Stacy, one my teacher sisters, shouted across the playground, “Why don’t you ask him? Mr. Vaudrey! Mariah has a question for you!”
It was the end of the day, and I was walking back to my car as Stacy’s 4th graders walked to the bus.
Mariah blushed and squeaked, “What if you were our principal?”
I grinned and said, “Maybe someday, but for now, you have an excellent principal.”
After nine months as EdTech Coach of Bonita USD, I’m starting to smell an administrative credential in my future. My wife made me promise to keep a job for at least three years before chasing the next thing, and there are plenty of ways to grow that will take longer than three years.
But it doesn’t cost anything to dream. So I’m dreaming.
Much like Mariah’s current principal, my style would be hands-off, empowering teachers to take risks and figure stuff out, knowing they have my support. I’ll be picky as hell in interviews, so over time, my staff will be full of people like Jo-Ann, Elizabeth, and Jed.
However–since you’re reading–I’d like to share a couple things I saw this year that have no place in my school and that I would absolutely chastise immediately (but I can’t this year as a teacher coach).
Your an educator and your students are their to learn. You’re door should have correct sentence structure on it, so there always seeing good grammar modeled.
If you noticed the problems with the previous paragraph, you may come work at my school.
Being Mean To Kids
During state testing, the bell rang for lunch. Two 3rd-graders whispered, “Yesssss!”.
The teacher stood up straight and barked, “That’s three minutes off lunch, right there! You gotta be quiet during testing.”
He has no place at my school.
Months earlier–during a demo in a first-grade class–the teacher interrupted me and pulled a squirelly, excited, 6-year-old to the side of the carpet, directed him to sit, barking, “If you can’t sit still, you won’t get to use the iPad today.”
And he burst into tears.
It gets worse.
Offensive or Ignorant Remarks
It’s eight weeks into my new job as Tech Coach. I’m sitting in the lounge with the principal and three veteran teachers, pleased to have some camaraderie as I commute through the 13 district schools in my car.
“My husband is a cop,” says Margie, swallowing a mouthful of spinach salad. “And he says that every time he pulls somebody over now, they’re filming on their phones!”
“And thanks to Twitter, that video can be shared publicly, so everybody can tell their stories,” I added, acutely aware that the conversation was about to go horribly.
“Yeah! The cops are tried in the court of public opinion before their shift is even over,” adds the Principal.
“Like this whole Mike Brown thing!” Adds Paige.
“This huge kid tried to take the cop’s gun, and now he’s like… some martyr!” Margie stabs another mouthful of spinach salad. “He’s a thug!”
I freeze my expression and my toes curl in my shoes at the word “thug.”
“There are a bunch of guys like that in jail,” adds Cynthia adds with a grin. “Let ’em rot.”
Holy shit. I gulp the mouthful of banana that I forgot to chew, sit up straight, and take a deep breath… then I freeze.
I just met these people. If I unload on them here, I’ll lose their respect forever.
If I say nothing and get to know them over the next few months, then our next conversation about race and privilege will be better received and might actually change their minds.
I left the lounge and sat shaking in my car in the parking lot, not totally sure that I wisely handled this situation: playing the long game and tolerating racism in the meantime.
I recounted the whole thing to Stevens via Voxer and he concluded that yes, that situation was fucked up, which is a phrase neither of us use lightly nor often.
Except when people use their power for harming kids. Those people make my blood boil and have no place at my school.
“Matt! Can I borrow you?” A blonde, middle-aged teacher in the back row waves me over during a break in our curriculum training.
“My students all recorded video reports for their biographies, and I want to put them into Google and print out a Q code that parents can scan during Open House. Can you help me with that?”
I grin, “Sure! How about after all of this is over?” I don’t correct her vocabulary; she’ll figure it out eventually.
“That sounds great!” She replies, “I’m a huge tard with this stuff, so you might have to go slow.”
I wince visibly on the word tard, but I don’t know this teacher’s name and figure I must have misunderstood her.
“You used the word tard before. What did you mean by that?” Playing confusion tends to gently remind, without telling her what I would like to say.
“Oh, like a retard,” she declares. Nobody in her row of tables turns to look. “I’m really slow when it comes to tech stuff, but I do want to learn. I’m gonna write everything down.”
I’m heading to her class after this. We’ll see how it goes.
I doubt she’ll earn a spot at my school.
~Matt “Principal V” Vaudrey
UPDATE 2 June 2015: Andrew respectfully pointed out the need of a Principal to be gentle when needed. We both agree that a relationship provides reciprocated input between admin and staff, and a Principal must be a listener first. My rant-like tone here is rooted in helpless frustration for the things I cannot change.