Review by: Rossie Johnson
Virginia State University
“The Battle for Room 314” portrays Ed Boland as one who was afforded the opportunities of being reared in a supportive two-parent household and having received a quality education. As a nonprofit organization careerist, he has progressed to an executive fund-raiser position at Project Advance in New York and loves his involvement with the youth and preparing them for higher education. Because he wants to do more with students, Ed follows his teaching passion and transitions to education. At this life-changing juncture, he receives the immediate shocking realities of teaching in the inner-city New York education system.
The memoir begins with Ed orchestrating an extravagant Project Advance fundraising event. Project Advance is a non-profit agency that finds the most promising minority youth from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods and prepares them to compete for higher education admission to the most elite institutions. Ed vigorously works with these youth through a 14-month program to fine tune their academic skills. He knows that if these students make it into the pre-destined preparatory schools, they will have endless opportunities. Through his involvement with the program, Project Advance students have been admitted into Ivy League universities and have later become doctors, lawyers, judges, surgeons, scientists, and principals.
Ed expresses his teaching interest to one of the former Project Advance students. He receives her encouraging support and continues his preparation for the career change. After receiving numerous inspiring assurances and well-wishes, Ed discloses his interest to his family. All of his family is supportive except for his mother who expresses her disgust by telling him to go, be a teacher, “BE A LOSER (p. 11)!”
Upon completing his teaching prerequisites, Ed accepts a history teacher position at Union Street School in New York and starts with an eager spirit. His dream is short-lived as he faces the problems resulting from absenteeism, disrespect, drugs, gang activity, illiteracy, prostitution, and teen pregnancy. Throughout the chapters, Ed individually connects a student to each one of these issues. He gains a different prospective on the realities of teaching in the inner-city school system and displays second-guessing thoughts about his career decision. This is further portrayed as Ed discusses his feelings about the betrayal, guilt, and shame associated with his first-year teaching experience.
In the end, a colleague with similar teaching interest of his own seeks to gain advice from Ed. Although a definitive answer is not provided, encouraging words are offered and the colleague is urged to give his best effort. The memoir is concluded with Ed giving his opinions on school resourcing, governmental involvement, socio-economic impacts, and with his additional comments on how they impact inner-city education. Contrary to anticipation, there is neither a depiction of Ed’s heroism nor is there one of his students encountering life-altering transformations as a result of his teaching.
Academic advisors will learn from reading this book that students come from various cultures, demographics, and socio-economic backgrounds which enable them to have various outlooks on education. Advisors will also learn that social influence may have an effect on how students value and prioritize their education. Individual involvement with each student is critical therefore, advisors must be cognizant of these variances while advising and assisting students with their academic and career plans.
Book Review #1671. The Battle for Room 314. (2016). Ed Boland. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing, 256 pp., $26.00, (Paperback), ISBN #978-1-4555-6061-5, http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/ed-boland/the-battle-for-room-314/9781455560615/5.