This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
There are critics who say that cameras will disrupt the education of students in Northeast High School, where Tony Danza, a former talk show host and sitcom star will co–teach with a certified Philadelphia School District teacher.
This post is not going to argue the merits of having cameras in the classroom. Maybe the resigning School Reform Commissioner, Heidi A. Ramirez , could do a better job than me arguing against it; she was the only commissioner who voted not to approve the filming of the reality show.
Mr. Danza presumably made it through his first week without resigning. He is blogging on his Web site Daily Danza, during the production of 13 episodes for the Arts and Entertainment Cable network reality show “Teach.”
During my first week, I typically share a friendly letter of introduction with tips for my 6th grade students at Beeber Middle School and I have my students compose a friendly letter responding to my letter. In this blog I am sending a friendly letter to Mr Danza, representing small “c” celebrity teachers. You can find a composite of some of these celebrity teachers in the book Teaching For Hope, reviewed by my fellow blog mate, Molly Thacker.
c/o Schools Across Philadelphia
Any Neighborhood, Philadelphia
September 14, 2009
Dear Mr Danza:
Welcome to the profession! We understand you were nervous and a bit scared during your first week of teaching. We know you must be wondering how your celebrity status will help or hurt you as a new teacher. Many of us do not have the same celebrity status as you. But we hold our own.
In your blog you referred to some of us as warriors. Some of us are pacifist and would resist the notion of being warriors. We are not “white knights in shining armor” either.
Teaching, as you may find out, is simply a job for many of us. It is super-challenging, and most of us don’t have the luxury to “audition” our students. We do get the “best” children that parents send to our classrooms.
For many of our students, we are their constant role models. This makes us celebrities in our own rights. Teaching is a difficult job, but it is also rewarding. For some of us, teaching is one of our greatest joys; our job allows us to impact children’s lives in countless ways. We coach, counsel, cajole, and help young people discover their vast potential.
But we caution you this is not a job for the faint-hearted.
Teaching can be hazardous for your love life. Zac Chase, a teacher at the Science Leadership Academy, and one of the 150 contributors to the book Teaching Hope, shared at the book reading at Borders Book Store how teaching can make you undateable.
Teaching is heart-wrenching. Michael Galbraith, a teacher at Grover Washington Middle School, and one of the earlier Freedom Writer teachers, gets his students to share their stories of violence and pain. Often our students’ pain becomes our pain, if not through our empathy, then by the turmoil students’ pain can cause in our classes. Hurt people hurt people.
Teaching can also be a very isolating profession. Some of us close our doors and may not have any adult contact until the end of the day. It’s great you that you will have the benefit of co-teaching with a partner. You also have the benefit of cameras on you and your students. Hopefully, “Student John Doe” will not be able to misrepresent you and your intentions when you try to keep him on task.
We are hoping that your show “Teach” isn’t the standard “un-reality” (highly scripted and edited), TV show. If your show is successful, we could even do a follow-up show, providing an unedited look into the classrooms of some of the everyday small “c” celebrity teachers. But honestly, we are not sure what impact cameras would have in our classrooms.
We look forward to hearing about your struggles and successes in the classroom. If you need other teaching tips or ideas, feel free to visit the Philadelphia Public School Notebook blog. It offers some interesting coverage of Philadelphia public education issues.
We will visit your blog and look forward to seeing your show when it is aired. Be warned if the show doesn’t reflect our realities, we will kindly let you know.