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  1. #1
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    Teacher recounts year of hell working at a New York City high school

    IN 2008, Ed Boland, a well-off New Yorker who had spent 20 years as an executive at a non-profit, had a midlife epiphany: He should leave his white-glove world, the galas at the Waldorf and drinks at the Yale Club, and go work with the city’s neediest children.

    The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School is Boland’s memoir of his brief, harrowing tenure as a public-schoolteacher, and it’s riveting.

    There’s nothing dry or academic here. It’s tragedy and farce, an economic and societal indictment of a system that seems broken beyond repair.

    The book is certain to be controversial. There’s something dilettante-ish, if not cynical, about a well-off, middle-aged white man stepping ever so briefly into this maelstrom of poverty, abuse, homelessness and violence and emerging with a book deal.

    What Boland has to share, however, makes his motives irrelevant.

    Names and identifying details have been changed, but the school Boland calls Union Street is, according to clues and public records, the Henry Street School of International Studies on the Lower East Side.
    Boland opens the book with a typical morning in freshman history class.

    A teenage girl named Chantay sits on top of her desk, thong peeking out of her pants, leading a ringside gossip session. Work sheets have been distributed and ignored.
    “Chantay, sit in your seat and get to work — now!” Boland says.

    Ed Boland has shared his experiences trying to teach difficult students at a New York City high school.

    A calculator goes flying across the room, smashing into the blackboard. Two boys begin physically fighting over a computer. Two girls share an iPod, singing along.

    Another girl is immersed in a book called Thug Life 2.

    Chantay is the one that aggravates Boland the most. If he can get control of her, he thinks, he can get control of the class.

    “Chantay,” he says, louder, “sit down immediately, or there will be serious consequences.”

    The classroom freezes. Then, as Boland writes, “she laughed and cocked her head up at the ceiling. Then she slid her hand down the outside of her jeans to her upper thigh, formed a long cylinder between her thumb and forefinger, and shook it. She looked me right in the eye and screamed, ‘SUCK MY F***IN’ D***, MISTER.’”
    It was Boland’s first week.

    At the time, Boland’s new school was considered a bold experiment — not a charter but an “autonomous” one, given freedom in both management and curriculum. It was endowed in part by the Gates Foundation, and the principal hired only teachers who had once lived abroad.

    Boland had taught English in China. This was his favoured school — advertised as the last, best hope for kids who had fallen far behind — and he was thrilled to be hired. He went home to his then-boyfriend (now husband) and celebrated over takeout pad Thai and an expensive bottle of red wine.

    “I was ready to change lives as a teacher,” he writes.

    How wrong he was.

    There were 30 kids in his ninth-grade class, some as old as 17. One student, Jamal, was living in a homeless shelter with his mother; most of the other students lived in public housing. There was one white kid in the whole school.

    “It was as if Brown v Board of Education or desegregation had never occurred,” Boland writes.

    He had rounded up his students into a semicircle and checked for forbidden items: phones, electronics, sunglasses, clothing in gang colours.
    Then someone kicked in the door.

    And there, Boland writes, “stood one Kameron Shields in pure renegade glory, a one-man violation of every possible rule. Above the neck alone, he was flaunting four violations: He wore sunglasses and a baseball cap over a red bandanna over iPod headphones. A silver flip phone was clipped to his baggy jeans. Everything he wore was cherry red — the hallmark colour of the Bloods.

    “He turned his grinning face to the ceiling and howled, ‘WASS ... UP ... N***AS?’”

    Boland was outmatched. He was petrified. He ran out the clock and asked his fellow teachers who this kid was.

    “Oh, yeah, he’s brutal,” one colleague said. Turned out Kameron had thrown a heavy electric sharpener at a teacher’s head the year before, but the principal — whom the teachers sarcastically called their “fearless leader” — refused to expel any student for any reason.

    Two weeks in and Boland was crying in the bathroom. Kids were tossing $110 textbooks out the window. They overturned desks and stormed out of classrooms.

    There were seventh-grade girls with tattoos and T-shirts that read, “I’m Not Easy But We Can Negotiate.” Their self-care toggled in the extreme, from girls who gave themselves pedicures in class to kids who went days without showering.

    Kameron was in a league of his own. “I was genuinely afraid of him from the minute I set eyes on him,” Boland writes. After threatening to blow up the school, Kameron was suspended for a few months, and not long after his return, a hammer and a double switchblade fell out of his pockets.

    The principal gave up. Kameron was expelled.

    “Oh, they getting real tough around here now,” one student said. “Three hundred strikes, you out.”

    Here among the kids who couldn’t name continents or oceans, who scrawled, “Mr Boland is a f****t” on chalkboards, who listed porn among their hobbies, were a few who had a shot.

    There was Nee-cole, who wore thick glasses and pigtails. She was quiet, smart, much more childlike than her peers, and Boland felt for her. He was also intrigued by a tough girl named Yvette, who showed flashes of insight and intelligence yet did all she could to hide it. “PLEASE DON’T TELL ANYONE I WROTE THIS,” she scrawled on one report.

    He asked his fellow teachers about the enigma that was Yvette. “One day in class, I intercepted a note,” said a colleague, Tasneen. “It said, ‘Yvette b***s old guys for a dollar under the Manhattan Bridge.’ We punished the girl who wrote it for spreading lies.”

    Soon after, the school heard from Child Protective Services. The prostitution rumour was true. Yvette was removed from her home. “She’s not doing it anymore,” Tasneen said, “but she’ll never outrun that story.”

    The bookish Nee-cole was also a target, but things were tolerable — until parent-teacher night. Nee-cole’s mother showed up wheeling a suitcase down the hall, listening to Donna Summer on a Discman. She wore off-brand jeans, rainbow leg warmers, a ratty orange vest, dreads festooned with ribbons and shells, and a face tattoo of pin curls where hair should be.
    Boland was flummoxed. He closed the classroom door.

    She introduced herself as Charlotte and explained Nee-cole’s history: Her daughter had been enrolled in Harlem, but when her mother saw the school was on the city’s list of underperformers, she pulled Nee-cole out and homeschooled her.

    “But we didn’t have a home, so I made do and taught her where I could, mostly on the subway, for the year.”

    She went on to explain that she had to put Nee-cole in foster care. “I love my child beyond words and am still very involved with her life,” Charlotte said. “Her education is my priority.”

    After that meeting, Nee-cole’s life at school was never the same.
    “Nee-cole’s mother is a HOBO,” the other kids would say. “Did you get a look at her? Mama look like a homeless clown.”

    Boland came to actively loathe most of the student body. He resented “their poverty, their ignorance, their arrogance. Everything I was hoping, at first, to change.”

    His colleagues gave him pep talks, reminded him to contextualise this behaviour:

    These kids had no parents, or abusive, neglectful ones. Most lived in extreme poverty. School was all they had, and it was their only hope.

    A lifelong liberal, Boland began to feel uncomfortable with his thinking. “We can’t just explain away someone’s horrible behaviour because they have had a tough [at]upbringing,” he argued back. “It doesn’t do them — or us — any good.”

    Then there was Jesús Alvarez, boyfriend of Chantay and, as Boland writes, “a perfect s***.” Jesús would stroll by Boland’s classroom and shout, “Bolan’, who you ball in’? It ain’t no chick.”

    Boland called in the father, even though he was warned it would do no good. The three sat down, and Boland was surprised.

    “Jesús, this is a good school,” the father said. He warned Jesús that it was either school or the street, and Jesús wasn’t tough enough for the street. “You get yourself right, get an education, and show this man some respect.”

    It was the one thing that had gone well so far. “I left that meeting brimming with confidence,” Boland writes. “Involving parents was key.”

    Next, he turned his attention to Valentina, a transfer student who joined his class in February. She wore tight jeans over what Boland calls “an epic derrière,” and as she walked to her seat, the kids oinked and mooed.

    “Step down, all y’all n***as, or I’ll stab you in your neck,” Valentina said. “Don’t get me tight, b****es.”

    Boland soon learned Valentina was what the Department of Education calls “a safety transfer” — meaning she was such a threat to her fellow students that she was pulled out of school.

    Now here she was, Boland’s newest charge. He was quickly impressed with her observational skills — a bar he had set extremely low, now the victim of some inner-city form of Stockholm syndrome.

    Asked to write about an ancient sculpture of two royals, Valentina wrote, “Well, isn’t it obvious that they are a couple? His hand is on her t***y The way they sit is regal.”

    It was the use of the word “regal” that blew Boland away. He pulled her aside after class.

    “You can’t fool me,” he told her. “I can tell from just that one sheet of paper that you have a very fine mind.”

    For that, he received an official complaint of sexual harassment, filed by one Valentina.

    She claimed Boland said, “You are mighty fine, you turn me on, and I can tell you like fooling around.”

    The entire administration knew Boland was gay, yet they still had to follow procedure.

    He was never to be alone with Valentina again.

    By the time he invited a highly decorated Iraq War veteran to speak to class and Valentina greeted him with, “Hey, mister, give me a dollar,” Boland thoroughly despised her.

    Nor could he escape the kids outside of school. One winter day, Bolan was mounting his bicycle, on his way home, when he saw a gang fight break out in a parking lot. He saw Jesús in the crowd, and an older man egging the kids on. “That’s it, Nelson, show that punk-ass b**** who’s boss. Whale his ass.”

    It was Jesús’ father.

    Angry and humiliated, Boland relayed this latest heartbreak to a veteran teacher. “As crazy as sounds,” the teacher said, “that father may be trying to teach his son how to survive in a hostile environment the only way he knows how.”

    Boland didn’t know what to believe anymore. At the end of the school year, he quit.
    Boland ends his book with familiar suggestions for reform: Invest more money, recruit better teachers, retool the unions, end poverty. But there’s no public policy for fixing a broken kid from a broken home, or turning fear into resilience, or saving kids who can’t, or won’t, be saved.

    Toward the end of his tenure, Boland asks his sister Nora, a longtime teacher, for help. What is he doing wrong? What could he be doing right? Why can’t he break through to these kids, even the ones who seem to care? How can society absorb such a massive [at]human toll?

    “I’ve been teaching for a long time now,” Nora tells him. “And my only answer is that there are no easy answers.”

    ?The Battle for Room 314? book: NYC teacher?s year from hell revealed

  2. #2
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    Give them all a gun they can sort it out themselves,it's the american way.

  3. #3
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    He's a White Male, it must all be his fault. After all, the failure of Blacks to achieve social and intellectual equality 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act could not possibly be their fault.

  4. #4
    disturbance in the Turnip baldrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    He's a White Male
    sounds like a soft cnut

    all the cash the school was spending probably could have been better put to use to pay the students

    if they behave and try they get paid - same as most of the workforce

  5. #5
    I am in Jail
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobR View Post
    He's a White Male, it must all be his fault. After all, the failure of Blacks to achieve social and intellectual equality 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act could not possibly be their fault.
    Well, let's not forget the racist drug laws which keeps the black prison population statistically very high at 39%.

    The white man makes those laws!

  6. #6
    Thailand Expat terry57's Avatar
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    Same shit that goes down in any under resourced school in improvised areas world wide.

    He ain't no orphan.

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    White male is not the only problem....He's gay...He wasn't nearly tough enough to handle it...Sorry to generalize, but those "kids," although coonts, need a stronger person..

  8. #8
    Thailand Expat terry57's Avatar
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    ^

    If the teacher is a sensitive little mincer the kids will be onto him like a seagull on to a hot chip.

    The faggot should be teaching grade 1 in a catholic school.

  9. #9
    Thailand Expat AntRobertson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    After all, the failure of Blacks to achieve social and intellectual equality 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act could not possibly be their fault.
    The passage of the Civil Rights Act wasn't a magic bullet or panacea that stopped racism dead in its tracks. Not even close.

    Don't believe me: just even check out the comments made on here regularly.

  10. #10
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    I won't go into the sociology of this but just a quick blush. Troubled youth require role-modeling which is obviously not coming from their home.

    To stick an avowed homosexual in to a room of troubled deviants is pure stupidity. Ten to one they caught on to him real quick...like the first day, gay-dar. So WTF did anyone expect ? The world isn't always 100% a pretty place like Sesame Street.

    Keep in mind that these kids are the most troubled youth. I'm surprised that they even attended classes.

    Off on a tangent - what troubled youth require is positive mentor (period).
    Without that availability just best to place these students into basic "boot camp" category schools for "education" with military Sergeants overseeing the discipline of students dressed in uniforms. Sometimes respect has to be learned to be earned.

    So author Boland wants to write a sequel to E.R. Braithwaite's 1959 autobiographical novel "To Sir, With Love" about a teacher and troubled youth in London's East End that turned into a terrific film in 1967.
    Good for him lasting the year.

  11. #11
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    Who should be blamed? Well definitely not the kids or teacher. IMO it's the hand that rocks the cradle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kingwilly
    I would never send my kids to a state school. To avoid bigoted wankers and opnions
    These "types" don't exist in expensive fee paying schools of course? Either teachers or students.


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    Quote Originally Posted by OhOh
    These "types" don't exist in expensive fee paying schools of course? Either teachers or students.
    Nope, but they are most certainly in much shorter supply, and less tolerated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kingwilly
    and less tolerated.
    I think an offer of a new science building would sway the college principle's mind, just prior to sending the student down. After all they are a for profit enterprise.

    They are there to enable the "exceptional" students meet, drink, screw with and generally gather dirt on their fellow students for their own family's advantage.
    A tray full of GOLD is not worth a moment in time.

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    Thailand Expat cyrille's Avatar
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    I don't agree that the perspectives he shares make his motives 'irrelevant' as the piece claims.

    From those extracts what he has to share is utterly predictable to the point of mundanity and his conclusions are banal.

    Obviously in a school financed by parents disruptive students will be less tolerated...durr.

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    Truculent, angry, stupid, lazy and shallow youth are scarcely new to civilisation. The difference now in the West is that one has to cultivate and indulge their inadequacy whereas before they had the shit kicked out of them.

    When I attended school, it was in a relatively enlightened period of British education but poor discipline was still met with violence. If one didn't want to learn or apply oneself assiduously to lessons, then it was up to the pupil and provided they remained quiet in their indolence and slothfulness they were tolerated but if they disrupted the class and distracted the master from his task then one was left in no doubt that brute force, corporal punishment and, ultimately, exclusion lay ahead.

    Spare the rod, spoil the child still has its relevance.

    Juvenile social development is all about learning how to interact within the group and managing power distribution within acceptable parameters but when they took the master from his pedestal and reduced him to the rank of "learning facilitator" they fucked the system.

    Western society is now riven with the culture of mawkish feelings, bogus pluralism and a crass indulgence in the the daft notion we are all equal and equally have something to offer. No wonder the young are mostly full of shit and society is increasingly unattractive where posturing, vacuous mundanity is worshipped on the high altar of faddism, superficiality and the faux celebrity.

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    Thailand Expat terry57's Avatar
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    ^

    And further to that the politically correct wankers who have removed all power from Teachers are wholly to blame for the state of disobedience in our schools.

    In the past Teachers could instill punishment to the disruptive student but now they cannot touch them.

    The system is fuked as is the weak laws in the Western world.
    Stroller is a Yerman faggot.

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    Thailand Expat cyrille's Avatar
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    And now in the UK at least class sizes are at 30+ in the inner cities because getting somewhere to live is unaffordable on a teacher's salary.

    It's gonna get worse before it gets better.

    Anyone know how teacher's salaries in the public sector match up in the US?

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    Take it a step further up in the thread...it is who rocks the cradle that sets the initial code of behavior.

    Parenting is a a primary job and with two spouses working in the West, kiddie is heaved ho.
    A single parent house where the parent is working and stressed then it gets much tougher on the parent and the kid.
    No parental authority and who knows which way the wind blows.

    And yes sadly , there are some fookin' , twisted, sicko parents out there. sad indeed how those kids grow up.

    "Once Were Warriors" told that tale marvelously (IMHO).

    Like always - no easy answers after the school bell rings.

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    Thailand Expat cyrille's Avatar
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    Yup - all a perfect storm for anti social behaviour.

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    Jon Kitna could handle the job:

    CBS praises Jon Kitna and teaching | Tacoma Public Schools

    "Ex-NFL QB Jon Kitna finds post-career joy

    (CBS News) TACOMA, Wash. - In the hallways of Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Jon Kitna sounds every bit the football coach he is, having returned to the school he quarterbacked 20 years ago.

    The remarkable thing about this coach and algebra teacher is that he didn't need the job at all. Jon Kitna was an NFL quarterback for 16 years, retiring last year from the Dallas Cowboys.

    Patrick Erwin, the principal at Lincoln High, said: "He did not have to come home. He could have stayed in Dallas and made scads of money down there."

    But something called Kitna back to this troubled neighborhood and many kids from poor, broken homes.

    "I walked these same hallways. I was here. I get it," Kitna said.

    "When Jon signed on to be a math teacher here, he said: 'Give me your toughest kids,' and we did," said Principal Erwin.

    Students like Rayshaun Miller said they "really didn't care about coming to school."

    Kitna scheduled early morning algebra sessions with Miller.

    "I started learning how to do math, and I was like, 'Man , this is actually not that bad,'" Miller said. "I'm passing with A's and B's -- like I'm sitting with a 3.0 GPA. Now, I'm like, 'What just happened?'"

    Coach Kitna changed more than just Miller's outlook, he's changed his future.

    "I probably wasn't gonna get it together and now I have a chance at graduating," Miller said.

    "You can't come here and be fake," Kitna said. "They smell it. They smell it as soon as you come walking to the building if you're fake. And I just try to be as authentic and real with them as I can."

    The principal is now becoming familiar with something called "the Kitna effect" -- an ability to reach those others have not.

    "When I went in to watch him teach, I mean, I saw kids who were doing math that I've seen sit in other classrooms and never lift a pencil," Principal Erwin said.

    Kitna is generating more than good feelings. His algebra class is the second-highest scoring period in the entire school.

    "I've always felt like there's much more greatness in these halls and in this building then people realize," Kitna said".

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyrille View Post
    And now in the UK at least class sizes are at 30+ in the inner cities because getting somewhere to live is unaffordable on a teacher's salary.

    It's gonna get worse before it gets better.

    Anyone know how teacher's salaries in the public sector match up in the US?
    Throughout my primary school education I never attended a class that was less than 40 pupils.

    Looking for excuses for the human condition in all its frailty seems to be the modern way. Any feeble explanation will do but don't let that stop you as you thrash around in your evident confusion.

    Incidentally, British teachers do quite well, particularly when one takes into consideration their pension packages.

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    Coach Kitna is lucky he has a "formula" for these kids...Trying to teach English to the kids is a harder job than algebra...But still, the solution isn't that mystical...Surprised that people don't understand the basics of it...

    Also, as an athlete, one may have more success since a lot of barriers are broken down in the realm of sports...And with his success, comes the respect from the kids...

    The number one element for a successful teacher is trust...More than anything else, the kids need to trust the teacher...

  24. #24
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    Thegent: Your writing style is fun, but it seems you spend a lot of time trying to distance yourself from "the others," as if you think you are some superior being...

    These kids would hand you your arse before you got off the subway...

  25. #25
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    ^ FYI ... Kitna left Lincoln High in Tacoma, Wa after 2-3 years and is now at Waxahachee High School in Texas.

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