The Battle for Room 314
My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School
Ed Boland left a career as a fundraising exec to become a teacher at a tough NYC school. He wasn’t successful. But his experience taught him that we’ll only improve our most troubled public schools when we truly understand the lives of the children enrolled. With first-hand insights into his students’ battles with poverty, immigration, and incarceration, Boland is helping revitalize the debate over American education.
“By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Boland’s memoir is a deeply human story about the power of teaching.”— Publishers Weekly
Ed Boland has nearly 25 years of professional experience in a broad array of educational settings. He started by teaching swimming to five-year olds and art history to senior citizens. He served as an admissions officer at his alma mater, Fordham, and later at Yale. He taught English in China as a Princeton in Asia fellow immediately after the Tianamen Square massacre. He was a fundraiser for Barnard College, the all-women’s school affiliated with Columbia. He is now a senior administrator at the nation’s premier educational access program, which places gifted students of color at leading private schools.
His first book, The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City Public School was released in February, 2016. It was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Current Events Books for the spring. “With humor, insight, and grim persistence,” writes James E. Ryan, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Boland grapples with the realities of his students’ lives as they all face the enduring issue of poverty. This memoir is a humbling reminder that no teacher is an island, and that schools, systems, and communities all share a responsibility to ensure that every child has access to a quality education.”
In recent years, he has spoken at the Yale School of Management Education Leadership Conference, Fundraising Day in New York, the Westside Y Writer’s Voice, the 92nd Street Y Tribeca, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education Distinguished Author series.
Ed Boland had a wildly unsuccessful experience teaching in a tough NYC school, and he’s here to banish the myth of the ‘Hero Teacher’ from the public consciousness. While no policy wonk, and no master teacher, he’s still the messenger—and his story is being played out in thousands of classrooms across the country.
In this keynote—full of vivid stories of success and failure in the classroom—Boland argues that we move the education debate from the micro to the macro using a few under-recognized ideas. We must stop expecting teachers and schools to fix problems they didn’t create and are incapable of solving. We need to end our segregated school system that divides students on the basis of race and ensures low income students go to the lowest-funded schools. We need to stop funding schools through property taxes, and thus eliminate our two-tiered system. And we need to acknowledge that poverty correlates with low achievement, and that immigration reform, ending mass incarceration, and instituting a living wage are vital to solving the problem.
What will history say about the richest, most powerful nation in the world that neglected to educate its most vulnerable children? In the same way that Orange Is the New Black is revitalizing the debate around prison reform, Boland is bringing a personal and accessible perspective to one of the most defining issues of our time.