A nonprofit executive tells the story of the year he spent as a teacher in a struggling urban high school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
A few years into his career as the development director of Project Advance, a nonprofit organization that helped underprivileged kids attain elite educations, Boland decided that he wanted in on “the front lines of education.” After two years of graduate training, he quit his comfortable job and began his teaching apprenticeship, where his idealism was soon tested. While the author worked with a few genuinely good teacher-mentors, many he observed turned out to be “burned out and boring” if not outright incompetent. His hope was temporarily restored when he began his first job teaching ninth-grade world history at Union Street School. There, he met dynamic instructors who seemed to be making a difference among the urban youth they taught. As soon as he stepped into his own classroom, however, he discovered just how difficult his task would be. Many students openly defied him as they derailed his efforts to teach them; only a few showed any sincere willingness to learn. When he and his colleagues attempted to make changes to their schedules to better manage the large number of students they taught, the administration rejected their plans. What made his job, which he left after one year, even more trying was learning about the lives of his students outside of class. Many had not only dealt with poverty, but also violence, drug and sexual abuse, neglect, and even homelessness. Three years later, Boland learned that half of his original 90 students graduated; only a tiny fraction went on to attend college. Though told with compassion and wry humor, the book is often difficult to read. Yet the ideal-shattering truths it reveals are important ones for teachers and administrators seeking to reform the urban education system in the United States.
An unflinchingly honest account of one man’s experiences with inner-city education.