Donate today!
view counter

Teach, Tony Danza, Teach

By Guest blogger on Oct 8, 2010 02:39 PM

This week's guest blog is again from Marsha Pincus. Marsha taught for decades and reflects on the new A&E series about Tony Danza's time at Northeast High School.

I watched Teach: Tony Danza three times.

I must admit. The first time I watched it, I cried like a baby, right along with the 59-year-old actor who is facing his mortality and wanting to travel down the “road not taken” by becoming a teacher. Being close to this age myself, recently retired from 34 years as a teacher, and staring down my own roads not taken, I found myself cheering for him. I cringed as he sweated through his shirt in front of the unrelenting eyes of his 10th grade students, and I cried with him as he let his insecurities be seen by a very unflattering camera.

I’m not a big fan of reality shows, and I especially dislike ones that claim to be “real” yet are so obviously staged and edited to make a particular point.

While this series does seem to have an agenda (though I haven’t quite figured it out), even in the first episode, I see how it might be a welcome addition to the public conversation about urban public education as its cameras begin to reveal some of the hidden humiliations and personal challenges that urban teachers face. Yes, Danza is nervous, but it is probably close to 100 degrees in that classroom in early September. Even as a comedian, he has a hard time answering the blunt, personal questions posed by his students. (My favorite: "Do you think teaching English is funny?")

And while the scene at the sign-in counter was clearly staged, there’s not a teacher in the School District who has not been on the other end of that kind of infantilizing dress-down from a power-hungry assistant principal, a dyspeptic head secretary, or a vindictive roster chairperson. It’s one of those ironic realities about public education: while schools cannot run without teachers, the people whose very jobs exist to support teachers’ work often treat them with the least amount of respect. No exaggeration.

So this series has the potential to tell an important and very human story about teaching and urban education. But one thing needs to be made clear up front.

Tony Danza is NOT teaching English at Northeast High School.

His experience only remotely resembles that of first-year teachers in Philadelphia

Face it. Most first-year teachers are met with far more difficult circumstances. While we do see Danza struggling, take his struggles, and:

  • add unwelcoming, unsupportive principals who are terrified about test scores and losing their jobs,
  • throw in angry students who have not been pre-selected,
  • subtract the ubiquitous teaching coach, the books, and supplies (Did Danza go to Becker's to buy those classroom decorations with his own money? Did he have to stop at Kinko’s the night before to make copies of his handouts for his one class?), then
  • multiply it all by five - the number of classes that most high school teachers have to teach. Plus a homeroom.

And this only scratches the surface of the challenges faced by first-year teachers.

If anything, what Danza’s doing approximates student teaching – the apprenticeship required by traditional teacher certification programs. Even so, the comparison is a stretch, because student teachers are responsible for planning and teaching three classes (to Danza’s one) while concurrently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs, taking courses in the evenings after teaching all day. Not only do student teachers not get paid, they must pay tuition to their universities for the privilege of completing this mandatory apprenticeship.

For me, the most telling line in the episode is when Danza says that it’s hubris for him to think he can do this. Indeed. This hubris should be shared by all of those non-educators who think they know enough to wrest control of our public schools.

Later after being corrected by his student Monte about omniscient narrators in short stories, Danza laments to the camera that there is so much he doesn’t know.

For good reason.

He took his education course work 40 years ago, and he’s a former history major trying to teach English. My bet is he doesn’t have a clue about WHY he’s teaching the aspects of plot, types of narrators, and the other elements of literature in short stories other than the fact that it’s in the curriculum and pacing schedule for the month of September. Nor does know how to organize that information in ways that will engage the students in their own learning.

If Danza were truly a first-year teacher (or even a student teacher as I suggest he is), he would have taken (or be in the process of taking) courses in curriculum theory, adolescent psychology, educational philosophy, technology in education, special education, and discipline-specific methods courses. He would have written lesson plans and developed his own curricular units and had them reviewed and evaluated by his professors and his peers. Additionally, he would have taken dozens of content courses in american and world literature; Shakespeare and Chaucer; African-American, Latino, and Asian-American literature; grammar; linguistics; and composition, just to name a few.

No wonder that he feels he doesn’t know enough.

To their credit, the makers of Teach: Tony Danza do not seem to be playing “Gotcha!” with the students, teachers, parents, and administration of Northeast High School. The teaching coach seems level-headed and knowledgeable, the other teachers smart and caring, the parents involved and concerned, and the students themselves alive and engaging. In the first episode, it’s Linda Carroll, the principal, who comes off the best, showing the right combination of toughness and support.

And Danza seems sincerely eager to learn from them.

The most enlightening segments (something I hope will continue in future episodes) are the small group discussions the students have after class, in which they smartly deconstruct Danza’s teaching. They know. After all, they’ve had ten years of practice reading (and shaping!) their teachers. They are very aware of the ways in which their actions can impact the kinds of choices Danza will make in the future. And we get to listen to them plot.

This is what the other teachers keep trying to tell Danza. His greatest resources for learning how to teach are sitting right in front of him. By the end of the first episode, he seems to understand.

So for now, at least, I am going to accept this series' good intentions and view it as a true inquiry into what it takes for this one man to become a teacher.

As a retired teacher, I hope that this series will complicate and deepen the public conversation about fixing the public schools that "Waiting for 'Superman'" has engendered. As a teacher educator, I want this series to shed some light on why good teacher preparation programs and supported apprenticeships are imperative.

But as a person of a certain age, I want to see Tony Danza stare down his demons, accept with humility what he doesn’t know, seek the knowledge he’s lacking, then build on his life experiences to learn how to teach.

Danza, says it himself about his students: "At the end of the day, there has to be some learning."

Theirs and his.

Marsha Pincus taught English and drama in Philadelphia for 34 years. She was named Teacher of the Year, twice--in 1988 when she was teaching at Simon Gratz High School and in 2005 when she was teaching at Masterman. She helped pioneer the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Program, and co-founded Crossroads, a highly acclaimed school-within-a-school at Simon Gratz.  In 1992, she was the recipient of the George Bartol Arts in Education Award, which commissioned a documentary about her work entitled, "I Used to Teach English."

In 1998, she was selected by the Carnegie Foundation as a Teacher-Scholar and her teaching is featured on their Gallery of Teaching and Learning as a site of exemplary practice. She retired in 2008 and is currently working as a consultant, university instructor, and teacher-educator. This post originally appeared on her blog, Her Own Terms.

The guest blog section is a place for people, other than our regular cast of bloggers, to share their views. (See our "About Our Blog" note at the top, right.) Got something you'd like to write about? Email us with a pitch, idea, or a completed post.

Click Here
view counter

Comments (48)

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on October 8, 2010 5:25 pm

You are far kinder than I about this show, and spot on with the lead character's content needs. I remind myself that it is entertainment, and that the lack of knowledge about adolescent development and learning is probably meant to be funny.
You identify the demands on student teachers & real 1st year teachers. May I add that a new teacher would not be given a pass by a coach or other support person as this show did in segment 1 on the lack of a lesson. A real class is not about the teacher, its about the students. When a class clicks, the pacing ensures that the kids work harder than the teacher.
And crying is normal at the start. As a coach, I knew it was a good day when no one I saw that day cried (men and women) during a conference. I am grateful that so far the show does not seem to be trying to "punk" anyone. It did go through my mind that this could easily be a career ender for someone.

Submitted by Mrs. G (not verified) on October 9, 2010 8:11 am

Funny you should comment on education being about the students. In many of our schools it is completely opposite, everything is about the teacher. The programs they have initiated are not student-centered in the least. No time for meeting with small groups, no time for meeting one-on-one, no time to reteach skills the students haven't mastered. I could go on, but why. It seems to be all one way in Philadelphia now and those who know what happens in the classroom and what the students need are simply Directed to do what ever nonsense is handed down from the top.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 9:45 am

Right on.

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on October 9, 2010 10:18 am

You're articulating many teachers' reality: to follow orders from those we are told know better than than the teacher, despite the inappropriateness of the directions (hello, HS reading programs), despite the teachers' professional background and knowledge about their craft. Somewhere recently, we as a society have decided to abandon real education for the quick fix. And there is always a quick fix, and it is always wrong.
The weakness this situation (top down decisions, no review or revision) portrays allows ill thought reforms, programs with obscene price tags, and the guru of the day to hijack the conversation about schools.
Anyone up for a teacher revolt? Just Say No To Inane Reform?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 8, 2010 7:34 pm

Mr. Danza analyzes things too much. He needs more self-confidence and less apologizing. After all, this is his first year teaching and someone should cut him some slack. He may be out of his league in the coaching department. His speech to the players was corny and inspired no one. He does not seem to know anything about football strategy or how to give a pep talk to young athletes. He should just concentrate on teaching. Get rid of that two bit bureaucrat assistant principal! She contributes nothing to the school. As far as the principal is concerned, I can't help but feeling that she wants to fire Mr. Danza. He may not know everything, but he does know a lot more than the students. Give him a break!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 8, 2010 10:57 pm

It seems education nationwide is horrible. While watching this television series, the object is to dumb down to the students level. A teacher that has integrity is placed in doing a job they dreamed of doing vs. doing the job the bureaucracy demands you to do. Mr. Obama needs to watch this show and see the quality of education delivered by the test driven education system. God Help the United States

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 8, 2010 10:17 pm

Responding to the previous person: it's not all about President Obama. Sheesh. He's been trying to improve education that was sucker punched by NCLB. There is a lot of bureaucracy in education. We want to teach every student to be functional, literate, and able to move ahead. The reality is often frustration. As I watched this program, I felt it was fairly honest, and true to the current educational system. Kids want to learn. Teachers want to teach.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 8, 2010 11:05 pm

NCLB is a remnant of the Bush Administration. It does not work. My wife has worked with mentally challenged kids. The schools are a paid daycare for these children. They are not challenged. The general student population in not pushed either. When you have mindless bureaucrats that have never set foot into a classroom this is what happens.

This is not a recent problem. It started when the teachers and administrators started programs like open classroom concepts and teaching to standardize test in the early 70's. Mainstreaming also affected the effectiveness of classroom quality.

In the show, you see several instances where you have challenged students mixed with average and learning disabled students. How can you teach to various needs children, without depriving the others in the class. NCLB is a pie in the sky idea if you lump all the kids in the same class. Reality, after billions of dollars is, "It doesn't work.

Submitted by Laurie (not verified) on October 9, 2010 4:04 pm

If you are a teacher and don't know how to, and don't care to, accommodate the needs of all students in your class, it's time to retire. If you haven't noticed, special ed students are no longer housed in the basement next to the boiler.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 8:28 pm

That is correct. The problem is that the educational system is now designed to placate the parents and politicians, not teach the children. When I attended school, I was expected to open my mind and learn. I also have a learning disability.

Wouldn't everyone prefer 100% of our teachers to emulate Mr. Danza who uses a common sense approach, verses flawed bureaucratic rationale. He is from the time when phonics were taught and not Whole Language Reading. He challenges his class and would prefer to prevent them from short changing themselves.

If teachers and their unions continually allow the educational system to water down their responsibility to teach, our schools will continue to deteriorate. When teachers keep leaving their chosen profession, they intern have allowed the educational system to destroy their dream and our children.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 8:20 pm

You have a boiler at your school !?!?!?!

Submitted by joe (not verified) on October 8, 2010 11:35 pm

I think Danza is a great teacher. I think he has the right idea as far as trying to reach deep into these kids. The problem is the system. These kids are not being challenged. The law is bullshit. The teachers that are there just label most of these kids with a " learning disability"

Its no wonder why American kids are just growing up really stupid generation after generation. The system is failing them and the people who control and teach the in the system are a big part of the problem. If more teachers were like Danza there could be a movement and the system could actually work for the students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 9:09 am

No. We are judged and evaluated based on the results of test scores. THAT'S the problem. And micromanaged to death. So that we can't really teach. Basically, teaching is a humanistic endeavor, and just can't be micromanaged.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 2:32 am

It's so interesting to see the difference between this school in Philadelphia and the high school I went to, a top public high school in the United States. It's interesting how much he cares and tries to motivate students, with my institution, there was little mercy. He apologizes for everything (he seems like a nice guy), whereas I went through school with the attitude that your education is on you, if you fail, that's your problem and you work harder, not the teacher. Also, the texting thing (I am young, but I understand) needs to stop, he should just collect all the phones and put them in a box at the start of class and return them at the end. These kids have no motivation and don't try themselves even when a teacher is giving (what seems) his all. They are LAZY and it drives me nuts. This is what American society is coming to, and sadly it has reached the education system, no or very little work with a big payoff, and we wonder why people idolize ball players, actors, singers, and the like. I am just disappointed in the lack of drive, I guess.
I was ESPECIALLY interested to see how everyone was on his case about the Special Ed kids, and the resource room. I do not blame him for trying something new, and I see his point of view. It seems like if you only made a school for special ed kids that'd be discrimination, but try to fully immerse them in a "regular" classroom with everyone else, it's a crime as well. No situation is favorable. I COMPLETELY understand kids with special needs, they all have different personalities and struggles, but if they're not doing so hot already, I mean I can see where he'd be saying, well let's try this anyways since you are not succeeding with the resource room one way or another. I will definitely keep watching.

Submitted by Prof. Eve (not verified) on October 10, 2010 5:55 pm

While the Tony Danza effect lured me into watching, I continue to watch, fascinated by the little darlings that we can boast as our future. And I'm scared poop-less!

School is the American child's job. It is a privilege in many countries to have access to quality education; but here, it is a requirement that we, the voting and earning public, elected for our children (up to a certain point, with diploma/certification/age being the cut-off). We are paying for the kids to uphold this requirement. It is a privilege AND a requirement; and most of these students don't give half the effort, beyond actually attending the classroom, that we as a society know to be required to ultimately achieve a minimum level of competence.

If these students are released into the workforce tomorrow, giving so little effort (in most cases) and so many excuses for why they CAN'T succeed (rather than asking "what can I do TO succeed"), then the next generation will take another step into the educational abyss that our public system has become. No wonder other countries continue to surpass/exceed the US in the world market - they take their education much more seriously than we do.

Hair extensions, texting, plotting how to trip up the teacher - THIS is the job our students have given themselves.

My advice to them: suck it up and do the work. Tony, I'm with ya' there!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 11, 2010 5:47 pm

If you think Danza's students are unmotivated, you would be appalled by the antics in worse-performing neighborhood high schools like the one where I teach. At least the students in the show are subtle about texting and plotting against their teacher -- in many classrooms they would be flagrantly disobeying school rules, disturbing the class by coming late or walking around the room or shouting obscenities at the teacher, wearing headphones, and so forth. Remember, these students had to apply to get into Danza's class; most of us don't have that advantage.

I'm not sure whose (parents, teachers, community, administrators, etc.) responsibility it is to teach students that school is "a privilege AND a requirement," as you say above, but most of my students never got that memo. Or worse, they did take school seriously at some point in the past, but someone or something convinced them not to care.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 11, 2010 3:26 pm

Thank you for noticing that putting special needs students in with highly motivated, above average kids does a disservice to everyone - trying getting this group through Oedipus Rex or any Shakespearean play! Unbelievable.

I have the choice of translating it word for word into language they understand or just saying "It's in the curriculum. We have to keep moving. This week we have to be finished with act 2. Next week, a test on the whole play. "

I would love to make school a wonderful experience for my students but administration punishes anyone who strays from the set curriculum, regardless of students' needs.

No wonder the majority of kids is turned off by school. It's either too easy or too difficult and just plain excruciating for everyone. Too bad the superintendent hasn't noticed the problem or listened to the teachers.

Submitted by Laurie (not verified) on October 11, 2010 8:18 pm

A real shame to put special needs students like these with above average students:
Charles Schwab, founder and CEO of the world's largest brokerage firm
Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard
John Chambers, CEO of Cisco
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines
Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko's
Donald Winkler, former CEO of Ford Financial
Gareth Cook, Pulitzer prize-winning science writer for the Boston Globe
John Irving, author of The World According to Garp, Cider House Rules, and more
Richard Ford, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner award
Robert Benton, 3 time Academy Award winning screen-writer and director
Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes
Philip Schultz, Pulitzer Prize winner
Jay Leno
Anderson Cooper, CNN
Whoopi Goldberg
etc., etc., etc.

Submitted by Geoffrey (not verified) on October 9, 2010 8:13 am

Tony Danza is an actor and my guess is that all the tears and humility are just that - acting. The coach, who is in effect a prop, extends the insidious lie that teachers get adequate support. As for the principal, her lecture about her concern for "my children" reminds me of Holden Caufield's great line about the sanctimonious mortician - "Jesus would've puked." I mean, c'mon. If you train a camera on a person they are going to act.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 9:33 am


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 8:56 pm

My High School English teacher gave me Catcher in the Rye to read. I finished it in two days. God Bless her!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 10, 2010 2:25 am

Mark Chapman finished it in one.

Submitted by Ellen Williams (not verified) on October 9, 2010 10:47 am

It is all I can do after watching episode 2 to keep from getting on a plane, going to Philadelphia, and teaching Tony Danza how to write questions effectively. I feel strongly that these children are overall, very bright, able to read, and want to achieve. His lack of understanding of learning styles, learning disabilities, and how to reteach effectively is killing me. It is so stressful watching his students waste time in his class, it breaks my heart. The student who is gifted is saying he is having trouble reading. Perhaps he is gifted in math? Or spatial reasoning? Did Tony ask what his strength is? No. instead, he questions the label. As a Senior Director of Advanced Academics, I am horrified.

I absolutely know Tony's heart is in the right place, but telling his students that they will learn if they try harder is heart breaking and naive. He has students in his class that need help, but he doesn't know how to give it to them.

He singles students out in the class, which is humiliating.

If the purpose of the show is to show how difficult it is to teach, the producers did that in one episode. It is time the show highlights the good teaching strategies that are successful and get off the "poor Tony" stuff. The show is an insult to good teachers. I feel sorry for the students who have to put up with it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 9:17 pm

Ms Williams It is evident your view are this: I know better than you so shut up. God gave you two ears, two eyes, one brain and one mouth. Use them in that order. You have been institutionalized by Academia for too long. You have lost all objectivity to what an education is. I am sure he is using the same teaching techniques used when you were in school. Where did you go wrong?

Where are the parents that have not taught them respect for their elders and teachers. Schools are not there to raise your kids. It is to teach them to learn. What if you wanted to learn and you have a kid slouching in his chair and preventing you to see the blackboard? Hold all of your kids to a high standard.

Since you are a Senior Director of Advanced Academics, you do not have the same students in the general school population. You are blessed with kids who are driven to learn. Most of Danza's kids are driven to school, not to do their best.

Submitted by Ellen Williams (not verified) on October 13, 2010 11:07 am

You totally misrepresented my view. I am not telling anyone to shut up. In fact, I am calling out for someone to help him! I think Tony is a wonderful human being who put himself out there and took a chance to teach. But he was not properly prepared in HOW to teach. That breaks my heart. He doesn't understand learning styles, or the needs of children from different ability levels and economic backgrounds. His only reteaching technique is to tell them to try harder instead of showing them an alternative way to learn the information. His heart is in exactly the right place, but he hasn't been equipped to do the job he wants to do. Totally unfair situation for him and therefore his students.

I think the kids in this class are overall well behaved and respectful. I have taught in classrooms much worse. I am sure much more goes on that the camera shows. I am hopeful that the high standard is not just about how they sit in their chair, but what they learn. That is the goal of education- to have the students learn.

FYI- I do not only represent and teach high ability students, but students from all backgrounds who are enrolled in Career and Technical classes- auto shop, construction technology, etc., who are not planning on going to college. I help them get high paying jobs in technical fields, or go on to post-secondary training, whether in a trade school or college. Some make as much money as I do straight out of high school because of their skills. I pride myself on being a student advocate to keep children in school all the way to graduation despite the obstacles in their lives. I believe you should not judge an educator so harshly by his/her title and I won't judge the opinion of an anonymous poster either. It is what opinion and blogs are all about. Bashing me has nothing to do with this TV show, anyway.

My opinion about this TV show is that Tony Danza is a talented actor who wants to make a difference in the world as a teacher. It does show some of the many struggles of an urban school and how hard it is to teach. My complaint is this: Why would anyone be allowed into a classroom with a group of students who deserve and need to learn high school English without being given the training he needs in lesson design, multiple intelligences, classroom management, and curriculum to help him be successful? The principal is threatening him to do it right, the coaches are encouraging him to do it right, but no one is modeling for him HOW to do it right. He should have done more classroom observations of effective teachers before they turned him loose in the classroom. He is having to sink or swim, like many teachers who quickly drop out of this profession. As I said, it breaks my heart.

Submitted by Erika Owens (not verified) on October 13, 2010 11:50 am

I haven't had the chance to watch the show yet, but your final paragraph really struck me. It sounds like Danza's teachers are doing the same thing to him that he's doing to the students! "Just keep working harder." Very interesting disconnect there. I wonder if they'll pursue that in future episodes.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 14, 2010 9:06 am

Ms. Williams,

I apologize if I offended you. I realize you have dedicated your life to the children of Pennsylvania. It is clear there are caring teachers in every school in the nation and I am far from criticizing any of them. Some do excellent jobs and go unnoticed for years.

Mass firings like what happened to the teachers in Rhode Island, is wrong also. If that many teachers were incompetent that is a reflection of the State and School District, not the teachers.

Please listen to my statements made previously. First I was making a statement to get everyone to recognize the Elephant in the room. When I say "God gave you two ears, two eyes, one brain and one mouth, use them in that order; most States and School Districts use Politics to teach our children.

I am from Texas. We have probably the worst educational systems in the US. We had the Bush "No Child Left Behind" before the US. He even brought his administrator of that program with him when he became President. We are now light years ahead of the nation in misguided education policies.

NO accountability to the Educational Agencies while punishing Districts and Teachers, for enforcing their reforms. The schools also refuse to suspend trouble students opting alternative schools because the Districts continue to get funding for that child if they are in school.

There are no wrong answers, according to Administrators. If you do bad, can I help you to not pull a knife on Joey? Hopefully you knew in your school days, if you violated policy, you were dealt with immediately. If you flunked out your were going to repeat that grade. My next door neighbors daughter was 2 years behind her peers but the school district still graduated her with her peers. Did that benefit her or society? I do not think so. Graduation rates look good don't they?

I realize you used your name and position on your original statement. I can assume you are probably a member of the District represented in the TV Series. I am also aware how much politics there are in Districts, and people who "tow the line" are awarded.

The comments as to why I used Anonymous was simple. It was the default option. By questioning my motives you use the standard "Educational Tactic" to devalue or question my credibility. I had been in the ICT program in Texas. By age 21, I was working at a Rolls Royce Dealership as a mechanic. Oh how I wished I went to college.

I have a learning disability, and was told I was lazy (lumping). Some day soon I will be taking a MENSA test to verify my IQ. I empathize with the students in Danza's class. I hope the school in question has AP (college courses) for gifted students. They should not be hindered by NCLB, nor should the learning impaired students. Do not hinder any student. Lumping is not the answer....

Final note: The educational system is damaged severely. My reference to the Elephant is pertinent. State education administrators, school district administrators, principals and all administrative staff at the school level need to pull their head out of the sand and see the elephants foot 6 inches from their head.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 14, 2010 10:11 am

Follow up to my post above.

This is taken from Wikipedia on Jaime Escalante. This is an example of what happens to educator which use a different standards to education. Especially read the part about USC:

Over the next few years Escalante's calculus program continued to grow but not without its own price. Tensions that surfaced when his career began at Garfield escalated. In his final years at Garfield, Escalante received threats and hate mail from various individuals.[4] By 1990, he had lost the math department chairmanship. At this point Escalante's math enrichment program had grown to 400+ students. His class sizes had increased to over 50 students in some cases. This was far beyond the 35 student limit set by the teachers' union, which in turn increased criticism of Escalante's work. In 1991, the number of Garfield students taking advanced placement examinations in math and other subjects jumped to 570. That same year, citing faculty politics and petty jealousies,[citation needed] Escalante and Jiménez left Garfield. Escalante found new employment in Sacramento, California. At the height of Escalante's influence, Garfield graduates were entering the University of Southern California in such great numbers that they outnumbered all the other high schools in the working-class East Los Angeles region combined.[5] Even students who failed the AP went on to become star students at California State-Los Angeles in large numbers.[4] Nuff said.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2010 12:34 pm

Sounds like Danza's show should be called: TEACH:LITE. They should have made him carry the full work load, given him as much or as little support as all the other teachers are getting. Have him interview Frank Burd and the other victims of school violence and administrative neglect. Having cameras and specially picking who gets into his class distorts how teaching in Philly really is and lies to the viewers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 5, 2010 10:06 pm

So this guy teaches ONE class?!?!?! Try teaching a full 5 class load!! Also, where are his stacks of papers. Has he collected an essay test or writing assignment yet? This kind of stuff cracks me up because it is not even close to reality. He should have just starred in Freedom Writers or Dangerous Minds.

Submitted by Laurie (not verified) on October 9, 2010 4:28 pm

As a special educator, I was initially horrified by Danza's total ignorance of the educational and legal mandates of IDEA. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for seasoned teachers, and some administrators, to be equally ignorant. Danza has an excuse-they don't. Training aside, it is the responsibility of the case manager to make sure the classroom teacher is familiar with his students' IEP's, and most importantly, each child's modifications and accommodations. Moreover, it is the special ed staff's role to help teachers create a learning environment that meets the needs of a diverse student population. In this case, they were noticeably absent until the proverbial stuff hit the fan and threatened them personally. I also have a JD, so I understand the principal's need to deal with this promptly and decisively. It would have been far more helpful for her to facilitate ongoing support for Tony and find him a good workshop, than to stomp on him. It's the special ed staff and his mentor who need a good talking to. Dealing with special needs kids in the classroom requires more than sending them to the resource room for tests. Is Tony a worse teacher than I was my first year or two? Probably not. Thankfully, I didn't have cameras following me around. Is he worse for the kids than the experienced teachers who belittle their students, ignore IEP's, don't know their subjects, and couldn't care less? Definitely not. Good teaching comes from experience, knowledge, passion, compassion, and teamwork. It doesn't happen overnight, and not without some pain.
As an aside, the look on Tony's face when the principal shut the door and asked not to be disturbed could not be faked. Only those who have been in that situation and felt their stomachs sink to their toes can truly understand. And it's made me cry too.

Submitted by steener (not verified) on October 9, 2010 8:10 pm

We need to remember...the students and their parents agreed to this, signed a waiver, and joined the class. Don't feel bad for them.

Submitted by Allen (not verified) on October 10, 2010 7:38 pm

There are not too many hollywood types that would take on this challenge. I encourage any parent or business person to do the same. Unless you teach you have no idea what it is like, especially in a challenging school district.


Submitted by Really? (not verified) on October 11, 2010 12:13 pm

Wow, what an annoying one-upper. "Teach" is great for showing how difficult teaching is and how incredible our public school teachers are. The fact that you sit there and nitpick every little thing is just disgusting and annoying. Quit bitching and complaining about everything. This show is one step in the right direction toward increasing awareness of our teachers and public education system.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 11, 2010 2:25 pm

The show is an illusion about teaching. How is having a part time teacher, full time actor going to help public schools? Danza is not carrying a full load or operate in a real life classroom. Just having it on camera compromises half the crap the school district pulls on its teachers. While Danza go into teachers being targeted by administration for blowing the whistle or children swearing at him and parents then blaming him for it? It is nothing more than PR for the bloated bureacracy.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on October 11, 2010 8:32 pm

Imagine if Danza had English 2 "Infused" with Read 180 this year? The SDP tracking system for English and Math in high schools includes "infusing" two days a week Read 180 into some English 2 classes. In other words, students are neither benefiting from Read 180 nor English 2. The SDP could have rostered 10th graders who needed additional reading support into a reading class; instead, English 2 is cut to make room for 90 minutes of Read 180. (Read 180 is designed for 90 minutes a day - not a week). What would Mr. Danza have done?

Even worse, what if Mr. Danza taught 9th, 10th or 11th grade social studies? Then, he would have to follow a Planning and Scheduling Timeline designed for 5 days per week but only have 3 days per week to cover the same content. The other two days are for another reading program - Achieve 3000. Again, instead of rostering 10th graders who need reading support into a reading class, core content classes are used to "disguise" the fact that students are in a reading program. (Achieve 3000 is also used two days a week in Physical Science and Biology. So, 10th graders, for example, have four days a week of Achieve 3000 and some also have Read 180.... Only in Philadelphia...)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 11, 2010 3:28 pm

I agree with the majority of the posters. As a first year teacher, I can totally relate with Danza. It is an emotionally battering thing, being exposed to this environment. But similarly, as a first year teacher, I can't believe a guy who has one class and none of the paperwork/reporting requirements is having a Philly teacher-like experience. He has NO idea.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 11, 2010 8:03 pm

Not to mention that we now have four report cards to prepare for and three parent conferences. On top of that Ackerman decided to throw in an entirely different computer grade input system to learn in addition to all the other busy work we've been given. How about a Notebook Special on that? Why does the district continually waste money on these elaborate computer systems when maybe of our classrooms have little or no working computers?

Submitted by old teacher (not verified) on October 15, 2010 11:39 pm

As a veteran 20+ year teacher...........this breaks my heart. all of it.
Let's face it...............there ARE kids who don't try, there ARE kids with disabilties who DO............BUT I've had parents ASK for IEP's for their kids "so they can't fail" ....which means that they think the whole IEP thing is a "get out of school free pass"..............and, sadly, sometimes it is.

The gifted kid???? I taught gifted for years........he was playing Danza.
The administration has not seemed to support or educate him (probably for tv).

It is a hard road to figure out what kids are playing you, which are manipulating you, triangulating, playing you against the administration and the parents..........

If anyone takes anything from this reality SHOULD be that there are teachers who care (and honestly, with the special ed kids, I think his heart was in the right place.....he just didn't know the law) and there are kids who want to learn AND there are lots and lots of kids AND THEIR PARENTS who want a free ride.............and it's HARD...........and emotional.............and not for the weak of heart......
waiting for superman? whatever..............waiting for parents
and a culture that embraces the value of education.

Submitted by paigehughes(parisgolden) (not verified) on October 20, 2010 6:39 pm

i dont no what you people watch or heard but he was the best he really tried <3

Submitted by eoauk (not verified) on October 22, 2010 4:04 am

Teaching and teachers do not everywhere face identical problems, but there are some universal approaches which are globally applicable in motivational teaching which work even in most unfavourably comparing circumstances, and this, about a, late, teacher, hailed by his students in terms of "He was a Teacher -then there was Teaching!" ( ), may be useful, interesting, and inspirational to many teachers:

Submitted by Joyce Ettingoff (not verified) on November 6, 2010 5:27 pm

I had always thought I would go to Northeast High since the day it opened. I was just beginning elementary school in the mid 1950's and there were celebrations and it was very festive throughout Northeast Philadelphia when the school opened. I did not fully understand but the older children where I lived explained and were proud of the new school and made it seem like a great I had this thought in my mind until it did not happen.
My mother became pregnant with my younger brother in about 1963 and we moved to the suburbs. i was allowed to complete Junior High as it was called then at Woodrow Wilson across the street from Northeast as a favor from a teacher who liked me and had influence there at Wilson and then it was off to Abington High a suburban school not to far away from Northeast High but worlds apart intellectually. It think this was a case of watch what you wish for.
The summer before all of this I was in Atlantic City for the Miss America Parade and met some of the Abington Marching band and I began to wonder what it would be like to go to a suburban school. They seemed happier than we did and the grooming was much different. At this time in the early 1960's Northeast and Wilson were basically Jewish and Italian. I had lighter coloring than most so I always felt a little special in the City. Next thing I know my mother was pregnant and we wound up in Abington and it happened so fast. Never said a word about this to my just happpened.
I really did not fit in. I could keep up academically but socially it was the worst time of my life. Teachers made fun of my accent, my Jewishness but in a very quite kind of way. At Abington ther was no calling out like in the city and eveyrone was well behaved like a private prep school.
I immediately was advised to get rid of my 6 inch teased heair and white lipstick which was all the vogue in the City of Philadelphia at the time. Teachers were always correcting the way I pronouced words and frankly I thought they were the ones with the accents..but I kept up, graduated...really had no friends except my friends from Northeast. In fact the first year I was at Abington my friends say the school held a seat for me and a class schedule for the entire year even though they explained I was not coming back to the city.
Teachers at Abington would often ask me what "they" were like in the city and was there a desire to learn...I felt like I ws some sort of ghetto savant exhibit at times.
When I went to Wilson I had advanced math, Latin and theatre as well as the regular curriculum. So what can I say..The Tony Danza show finally gave me a glimpse of what I missed from leaving the city and I feel like I really missed learning many social things. My first classes at Abington High had nineteen year olds in them and I had just turned fourteen and had not grown yet. Philadelphia used to have a way of skipping you if you were halfway bright..
Abington did not believe in it.
Anyway I had the flu for a couple of weeks, found this show and was really glad to watch it and finally have the vicarious experience of attending seems warm and quirky and loving and nurturing just like Wilson was for me on the other side of the street

Submitted by A-M (not verified) on November 14, 2010 7:06 am

Thank you for this blog and for your kindness to Tony Danza. When I attended college, two semesters of student teaching were required. We taught one class during the first semester and an entire day during the second. The single class, and the cooperating teacher, were fantastic. The second semester was horrible. The English department head decided that the five classes per day that I was teaching were not enough and he gave me his class, as well. That was six hours per day of teaching remedial students that did not read at a 4th grade level. This was at a high school. The 'cooperating' teachers would agree with my lesson plans and then walk into the class and tell the students that they did not have to listen to me. It was a truly horrible mis-adventure. I chose not to enter the field of teaching after that wretched semester. Watching Tony Danza teach has been a cathartic experience. I believe that his emotions are real and that he is real. Let's all write to AETV to get the remaining episodes aired!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 19, 2010 11:49 pm

No, Tony Danza is not an experienced teacher with a full work load, but the show does give the viewer a peek at what teachers go through every day, including the heart break. I should know. I am a high school English teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. I am sorry to this show go off the air, because it shows where the teachers are coming from. Johnny has 60 absences, yet his teachers will be held responsible for his poor test scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2010 11:58 pm

After watching Teach, I have nothing but respect and awe for the majority of teachers in the Philadelphia Public School system. I know there are some bad apples in the teaching ranks. But the students are the ones who are truly responsible for their lack of educaton. I watched episode 7 and wanted to slap these kids. They were selfish, vapid and lazy, lazy, lazy!!!! I think the boys wandering the halls instead of going to class were high. If not, then they are very dimwitted. In any event, they are going to have a lot of trouble finding any job with their attitudes and lack of any real education. Chloe is a self-centered airhead and Algernon seems borderline mentally retarded and totally unprepared for high school. What really frightens me is that these "students" are a cross-section of the high school population in this school and the district. Don't blame the teachers. This is all about the home environment, the lack of parental expectations and the media telling teens it is OK to be dumb. Well, stupidity is not a marketable commodity. Intelligence, the ability to problem solve and a strong work ethic are highly sought after in the workplace. The future is scary, indeed.

Submitted by Afler (not verified) on July 17, 2014 7:26 pm

From the prospect of a student i can name several logical reasons for youngsters to look at PapersMart for paper writers while the are studying. It becomes necessary for anyone that critical point of view is a clue for a successful life. We use some good ones to perform my scheduled tasks and present all ideas in a logical structure. They can only guess how hard it is sometimes to find and complete a serious task at university.

Submitted by Jennifer Groff (not verified) on May 1, 2015 5:54 am

Excellent stuff from you, man. I’ve read your things before and you are just too awesome. I adore what you have got right here. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart.This is truly a great blog thanks for sharing.



Submitted by RMC Live (not verified) on June 18, 2015 8:29 am

Mark Chapman finished it in one. rmc live

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule. Please see our "Terms of Usage" for more detail concerning your obligations as a user of this service. Reader comments are limited to 500 words. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Follow Us On

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed

Recent Comments


Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy