‘You were an amazing history teacher! Why did you leave?’ – Ed Boland’s memoir of teaching in a New York High School

This is NOT for the faint hearted, and I would advise it’s certainly not suitable for kids to read, but the article linked here (Click!) is a good insight into the big problem society has in reaching kids often termed ‘underprivileged’. They aren’t underprivileged – as if it’s a ‘privilege’ to have simply enough – they are under funded and under-parented. They often have only their mothers to care for them, and have so little money they don’t have sufficient clothing or food to be healthy.

With that seems to come a hardness, which looks to us outside like narcissism. It is narcissism, because narcissism is usually born from a deep wounding of the sense of self. When we are deeply insecure, one way to cover that brokenness and vulnerability is to swagger, pout, shout and do everything we can to look tough. Tough is not what these kids are underneath – hence the comment:

[Bolan] stayed in touch with many of the students and came back for graduation at the school three years later in 2010. One of his most defiant former students asked:

‘You were an amazing history teacher! Why did you leave?’

Often resistance to being taught belies a sneaking admiration for the teacher who is failing at juggling any of the balls a teacher should be able to keep in the air if it weren’t for the chaos in the classroom. If only Boland had known, he might have stayed on.

Another quote from the article sums it up nicely though – Bolands humanity:

Boland’s sister, Nora, offered some advice on managing a classroom:

‘I hate to break it to you, but ultimately, you need to realize that your students are people with free will. Just like you and me. You can do all you can, but in the end, it’s not you who has the power over their behavior’.

‘Welcome to their world. They have very little power in their lives, so they will use it where they can. Either of us would do the same.’

I thought I was forgiving. I thought I was understanding. I thought I was mature. But, so quickly into this experience I began to loathe my students, resenting everything about them that was their lot—their poverty, their ignorance, their arrogance. 

Everything I was hoping, at first, to change. I was supposed to be the adult, but I had to check myself repeatedly as childish resentments and judgments flared up over petty things like Mariah’s body odor, Lu Huang’s single four-inch strand of facial hair, or Nestor’s disgusting bag of chicharrones.

I haven’t included any of the colourful anecdotes from the article – but do go and read it, you may be amazed or shocked, but this is life in many poor neighbourhood schools.

I hope you find it interesting.

Best wishes

Lis Goodwin, your voice coach


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