I recorded the first episode of Tony Danza's reality show on A&E but I haven't had the chance to watch it yet. Called Teach:Tony Danza, the premise is that Danza teaches one section of high school English to 26 students at a school in Philadelphia. What teacher could resist watching at least one episode?
This morning at the farmer's market we ran into some parents of former students, along with a relative of theirs who also works at one of our district middle schools. "Have you seen Tony Danza's show?" she asked. When I told her that I have it recorded, she said "I won't ruin it for you, but the guy has one class of 26, with another teacher in the room with him, and they make him cry in the first episode!"
The non-teacher in our group said, "That's good, right? It shows how hard teaching is." Not having seen the show, I hope he's right that it shows teaching can be tough rather than Tony Danza can be lame, but my reservations are a little more serious than that. I've read a bit about Danza's press junket to support the show, and it sounds like he is highly supportive of teachers and the complexity of the job we do. That represents a departure from the majority of other public voices recently heard on teaching and schools.
NBC and other high-profile media organizations have been paying a lot of attention to public education lately, inviting philanthropists, politicians, chancellors, and bureaucrats to speak about what the "problems" are. Notably absent? The voices of teachers... but don't worry: an actor who by most measures is a bit down in his career and taught one class for one school year is evidently a more than legitimate spokesperson for our profession. Just ask Oprah.