In a fit of idealism, Ed Boland left a twenty-year career as a non-profit executive to teach in a tough New York City public high school. But his hopes quickly collided headlong with the appalling reality of his students' lives and a hobbled education system unable to help them: Freddy runs a drug ring for his incarcerated brother; Nee-cole is homeschooled on the subway by her brilliant homeless mother; and Byron's Ivy League dream is dashed because he is undocumented.
In the end, Boland isn't hoisted on his students' shoulders and no one passes AP anything. This is no urban fairy tale of at-risk kids saved by a Hollywood hero, but a searing indictment of schools that claim to be progressive but still fail their students. Told with compassion, humor, and a keen eye, Boland's story is sure to ignite debate about the future of American education and attempts to reform it.
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 Jes s, 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.