Executive who joined teaching to emulate on-screen heroes writes about his failed year in the classroom

29th February 2016 at 18:40
Michelle Pfeiffer Dangerous Minds
He was inspired by the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer's Dangerous Minds

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An executive, who packed in his day job to enter the classroom in a bid to emulate heroic teachers on screen, has published a book about his failed attempt.

Ed Boland was inspired by the heroic efforts of teachers in films, such as Dangerous Minds and Stand and Deliver starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lou Diamond Phillips respectively, and decided to take the leap into teaching.

An executive for Prep for Prep, a not-for profit group that helps underprivileged children into top private schools, Mr. Boland thought he could emulate those he had seen on screen and turn around the lives of challenging inner-city teenagers.

“I thought: ‘I can do this’,” he told the New York Times. “I thought: ‘I want to work on the front lines. I want to be one of those teachers that kids really like and listen to and learn from, and you can turn a kid around’.”

Mr Boland became a ninth-grade history teacher at an underperforming school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and it was a baptism of fire.

The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School, are his memoirs from his failed attempt at teaching in the school and an attempt to “end the myth of the hero teacher”.

In an excerpt from his book, he writes: “On the other side of the room, someone had hurled a calculator at the blackboard. A group of boys were shoving one another near a new laptop. Two girls swayed in sweet unison and mouthed lyrics while sharing the earphones of a strictly forbidden iPod. Another girl was splayed over her desk, lazily reading Thug Luv 2 as if she were on a cruise.”

When he attempted to restore order and tried to confront the girl at the center of the disruption he found her standing on her desk “towering above me like a pro wrestler on the ropes about to pounce.”

According to the author, he had not been taught behavior management in his teacher preparation, which he said would have been useful in dealing with such instance.

“Of all the hours I was at graduate school, I don’t think there was all together an hour devoted to classroom management,” Mr. Boland said. “We were developing beautifully crafted lesson plans that no one could use. I was learning esoteric phrases about test design. I spent two semesters doing a research project. I just wish somebody told me how to get a cellphone out of a kid’s hand.

“I just wish, when that girl stood on top of that desk, I knew what to do,” he added.

Mr. Boland said that he wanted his book to dispel the myth of the hero teacher, and that schools in tough, challenging communities were asking their teachers to do too much.  


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