Friday, May 27, 2016

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High by Tony Danza | Book Review

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High

So this was interesting right from the prologue!  I knew Tony Danza was a pretty successful TV star, but I hadn't seen any of his stuff.  (Still haven't, but I hope to remedy that soon.)  Well, the prologue explains that at age 60 he had a TV show cancelled, and he was thinking of what to do next and he remembered his childhood career aspiration to be a teacher.  He's famous Tony Danza, so a whole team of people help make that dream come true for him, and he's given one 10th grade English class for one year at an urban Philadelphia high school.  (A compromise:  he did have to be ok with a film crew taping the experience for a documentary.)

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had was fascinating!  I thought it was pretty accurate in capturing the attitudes of urban teens.  (I work with urban teens, and "recognized" many of the teens in Tony's class.)  It was also very eye-opening to see how things work in big inner-city school.  Northeast High is HUGE.  I think it's got a larger student body than the university I attended:  3600 students and about 200 teachers!  Every teacher is responsible for upwards of 150 students each year, and they're responsible for much more than just their subject matter.  Many students come into the building each day carrying a LOT of baggage.  They come from broken or non-existent homes, they have IEPs (special education needs), they have legal woes.  The teachers are expected to be educators and counselors.  Tony only has one class and the rest of the day free, but he takes on an unofficial "advisory" group of teens who eat their lunches in his room.  In the book names or other other distinguishing facts are changed, but he is still able to share some stories of impact about teens he works with in this group.  He also talks about the very real "adoption fantasy" that often hits adults who work with troubled youth:  the desire to fix their lives for them, even to the point of the help intruding on their own out-of-work life.

By the end of the book I was finding it a little hard to swallow all the success stories that Tony shares.  Seems like he became some kind of miracle worker.  For example, veteran teachers at Northeast tell him that end-of-year finals rarely happen because the kids can't be motivated, and many of them skip the last few weeks.  Tony not only gives an end-of-year exam, but all of his students come to class for it and all of them pass it.  I've never had a group of 26 at-risk youth come together for anything before!  

Overall though, the book is very well written and highly readable.  You'll probably find yourself cheering for Tony, and falling in love with some of the kids.  I would recommend!

*I checked out my copy of I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had from my local library at the recommendation of my aunt!

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