Tony Danza: 'The Boss' in the Classroom
Actor Tony Danza visited Ursinus College to reflect on his year teaching in Philadelphia, the resulting book, and to share own ideas for education reform.
When you've starred in sitcoms, talk shows, stage and film, the obvious next career step is…teaching high school in Philadelphia?
For "Who's the Boss?" star Tony Danza, it was.
Danza spent 2009 teaching 10th grade at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, and has written a book about it - "I'd Like to Apologize To Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High." Danza was brought to Ursinus College by the Towne Book Center in Collegeville to meet with fans and sign books.
"I was sixty, got fired, I was feeling pretty crummy," Danza said, referencing his "Tony Danza Show," which was canceled in 2006. "I wanted to do something with my life - that my kids could be proud of"
Inspired by "Teach for America," Danza decided to go back to the classroom - he graduated with plans to be a teacher, but decided to act instead. The first semester teaching at Northeast High was filmed for the reality show "Teach" on A&E, which was created in part to show what life was like in inner-city schools.
Danza, channeling his Tony Micelli charm in Bomberger Hall, highlighted the issues he seems in schools today, many of which relate to the media.
"If Snoop Dogg can sell Chryslers, why do I have to apply myself in school?" Danza questioned, also referencing Jersey Shore.
Danza's message, to a room full of roughly 200 people, many of whom were teachers, is simple: kids get out of education what they put into it.
"My regret was that I didn't apply myself," Danza said, reflecting on his time in high school. "We can knock our heads against the wall - we can make the day longer, we can reduce class sizes…but [we need] to get the kids to decide that this is important to them."
Danza illustrated his thought with a story about a girl at Northeast High, Charmaine:
"Charmaine, how long do you think you're going to be in school?" Danza asked her in detention one day.
"Ugh, forever," she replied.
Danza then opened his arms to show a large, definable amount of time.
"I said no, sweetheart, no. Here's your life," he said, indicating the time.
"This much of your life is school," he said, motioning to a small part of it.
"You don't want to be out there in your life, looking back on your your time in school saying 'Gee, I wish I would have done better, like someone I know," Danza said, pointing to himself. "And this will effect the rest of your life!"
Danza suggested a national campaign - similar to the ban on texting, smoking, or other safety initiatives - but to help high school kids appreciate that their entire lives will be effected if they chose not to engage in high school, particularly inner-city kids.
"I've been worried about education. I don't think we can continue where we are and sustain a great country," Danza said. "These are our kids."