The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School

Ed Boland. Grand Central, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4555-6060-8
In 2006, Boland left behind a rewarding 20-year career in fund-raising to teach at a New York City public high school. He lasted only one year on the job, but the experience was enough to supply him with a book’s worth of stories and insights. In this enthralling memoir, Boland spends most of his time in a classroom at Union Street, an innovative, reform-minded school, struggling to maintain control of his charges. “In room 314,” he writes, “my roles of ineffective cop and feckless social worker always trumped my job as a teacher.” Throughout, Boland introduces us to some of the memorable students who gave him fits. There is Jesús, the tough guy menace; Byron, the bored, out-of-place genius; and a fearsome rabble-rouser nicknamed Nemesis. Like most real-world education policy, the advice for improvement that is given to Boland is extremely contradictory. Despite his relative inexperience, his bold call to action at the end of the book is right on the money: it perfectly summarizes what is wrong with public education in America, and how we can fix it. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Boland’s memoir is a deeply human story about the power of teaching. Agent: Jim Levine, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/16/2015
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-1-4555-6061-5
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