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April 2, 2010 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Actor Tony Danza is teaching 10th grade English, for a year, in Philadelphia. What started as yet another reality TV show idea for A&E Network (purveyor of A&E Classroom), has become something more, or less, depending on your POV.
posted by paulsc (67 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
anyone wanna see a picture of tony danza when he was younger and uncut?
posted by Espoo2 at 5:36 PM on April 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


The "something more" link just describes a TV show. Unless you mean this:
Temple University psychology professor Frank Farley says the popularity of Danza could get more people talking about the conditions of inner-city schools.
Back in my day, people learned about the conditions of inner-city schools from fictional TV, like Head of the Class.
posted by DU at 5:48 PM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Teach For America keeps trying to get me to apply, this seems like TFA time a million for some reason. Does he get an americorps allowance after his year?
posted by djduckie at 5:48 PM on April 2, 2010


Well that's one way for schools to meet their budgets.
posted by amethysts at 5:48 PM on April 2, 2010


God help any girl in his class named Angela.
posted by contessa at 5:52 PM on April 2, 2010 [16 favorites]


I don't think we know enough about this to pass judgement.

Anything that brings some attention to education could be a good thing. Things are rough now for schools, teachers, and students.. humanizing it a bit could be helpful.

Again, we don't know enough, and I don't know Danza enough to decide if this should or shouldn't happen..

Interesting concept, if it goes through, I hope everyone benefits from it.
posted by HuronBob at 5:55 PM on April 2, 2010


anyone wanna see a picture of tony danza when he was younger and uncut?

Seen it. Has he gotten circumstanced since? I had my life changed by some HS english teachers, so good on him. Schools are in a bad place now.
posted by The Whelk at 6:05 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Others are concerned that students would become mere props for light entertainment."

Generally, that role is reserved for teachers of college freshman.
posted by mecran01 at 6:12 PM on April 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't think we know enough about this to pass judgement.

Well, he seems to have an education degree (though not teaching certificate) and, most importantly, he seems to care. I say good on him.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:17 PM on April 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Personally, I think this is genius. You tell the average person there's a great show about what it's like to be a first year teacher in the Philadelphia school system and they're not going to watch it. They're going to go out of their way to avoid a show like that.

But tell that same person there's a great show about Tony Danza teaching in Philly but does a surprisingly good job of showing what it's like to be a first year teacher in the Philadelphia school system and so you've really got to see it, and they'll tune in.

Ok, talk to you later,
posted by turaho at 6:24 PM on April 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ok, talk to you later,

Bye!
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:29 PM on April 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


Has he gotten circumstanced since? I had my life changed by some HS english teachers, so good on him.

Personally, I would have started a new paragraph between those two sentences.
posted by crossoverman at 6:42 PM on April 2, 2010 [55 favorites]


I've heard that Philly has a terrible retention rate for high school teachers. From my understanding, the schools are filled with Americorps volunteers or fresh-out-of-college kids teaching, and they find the system frustrating and unsupportive. If turaho is correct and Tony Danza's experience reflects that and the program brings to light these issues, I think this has the potential to help remedy the system.
posted by piratebowling at 6:42 PM on April 2, 2010


Oh, forgot to add:

FUCK YEAH, PHILLY! WOOOO!
posted by piratebowling at 6:42 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had absolutely THE BEST teacher on the planet for 10th grade English. We read King Lear and Strunk and White and Nine Stories and A Tale of Two Cities; we memorized different poems--from "Phenomenal Woman" to "Those Winter Sundays" to an excerpt from "The Waste Land"--and interpreted and recited them for the class; we channeled our adolescent fervor into formal debates ("Most Powerful Emotion: Love or Hate?," "Better Word: Jocose or Jejune?"); we learned to care about words and the great and terrible and maybe worse--boring--things you can do with them. It was the hardest I ever worked--harder than college, harder than law school--and I learned more that year than any year since. I wish every kid got a year with The Grammar Queen. Danza may be the boss, but he's no Mrs. M.
posted by sallybrown at 6:51 PM on April 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


After attending a taping of his short-lived talk show and seeing how he interacts with people, I think Tony Danza could be a very good teacher.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:01 PM on April 2, 2010


but does a surprisingly good job of showing what it's like to be a first year teacher in the Philadelphia school system

Except for the part where Danza teaches one section a day, not six or seven.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:07 PM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ay oh, oh ay!
posted by Doug Stewart at 7:09 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


(jejune, obviously)
posted by sriracha at 7:18 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Personally, I would have started a new paragraph between those two sentences.

No kidding. I really, really thought all the way up to the end of it that the next sentence was going to be "I had some HS English teachers that changed my life, and they too had uncircumcised cocks".
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:19 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because of HS English teachers, I allow ambiguity into readings.
posted by The Whelk at 7:23 PM on April 2, 2010


I don't know, it seems like they should have gotten a native English speaker for the job.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:32 PM on April 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hold me closer.
posted by sourwookie at 7:34 PM on April 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


"The "something more" link just describes a TV show. ..."
posted by DU at 8:48 PM on April 2

And it relates that:
"The TV production company has offered the School District a chance to respond to each episode during the editing process."
Which might decrease the cinéma vérité aspect of the series, but open some fascinating new doors for Philly politicians, school board members, administrators, other teachers, parents and students, to further comment on what Danza is doing, or, by their lights, failing to do in the classroom. Heck, I could even see Dr. Cosby elbowing in to throw down.
posted by paulsc at 7:38 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hate Danza. A long time ago, he was shooting a movie in front of my artists loft, which was annoying enough, but then my gf and I were in bed early in the morning, and then suddenly there's this "BANG.. BANG.. BANG" on my bedroom window. And we're on the second floor. I go to the window to check it out, and there's Danza on the sidewalk with a basketball, shooting imaginary hoops with my bedroom window as the backboard. I thought he was going to smash the flimsy plexiglass window right out of the frame. So I opened it up and yelled at him to stop. Here is a rough script of what happened:

C: Hey, what the hell are you doing? Stop it!!
Danza: What? What are you doing here?
C: I live here. Now stop that and go away!
D: What are you doing living here?
C: What does it matter? Stop doing that and fuck off!! (slams window shut)

Danza is such a typical Hollywood asshole, he acted like I was annoying him by interrupting his basketball practice, and he was entitled do do whatever the fuck he wanted because he was a star.
Knowing that little bit about Danza, I can just imagine how his role as teacher is going to go.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:46 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


WAIT!

no link to the pic?

heh.
posted by liza at 7:49 PM on April 2, 2010


Charlie, I bet he was as shocked as you, probably thinking that the area was all cleared as part of the set.

Though his failure to apologize does point to asshole tendencies.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 7:52 PM on April 2, 2010


NEHS class of 1979 here. He cannot possible be worse than the teachers I had. Still, this is crap.
posted by fixedgear at 8:08 PM on April 2, 2010


As the less link notes, whatever his experience, it will be far from normal. Kids in high school are weird, but not dumb. The kids have to volunteer to be in this class, so the kids who don't care will be weeded out, as will as those whose parents don't them on TV. There will be more class clowns, know-it-alls, and kids striving to look good than in a real class. They'll be well behaved, unless they are trying to pull TV-worthy stunts. And will Danza be seen grading homework after school, at his home, or writing tests? Dealing with parents, before school teacher meetings and the administration? And what if he has an idea to shake up the class or school a bit? Will he get the same treatment as other first year teachers? It may be more insight into teaching than most folks get, but it'll be as real as any other staged "reality" show - not scripted, but edited and altered because the participants know they're being filmed. Hopefully it will do some good.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:08 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


NOTICE

In order to avoid confusion, all students and faculty are to refer to Mr. Danza as "Tony."
posted by Sys Rq at 8:45 PM on April 2, 2010


I hate Danza. A long time ago, he was shooting a movie in front of my artists loft

That fragment is a story in itself.
posted by mecran01 at 8:48 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Danza may be the boss, but he's no Mrs. M.

But he wasn't the boss. That was the point!

(Wow. Imagine trying to pitch a show like that now. "Okay, so check this out. There's this career woman who hires a male live-in housekeeper/nanny. How crazy is that? Who is in charge?! Who knows? On the one hand she pays him a wage, but on the other hand he has a penis.")
posted by ODiV at 8:49 PM on April 2, 2010 [25 favorites]


Word is, they're already working on the British version.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:50 PM on April 2, 2010


Kids in high school are weird, but not dumb. The kids have to volunteer to be in this class, so the kids who don't care will be weeded out

Are you talking about the kids who don't want to be on every episode of a TV show? Because if you think there are a whole lot of those, then

It may be more insight into teaching than most folks get, but it'll be as real as any other staged "reality" show - not scripted, but edited and altered because the participants know they're being filmed.

Okay, yeah, then your memories of what teenagers are like are a lot different than mine. The average high school kid acts like s/he's the center of a reality show anyway.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:56 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, Sys Rq, that set looks like a replica of the American one. Weird.

On the subject of children in reality shows, I'm not sure it should be allowed. It seems like there's too much potential for abuse. Once you're 18 you can make all the shitty decisions you want.
posted by ODiV at 9:00 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Too bad the real British version already came to America.
posted by sallybrown at 9:04 PM on April 2, 2010


I am imagining his voice as he takes role:

"Eeean-tony, seee-manta, eeean-jela, jonatan, moh-na..."
posted by Palquito at 9:38 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate Danza. A long time ago, he was shooting a movie in front of my artists loft

And that's the point I stopped reading.
posted by Jimbob at 9:48 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I once housesat a pad on Malibu beach near Danza's place and hung out with him a bunch. Cool guy, loves to have a good time and seems to have an intelligent and interesting pov. I'm sure he's as flawed as me or most anybody else. Fame is definitely a drug and Tony likes to party.
posted by chaz at 10:01 PM on April 2, 2010


On the one hand she pays him a wage, but on the other hand he has a penis.

They fight crime.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:31 PM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Here's what bothers me about this: estimates of teacher retention in urban schools are as low as 50% in five years. One in two urban teachers leave the profession and almost none of them involuntarily: either they deem themselves unqualified for the job or the job turns out to be something altogether different or more extreme from what they imagined going in. The last thing prospective teachers need is a false notion of what urban teaching is perpetuated by Tony Danza teaching one section of self-selected 10th graders with a district ready to spin his classroom experience anyway they like.

Now, give me a real documentary series with real urban teachers, new and old, and I'll watch.

Also, Danza's thirty-seven year old history education degree from the University of Dubuque isn't anywhere close to sufficient preparation to teach high school English in Philadelphia in 2010. They don't appear to credential in history anymore, and its hard to know what they required in 1973, but their English Education requirements include ostensibly no coursework on the achievement gap, two general methods courses, and no courses on adolescent literacy. Even if Danza took adolescent literacy coursework in the 70s, to say that material is now outdated is a vast understament.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:49 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Trivia: Tony Danza's SAT score was 1580. He's not the dummy that he's often played on TV.
posted by dhartung at 10:59 PM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Good for him. He sounds like a caring person who dedicates himself significantly more to the task of being a good teacher than many who don't have a (guesstimated) several hundred thousand dollar per year second career to fall back into any time they like. He also seems a hell of a lot less arrogant and domineering than many teachers I remember, more than one of whom, had he found his floor dirty, would have found some excuse to make a student clean it.

Since he did a teaching degree before he became an actor, it's possible he wanted to be a teacher and thought he had some talent along those lines. Maybe the world lost a great teacher when he went into acting (and to be honest, he never became a great actor). He could update his qualifications in under a year, if he wanted to, and from the sounds of it, I wouldn't be surprised if he did.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:06 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


He's no less prepared than any of the other Teach For America/etc. kids that are thrown to the wolves with little or no support every year. If his experience raises awareness about what a well and true mess public education really is - and/or the hopeless situation of these poor, well meaning people recruited with freshly minted subject-area degrees and no training in pedagogy - then it's all to the good.
posted by absalom at 12:09 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


But tell that same person there's a great show about Tony Danza teaching in Philly but does a surprisingly good job of showing what it's like to be a first year teacher in the Philadelphia school system and so you've really got to see it, and they'll tune in.

You don't think being on TV is going to affect the kid's behavior? Probably for the better. And Danza will have access to the best help and guidance available. No one is going to want to see him fail. A real teacher won't get that much attention, and their kids won't care as much.
posted by delmoi at 12:35 AM on April 3, 2010


Back in my day, people learned about the conditions of inner-city schools from fictional TV, like Head of the Class.

In my day they learned about the conditions in inner-city schools from Welcome Back, Kotter, and we carried an onion on our belts, as was the fashion of the time.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:12 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who is in charge?!

Charles!
posted by crossoverman at 3:56 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


In my day they learned about the conditions in inner-city schools from Welcome Back, Kotter, and we carried an onion on our belts, as was the fashion of the time.

YouTube link: Gabriel Kaplan performs his disco (?) song "Up Your Nose".
posted by iviken at 5:22 AM on April 3, 2010


Appropriately enuf, I was talking with my coworkers (at a comm college in the Philly suburbs) about working in the Philly school summer programs (since we prob. won't get work at the college this summer)

My coworkers had or knew people who had taught in the Philly schools and were trying to warn me away. One of my coworkers said her kids were "throwing desks." That freaked me out a little.

Then another one of my coworkers was like, "My friend did it and almost lost her mind. The kids kept calling her white bitch."

And I was like, shit, compared to my junior high school nick, that's mild. Plus I am white, a woman, and sometimes I get my bitch on, so it's not like it would be wildly inaccurate, as sobriquets go.
posted by angrycat at 5:22 AM on April 3, 2010


The secret to learning is teaching yourself. We rely on teachers way too much. Most people think material is supposed to be spoonfed to them. The people called Great at teaching are often the ones that are the most charismatic people and they are the ones who appear to get the most support from students and parents. They're the ones who win, regardless of how great they are at actually teaching the material.
posted by anniecat at 7:54 AM on April 3, 2010


and tony danza has a great smile.
posted by anniecat at 7:59 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


anniecat: the secret to teaching is creating an environment where students feel intrinsically motivated to learn. A TV show would provide extrinsic motivation, and might help students in the short run, but won't help the kids at all if it doesn't get them to realize that education is its own reward.
posted by dogwelder at 8:06 AM on April 3, 2010


charismatic teachers motivate students better or they have a better chance at motivating students who have no motivation.

but you're the boss;)
posted by anniecat at 8:10 AM on April 3, 2010


Except for the part where Danza teaches one section a day, not six or seven.

THIS.

i think the worst part for *him* as a teacher is that the first class of the day gets the try-out. Having the same class plan four or five times in the course of a day allows you to *perfect* what it is you're doing. A one-off is useless in teaching terms, really. And it certainly doesn't allow him to understand what it's like to be a teacher, with one planning period a day, other expectations like lunch duty (a horror in and of itself), and the whirr-buzz of students around you for seven hours.

(At least where I work, teachers don't usually teach six or seven classes--they have *duties*, but not that many classes to teach.)

Teaching one class is a hobby, not a job.
posted by RedEmma at 9:37 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


[artist's loft]

"that's where I stopped reading" etc.

So I don't understand. Is it your idea that artists who live in lofts are just so contemptible that people get to throw basketballs at their windows? Or... what? I just can't see these comments as anything other than gratuitous rudeness.

Perhaps you have the impression that artists living in lofts are rich trust fund kids? Let me assure you that very often they are not - that the reason artists move into industrial spaces is generally because they in fact do not have the money to get regular living spaces.

I fail to understand the endless hatred for young artists and "hipsters" that is regularly and casually expressed here. If similar attitudes were expressed about people of colour or homosexuals, those posts would be flagged and banned in seconds.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:25 AM on April 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think Jimbob was just illustrating how to be a dick, lupus.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 AM on April 3, 2010


The students in his class were handpicked for personality and also for diversity.

Um.

Can we stop pretending he's a real teacher now?
posted by desuetude at 10:54 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's no less prepared than any of the other Teach For America/etc. kids that are thrown to the wolves with little or no support every year.

On the contrary: TFAers are given training in teacher leadership, classroom management, adolescent literacy and the achievement gap, subjects rarely addressed by traditional teacher education programs (and certainly weren't in the 70s) and which many programs are now looking to emulate. I agree that TFA doesn't do enough training, but at least it's up-to-date and relevant to urban education - unlike most of the theorizing that floats around your average ed school.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:27 PM on April 3, 2010


My mom taught English as a second language at Northeast High for several years, near the end of her career, and unfortunately retiring just before Danza showed up to do this show (damnit!!) She's gotten reports from her colleagues there that he's a super sweet guy, proudly showing off pics of his grandkid and such.

Mom would regularly share stories about her days there, as well as other Philly schools where she taught over 17 or so years. She's been spit on, kicked, punched in the face, and called every name in the book by students. She's heard every sort of horror story about their home lives. Several of her fellow teachers fled to schools in the burbs (or left teaching completely) after one or a few years. Maybe my mom is slightly crazy, but she speaks of her teaching years in the district with great fondness. She did have a ton of great kids too, and worked with some good people, and that's the main reason for her fond memories, but man. I know I couldn't hack it.

Anyway, I'm looking forwarding to checking out this show.
posted by medeine at 12:45 PM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


If Tony goes through with this and goes about it like a real teacher, it's going to be the toughest job of his life. Yep, including his boxing career.

I hope they show MANY scenes of him getting pissed at the film crew because he's busy planning, grading papers and hasn't slept in days because he's worried about X who's right on the cusp.
posted by snsranch at 3:28 PM on April 3, 2010


student X, that is.
posted by snsranch at 3:29 PM on April 3, 2010


*awaits the inevitable Danza-something-something Tumblr image blog*
posted by acb at 4:58 PM on April 3, 2010


And yes, Danza is swimming in paperwork -- student work, interim reports, you name it.

No. Swimming in paperwork would be taking all that stuff for 170 students, not 26.

I suppose that the district, production company, and yeah, probably Danza, were all worried about what would happen if it didn't work out and sought to control the damages if worst came to worst.

I wish him, and the district, all the luck in the world. I kind of think he should look into getting the certificate and trying it for realz next year.... with 6 class sections.
posted by Doohickie at 9:14 PM on April 3, 2010


medeine- Your mom sounds a lot like my wife.
posted by Doohickie at 9:16 PM on April 3, 2010


[artist's loft]

"that's where I stopped reading" etc.

So I don't understand. Is it your idea that artists who live in lofts are just so contemptible that people get to throw basketballs at their windows? Or... what? I just can't see these comments as anything other than gratuitous rudeness.


No, I think it's the casual reference to it being an artist's loft, as though that was somehow relevant, rather than just an attempt to drop in some special snowflakiness. Like a "lawyer's upscale condo", or a "teacher's suburban house". Do those phrases sound laughable? Yeah, they do. So does "artist's loft".
posted by modernnomad at 12:43 PM on April 4, 2010


No, I think it's the casual reference to it being an artist's loft, as though that was somehow relevant..

It is only relevant in the sense that an artist's loft is a decrepit industrial building 2 blocks from skid row, rather than a tony Loft-conversion condo in a gentrified section of town. The sole word "loft" would not have conveyed that blatant difference. Geddit? Get over it. You went out of your way to misconstrue that.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:12 PM on April 4, 2010


all these comments, and not one link to The Daily Danza? It's been my favorite celebrity video-blog for some time now.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:52 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


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