Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wanna Know What It's Like to Teach? Ask Tony Danza

This slim (less than 300 pages) book is the story of the year Tony Danza (yes, that Tony Danza) spent as a high school English teacher in Philadelphia. Finding himself at loose ends after the cancellation of his talk show, Danza decided to put his teaching degree to use as well as develop a television show around his experiences. After searching nationwide, Northeast High School in Philadelphia agreed to take him on, with many stipulations: He would be treated as a real teacher with the same responsibilities as the other teachers, he would have a one-on-one mentor, and he would only be given one 90 minute class to teach (Dang, where do I sign up for that gig? lol). He agreed, the camera crew arrived, and the adventure began.

As a teacher myself, I have to say I was skeptical of Mr. Danza at first, much like his colleagues must have been. He came in with lofty goals and had reality smack him in the face repeatedly: kids with bad attitudes, parents who were no-shows, fights, unengaged students. Danza persevered, despite the odds, and something happened as he did: he became a *real* teacher, one who strove to come up with lessons that excited his students, one who looked past the academic and into the lives of his kids, one who saw through the standardized testing into the concern of his students actually learning. Did he make mistakes? Oh yeah, and sometimes they were huge (hello, drinking on a field trip!), but he was able to forge relationships that he maintains to this day.

This story of a year in the life of Tony Danza is well written and a reliable look at the state of education in public high schools today. While I feel that a few tales may have been glossed over, I believe fully that Danza put his heart and soul into this job and that he gained as much as his students during his tenure. His stories are real and he feels he needs to let the world know the reality of the situations teachers face on a daily basis. This is a good read and one that should be read by all of us with a vested interest in the education of our young people today.


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