Here I am, on Friday night, awake at 9 PM.  I am waiting to watch Teach: Tony Danza, a reality show starring Tony Danza, which starts at 10 PM on A&E.  In it, Tony Danza (former boxer, sitcom actor, and sometime talk show host) teaches 10th-grade English at Northeast Philadelphia High School (Home of the Vikings), a huge comprehensive high school in the Northeast section of Philadelphia (go figure).

After teaching part time for a semester at an Orthodox Jewish school and full time for a semester at a high school in Southeast Philadelphia (simultaneously), I was once a new (and still very inexperienced) teacher at a huge comprehensive high school in Philadelphia’s Northeast section.  I walked into a classroom as a white chick from someplace else with an ideal of making the world a better place.  I got back suspicion, attitude, and eventually respect.  And I now teach at a large comprehensive high school named after a compass point and with sports teams called the Vikings (though two counties West of Northeast Philadelphia High School.)

I want to watch it happen to Tony Danza.  Because I was him, only younger and female.  Because I feel like I know those kids, despite being separated by fifteen years and thirty miles.  Because even though he’s at a different school than I was (there are nearly 30 high schools in Philadelphia) and I was never an actor and never won an Emmy, I remember the feeling of responsibility, of terror, and eventually of triumph.

I’m curious about what they will show outside of the classroom.  Mornings sitting in the bathroom feeling sick?  Crying at night?  Mountains of papers to grade, piles of IEP’s to read and obey,  administrators quick to criticize?

Will they show disobedient kids mouthing off or threatening Danza?  Will anyone scream in Danza’s face that he’s an f***ing nut?  Will all the kids even show up to class?  Will they make fun of him behind his back and mimic him in mocking tones?  Or will the cameras change the behavior of the kids (and administrators)?

I have to stay awake!


Wow.  Right off the bat, first day, Danza gets scolded by an administrator for not signing in on time.  When I taught in Philadelphia some administrators were notorious for watching the clock and checking the sign-in sheets.

I liked that he had a “Do Now” on the board when the kids came into class.  It didn’t look like anyone did the “Do Now,” however.

Good job with “the bell doesn’t dismiss you, I dismiss you.”

I love that a kid predicts that Danza will wind up “flipping out.”

I hope that he didn’t bump out some other teacher as assistant football coach.  That seems unfair.

I’m recognizing the self-doubt.  “I don’t know if I can do this.”  “You think you know so much and then you find out you don’t know nothin’.”

I was sorry for the teacher stuck in there observing Danza.  According to state law there must be a certificated teacher in a classroom, which is why student teachers can’t be alone in a classroom and why sometimes I’ve been assigned “coverage” in my school’s testing room for kids with IEPs…while there is a full-time aide, she doesn’t have a teaching certificate.

“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had.”

I could really feel it when Danza commented on the pressure: from parents, kids, administrators, and himself.

They still use chalk at Northeast High School as of last year.

2 Responses to “Teach”

  1. Doris Says:

    I knew you had a rough beginning, and I was so proud of you when you kept at it. That school was lucky to have you. And, I’m sorry that I don’t know the jargon, but what does IEP stand for?

  2. teawithbuzz Says:

    An IEP is an indivdualized education program and is for kids who have learning difficulties and might need more time on tests, seats at the front of the classroom, and other accommodations. I believe that all kids deserve a turn sitting in the front of the classroom, so I hate when that comes up on an IEP – it means a kid gets the seat all year instead of just for one or two quarters. In general aggressive parents can get more accommodations for their kids. At the same time, kids who might need an IEP but have a parent who doesn’t have the resources to have the kid tested (and whose school for whatever reason hasn’t suspected the kid needs one) might not have all the help they need to succeed. Interestingly, I find the kids with IEP’s often have the best study skills and are most conscientious about doing homework. They get taught study skills explicitly and theie caseworker and parent both check up on their homework frequently.

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