Review: 'The Battle for Room 314' reveals classroom battles

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Posted: Feb 16, 2016 11:20 AM
Review: 'The Battle for Room 314' reveals classroom battles

"The Battle for Room 314" (Grand Central Publishing) by Ed Boland

No longer content to support from behind the scenes, Ed Boland takes the admirable, if naive, move from a comfortable career in the non-profit world to the front lines of education: teaching.

While the former executive thoroughly prepares himself financially and academically, nothing readies him for the onslaught of chaos he encounters upon stepping inside a New York City high school.

Grad school doesn't equip him with best practices for navigating the behavioral issues of a teenage member of the Bloods. No one explains how to team with parents working two jobs. And while he thought harassment for being gay was a pastime tucked away in his own school days, he now faces new tormentors in the form of the students he's trying to help.

The kids come from homeless shelters, group homes, distant relatives' couches and even the subway. Armed with zeal, Boland attempts each day to connect with students facing poverty and endless uncertainty. He never paints himself a hero, rather shares his failings generously when his own education and passion leave him short on immediate solutions.

Boland seamlessly ushers readers into his stressful world and keeps them there. Readers will ache for him when students turn in blank worksheets, laugh when he tries to control his classroom using phrases he imagines "a real teacher would say," and furiously turn the pages to find out what the next school day holds.

While there are few victories, readers are not left hopeless. Some students succeed, and Boland concludes the book with his case for changes needed in America's educational system.

With skillful storytelling, self-deprecating humor and swiftly paced narratives, Boland's vulnerability will lure readers from the first scene.