I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had is television, screen and stage star Tony Danza’s absorbing account of a year spent teaching tenth-grade English at Northeast High -- Philadelphia’s largest high school with 3600 students.
Entering Northeast’s crowded halls in September of 2009, Tony found his way to a classroom filled with twenty-six students who were determined not to cut him any slack. They cared nothing about “Mr. Danza’s” showbiz credentials, and they immediately put him on the hot seat.
Featuring indelible portraits of students and teachers alike, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had reveals just how hard it is to keep today’s technologically savvy – and often alienated -- students engaged, how impressively committed most teachers are, and the outsized role counseling plays in a teacher’s day, given the psychological burdens many students carry. The book also makes vivid how a modern high school works, showing Tony in a myriad of roles – from lecturing on To Kill a Mockingbird to “coaching” the football team to organizing a talent show to leading far-flung field trips to hosting teacher gripe sessions.
A surprisingly poignant account, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny but is mostly filled with hard-won wisdom and feel-good tears.
In this endearing memoir, Danza defies expectations by embracing his Taxi and Who's the Boss personae with self-deprecating humor and a deep appreciation for his new role as a 10th grade English teacher at Philadelphia's Northeast High School. With refreshing honesty, Danza recalls how the lows of his TV talk show getting canceled combined with his marital troubles propelled him to fulfill his long-lost desire to teach. The award-winning actor, with altruistic goals, reluctantly joins forces with A&E television to make his vision a reality and a reality television show. The kids in Danza's classroom seem to fit every stereotype of modern students, but the earnestness with which Danza approaches his year in high school is engaging. Throughout, the reader learns about Danza's commitment via his attempts to reach each student and to help them work through anger, parental problems, and social upheavals. He lucidly explains the plight of his students and his attempts to engage them with Shakespearean sonnets that may seem irrelevant to them and classic novels (Of Mice and Men; To Kill a Mockingbird). Danza's writing style is accessible to a wide audience, and while there might be a bit of the jocular boss left in him, he provides insights into a teacher's daily life.
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I didn’t expect to me moved to tears!😳
I’d like to apologize to every teacher I ever had.
I was so impressed with this book and grateful that Tony Danza completed the year teaching and went on to document his experience. My husband and I used to be loyal watchers of reality TV shows, but we finally became disillusioned with the “drama” and the fighting that was consistently portrayed (and invented). We actually have now turned the TV off and are enjoying reading during the evenings. The positive result of our action is that we both enjoyed this book.
I really wish the production team had had the gusts and foresight to show the program as it took place. This was the real drama and reality that both the teachers and students would have been proud of. We would have been waiting each week to see the next showing.
Mr. Danza should be very proud of his accomplishment. I was so impressed by his imagination, empathy and insight regarding his classroom skills. As a result, we have suggested this book to so many people, including teachers and even a school superintendent. Good work - and thank you to the teachers that so richly deserve recognition for their service.
I Never Liked Tony Danza
That's true. I never liked Tony Danza, the actor. I never cared for phony showmen or over-the-top performers, a category into which I put Tony Danza. When my dear friend gave me Danza's book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had," I groaned inside when I noticed the author's name. And then I started reading the book. It was one of those books I simply could not put down.
Like Mr. Danza, I changed careers. I became a teacher. I've been at it in varying forms for a few years now. What mesmerized me about Mr. Danza's story is that I experienced almost every single thing that he did, albeit in different forms. I saw elements of my students in Mr. Danza's students. The parallels were validating, exciting, and sometimes painful. Teachers do not often get the chance to work with each other. They might talk in the hallways or over lunch, but they rarely show each other their craft. When I saw my own experiences reflected in Mr. Danza's classroom, I knew two things: 1) he was writing from his heart; and 2) our current student culture spans the entire continent.
My hope for those who read Danza's book is that they become exposed to the new reality of our schools. For those of us who remember teachers who were automatically granted authority, for those of us who remember principals actually paddling misbehaving students, for those of us who thought acting out was not standing quietly in a straight line before entering the classroom, this book is an eye-opener to today's world of education.
Teachers no longer have authority or power as we knew it. Slowly, that power has been eroded and chipped away by lawsuits that appropriately punished those who abused their authority in one way or another. Parents no longer swarm the schools for Parent-Teacher conferences, and some parents openly advocate defying the minimal school rules that remain. Danza points out correctly that the few Eddie Haskells we used to have in each classroom--the class clown troublemakers--have been put on steroids, have become far more aggressive, and have multiplied to become a large proportion of each class (sometimes half the class).
Perhaps most importantly, as Mr. Danza pointed out, students arrive at school expecting to be fed their education. From both the students' and many administrators' perspectives, it is now the teacher's responsibility to ensure the success of their students (each of whom is radically different from the next). Students are passive and expect to be won over before they will consider engaging in their own education, their own futures. After all, from their perspective, they have nothing to lose: schools cannot really hold students accountable, other than their grades (which many students do not care about), and parents often do not care or want to be bothered either. Thank goodness there are some students who lift their veils, touch our lives, and give us hope and inspiration, to help balance those who drain teachers of all that we give.
Mr. Danza, thank you for writing your book, and if you're reading this review, enjoy this five paragraph essay.