This Is Why This Site Exists

1205261_star_with_shadow_3Emails like this are the reason this site exists.

I am an 11-year high school English teaching veteran in the Los Angeles area. Most of my teaching was done in the trenches of suburban, low-SES “nay-bah-HOODS” and the fringes of, um, gangsta lands. (I teach English … go figure.) I’ve had my share of awesome kids, classes and experiences, and I’ve had my share of kids who practice “learned helplessness” and come to school looking like Snoop Droopy Drawers. Overall, I love my subject matter, and love working with high school age kids, especially helping them to “read, write and think your world” (one of my class mottoes).

I wanted to thank you for your no-nonsense, honest site that both cuts to the chase about teaching and encourages (us) to stay the course. I remember stumbling upon your site awhile back during a particularly long, rough period of teaching – you know, that no matter what techniques or strategies you try, or how many parent phone calls or detention slips you do, the kids choose to be vicious to the last day. Your tips and insight, especially the reasons to quit teaching and the reasons to stay in education, gave me the perspective I needed to get right back to work and be with my kids. I was also thrilled to read about how you were able to gain classroom control and your band kids’ respect right after Spring Break. Way to go!

What really impressed me as I reviewed your site this evening is that you are a Christian, too. Praise God! The kids need to have excellent teachers who are also strong spiritual influences – and how cool that you get to use music as that bridge. Are your students too young to appreciate musicians such as Ashley Cleveland, one of the best Christian musicians around? (I wonder what the music would sound like if she, Keith Green and Larry Norman could jam together?)


Thanks again for your great site. Thanks for making music matter to students. And thanks for staying the teaching course, and sharing your great example with the rest of the online teacher brigade. May your last days of the school year be as stress free as possible! I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Not all of the emails are friendly
I occasionally get emails or comments that are negative. Telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about or blaming administrators for the problems in education or whatever. My basic response to the trolls/obnoxious jerks/dirtbags/haters/whatever is to not respond.

I’ve learned that you will never make everyone happy until you stop doing things. But then, what’s the point?

The two articles that seem to strike the sorest nerve with readers are three of the earliest ones I wrote, back when I was trying to ruffle feathers a little bit to get noticed. They are 9 Reasons To Quit Teaching (And 10 Reasons To Stick), Valid Reasons Teachers Quit, and Invalid Reasons Teachers Quit.

The latter two seem to incite the most incendiary responses, and so next week we will revist these articles three years later.

Oh yeah, in case you want to know what I removed from the email above, she asked for suggestions on possibly moving from California to teach in Texas. If you want to help her out some there too, I’m sure it would be appreciated!

If I may, I would like to get your perspective on the current teaching climate in Texas. I’ve been seriously considering moving out of state in order to stay in the teaching profession. The last couple of years in CA have been particularly cruel on English teachers (as well as nationwide). Fair to say that burnout has set in, especially with what administrators and state “school experts” are doing in the districts, but the desire to remain in the classroom and be a positive influence on teenagers has not gone away. Maybe it’s time for a change of location. I’ve been reviewing TX ISD sites throughout the state to get a feel for the schools and their expectations. Are there particular issues that TX is facing with budget cuts that are forcing schools to take strong measures ( increase class sizes, make staff take unpaid furlough days)? Also, what would be the most effective way to approach school districts about openings, especially someone from out of state who’s had to eat, breathe, sleep and pray teaching standards that rival Texas’? Since all of my experience is from metropolitan/suburban areas, I would probably focus my search to major cities. But I’m open to looking at other options as well. If I did make the bold move, my top priority would be to make sure here’s a biblically strong church nearby.

Please know that I’m not trying to brownnose for teaching positions. But I am looking at options. Any advice or insight that you are open to passing on down is greatly appreciated. If you have questions about who I am, want to know more about my teaching, etc., I am happy to answer.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

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