I sometimes think of teaching as “Showtime!” You choreograph the lesson, you practice it, you collect your props. You make your entrance on time and you capture the students’ attention. The show is exciting and funny; the audience is engaged. When it’s over, everyone applauds.
In your dreams. Oh, I choreographed, practiced, and collected my props. I was prompt. Sometimes the show was smart and entertaining, sometimes only modestly so. Sometimes not at all. Applause was scarce, even after a boffo performance.
Well, a Philadelphia high school has become the setting for a real showtime performance. Tony Danza of “Who’s the Boss” fame is teaching a high school English class for a new reality show called "Teach." It turns out that teaching every day, even only one class, isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. “As a first year teacher,“ Danza says, “you don’t always know what you’re talking about. Sometimes you look like a jerk.” His candor is engaging.
Six months into the gig, Danza’s instructional coach noted that at first the actor relied more on performing than teaching. After a while he realized that teaching isn't exactly improv, and he began to prepare for class, recognizing that he was responsible for his 10th grade English students learning something about Julius Caesar and To Kill a Mockingbird. After a successful class, Danza says, he feels like he “just scored on Broadway.” After a not so successful class, he says he’ll “just be sick.”
I never watched Danza's show unless I was stuck on the treadmill at the gym and it was in rerun on the only TV I could see. It was one of those shows you could watch without headphones, and even mute you could tell what was happening. So I surprise myself by actually looking forward to seeing "Teach" when in finally appears on A&E, partly because the actor committed to this class for the entire year and partly because he readily admits the job requires more effort, skill and time than he ever thought it would.