Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tony Danza's book "I'd like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had"


Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that makes me want to jump up and down, reach for the stars, sing and dance, laugh and cry, and share with the world. This is a book dedicated to teachers but should be read by everyone. 

So often I've told people they just don't understand what it's like to be a teacher. The joy, the sorrow, the frustration, the hope, the thrill. I usually end the conversation that centers around "teachers have their summers off" with the statement, "You have to walk in my shoes to understand".  If only they would. They might understand.

I was at a book signing event last week to hear author, Tony Danza's presentation about his new book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had". Some might remember Danza on the television shows "Who's the Boss" and "Taxi". I really expected him to appear on stage playing one of those roles, but the minute he stepped out from behind the curtain, my assumptions were dashed.

The Danza event was so huge, it had to be moved from our wonderful local book store, "R.J Julia's, who sponsored this event, to a middle school auditorium. 

When we arrived, the school parking lot was packed. There were lines of people waiting to get inside and as we joined the long line, I felt like I was waiting in line to see a rock concert. 

We all had a common mission that night.. To hear Danza talk about his one year teaching experience at Northeast High School in Philadelphia after being an actor for so many years. We all remember our first year and how difficult it was. Did he have the same feelings? Was he treated differently at the school because he was a "star"? Was he given preferential treatment?

When he walked out on stage, he started by telling us he had many, many regrets in life, but the biggest regret was that he never became a teacher. Teachers cheered and applauded. I felt tears well up and it was all I could do, to keep them from streaming down my face.

Danza's presentation was endearing, humorous and it was very obvious that things he was saying touched the hearts of everyone in the audience. He spoke of the educational crisis in the U.S, the kids of yesterday and today, those kids who seemed unapproachable, and other issues that today's teachers face. 

Danza mentioned how teachers' roles have changed. We're teachers in a complex world and we face complex day to day situations. How many times have I been asked for parenting suggestions at student conferences? Parents are facing tremendous challenges at home. They ask us for advice about how to motivate their kids, what to do to get their kids to do homework and more. I've even been asked how I'd discipline their kids. I know my parents never asked those kinds of questions when they met with my teachers. They were there to ask about my grades and progress in school.  

As Danza's presentation continued, there were people smiling and nodding as they connected with his experiences of being a first year tenth grade English teacher. His descriptions of the staff were very easy to relate to. I only wish he had talked for another couple of hours.

His book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had" was taped by A&E and was called "TEACH".  I wish I had seen even one episode of it but my usual evening schedule, when the show was aired, was to correct papers, write up new lesson plans and then fall into bed thinking of my next day... of teaching. 

When I handed him the book to autograph, I told him I grew up with Ron Palillo who played Horshak in "Welcome Back, Kotter".  Ron passed away suddenly, a few months ago, and Tony told me he knew Ron and they had done some theater work together. I felt his sincerity and was going to tell him he should be back in the classroom, but I had taken enough of his time, so I moved on. 

After chatting with some high school teachers, we walked into the parking lot and you know what? I HAD been to a rock concert. Tony Danza ROCKS!

If you read his book,  you'll laugh, cry and constantly shout out "YES! YES! THAT happened to me". 

But most importantly, you'll feel extremely proud to be a teacher! 

I wish Tony had stayed in the classroom because he's a natural born teacher. His ability to sense what kids will respond to and how to connect with them without being their "friend" is usually only what seasoned teachers know and understand. 

His heartfelt attempts to reach the unapproachable kids was deja vu for me. One of my former students is on death row and I have to keep reminding myself that I tried. I spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how to reach him. If only that boy had been mine, I kept thinking, things might be different for him  today. 

Tony Danza walked in our shoes and understands what it's like to be a teacher.




See an excerpt


Listen to Tony talk about his experience and feelings about education. 


Tony: For me, teaching was the road not taken. If you look at my acting work, so many of the roles involve being a teacher. Tony in “Who’s the Boss?” becomes a teacher. I studied history education in college. I wanted to be a teacher. Teaching always appealed to me. Arthur Miller once said, “The best thing you can hope for is that you end up with the right regrets.” I didn’t want to regret not trying this.  ~from Amazon

Click on the cover and listen to Danza talk about his book.

photo of Tony Danza, I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had



14 comments:

  1. This went on my "Books Worth Reading" list on Pinterest as soon as I heard about it. It looks like I need to bump it up to "Buy Right Now"!

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    1. HeatherI can't even begin to describe the feelings I had when I read this book. I laughed, cried and connected with everything! I can still feel the warmth of his handshake when he signed my copy of the book and after reading the book, I understand the warmth he felt for his students. I think he should have continued teaching! Yes buy it now :)

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  2. Great post!! You have motivated me to check out the book! Thanks for sharing.

    April
    Wolfelicious

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    1. April, Thank you so much! Tony Danza should have been a teacher right out of college. I connected with everything we teachers experience. I laughed, cried, and definitely didn't want the novel to end. I wish there was a way to write to him to express what an impact it had on me.

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  4. I am reading your post for the 1st time tonight, (Oct. 14) but I plan to read it again!!!! I REALLY enjoyed it. I loved watching Tony on TV, but had no idea he taught for a year, or even had written a book. Now, I MUST get the book. Believe it or not, I met Ron Palillo in Wisconsin (at a restaurant - I heard his laugh) when I was on a "Little House" tour. Thanks for your post - loved the info!!!!!

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    1. Susan!! I was so amazed that you met Ron!! He was a wonderful guy and will be missed by so many people. The way Ron got his part on Welcome Back Kotter is this. He walked into the audition and when it was his turn to perform, he jumped up on a table and began laughing like he did on the show. They hired him on the spot! I hope you got Tony's book. Everyone I've lent it to LOVES IT!
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Ruth

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  5. I wrote the above post, but didn't put my name/e-mail.
    susan in nc
    susanlulu@yahoo.com

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  6. Thank you for sharing this. I am putting the book on my wishlist now!
    Gina (your newest follower from Ms. Fultz)
    Third Grade Tidbits

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    1. HI Gina! You're going to love Tony's book! He was such a nice guy. I could feel his warmth when he shook my hand. :) LOL Thank you for following me!

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  7. Saw him on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Loved it and immediately put the book on hold. Thanks for sharing1

    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

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    1. Hi Laurie, I just wish Tony did a second year! He's a natural born teacher! His book made me laugh, giggle, and cry.. It's amazing how he connected with his students. Thanks for stopping by!
      Ruth

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  8. I watched the TV series and was amazed at how transparent he was throughout the experience. The world he entered was reality. He cared like we care. I wish I could have heard him speak because I am also a fan of "Who's the Boss?" He wears his emotions on his sleeves, but that makes him relatable. Thank you for your awesome post on his book!


    Always A Lesson

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  9. Gretchen, You would have loved the connection he made with the audience. They were sitting on the edges of their seats capturing every word. We all walked out of the auditorium feeling energized. I appreciate your comment about my post!
    Thanks!

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