Benjamin Thomas's Reviews > I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had by Tony Danza
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Jul 08, 12

bookshelves: biography, non-fiction, autobiography
Read from July 06 to 08, 2012

I've always liked Tony Danza and I know I'm not alone in that sentiment. It's not just the characters we've seen him play but somehow he's always seemed "genuine". Now I've never been a teacher but I've certainly been a student for a whole lot of years and I've been a parent to two children who have made it through the school system successfully. I've had ample opportunity to observe teachers in action and have always felt a reverence for them and what they do.

This book is a great portrayal of what it is like to be a first year teacher in a large public, inner-city school in Philadelphia. It's nicely organized with the general flow of the school year, but he includes a section called "Teacher's Lounge" at the end of each chapter where we get to see Mr. Danza learn an important lesson or receive advice from the other teachers on how things really work. But the main parts of the book are the classroom interactions with the students and the struggles that Mr. Danza goes through when dealing with the rules, the administration, the amazing amount of work that teachers have to put in, and the ever present threat of layoffs and/or downsizing. But he freely admits his advantages compared to the other teachers. First and foremost he only teaches one class a day, an English class which, as a voracious reader, is near and dear to my heart. I really enjoyed the discussions he has with the students about their studies. But where this book really shines is his interactions with those students, both in class, and one-on-one as he tries to engage them in their work. Before he knows it he is in their lives and they are in his. He tells some pretty powerful stories of these kids and what they must live through outside the classroom. It's a bit like watching the movie "Freedom Writers" starring Hilary Swank (which two of his students insist he watch during the last week of school). To his further credit, Mr. Danza eats a lot of humble pie throughout this book, and constantly must learn from the experienced teachers and administrators around him; nor does he write about his own successful career in show business except for some brief mentions when it comes up when dealing with the students. And we are treated to quite a few personal glimpses of Mr. Danza's own troubled school days as he tries, sometimes desperately to relate to his students.

All in all this is a very uplifting book that does not shy away from the myriad problems affecting today's public education system in America. A very worthwhile read that will energize you and motivate you to make a difference.
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