Every public school teacher should watch this show!
Teach: Tony Danza – what happens when a career actor steps into the classroom and tries public school teaching, under lights and television cameras. Is is an accurate presentation of the profession? Not quite.
Teach: Tony Danza is a reality show on A&E currently running on Friday nights. (You can currently catch all the epsiodes free online at hulu.com) The show has a lot to offer us as teachers as well as the “civilians” out there because it raises crucial topics about the profession. Tony Danza, actor made famous by shows Taxi and Who’s the Boss, actually taught for one year at a Philadelphia high school. Though it aims to be, the show is not a realistic portrayal of the teaching profession. Having said that, his reactions to the classroom challenge and administrative pressure feel real. They are an excellent starting point for understand the world that is teaching. I am glad this show was produced because it shows some extreme challenges we as teachers face. I hope the viewers take the good and leave the acting because there is quite a bit if it. As my long-term readers know, I’ve been a public school teacher for 13 years and therefore feel qualified to evaluate the show below.
- Teachers teach first, then ask. When they fail to teach, this is known as “forward questioning.” It is a big no no because it just doesn’t work. Danza loses a point for using forward questioning throughout the episodes.
- Danza does not stay focused and on topic. This is a nightmarish trait for a high school teacher, or any grade for that matter. Students need to be guided carefully and clearly through new concepts for them to take hold. Danza is an actor/entertainer and this is not what works with kids to teach them a year’s worth of standards.
Danza sweats and appears nervous many times in the show. He often appears over-extended. The viewer should note the following:
He taught 28 kids 45 minutes a day.
I teach 104 kids for 6 hours a day.
When he appears harried by his heartless Principal and asst Principals, we as viewers need to remember he is not even doing a quarter of the work an ordinary teacher must do.
There are many scenes where he is helping coach the football team that are useless and off topic from the show’s premise. There are also large spaces of time devoted in one episode to Danza’s daughter and fights breaking out that really have nothing to do with understanding teaching. You would think in one year they’d have gathered more footage of Danza becoming a proficient teacher. Still, what is there is worth seeing.
In conclusion, while it may seem I am not big on this series, I do recommend you see it. There were many times (mostly in episodes 1-3) where I found myself cheering because so many things resonated as true to my job. It is nice to know people see the constraints of time and demands of the administration and parents. It shows some of what what we teachers have to deal with on the job.
Danza probably went into this thinking because he was an entertainer he could succeed. It is far more than that. You must engage the learner with innovative methods. Often you receive no recognition. I hope civilians (non-teachers) will see all we are expected to do and that not just anyone can waltz in and do it. Teacher preparation and teacher training are crucial but tenacity and ongoing improvement are also invaluable.