As you may be aware, the A & E television station is running a new show called “Teach” on Friday nights. It is TV’s latest reality show, starring Tony Danza (of “Who’s the Boss” and “Taxi” fame). Danza is teaching English at a “tough” public high school. For real. Unlike the other reality shows out there, in “Teach” children’s education is
at stake. It’s one thing to have “the biggest loser” because the “results” only affect one person–the “loser.” With “Teach,” many children are affected.
Danza tells us that it had always been his ambition to teach, but he got sidetracked by a career in acting (not too shabby). He is assigned an English class. We don’t know if he has received a teaching credential or has an emergency permit of some sort. The class is filmed, as are meetings with parents, instructional coaches, students and even the principal. Danza also takes on some sports coaching opportunities at the school. While alone, Danza film-documents his afterthoughts about what has just happened. He might be reflecting in the classroom, or at home grading papers, or talking about the excitement of the “first quiz” that he is giving.
Clearly, the students have been told to speak their minds, and that they do. Some praise him, while others have concern about his abilities, credentials and practices. We see Danza laugh, be frustrated and even cry (quite a bit). All things we’d see if following almost any first-year teacher. This is most certainly reality.
I’ve seen each of
the first three episodes and find myself engaging in a self-debate about the ethics of this experiment. Should this be happening at all? After all, I began my career twelve years ago in a tough inner-city school, having an emergency teaching permit and having not yet completed a credential program. In this respect, Danza and I are/were equally qualified. He may even have an edge–he’s a good thirty years older than I.
Knowing that kids’ futures are at stake, I had wondered how good an idea this was. Then I thought about myself, and the fact the school they show probably has a tough time attracting qualified teachers. At that point, I concluded the experiment was ethical.
I eagerly await the conclusion as I find myself glued to the TV every Friday evening (I haven’t been this interested in a TV show since the 1980s). The show was filmed this past school year, and we’ll have to wait till the season finale to see the results of the real final exams the students take. Until then, I find it ironic that the teacher is in reality a student too. I hope nobody fails.
Mr. Franklin is a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is an eleven year veteran and has won District and County Teacher of the Year awards. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Bank of America Community Hero award. Before teaching, he spent five years at Learning Forum, which runs summer camps designed to increase student academic potential. It is a world-wide program.