Today is the first day of school for Bonita Unified School District. Last week, I puttered around classrooms and chatted up new and returning teachers, aligned SmartBoards, planned out musical cues, and suggested desk placement.

All of which is great, most of which was helpful, and none of which was stressful.


This is year two in my role as Educational Technology Coach, and it’s the first first-day-of-school in my career where I’ve slept soundly last night and not had an anxious, runny poop this morning.

In the classroom, the first week before students arrive is my favorite week of the year. The desks are clean, the rows are straight, nothing smells like sweat or feet or Flamin’ Hot Chee-tohs. Nobody’s gotten detention or dumped or an A-minus when they really wanted an A.

In a classroom without students, only potential exists.

Every teacher–the weekend before school begins–is an idealist. The class, before filling with bodies, is full of hope.

For seven years, I prepped my room in a frenzy, often putting in 10 or 12-hour days to get it just right.

Unpaid, by the way.

Without fail, some student with no respect for my hard work would tag “Kiki flexxxxin” on one of my posters. My carefully-constructed classroom crumbled to dust within weeks.

But that first week? No tears; only dreams.

Dreams that every student will learn. Dreams that no students will exclaim they hate me as they flip over chairs. Dreams that none will scrawl “asshole” in pencil on my door.

Anyway, that’s not even what I wanted to write about.

The Bottom Ten

During my first year as tech coach, I sought to make disciples at each of my 13 school sites. By building into the Top Ten Percent of tech-hero teachers–those who would still innovate without me–I’d pump motivation through the “sprinklers” at each site who would spread the word about how helpful and approachable I am.

That kind of happened. Many teachers I never met know who I am.

This year, as my office is full of dreams and potential, I’m shooting for the Bottom Ten Percent.

At our kick-off event, the Bonita Educational Technology Adventure (BETA), I gave a workshop for the Tech-Hesitant. It went pretty well, answering questions, tackling real-classroom situations, and addressing the things that are scary.

One of these teachers chatted with me later that week to ask about how to use Google Classroom, but then lock student work after it’s done until the test.

After attempting to dissuade her, I promised to ask Twitter about it. As I expected, none were interested in even trying to find an old-school solution.

Which brings me to why and how I’m shooting for the Bottom Ten this year.


This article came across my desk today, and I wasted no time in sending it out:

While my business card says, “EdTech Coach,” I’m actually more interested in learning. And not just for students.

During my workshop, I pushed back when I heard Tech-hesitant teachers use phrases like these:

“It’s probably easy for you, you’re so young.”
“Well, I’m not a digital native, so…”
“There’s just not enough time to learn ______.”

When someone drops one of these dismissive excuses to continue hiding from challenge, I have a dozen responses, but the one I chose for the BETA event was this:


“When I go to the weight room, I see people in there that are enormous. They have shoulder muscles and neck muscles and … their muscles have muscles. They’re huge.

I can tell that they’ve been to the gym before. They didn’t get those muscles without spending time specifically working on them.


Technology is no different. Years ago, I was clumsy with technology, didn’t type well, and had difficulty navigating the internet. But I kept spending time in the gym, and my tech muscles grew.

You–the tech-hesitant teachers–you can also grow your tech muscle. Just keep putting in the time, even when you’re feeling weak.”

~Matt “Finger-Muscles” Vaudrey


P.S. I’m content to refer to this group as “The Bottom Ten” for several reasons:

1.) They’ve admitted their low status to me, “I’m probably the least techy person at my school.”
2.) Those that cling tightly to what’s comfortable are those who can transform their classroom the most with fresh ideas.
3.) Seventy of them attended my workshop, that’s the bottom fifteen percent of our district, and they were willing to self-identify.
4.) Growth can happen anywhere. If they believe that they were in the Bottom Ten and could become the Top Fifty, they’ll be interested in improving.