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January 2011



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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 10th 2010


Tony Danza was one of my favorite actors on the comedy television shows, Taxi and Who’s The Boss. Now, he is on television again but the role he is playing has little to do with entertainment. The new show is called, “Teach: Tony Danza.” In it he is a real teacher of English in an urban Philadelphia High School. I can report that, having been a High School teacher for twenty yeas, this is reality television at its best. The reason for this opinion is that, finally, there is a program that accurately demonstrates what the classroom is really like in all of our urban High Schools. Adding to the grit of the program is that Mr. Danza is a new teacher who is closely supervised and struggles daily with very difficult students.


To his credit, Mr. Danza takes full responsibility for poor teaching when half of his class scores low on quizzes. Accurately demonstrating what most new teachers experience, he tries to find ways of teaching that will help his students learn and perform well while not being bored. Having grown up in a tough neighborhood when he was young, and having been a difficult and challenging student himself, Mr. Danza understands the poor motivation of many of his students and has an understanding of them that only similar experience can help someone really know what it is like for High School teenagers.


Typical of classrooms throughout the United States, Mr. Danza has, in the same classroom, kids who are intellectually gifted, others who are in special education and others who are average of below. One of the gifted kids complains that the class is too slow for him while others complain that they do not understand what they are reading. Peppered throughout the room are those who sit and stare with bored, glazed-over eyes, demonstrating to total lack of interest. In fact, some of them hold a sarcastic smirk, as though to say, “Ha, I dare you to teach me anything.” Some of them yawn and one can be seen tossing her cell phone into her pocket book.


This is truly reality. I know. I was there and remember what it felt like to try to “row against the current” when I was teaching.


One of the features of education in the United States today, that is a strong under current of the program, is that the success or failure of the students are the responsibility of the teachers. One administrators lectures Mr. Danza that he “cannot call himself a teacher until he has taught something.”


In contrast to this American attitude towards teaching and learning, people living in nations like India, China and elsewhere, the burden of responsibility for learning and succeeding in school is placed squarely on the students and their families. In other words, “If my son fails a subject, it is his fault and mine, as well.


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