Today was day 1 of CUE Rockstar Math, where 120 of my fellow nerds descended on Dana Middle School in Arcadia to discuss math education with me and some Twitter friends.


Thankfully, CUE starts these events at 9:00, which gave me time to rinse diarrhea crumbs off my baby (not an idiom; actual baby, actual poo) and make it there in time to give hugs and high-fives to a room full of people who are just like me: math teachers who want to become better at their job.

Class Culture of Critical Questions

As with all Rockstar events, I gave two 2-hour workshops on the same topic, separated by lunch. The second round ran pretty well off of my phone, because I tripped on my cord and…

That’s not the point of this post, but it was one of the more eventful parts of the day.

The workshop starts with a demo lesson, modeling the 3-Act lesson from Graham Fletcher called Krispy Kreme Me. After the lesson, we make some notes about what phrases and procedures got everyone interested in sharing.

It was pleasant, fun, and not a great representation of an actual classroom.
Let’s turn it up a notch.

“In my hand are a stack of yellow cards,” I say to the room. “Half of the cards say General Ed Student, and the rest have some kind of instructional challenge for the teacher. I’m going to pass them out to each of you. Keep them to yourselves.”

As I walked around — grinning like my daughter before Gramma comes over — I went a step further.
“In order to make this more like a real class, I want you to channel a student that you have currently or had in the past. When you saw the card, you thought of a kid. Be that kid during this next lesson.”

Invariably, teachers begin to tilt their heads, smirk, and ask, “Really? You want Jeremiah in this room?”

And I grin right back and say, “Yep! Let’s go!”

Then a room full of adults get to make silly jokes about cheese, ask to go to the bathroom, bring up YouTube videos on their devices.

They also hesitate with big words they don’t know (EL Student), get distracted easily (Quick Finisher), or cry out, “I can’t see!” (Vision Disability). It’s one of my favorite things to do; flex my teaching muscles and be vulnerable.

Because after that…

We make a list of culture-building stuff they saw me do with the “real class” and things they would add, subtract, or change.

It’s powerful to hear a grown adult say, “I was the English Learner and you went way too fast for me.”

“That sounds awful.”

Yeah. Before the “channel your inner Jeremiah” part of the workshop, I’m honest with everybody: “This might go horribly wrong, but I’m gonna do it anyway.”

It’s my hope that, even if overzealous or skeptical teachers channel Jeremiah on a no-meds, skipped-breakfast, mom-yelled-at-me-on-the-drive-to-school day, all of the attendees still get to see the teacher take a risk and be vulnerable, maybe even look silly.

That’s kinda the last few chapters of Classroom Chef.

I want y’all to see me reach for something ambitious, even if I fall on my face afterward (which happened in Salinas).


If you want to take a bold risk with your staff, click here to get your own copy of my yellow cards, which I printed twice and laminated, so I have 40 cards.*

The quick lesson that we did together was Day 28 from Estimation 180.

Also, special thanks to Josie for really going for the gusto. I’m almost sorry I sent you out of class on an “errand.”

~Matt “Josie, can you take these Post-Its next door?” Vaudrey

*Dang, that means we had 36 people channeling Jeremiah today. Cool.