the Boss?" was Tony Danzaís 1980s-í90s sitcom.
It also could have been the title of his new memoir,
about his year teaching English in a Philadelphia high
Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year
as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High" (Crown
Archetype, $24), depicts Danza as alternately at the
mercy of a humorless assistant principal or his
students, none of whom is impressed by his celebrity and
some of whom actually tell him to grow a backbone
(actually, thatís not the anatomy they tell him he
was a tremendous challenge," said Danza, "It
takes a certain amount of hubris to think you can be a
teacher." Danzaís journey to the front of the
classroom started after his daytime talk show was
canceled after two seasons. Heíd separated from his
wife (and would later file for divorce), and he was
hit me that I could be running out of time," wrote
Danza, whose father, a sanitation worker, died at 62.
actor, who earned a history degree from the University
of Dubuque and had once planned to be a teacher, decided
it was time. He reached out to Teach for America, which
places recent college graduates and professionals of
varying backgrounds into rural and urban schools. He
then discussed the idea with his former executive
producer, who saw reality-show potential.
production team approached numerous school systems
without luck before Philadelphia signed on.
sensed skepticism among other teachers.
not exactly known as a man of letters," he said.
And a Philadelphia Daily News column said the show was
merely a way "to pimp our kidsí education to an
unemployed sitcom actor who wants to kick-start his
stalled career." Ouch.
ran for just six weeks on A&E (not enough drama, the
honchos decided), but Danza stayed the entire 2009-10
year, and even gave the commencement address at the end.
goal was to show them that I was serious," he said
during an interview. "The greatest compliment I was
paid was that the principal asked me to come back."
He decided not to return. Not because he didnít enjoy
it; maybe because he enjoyed it too much. "I think
at my age, Iím not sure I want to care this
much," he said. "Itís an overwhelming
commitment." His book changes the names of the
teens to protect their privacy, but not their stories,
and itís clear he became attached to students like the
19-year-old sophomore still struggling to read, the
budding poet who draws on his chaotic life in foster
care to inform his verses, or the burly football player
who absorbs the message in "Of Mice and Men."
In every other chapter, it seems, Danzaís been brought
to tears by his students.
hooked up to that school. I canít let it go,"
said Danza, who has stayed in touch and helped organize
a fundraiser when the school faced budget cuts.
takeaways arenít surprising. Teachers must spend too
much time teaching to tests. Too many parents arenít
involved. Our culture doesnít sufficiently stress
got no problem with the kids on ĎJersey Shore.í Hey
if I was 22 and you told me, ĎGo down to the beach and
Iíll film it and pay you,í Iíd be afraid to see
that footage," Danza said. "We have to admit
and say that it is a factor that is causing some of the
problems. If the culture celebrated smarts and
excellence in school as opposed to hanging out at the
shore or being a basketball star, weíd have better