Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teaching is hard, Mr. Danza

In my quest to provide more REAL content for my blog, I've been reading a number of new sources and really trying to write about topics that inspire me, good or bad so that my blog isn't just another 'inspiration rerun' gallery.

One of the blogs I have been following, after finding it on blogs of note, is Daydream Believer....where Jamie writes about being a newlywed, funny stuff she experiences, and gives commentary on a few choice #totallycrappybutiwatchthemtoo reality shows.

I was totally inspired by her reviews of awesome shows like the bachelorette and bachelor pad to write my own review of the recent season premier of Tony Danza on Teach on A&E. I was planning to get into this show, but the premiere was re-aired this Sunday morning before football started and there wasn't much else on T.V. so I decided to give it a shot.

Let me just say that I think his initial idea to go into the classroom in order to inspire kids and adults to become teachers is pretty great. The show is pretty great, I just want to provide my reaction in case you have watched it and you want to discuss...be warned, there are some spoilers in this blog post.

First of all, let me just say that it was 37 degrees this morning, after an extremely long and hot summer, happily woke up and made biscuits from scratch (don't be too impressed, they were tasteless, yellow hockey pucks...it was my first time to make them since jr. high home ec...so I must've missed something) and dragged out my crochet project from last winter and I was working on my single crotchet skills while watching Tony, Teach.

Tony arrives at the inner city school in Philadelphia with such enthusiasum, as most first year teachers do, he was excited and nervous. Watching him set up his classroom and begin preparations for his first class, he gets called to the office where a member of the office staff berates him for not arriving at 7:38, as was expected...but 7:51 to sign his registration paperwork. She goes on to make him even more flustered when she suggests that he put on his glasses so he can see to sign his name.

This totally cracked me up.

I went on to the messages boards for the show to see what people were saying about this and people were totally appalled that he was getting treated so badly for not knowing what to do after he had gone through orientation, he clearly should have known about this expectation. I didn't really feel sorry for Mr. Danza at this point...he SHOULD have known and taken full responsibility for what was expected of him. Being a first year teacher is not easy and there isn't someone to hold your hand and tell you where and when to be, you have to be organized and KNOW what to do or else you just won't make it.

Then he sits outside the principal's office for a few minutes before getting called in to discuss why he decided to do this whole production in the first place.

The principal listens to his reasoning and explains that she is concerned with the learning of the students, first and foremost. Tony gets a little teared up by the end of their meeting, the realization starts to sink in that he is RESPONSIBLE for their learning, not just inspiring them. Sitting in front of the principal is very intimidating, I still get nervous and I have been a teacher for 5 years! I think I would definitely cry if I didn't think my boss believed in me.

The show gives us glimpses into what the kids are saying in the halls and at lunch about having Mr. Danza as their teacher, most of the have either never heard of him or they looked him up and aren't really too impressed. A few are excited, but I get the feeling that they just want him to be an easy class and they don't have much respect for his knowledge, credibility or skills.

Mr. Danza's name on the board looks like a gorgeous autograph and I am totally jealous of kids that get to have their homework graded and signed by him! That is so cool.

When the kids start walking in, he first has them sanitize their hands. The students immediately classify him as a Hollywood germ-o-phobe...and so did I....I mean, he wants to shake their hands, but only if they sanitize...kids are gross? REALLY? REALLY? (You don't have to tell me that, I got puked on the second day of school this year and I deal with lots of pee and snot, yes kids are gross).

Tony starts his class out by giving a speech and then lets the students ask questions. At one point in the questioning, a girl asks if he is nervous and he says something like yes, I am more scared than I have ever been in my entire life. She points out his sweat stains and suggests that he needs to wear an undershirt. Hahaha. Poor Mr. Danza. Welcome to the school of hard knocks. You are not the popular favorite teacher just because, yes you are a millionaire...you have to be able to take a few punches and keep getting up...you have to build a relationship with your students and you have to know your content if you are going to be successful.

I taught high school art appreciation and there were two kinds of students that freaked me out the most. One was the teenage girl that pointed out every flaw (and sometimes sat in the back of the room saying things just under her breath so that her friends could hear but it would be too disruptive to call her out so it was something I just had to ignore) and totally made me feel so flustered when I was giving a speech about boring awesome Ancient Mesopotamian art that I would stumble over words that I wasn't sure how to pronounce them correctly anyway. Second, is the kid that is smarter than me. He knows it, I know it and everyone else knows it. This type of student can be the most damaging for a teacher's credibility early in the semester, it is hard to gain respect with a kid like this because they will always show you up, even if they aren't trying to.

A little while into the show, Mr. Danza is proven wrong by the smart kid. And he totally feels like a failure. I have been there too, Mr. Danza....we all have. The mouthy teenage girl and the super smart boy won't respect you until you have the football players' respect...and the football players won't respect you until you can prove yourself....which you have to do by being smarter than the smart kid and cooler than the mouthy girl...

After his class leaves, he immediately sits down with a curriculum coach. If you are wondering how Mr. Danza can just 'be a teacher' keep in mind that if a person has a bachelor's degree, they can usually teach for a limited amount of time with a provisional license as long as they meet some additional criteria for teaching. I am sure that this coach is part of the conditions he has to meet for being 'qualified' to conduct class.

I was a little baffled by the fact that he ONLY HAS ONE CLASS for 47 minutes a day...WHAT THE (&%(#&(W&#?

MR. DANZA, if you are really going to cry after only ONE class....seriously...You have no idea what it feels like to have 7 or 8 classes just like that, every single day, along with a 40 minute lunch duty, 12 minutes to scarf down your own lunch then have to sit through a faculty meeting about differentiated instruction after which you are expected to write a reflection and turn it into your principal...by the end of the week with strategies on how you will implement new strategies of D.I. in all of your classes, while also conducting unpaid-after-school-tutoring 2-3 times a week and then head off to some sporting or extra curricular event (oh yeah and did I mention, you need to have all your copies made, grades done and written lesson plans on your desk every day before you leave???)  Just sayin'. Ha.

Mr. Danza....you are going to have a hard time encouraging people to go into teacher. This episode is only a tip of the iceberg of the amount of pressure and stress that is put on to teachers. He hasn't experienced teaching through laryngitis, waking up sick and having to go to school at 6:00 a.m. to prepare for a sub, or sending a kid to the office for being downright disrespectful and insubordinate in front of the entire class.

As for the rest of the episode, he assists with football, even though he knows nothing about it (and doesn't really impress the kids with another of his lengthy, pointless speeches) and he goes to a football game where most of the parents are actually in the nearly empty stands and he gets a chance to meet them and talk to them...WOW...he is lucky to get to meet them so early in the year (the first week?!) and they are involved in their kids' education...he already has a leg up with this ONE class because the parents DO care...He would be shocked to find that many parents aren't so involved!

I am excited to watch more of this show and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments if you have seen it too. The next episode is on next Friday so I am looking forward to seeing Mr. Danza cry some more about how hard it is to be a teacher. YEAH IT IS HARD!


Kate said...

I haven't seen it (we only have the most basic of basic cable), but I would love for him to not only inspire his students but also to show (perhaps unintentionally) all those other people who think teachers are talentless and overpaid just how challenging our job really is.

Hanni Puglia said...

This is hilarious! I stumbled onto your blog somehow & can totally relate to all of your teaching experiences... As I, too, am an art teacher. Your observations about the mouthy teenage girl & super smart boy made me laugh because I know EXACTLY the type you are referring to as well as how it feels. You almost feel like you are back in high school yourself with all the same insecurities. And as cool & confident as you try to be... If feels as though they can see right through you. My favorite students are Jr. High aged for that reason... The kids are so insecure themselves, I come across as UBER secure in my 32 years of life. Ha! They seem to be quite easily humbled & frightened into submission. Thanks for sharing your experiences... I think I'll check back in again sometime!