Sunday, October 10, 2010

Teach Tony Danza - part 2 review

Part 2 - Tested

The show starts with Tony reading aloud to his students from Mice and Men and the kids look a little confused, although Monte says they should have read that book in 7th grade, not as sophomores. I have never read the book, so I don't know much about it, but Tony assigns homework - to read two chapters and there will be a quiz the next day. Most of the kids think they should have a couple of weeks before they have a quiz. Frankie talks to Tony about how he can't picture what's happening in the book, Tony tells him how to annotate, and that it will take practice. Frankie says he can't do it, he doesn't like to read, and Tony says it will happen with practice, and actually makes a pretty good analogy, I thought, between sports (which Frankie loves) and reading. David Cohn, the Instructional Coach, later tells Tony that Frankie is at the top of a list of "gifted" students, and Tony starts to suspect that Frankie is playing him. Monte is concerned with his grades again, and wants to be in the AP class so his GPA will be higher. Tony talks to Monte about his concerns, promises to increase difficulty as time goes on. Tony is very excited about his first quiz, but the kids are worried. Ileana, one of the special education students, asked to go to the resource room (along with two other girls), but Tony says no (BIG HUGE MISTAKE). Tony tells the kids he will count for neatness, spelling, and everything else, AND times the test...all things that mess up a special education kid fast. Tony is excited because the quiz will test how his students are doing but also how he is doing. The kids are frustrated, even Chloe, but Monte says it wasn't a test at all, and it only took him 10 minutes to complete. David Cohn is in Tony's classroom immediately after the bell rings, and tells Tony that he HAS to give special education kids with IEPs extra time if they ask. Tony really argues with David...thinks kids should try harder. Does he even understand what special education is? Again, when was the last time Tony took an education class? Tony just thinks that the problem is that the kids don't THINK they can do it. The SPED kids think that Tony thinks they are lazy and they are frustrated and they are worred about their grades in his class. Tony grades the tests that weekend and almost half the class fails.

Tony says he couldn't really sleep since he is so worried about the test. Monte thinks that the test was easy and Emmanuel questions if Tony really knows how to make a test, since he is a new teacher. Monte thinks everyone could have gotten an A without even reading the book (I am sort of disliking this kid....). Tony tells David Cohn that half the class failed, asks what to do. David wonders how many of them are reading the book, but are getting tripped up on the question, but also points out that some of them just are not reading the book. Tony wonders how much of the failure rate is his fault and David reassures him that this is something that every teacher struggles with (TRUE STORY). Tony tells the class he was disappointed, and asks the class to be honest about who is reading. Nakiya thinks the test wasn't fair and tears start welling up, and she puts her head inside her shirt collar. Frankie says he doesn't understand the book at all, he tried annotating and still doesn't understand, and other students say the same thing. Tony says the test doesn't show they are reading, and says he did the same thing in high school by listening during class and bluffing his way through. Nakiya starts crying, Tony asks what is wrong, but she won't tell him. Tony goes to talk to Paige about her low grade, she won't talk to him either. Laura is upset about a question that was half opinion and half fact, and doesn't think that she should have gotten it all wrong because she used the wrong fact. Tony talks to Nakiya, he says she needs to put more effort into it. Daniel says he could have done better if he read the book better. Chloe says she sort of deserved the grade, but also says if more than half the class failed it is the teacher's fault. Monte says it should have been harder, and goes to Tony and asks for more work to make the class more challenging.

Tony debates what to do with the two special education students that need (and asked for) extra time. He brings them to lunch and talks to them one on one. I think that he truly doesn't understand what a special education classification means and thinks that they simply need to put more effort in. David Cohn is concerned about the SPED issue and talks to Tony immediately after class again. David sends Tony to talk to the special education teacher, Sue, who tries to explain that sped students are not lazy, they simply  have different needs. Tony talks over her. He simply does not get it and thinks that effort will overcome the learning disability. Sue gets frustrated, and Tony gets summoned to a meeting on accomodations and IEPs and the legal implications of not following them. Tbe presenter gives the situation, "if a student asks to go to the resource room during a test, waht should your answer be?" and Tony shakes his head no. The presenter then gives Tony a worksheet wtih upside down, backwards, and mixed up letters and says that this is how a kid with dyslexia sees words, and for the first time I think he starts to understand that it is not laziness or lack of effort. Tony then meets with the Principal regarding failures and special education kids, and this is when she says that great quote I referenced in my last review; "You are miultitalented and I would never think that I could stand beside you and do what you do. I expect that same respect for the art of education, you have to listen to what we say because we are experts." Tony backs off and I think  he is finally starting to get it. The principal makes it very clear that you do not mess with the special education law, you need to trust the kids, and tells Tony my favorite quote of the show; "You don't get the tag of "teacher" until your students are learning." Seriously, she is my hero.

Tony talks to another (teacher?) named Rob about Paige, who has no interest in class, has been suspended, texts during class, and won't participate. Rob asks if Tony has called home to talk to Paige's mom, and Tony says no. Rob says you can't just be their friend. sometimes you have to do what is best for them. Paige's mom actually comes in to talk to Tony (HOLY COW) and says she needs a tough teacher. Paige feels that Tony went behind her back but also thinks her mom went behind her back too and has major attitude when Tony asks if she was reading. Tony tells her he needs to talk to her at the end of class, and tells her that he knows she can do better, and asks what he can do to help. She says "nothing," and he says "then what can you do?" so Paige asks to get a tissue and leaves when he goes to get the box. When Tony talks to David, David suggests stopping, taking a deep breath, and hanging in there. David then jokingly asks if Tony has cried yet today, Tony says he hasn't cried yet today, but then breaks into tears and leaves the room.

The other assistant principal, Sharon, comes to talk to Tony, who is having a serious meltdown in his classroom and wondering if he can do this job. He can't believe how emotional he is and she basically says dude, we've ALL been there. Meanwhile, Tianna tells Paige that Mr. Danza cares about her and that is why he asks her questions, Paige says that brushing her hair in class should be just fine and that Mr. Danza is just picking on her. (Sidebar here.....I HATE it when the kids do personal grooming during class, like putting on makeup, brushing their hair, flossing their teeth, putting on deodorant, they've done it all)  Paige has become a project to Tony...we've all had those kids BELIEVE me...and tries to get her involved. He keeps asking her what's going on in the story, asks specific questions, kneels down by her desk, asks her more specific questions, and she finally gives him some answers. In a later interview outside of class, she finally comes around and agrees that he cares about her and that's why he "nags" her. On the next quiz, Tony tells the three SPED kids they can have extra time if they need it and he will go down and help them in the resource room.

My thoughts.....This special education thing is HUGE. It is a legal requirement to follow the IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and not having the resources in your school is unfortunately not a legal excuse for not doing something on that plan. I have been struggling with this recently as well, and with the continued cuts in education, programs like special education get cut first. Some schools are better than others at special education support and information, but in the end it is the teacher's responsibility to do what the law requires. Tony's attitude is unfortunately all too common among many people, even in education, and it is the reason for some kids falling through the cracks. Regarding the specific show, it is still the Tony Show, but some interesting issues were addressed here, although I think that the way a special education student's brain works was not explained and the implication that "failure was simply for a lack of effort" was not truly addressed. On the other hand, a student like Paige (not special ed) is incredibly frustrating for so many reasons. There is nothing more frustrating to a teacher than a student who is brilliant and completely wasting their brains, and add to that the frustrations of the quiz that he saw as a reflection of his own failures and it is no wonder that he broke down. I applaud his willingness to tackle Paige head-on and get through to her.

This week I am leaning more to the positive on this show, there are a lot of things that you would only relate to if you are a teacher, however, like the issues with Monte, Frankie and Paige, which makes me wonder what someone who is NOT a teacher would think about this show.

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