Teach: Tony Danza

If you have the chance, check out the series Teach: Tony Danza on A&E.  To sum it up, last school year, Tony Danza decided to teach English at Northeast High School in Philly.  I’m not sure it’s quite comparable to the TFA experience–he only teaches one class period per day and he has a mentor teacher in his room at all times.  Also, his school is in the city, and I could be wrong, but Northeast appears to be a bit nicer than most where TFA teachers are placed.  But, generally, it does capture the experience.  He does all of his planning, and his mentor teacher simply observes.

It’s incredible that as much as Tony Danza must be used to performing for people, he’s actually quite awkward in the first couple of episodes in front of the children.  But it’s also really endearing to see how much Tony cares and how hard he tries.  He really goes out of his way to connect with the kids on a personal level, and he puts himself out there, even though he knows the kids think he’s foolish.  In a lot of ways, I wish I had been capable of lowering my guard while I was in the classroom.

And although Tony is extremely enthusiastic about education, you can see how hard teaching is for him.  He makes tons of rookie mistakes, and he’s really hard on himself, as all good teachers are.  He gets visibly worn down by the workload and frustrated by the red tape.  He gets bogged down with extraneous requests.  At one point, another teacher questions his commitment to teaching, asking if he just wanted to know what it’s like, or if he really wants to teach.  Tony clearly loves the idea of teaching, but he responds that he’s not sure if he could do another year.

I’ve said it a million times, but I think something is wrong with teaching as a profession.  Obviously, there’s no career that you can just walk into and be an expert.  But there are very few other professions where that’s exactly what is expected of you.  Our schools will never be able to retain talent as long as they keep chewing it up and spitting it out.  I don’t care how you incentivize it.

My hat is off to Tony Danza though.  The guy is almost 60, and I’m sure he’s got it made financially.  Yet, he volunteered for one of the toughest jobs in this country, and he does his best, with plenty of enthusiasm.  Check this show out, so far, it’s one of the best I’ve seen on TV in a while.