…And the Rest of Y’all Too, ch. 7.

[15] “Among teachers working in high-poverty elementary and secondary schools, 63 percent were white, 16 percent were black, and 17 percent were Hispanic, according to the data.”. United States Department of Education, THE STATE OF RACIAL DIVERSITY IN THE EDUCATOR WORKFORCE, 2016

[16] “Turnover rates are 70% higher for teachers in schools serving the largest concentrations of students of color and nearly 50% higher for teachers in Title I schools, which serve more low-income families…Turnover rates in these schools are even higher in key shortage fields, such as mathematics, science, and special education. Turnover rates for mathematics and science teachers are nearly 70% greater in Title I schools than in non-Title I schools.” Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It”, Desiree Carver-Thomas, Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute, August 16, 2017.

[17] cf. Teach Freedom: Education for Liberation in the African American Tradition, Charles Payne And Carol Sills Strickland, New York: Teachers College Press, 2008

[18] Identity, Agency, And Culture, Black Achievement and Educational Attainment, Peter C. Murrell Jr.

[19] I remember my students replaying or repeating the “21 Kid” VINE meme in 2015(showing an older brother who says to a young kid “You stupid”, “No, I’m not”, “What’s 10 + 9?”, to which the younger replied “21” and the older brother says “You stupid!”.) This 6 second video gained almost 12 million hits on You Tube and inspired a whole range of videos, songs, etc. All of this cultural production was in a certain sense reinforcing the imposition by an invisible older person on a young African American child of an intellectual identity as “stupid”. That broad cultural context has to be counteracted within the family, school and community. At the same time, there are strong cultural resources within lower income communities to resist that broader message. I remember my son telling me about a group of older teens in the neighborhood who he passed on his way home from school. They asked him how school was going, and gave him high fives when he told them he had pulled in all A’s on his report card.

[20] Murrell, The Community Teacher, p. 31. See also “Black Educational Activism for Community Empowerment: International Leadership Perspectives”, International Journal of Multicultural Education 17(1) · February 2015

[21] The Long Shadow, p. 183, Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, Linda Olson

[23] Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect, p. 152, Robert J. Sampson

[24] Teaching with Poverty in Mind, Chapter 2, Eric Jensen

[25] The Long Shadow, p. 58

[26] e.g. The Baltimore City Good Neighbors Homebuying Incentive program will assist “Vacants to Value” homebuyers with a $5000 award toward downpayment and closing costs. HUD Good Neighbor Next Door program offers a substantial incentive for law enforcement offers, teachers of grades K-12, and firefighters/emergency medical technicians interested in becoming homeowners. These potential homebuyers are offered a 50% discount from the list price of a home.

[27] “Coming Home to Common Ground in Stressed Communities: Intentional Civic Engagement in the Collins Avenue Streamside Community in Southwest Baltimore”, Kellen, Wrigley, Sarbanes, in Grassroots to Global: Broader Impacts of Civic Ecology, Krasny, et. al.



Michael Sarbanes

Michael lives in the Irvington community in Baltimore City. He practices anti-racist neighboring and works to build communities where all children can thrive.