The Book of the Week is “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had” by Tony Danza (yes, the famous actor), published in 2012. This ebook is a personal account of Danza’s bout with trying out the profession of teaching. He taught one tenth grade English class at an inner-city Philadelphia school that allowed his trial by fire to be recorded for a reality show on the Arts and Entertainment cable channel.
This was during the 2009-2010 academic year. Danza experienced the range of extreme emotions and encountered the range of difficult issues common to modern American teachers. He does a good job impressing upon the reader how hard it is to be a high school teacher. These days, teachers have numerous pressures thrust upon them. One quote sums up the current situation: “Teachers and administrators are always worried about being fired. One complaint from a child or parent can be the end of a career.”
Danza felt he had to make learning fun because students are growing up in a society immersed in entertainment. He felt he had to go easy on disciplining students. Many of the ones he taught live in single-parent households, are the victims of abuse, abandonment, poor parenting, etc. If he did not choose his battles wisely, they might fail to see the connection between education and success in life and quit school altogether.
In addition, if teachers take students to task for minor infractions, such as wearing hoodies, using electronic devices, and even cheating– rather than fighting– “The only recourse is to… involve the dean’s office… lose precious class time…” In other words, going through all the trouble to punish problem students cheats the other students out of an education.
He saw that the teaching profession has changed for the worse significantly since he was in grade school. He noted that some parents fail to take an interest in their kids’ education, or else blame the teacher when their kids fail to do schoolwork, or are a discipline problem. One of Danza’s lessons involved a discussion of celebrities– numerous Americans are poorly educated, but are rich and famous anyway; one reason many teenagers do not see the value of education.
At every opportunity, Danza tried to teach life lessons about morals, the golden rule and empathy. The kids were less than thrilled when the school principal decided to go with them on a class field trip. Danza told the class “Make the best of a baaaaad situation.”
Danza encountered some conflicts with the reality-show crew because he was truly dedicated to teaching his kids. The producer wanted to entertain the show’s viewers.
Read the book to learn more about the above and other issues, plus standardized testing, the fate of the reality show, and whether Danza decided to return to teach the following year.