In 2010, Tony Danza, who had agreed to star in an A&E reality show called Teach, spent one year teaching a double-period English class at Philadelphia's Northeast High. Given a class of 26 students, most of whom were unmotivated but with unique potential, Danza admits, “I was a slacker too. If there is one thing I want to do this year, it's try to reach kids who remind me of me and wake them up...”
Tony Danza does not come to this job unprepared. A college history major, he had wanted to be a teacher before boxing and entertainment led him in other directions. This year at Northeast allows him to follow his once-shelved dream.
The book pulls no punches. Danza comes up against most of the illogical cliches of public education, and he confronts the equally illogical idea that anybody would choose to teach in an underfunded inner-city high school. But he also sees the benefits of that choice.
Apologize reminds us that one positive interaction can enrich a teacher's entire day. It illustrates the genuine successes that can come when we meet people at their own levels and take into account their own demons instead of judging them by our standards. The book also reminds us of how funny and creative kids can be if we let them, and it emphasizes their amazing coping skills.
Here is Tony the Teacher, warts and all. Of course he makes mistakes. Of course he laughs. Of course he cries. Of coursethrough determination, hours of extra preparation and boundless energyhe changes the lives of the kids in that Philadelphia classroom.
He learns from a co-worker the two words that will engage any kid“active participation.” He learns to be watchful because, “You just never know when you'll get a teachable moment.” He also finds out what teachers and their students have discovered throughout the decades: To Kill a Mockingbird changes lives. Field trips are often incubators for disaster but they can also liberate biased minds. High school is not designed to be terminal. Apologize is not only an amusing read. It is also a thought-provoking one. Once again, Tony Danza entertains us.
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org