Those of us who are old enough to remember actor Tony Danza from the 1980s sitcoms "Taxi" and "Who's the Boss?" may be stunned or awed to know that he held a much different role as an English teacher at a Philadelphia high school during the 2009-10 academic year.
Tony's temporary career change, which is documented in a new reality TV series that debuted last week, is both inspiring and eye-opening. In the pilot, a student asks if he's afraid to be teaching. His candid response: "I'm terrified!" And he had a sweat-soaked shirt in class to prove it.
Here's a guy pushing 60 who doesn't really need the money (good thing, since a first-year teacher isn’t paid all that much), putting himself out there in front of a group of high school sophomores, their demanding parents and administrators, while trying to communicate a love of literature, writing, and vocabulary building.
As we observe World Teachers' Day today, Tony Danza's new role sheds light on how challenging and exhilarating a teacher's job can be. I was exposed to this in a small way when I worked as a substitute teacher a few years back. It led me to train as a part-time SAT prep teacher, a role I continue to perform. Trust me: It's not easy. You must know your stuff, and you also need to be an effective communicator, a good listener, a discussion facilitator, and you must be willing to admit - even to kids who are half or a third your age - that you don't have all the answers.
The true payoff comes when students tell their teachers that they inspired them to pursue certain career goals or encouraged them to challenge themselves when they otherwise would not have. But teachers may wait a long while for that praise since many students don't realize until years after graduation how influential some of their teachers were.
Some of us - and I count myself in this group - can even thank teachers who nudged us toward our chosen careers.
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