Tony Danza on Teaching: Kids Need to Want It

Tony Danza Book Cover

When I first read Liana Heitin’s blog at Ed Week – What Tony Danza Learned From Teaching – I had so many reactions.

I found myself initially very angry that Danza presumed to give advice after only a year of teaching. My anger turned to admiration pretty quickly, though, as I found myself appreciating his willingness to engage in the challenging profession of teaching. 

His observation that kids need to want an education is an important observation.  As Liana’s blog states:

“The bottom line: Kids need to want it,” Danza writes. “We can’t want them to get an education more than they want it for themselves.” While teacher training emphasizes engaging students, he says, “it strikes me that what we really need are students to engage in their own education.”

Danza’s experience is recounted in his book, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High. Having not read the book, I don’t know if he digs into the actual reality of helping create that need for students, but to me that is the challenge for educators today.  Even knowing what we know from the science of learning—about how learning comes from deep engagement with material and peers, immediate feedback through formative assessment, and strong, trusting relationships—I am not sure we equip teachers with what they need to create a classroom that optimizes the opportunities for learning.

As long as we stay focused on summative testing and 19th century skills, I worry that we can’t get to the desired state Danza describes.  I am hopeful that the Common Core will continue to push us in the direction he envisions in his book.

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