|Who's the Teach?|
Since my jaw decided to be a jerk Tuesday, I spent a little time in front of the television. I tried to be productive during the first part of the day and largely succeeded as I read a hefty portion of a book I've been meaning to tackle. Eventually, when I turned on the TV, I saw this new A&E show called Teach: Tony Danza. And I'm conflicted.
Tony Danza is an older gentleman who was a well-known actor back in my formative years whose star has fallen a bit recently. He's best known for his role on a show called Taxi and his own starring vehicle called Who's the Boss: in both shows he played characters named Tony, which has been a bit of a running joke about the guy for his entire career. He may not be good at responding to names other than his own. This A&E reality show focuses on Danza taking a job as a 10th grade English teacher in urban Philadelphia. While this sounds like a horrible SNL joke, it's real, and the opening of the show tries to immediately cut down criticism by noting that the titular figure originally went to school and earned a bachelor's degree in History with an intent to become a teacher. There's good and bad that goes along with the show, so I'd prefer to break it down that way.
- None of the particulars are laid out to the audience. From what I can gather, Danza has one class of 26 students, all of whom volunteered for or asked to be in the class, along with a "teaching instructor" who has the job of monitoring him all day, every day. This means that Danza is really more of a student teacher. That's probably in the best interest of the students, but it doesn't really explore the reality of the profession, especially that of an urban high school.
- Some of the administrators are incredibly condescending towards Danza. On the first day of school, Danza forgets to sign in and an assistant principal chastises him loudly in front of students and other teachers, going so far as to emasculate him by ordering him to stop being vain and put on his glasses to sign on the correct line. People are people and none of them are perfect, and despite any problems I've ever had with an administrator, and, granted, I've had very few, none has ever been so unprofessional as to berate me in front of students or colleagues. This is probably more of a problem with this particular school and that particular administrator. It's possible that she didn't appreciate the idea of an actor making a reality show mockery of a school she adores. Either way, it made Danza look incompetent, her look mean and the school look bad.
- The guy cares. At one point his instructional coach asks if Tony has cried yet today at which point he breaks down. He cries three to four times in the first episode alone, and nothing about his tears feels disingenuous. Trust me, I've seen plenty of episodes of Who's the Boss? and Tony Danza is not that great of an actor.
- However, what the show gets right is that caring isn't enough. Tony's good intentions aren't enough to make him a good teacher. It takes experience and failure before a person can start to learn how to teach effectively, let alone well. I still feel like I need to be vigilant in making sure that I don't become complacent as a teacher. The students think Tony's first test isn't fair and feel that he grades it too harshly. However, his first instinct is to blame it on the students not reading. Like most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. After six years as a teacher at ALHS and two years prior to that as a sub, I'm still getting the hang of making sure that any assessment I utilize works well and truly gives me an idea how much or if students learn to be critical thinkers. The show showcases this idea remarkably well.
- My favorite parts of the show are the interviews with the students. They give completely honest opinions about Tony, and so far those reviews are rarely glowing. It makes me wonder what my students think of me, or what they thought of me when I was starting out. I know I'm better at my job now than I was when I started and would like to think that those kids from the past would benefit from what I've learned in the years since they were first in my class.
- In a tumultuous time in education, when so many people are Waiting for Superman, it's nice to see a show dealing with education that doesn't make it, the institution or the people running the show out to be such abject failures. Sometimes, teachers do a good job, even the new and inexperienced ones who are having their hands held. I appreciate that most of all.
Friday, we moved forward.
Today, we finished off the Elements of Theme notes. Please keep in mind the theme statement checklist. You'll be incorporating a new section to the fourth Outside Reading Update, which is due this Friday. This new section will be worth ten points and require you to create a theme statement for the book you cover for the update.
Today and Friday, we worked on creating level questions and converting those level questions into viable theme statements. I also increased the value of the CD Creation assignment to 150 points, the breakdown of which can now be found here.
I love when my classes feel serendipitous.
This week, I'd also like to extend the excitement for Brocktober 23 by posting reasons why I think Brock Lesnar is awesome. Back when he was in the WWE and was training to look as intimidating as possible instead of to become a human wrecking machine, the wrestling company released this video in anticipation of his Summerslam match with The Rock. Please note that at the one minute mark how he starts to modify his push-up routine because he was tired of the ground getting in the way.