Fires in Our Lives

Advice for Teachers from Today’s High School Students

A sequel to the classic Fires in the Bathroom that illuminates what adolescents most need from teachers in today’s upsetting times

“This chance to hear authentic voices of students should not be overlooked by anyone involved in teen education.” —Publishers Weekly on Fires in the Bathroom

The context in which adolescents are learning has shifted radically since students first offered blunt advice to high school teachers in the groundbreaking Fires in the Bathroom, a perennial bestseller. Now their world is changing at warp speed, and classrooms too are seething with anxiety. This sequel raises the voices of diverse youth around the nation as they live through the mind-bending quandaries of this era and ask their teachers to notice.

In Fires in Our Lives, Kathleen Cushman and her co-authors Kristien Zenkov and Meagan Call-Cummings (both leaders in bringing student voices to teacher education) present new first-person testimony on how today’s youth experience the risks and challenges of high school. The students who speak here need their teachers more than ever as they navigate cultural, social, and political borders in their communities. Reinforced by classroom examples and supplemented with helpful takeaways, Fires in Our Lives offers a compelling dialogue about students’ emotions, ideas, and developing agency.

In a world that sorely needs the thoughtful participation of its rising generation, this new staple belongs on every high school teacher’s bookshelf.


“Once again, Cushman and her colleagues turn to the experts we are least likely to hear from––kids––to inform us about what’s working in schools and what’s not. As you read about their experiences and perceptions I hope you will feel as compelled as I do, to take action to support them.”
—Pedro A. Noguera, PhD, Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California
“The authors provide many resources and activities to facilitate social-emotional development and inquiry.”
“For anyone interested in inspiring students and helping them develop their full potential as global citizens.”
Library Journal
“We now know how desperately students and educators yearn to be with, to be in community, to learn and teach in intimate relations. This volume may be the lantern we need to carve new paths in the history of education, refusing to ‘go back to the normal’ that was deadening all of us––students and teachers, and democracy alike.”
—Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Critical Psychology and Urban Education, The Graduate Center, CUNY
“An accurate and useful snapshot of what today’s teenagers are up to and up against.”
Publishers Weekly
“A carefully crafted and concisely arranged assortment of diverse interviews of high school students in which they attempt to explain the challenges of circumnavigating a rapidly transforming world where unimaginable change, socioeconomic inequalities and cultural barriers are causing them extreme anxiety and how their teachers can better help.”
New York Journal of Books

Goodreads Reviews