Saturday, March 9, 2013

I'd Like To Apologize To Every Teacher I Ever Had (Book Review)


             Tony Danza nostalgically reminds us of much-loved shows like Taxi or Who’s The Boss. Well, those of us old enough to remember anyway. But few have spent enough time cyberstalking him to know the real Tony. Fortunately, he does plenty of opening-up in his book, ILTATETIEH (that’s an acronym—yes, I’m that lazy).
            ILTATETIEH reveals a dream Tony’s had since prior to becoming an actor: to teach. Tony struggles with the sense of being too old for the acting thing. His last showbiz endeavor, a talk show, ran for a short stint before the networks cancelled it. You may be wondering, “He had talk show?” Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought, too. Nearing the age of sixty, making a meaningful contribution became paramount. What better way to do so than to teach English to a group of 10th graders at Northeast High in Philly? Piece of cake.

             It turns out, this cake has teeth—sharp, metallic, serrated teeth. Tony gives up a year of his life, as does his family. The students in his classroom don’t cut him a break for being a celebrity. They have real issues. Some have been in and out of foster homes, some have been abused, some are just trying to survive high school, but all are children wanting someone to love them. That’s what Tony does. He loves them to tears. Often.
            Despite only being allowed to teach one course and having a camera follow him everywhere (for the reality TV show, of course), Tony wants the real “teacher” experience. No scripts. No fake drama. No short cuts. In the end, he does a pretty good job. So much so that the network loses interest. Fortunately, Mr. Danza never does and shares with us the difficulties students face, but more so, the difficulties teachers face.
            Before judging failing schools, dismissing disadvantaged children, and blaming teachers for the problems our education system currently faces, take a gander at this heartfelt memoir. You’d be surprised by how fun it is to read and the poignant message Tony has to share.

Author: Tony Danza
BIBLIO: 2012, Crown Archetype/Crown Publishing Group, $24.00.
ISBN: 978-0-307-88786-3

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