Based in Long Beach, California, "Teach Me Mr. West" is a blog by Jason West. His posts explore the rewards and challenges of being a highly effective 21st century educator.

Not That You Asked...

Not That You Asked...

Well, now I've gone and done it. I've become my worst nightmare. I'm a blogger. Try not to judge me too much.

I’m sure many of my posts will be long-winded (I’m not known for brevity), so I’ll share just a few things you may want to know before deciding whether or not you want to bookmark this page:

I’VE TAUGHT EVERYTHING – Well, pretty much everything. Very early in my career, I was fortunate to have worked at a Pre K-8 school where the principal identified me as someone who could move fluidly from one grade level to another. So, that was the year I roamed the halls daily, covering for teachers who were out sick, at a meeting, at a professional development/conference, etc. On some days, the movement was severe—as in, within the span of 30 minutes, I’d go from working with the pre-K students on counting to 20, to helping 8th graders wrap their brains around polynomial equations.

The rest of my CV: I taught theater and literature at a middle school for 5 years, 8th grade science for 1 year (that’s a crazy story for another blog post), and high school English (both AP Literature and 9th grade ELA) for the last 3 years. Anything else? Hmmm…oh, I’ve also tutored college kids studying for the MCAT, GRE, and LSAT exams. See what I mean? I’ve taught everything! Man...anyone else need a nap or a glass (bottle) of wine?

I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING – Though, if you ask my wife, sometimes I act like I do. The fact of the matter is that I’m probably going to spend more time on this blog reflecting and searching for answers than espousing my perceived genius (which, again, if you ask my wife, I’ve also been known to do from time to time). Yes, I will share some of the educational tips and strategies I've assembled over the last decade-plus of teaching. I’ll also share my personal insights into the many facets of education (this is a blog, after all). But if you’re simply coming here looking to be spoon-fed content or answers, maybe only click over to this page once a month (just kidding…check here every day, twice a day…I need your clicks!!).

However, if you’re willing to (cue Willy Wonka music) come with me on a journey towards educational mastery, then I will post something at least once a week (probably on Thursdays because who wants to go into the weekend with reading homework, amirite?).

THIS IS MY SECOND CAREER – Right about now you’re probably thinking, “If this is your second career, why should I listen to anything you have to say?” Fair point, naysayer I made up in my head and whose mind I am also pretending to be able to read. My answer is simple: You will be (hopefully) informed and entertained. See, before I stepped into the extremely lucrative and always-respected career of an educator, I worked in Hollywood as a lowly comedy writer and sometimes stand-up comedian. I wrote snark for E! Entertainment television and also worked on TV’s American Dad! I also performed in stand-up comedy shows across North America in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto, and a whole slew of spots in Southern California (all of which were met with the kind of raucous laughter and applause that could only be described as, "polite, at best."). While I’m nearly halfway through my 11th year as an educator, my instincts and comfort zone still skew towards funny and engaging. I’m sure I’ll have you rolling in the aisles when I write a post on the importance of aggregating assessment data to best determine how to differentiate for your heterogeneous classrooms! Classic.

EDUCATION IS MY DESTINY – One of my favorite quotes comes from French poet Jean de La Fontaine (because, of course it does #APTeacherSnob) who once wrote, “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” I spent many years pursuing a career in Hollywood. I behaved as though I had only set up career in education–earning a B.S. in education and obtaining a credential in multiple states for multiple grade levels–as a backup plan. But realistically, all the signs that I was a pureblooded educator were there (and I was just avoiding it):

  • I’ve always loved to learn.
  • I love performing and being creative.
  • I love making people see the world in a different and exciting way.
  • I’ve always wanted to have an impact on society.
  • Much like “The Simpsons” did for me, I wanted to be the brightest spot in the day for a kid who had too much sadness in his life.

Funny anecdote: As a student, I hardly ever connected with my teachers (no, that’s not the funny part). Starting in the second grade, I constantly found myself thinking, “If I were the teacher, I would teach this lesson very differently. First, I’d explain to the kids that…

I mean, really…what kid thinks like that? I won’t deny that I was a weird kid (and an even weirder adult, my wife would add), but I was clearly a kid who was born to be an educator.

Here is the most damning evidence: While working in Hollywood, I kept dipping my toes in the holy waters of Lake Education (situated at the base of Mount Gluttonforpunishment). Figuratively, of course…these places don’t exist. While I had the tremendous opportunity to work with some of the most-lauded comedy writers of the last 20 years, I couldn’t help but think of my potential success as a writer in terms of what I would be able to do for future generations of writers. “I’ll have a weekend program that teaches production assistants who aspire to be writers” I’d say to myself. Or “No matter how successful I become, I will want to teach college students about how to make it in the industry because I never had that and I wish I had!” Something tells me Seth MacFarlane doesn’t think these thoughts (and by “something,” I mean Seth MacFarlane). Though Seth is a sweet and helpful man in his own right, only a true educator is wired to view success through the lens of how much they can teach and impact future generations.

I think that’s about enough for now. Shockingly, this is what it’s like when I “keep it short.” If you do decide to follow this blog regularly, you may want to carve some time in your schedule (I’ve found the bathroom is a great place to catch up on online reading…I won’t be offended if you only read my words on the toilet…I promise).

So I’ll end with this: If you have something (anything) you want me to discuss, or if you have something YOU’D like to share (that’s right…I’m already creating a space for guest bloggers here because I’m #LazyLikeAFox), please reach out to me through my contact page and let me know! This page is just as much for you as it is for me!

That’s not entirely true. It’s more for me than it is for you, but it’s pretty close, just the same. Does 60/40% work for you? Great. Phew!


"Why Are We Doing This?"

"Why Are We Doing This?"