ACTOR Tony Danza has written a book about teaching in a public school.
Although the actor was being filmed for his short-lived reality show Teach: Tony Danza — which was scrapped halfway through — Danza didn’t walk out on his 10th-grade English students at Philadelphia’s largest public high school.
“There are very few things that are harder than being a teacher in any public school in America,” Danza said.
“It’s a job that requires total commitment at the expense of just about everything else in your life.
“A teacher needs to be a lot of things to these kids — not only an educator, but a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a best friend and a social worker. And a lot of teachers aren’t prepared for that. They come to teach the curriculum and inspire kids who want to learn, but there are a lot of kids who have a lot of difficulties that keep them from learning.
“These kids were born two years after ‘Who’s the Boss?’ went off the air. They knew I was somebody because of the TV cameras, but they hadn’t seen any of my work. One student said, ‘Wasn’t he in Cheers?’
“The big thing is to try to find a way that the lesson connects with the students’ lives so that it becomes relatable to them.
“Everything is a life lesson. ‘Julius Caesar’ teaches friendship. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is all about making the best of a bad situation. When I was in school, I couldn’t understand why any of this mattered to me.”
“I was a student who didn’t take advantage of my education. I charmed my teachers and just did as little as possible to get where I wanted to be, instead of respecting their life’s work and really learning.
“I talk too much. You can’t stand at the blackboard and lecture anymore. Kids don’t learn to be critical thinkers like that. I had to figure out ways to shut my mouth and let them talk.”
Danza hopes that his students, all but two of whom recently graduated from high school, can learn from his youthful indiscretions.
“I told them, take this part of your life seriously, or you’ll end up with regrets, like me,” he says.
“I always wonder how my life would be different if I had applied myself in school. Until we can convince the kids that this is in their own best interests, despite all the legitimate obstacles they face — whether it be a bad school, a bad teacher, a bad family, a bad neighborhood — they have to want it for themselves and understand this sets up the rest of their lives.”
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