Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Classroom Reality

As a retired teacher (33 years in all sizes of classrooms in three different schools), I am not impressed with the new series: Teach - Tony Danza. In fact, as a professional educator, I am insulted by this "reality" series. The show gives the impression that anyone can teach, and that is simply not true.

Danza says that he considered being a teacher several years ago when he attended college, but he "went down a different path." In my opinion, he should have stayed on that path. His background in education was not addressed in the pilot, but if it was Language Arts/English, the subject he is teaching in this reality series, he has forgotten a lot of the information.  

Perhaps, I am more critical of his efforts in the classroom because I was an English teacher. I cringed when Danza had to read the definition of "omniscient" from the textbook rather than actually explain it to the students and when he presented the lesson on story elements. Another time, a student answered a question which Danza declared incorrect. When the class stared in silence (a very pregnant silence), Danza was clearly puzzled and hesitantly stated the student was correct. Even when the observer/mentor explained the boy's answer to Danza after class, I don't think Danza understood why the student was correct.

The interviews with the students and with Danza are candid, and I applaud that aspect of this show. The students quickly identify that Danza is nervous and is performing rather than teaching. 

It appears that Danza has only one class in this reality series. If that is correct, then the series is anything but realistic. In most schools, true teachers prepare and present lessons to a minimum of six classes, resulting in nearly 100 students a day in an average school. The work load is immense, especially for an English teacher who must grade lengthy essays, and at times it is nearly overwhelming.  

I remember very well my first year of teaching. Even though I took several semesters of education classes and completed a semester of student teaching, I was scared to death. It appears, however, that Danza did not have any training and just jumped in to the role. I am glad a teacher is monitoring the classroom to mentor Danza and reviews notes and suggestions on the lessons after the class departs.

Danza may grow into this role and become more comfortable, but are the students actually reaching the standards and not wasting a semester. With the recent emphasis on education and excellence, I am not sure this was the appropriate time to produce and to air Teach - Tony Danza. 

I hope viewers of this reality show realize teaching is difficult work, both physically and mentally. Teachers work long after the school day ends - grading papers, preparing lessons, sponsoring school activities - often for inadequate salaries.

Teaching is a passion not a career. I don't think many people realize that fact, and I'm not sure it will be covered in this contrived reality show. 


  1. I somehow missed hearing about this show, but from your description, I don't think I'll be watching.

    Your passion for teaching is still evident. I would have loved being a student in one of your classes.

    Teachers who love to teach are a blessing to all of us.

  2. I have not seen this show (actually didn't even know about it until your post) but AMEN! Most don't realize appreciate the time and effort that most teachers put into the job. I taught K-1 for 20 years. Teaching reading is really a joy, but the stresses (mostly from parents who pamper their children to death) helped me decide to retire when I could... and I was in a very GOOD school situation. I can't imagine what it must be like in the very large city schools.


  3. You are so right. If it were a career, rather than a passion, we would not do it for the $$ we get. I have been teaching for 15 years and feel the same way.

  4. TV shows are for mass appeal, not reality. Do you remember the HGTV show (?? or another similar) where they remade a sewing room? Many of us eagerly looked forward to it, hoping for our own miracles with new ideas. My gosh, it was so totally unrealistic, but I'm sure the TV audience who were NOT sewists, thought it was great. I seem to remember the ironing board set up (permanently) backwards, or something similar equally ridiculous.

  5. I have not doubt that you were a great teacher and you still are:) However, not all teachers are there for the same reason. It is the same in all walks of life...the good and the bad. Most TV shows are full of hot air and not worth watching in my opinion.

  6. I haven't watched the show, but I do agree with you on how hard teachers work. It is a VERY hard job, and we also are social workers and other jobs along with the teaching, as well as doing bus duty, cafeteria duty, etc.
    I loved the cases for the quilts you made and I was amazed by the sweater textile collection the other day. I also enjoyed your photo on friday & will be looking forward to more Foreign Fridays.

  7. Nancy, this was an excellent post! As you are well aware, I am currently nine weeks into my first year of teaching. Too many people think this job is easy and make fun of teachers for not having to work through the summers. Shoot. We're all sleeping off the 70-80 hour work weeks we put in during the rest of the year...with very little vacation time in between!!

    Thanks again!!


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