Author Archives: Matt Vaudrey

Principal Vaudrey

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.

Usually, I dream of admin credentials and Alaska. *Gasp* What if I were an administrator IN Alaska?!

Usually, I dream of admin credentials and Alaska. *Gasp* What if I were an administrator IN Alaska?!

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).

Bad Grammar

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.”

yelling

 

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.

crybaby-crying-kid-cry-tear-tears-Above-the-Law-blog

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.

Uh oh.

“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.

Exhale.

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.

Confident Meanness

“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

Minimum Wage and Immigrants

Both of those topics are uncomfortable to discuss with family or people from work.

That’s exactly the reason why we should talk about it.

Read all the way to the end.

Karena

Five  years ago, I taught math and was senior advisor to a group of 114 stinky teens that I’d known since they were sophomores.

It was magical.

That was the year Flaco Suave joined the all-teacher rap crew at lunch.

That was the year Flaco Suave joined the all-teacher rap crew at lunch.

At this particular school, most of the seniors were low on credits and trying to scrape by with a C- so they could walk at graduation.

Karena1, however, was fantastic. Actual quote:

Karena: I love everyone around me, that’s why I always say ‘Hi’. You’re my homie.

Bubbly, friendly, social, hard-working, and musically-gifted, Karena played guitar and sang in her family band while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. She had a thick Mexican accent, but that didn’t stop her from loudly proclaiming her affections for one of my younger students in the Pre-Calc class:

Karena: Gustavo, you look cute today. Guys, when me and Gustavo have our kids, you are going to be the Godfathers.
Yesenia: Godparents.
Karena: Gustavo, where you going? Oh, he got me a ruler, how cute. I’m-a take you to Mejico and show you my ranch and my cows. I’m-a put you on my burro. Do you want to see my burro?
Gustavo: No.
Ray: I’ll see it.
Karena: No, I’m only showing Gustavo. And I will buy you a cow. And then I’m-a take you in a airplane.
Gustavo: Ugh! Leave me alone!
Karena: Gustavo, I brought you an apple. Here, open up you mouth.
Gustavo: What? No! Who feeds somebody an apple? Mr. Vaudrey, why are you laughing?
Karena: Come on, mi chiquito amor porcino…
Gustavo: You just called me a pig!
Karena: … Are you sure you don’t want your apple?
Gustavo: NO!
Karena: Ah! Gustavo. Stop rejecting my apple. When we get married, I’m-a divorce you.
Gustavo: Mr. Vaudrey! Shouldn’t you be stopping this?
Vaudrey: Gus, you should be flattered! Winning the affections of an older woman.
Gustavo: She’s not even that old…er!
Vaudrey: She’s a senior.
Gustavo: I’m a junior!
Karena: That’s okay, I like leetle kids.

This was a typical class period. Interspersing math with loud public advances on the shy boy (who smiled the whole time).

After Winter Break, Karena and the other seniors begin the trudge toward graduation, which increased in pace until Frantic May and Emotional June. In February, however, life was pretty good in Mr. Vaudrey’s 4th period.

We had just wrapped up periodic functions and were packing up to file out to lunch when I realized that Karena had been strangely quiet today and appeared to be staring hard at her notebook instead of packing up.

Once the class had emptied, I sat across from her. “Karena, what’s going on?”

She immediately burst into tears.

“Meester Baudrey,” she wept. “I’m sorry I didn’t finish my homework last night. I had to work late at the store and I fell asleep behind the counter. These are the same clothes I wore yesterday, I just come right to school this morning with no shower. And my parents had to take my college money to pay bills.”

We sat in silence. Karena sniffled and dropped tears onto her immaculately-highlighted notebook, and I was stunned.

“What am I gonna do?” she asked, and looked at me.

IMG_7822 (1)

 

I paused for a moment. What is she gonna do?

I have no idea. 

Twenty-five years earlier, I was born the oldest of five children of a doctor. We had a big house and I could attend any college I wanted. We qualified for student loans and a large inheritance paid off most of my debt before I even graduated.

Karena worked late into the night and did her makeup in the bathroom this morning. If she goes to college, she’ll likely work full-time and be saddled with a pile of debt when she’s done.


That is the main reason we should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Unnamed image (2)

Karena’s parents are undocumented immigrants.2 They work very hard to provide a better life for Karena and her four brothers.

Karena is the exact type of person that we describe when we make references to “The American Dream”. Young, hardworking, traveling to the United States for opportunity. Her whole family works hard, but still can’t quite make it.

My wife and I are both educators with Master’s degrees, two paid-off cars, and a home with a pool. Neither of us have jobs were we have to work “hard”, and we’re still in the top quarter of the wealthiest in the nation.

The minimum-wage earners can fight for themselves (and many are), but they need the support of the rest of us, too, if the higher-ups are to pay attention.

Currently, businesses like McDonald’s have little incentive to raise the minimum wage. While smaller companies can cut a bit from the top and spread it evenly along the bottom, McDonald’s pay increase would cost them quite a bit of money. They’ll continue to keep things the way they are, exploiting immigrants and the poor to build a profit.

Does that make you uncomfortable? It makes me uncomfortable.

I didn’t know how to help Karena. Five years ago, I gave her a tissue and a granola bar, and I haven’t seen her since graduation.

But this is a way that I can help a little. Take thirty seconds and think about it.

~Matt “Middle-class by birth” Vaudrey

1. Not her real name.
2. She encouraged me to use this term instead of “illegal” immigrants. “A person can’t be illegal, Mr. Vaudrey.” .

P.S. Instead of taking time to type up a comment rebuking any of my claims, take that time and talk to somebody in your house about our responsibility to people less fortunate than us.

Dear New Teachers

Today, a representative from theladders.com emailed me asking if I could promote the site on here with a post for new teachers.

Either spambots are getting smarter, or there’s been a sudden spike of interest in the blogs of recovering math teachers turned tech coaches.

Although I’m not trying to find a job, their suggested prompt is a good one, and I have a litany of writings from my early career that show how much of a struggle it is to be a new teacher.

Ahem:

Dear New Teachers,

It gets better.

Really, it sucks now, but you’ll have more and more great days and less and less days that you wanna quit and move in with your parents.

See?

See? Math proves it.

Working with new teachers in my role as a coach, I ask the question: “Why are you a teacher?” Their responses are as diverse as the teachers themselves:

  • I want to make a difference for kids
  • I love English and I want to share that love with kids
  • I had a terrible History teacher and I want to make sure there are some great ones out there, so I chose to be a great teacher
  • I want summers off
  • I want a paycheck
  • I don’t want to work hard

Four years ago, I was hired at Moreno Valley, and the clerk in HR that processed my application said, “I can tell which teachers will make it and which won’t.”

While she was probably full of it, you–the new teacher–can probably tell which of your classmates aren’t going to retire from the field of education. They’ll retire from Plumbing or Business or Politics or something that has nothing to do with kids or teaching.

Education is a noble and just profession charged with equipping the young future-citizens of the nation, and it’s an honor that you get to be part of the solution every day.

You–new teacher–got into this job for one of the reasons above, and that reason alone will sustain you in this career. If, at any point, you realize This isn’t worth it to me,

…you’re right

… and you should quit.

Seriously. Quit.

Leave the field before you get jaded, complacent, grumpy, or rude. Leave the field of education before you cast a shitty shadow on teachers who love their job and want to make a difference.

Leave before you make the rest of us look bad.

If you choose to stay, be prepared for hardest job you’ve ever had.
Be prepared for chances to affirm students instead of disciplining them.
Be prepared to work your ass off and still not be very good at your job.
Then be prepared to have your contract expire and start all over again.

beprepared

[Be Prepared joke goes here]

All of those things were necessary for me. See, after the worst year of my life, I had to figure out if the hard work was worth it for the theoretical payoff.

I decided that it was. That the potential to positively impact the lives of young people was worth late nights, unfair pay, and being asked “How old are you?” all the time.

Me in 2008. Notice I don't yet look very happy to be a teacher.

Me in 2007. Notice I don’t yet look very happy to be a teacher.

Further, teaching was the first thing in my life where I didn’t succeed quickly (you know… besides every sport during teenage years). It was years before I considered myself an average teacher, and I’m only recently getting affirmed by others as “a good teacher”.

Students have cried in my classroom to me (more times than I can count), have shared their lives with me, their breakups, their abortions, their addictions, and their struggles. As a teacher, I worked hard to be excellent at my job and the by-products of that role are still paying dividends.

A family friend is wrapping up her first year in the classroom as a Teacher’s Aide. She had this to say about her career:

When I describe my students and their lives to my dad, he cries every time. My friends gasp and cover their mouthes when I describe the neighborhood where my students live. Thankfully, I’ve been outside of the room every time one of my “all-stars” gets into a fight, so my only role with them is positive. I have students who don’t know their times tables in the same room with students who are bored with the slow pace of the teacher and I have to find a way to engage them all.
I love my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Dear New Teacher,

It gets better.

Be patient and keep working hard; it will get better.

~Matt Vaudrey

Desmaze

Claire Verti, one of my teachers, sent me this blog post today. David Sladkey is using Desmos to complete a maze with his students.

Screenshot 2015-04-22 at 1.26.27 PM

Sweet, right?

I immediately tackled it and now present to you my completed Desmos Maze. As you can see, I had some fun toward the end.

Screenshot 2015-04-22 at 1.49.29 PM

Then, because we’re testing this week and my entire role is to sit and wait for something to break, I made this. Using Google Draw, we can make any kind of maze we want. Make just three points if you want students to start practicing, like Michael Fenton did spectacularly.

Or make a complicated one if you have two-hour blocked periods for SBAC testing and some Pre-Calc students who need to be challenged.

Desmaze - Hard

This might be what I bring into Mr. Rynk’s class next month for a demo lesson; I’m curious to hear students talking about piecewise functions.

Then, I made this one, thinking that it might help students with coordinate plane, but I’m not sold on it yet.

Screenshot 2015-04-22 at 1.39.55 PM

Initially, I had students changing the ordered pair (x,y) to move the point, but then, as students delete the 5 and type the 6, the point blinks in and out of existence. We need continuity. But moving the sliders isn’t very challenging, and it’s no longer a math activity, it’s a game with very little math reasoning in it.

Improve this, will you?

~Matt “I Promise; This Is Technically Work” Vaudrey

 

UPDATE 23 APRIL 2015: A nice follow-up question to keep the class challenged:

#YourEduStory Week 14: Describe Your Ideal Conference

While driving between school sites after a morning of silent SBAC testing, I sighed and realized, I don’t have much to blog about these days.

Which isn’t to say Nothing meaningful is happening nor I don’t have much to say, I’m just finding other places to say it.

With that, here’s a prompt from #YourEduStory:

Describe your ideal conference: What is covered? Who is present?

Oooo, ideal. I love that word.

drooling-homer-simpson

Introducing:

The Professional League of Unconventional Risk-Takers, 

sponsoring:

The PLURT Conference

There are four things happening above that furrow one’s brow:

  1. Keynote Address
  2. Discussion-based sessions
  3. Tool-based Sessions
  4. EdCamp Sessions

Conference attendees find value in each of these things individually, and rather than build a conference around keynotes and tool-based sessions (such a conference would surely entertain, but not challenge), the PLURT conference seeks to have enough of all four categories to sate all comers.

Also, the PLURT conference won’t have these things:

  • Free tote bags with the PLURT logo – That money goes toward the breakfast, which is satisfying for longer than a swag bag.
  • Awards – approximately 60 people cheered for Diane Main at CUE15, and she damn near walks on water. The remaining 5000 weren’t inspired to follow her on Twitter or read her blog (both of which, you should go do right now).
  • Board recognition/nominations – PLURT board is run like jury duty, but optional; twice a year letters go out, and you can decline to serve if you so desire.
  • Regional meetings – Instead, expand your mind and chat with somebody from Canada. That’s how I got fantastic ideas for my dream school from Kyle Pearce.
  • Gear Raffle – “This new document camera goes to someone nominated during the week, who is new to the profession and in need of new equipment.”
  • Door monitors – You wanna leave? Leave. You wanna sit in an empty room and brainstorm with new colleagues? Mazel tov, go for it.
  • Grumpies – because after sitting in traffic and arriving late, you deserve a free coffee and a yogurt.

Let’s learn together.

~Matt “#PLURT16″ Vaudrey

1. Yes, a keynote address. I haven’t yet decided what the purpose of a keynote is globally, but my survey so far seems to agree that “Inspire” is high on the list of what Keynotes should do, so we can open the PLURT conference with one.
2. …and the surviving cast of Star Wars re-enacts the Battle of Yavin on a scale model built out of legos while feeding me stuffed-crust pizza. Then we all go for a swim in a pool full of the tears of Stop Common Core supporters.

One Year Anniversary

One year ago this week, I left the classroom to take a coaching position, not knowing if I would ever return. It was a risk, and while I’m usually a big fan of risk in the classroom, this risk was blind.

Since then, I have changed schools/districts, presented at a dozen workshops and conferences across the state, and grown into many business-like skills that I didn’t think I would need.

For example, I never learned how to manage a calendar. Who would I need it? The bell tells me when to go potty.

"Come on, second period, come ooooooooon!"

“Come on, second period, come ooooooooon!”

Last week, I was walking around with the superintendent, visiting school sites and checking out classes that were doing interesting things (with tech). While killing time in the office, he asked me, “So, Matt; do you like your job?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s a great fit for me.” Luckily, my honest answer doesn’t require me to censor anything for the superintendent.

“Is it like what you thought it would be?” He leans in and raises his eyebrows.

“I don’t miss having my own students as much as I thought I would, and I get to give fun demo lessons and never give report cards or IEPs.”

We all chuckle and head to the next class to visit.

Here’s the longer answer I could give:

Is this job what you thought it would be?

Not really. And that’s okay.

After the CUE conference, there are a half-dozen new cool things teachers wanna try. Most of them will go back the classroom and forget them. If I want, I can go back to a desk and spend time on the clock figuring out new ways to make class more meaningful.

It’s pretty sweet.

(Notable: I’ve been in about 15 classes as of Thursday lunch. Not much desk time this week.)

Also, I don’t miss having my own students as much as I thought I would. That was by far the most important part of my classroom, and I’m not finding a hole in my heart like I thought there would be.

I believe I’m doing a decent job of district-level coaching without being viewed as the district stooge, which was a worry of mine.

"It's so great to see game-changers like you creating 21st-century learners for student success."

“It’s so great to see game-changers like you raising rigor and creating 21st-century learners for student success. Let’s take a 2-hour lunch and discuss it.”

Since I gave a snapshot of this week a year ago as I left the classroom, I think it’s fitting to give a snapshot of this week (before I arrived at CUE 2015):

Researched web-hosting for my personal website and my boss’s soon-to-be-created CEPTA portfolio.

Chat with a Speech and Language Pathologist to answer the question “What technology will help with small-group instruction?” (This–by the way–is a much more effective question than “What can I do with iPads?”)

You can do a lot of different things with ____, what do you WANT to do? That might not be the best tool for the job.

You can do a lot of different things with it; what do you WANT to do? That might not be the best tool for the job.

Fine-tuned a digital fitness portfolio for Middle School P.E. Teachers, then set up all the students in Google Classroom and pushed out a blank copy. (Click that first link and check out the graphs. I’m quite proud of it.)

While joining the students to Ms. Berkler’s Google Classroom, I can tell she’s clearly not understanding the intricacy of what they’re doing. She gives a shy smile and claims  “I’m not techy”. But she paces along dutifully as we logged into a Google Classroom with her Fitness Intervention students.

As fourth period files out to lunch, she turns to me and says, “This is going to be so good for us. I can see how this will help our class. And the students were really into your instruction!”

“Thanks!” I reply, “Any chance I can get in a classroom with middle-schoolers. They’re just so fun!”

She smiles the biggest I’ve seen all day and declares, “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

 

So, yeah. It’s going pretty well.

~Matt “One Year Anniversary” Vaudrey

Accidentally Teaching Students to Hate School

“Stop!”

A whimper from across the terminal makes me look up. A 12-year-old boy and I make eye-contact before he buries his face in his book and pleads to the woman on his right again, “Stop! Please!”

The heavy-set woman folds her arms and says flatly, “You just made it 400. Wanna try for five?”

The boy puts his book down and turns to look at the woman, his mother. “Stop!” He pleads again.

“Five hundred, it is. Let’s go for six.” She bristles up straighter in her chair as her son scoots lower and lower. “Six it is. You wanna stop crying now?”

The boy looks at me again, his face growing red and his pre-pubescent hands squeezing the pages of a Captain Underpants book. The book flops onto his lap and he whispers, “Stop… please.”

captain-underpants-thn

“Seven hundred sentences,” Mom stares down her son, a hint of pride in her voice, which is loud enough for us to hear in the row facing them. “You need to stop being oppositional. There; you just made it eight.” She is determined to win.

The book covers his face again. “I’m not gonna write them,” he sobs into the pages.

“What’s that?” His mom holds a hand to her ear, a hint of sarcasm tints her voice. “Do I hear 900?”

“I’m not gonna write them!” He’s insisting now, trying to convince his mom or convince himself, I can’t tell.

“One. Thousand. Sentences.” Her head bobs with each word.

John growls in my ear. “I can’t sit here for this shit.” He angrily zips his bag and storms to the other end of Gate 29 at Ontario Airport.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a novice teacher wrestle with the will of an adolescent. It’s not even the first time I’ve seen someone use writing as corporal punishment and be confident that it’s the right move.

But it’s the first time in recent memory that I’ve been powerless to do anything about it.

I join John a few feet away and we growl together in time to see the two of them walk past.

Mom is holding son’s wrist with two fingers, insisting “I’m hardly touching you.” but clearly, she is further compounding his embarrassment. A boy on the verge of manhood, asserting his will against a his mother–the opposing force–but met with humiliation.

She raises her voice, as if to announce to the observers that she’s being reasonable. “Once you stop being so oppositional, then it’ll get better.” She sounds confident, but I know better. “You’re twelve years old. Stop crying!”

John leans in and says, “You know… a younger John would’ve said something to her. Like, ‘Hey, you’re training your son to hate school if you use sentences as punishment, so knock it off!’ A younger John would’ve let her have it.”

“Yeah.” I agree, “Getting older isn’t as fun when you’re supposed to tolerate bad management of teenagers. But you know telling her off won’t help her improve.”

“You know what I shoulda done?” John is so angry, he hardly hears me. “I shoulda said, ‘Lady, we can go talk in private or I can tell you what I’m thinking in front of your son.'” John’s eyes are alight and his jaw is clenched. Not a violent or angry man by nature, his blood boils when he sees children maligned.

He probably would’ve made the poor woman shit her pants.

We line up to board and I ask the attendant, “How full are we today?”

He shrugs, “Only, like … 38 out of 140.” He waves us on.

Perfect. A ratio problem to distract us. I grin and ask John, “Well, 35 is five sevens and 140 is twenty sevens, so the plane is about 25 or 30% full, yeah?” We round the jetway corner and see the woman seated in a row by herself. A dozen rows further up, a small head of curly black hair looks out the window and sniffles.

I’m pleased to see that he’s asserting some independence. At the very least, it’s good to recognize when your emotions are weakening your verbal filter.

We settle into our seats across the aisle from the woman. I selfishly take the aisle seat, just in case the opportunity arises to talk about parenting with a woman 10 years my senior. I see her murmuring something to the flight attendant, and realize this is the moment when my wife would pull my sleeve and say, “Let it go. She’s not going to change based on a conversation with some guy on a plane.”

So I pull out my book and–as I’m prone to do–I have an imaginary conversation in my head. It goes like this:

Vaudrey: Excuse me, ma’am. May I speak with you?
Mother: Yes?
V: I’m a teacher and I couldn’t help but overhear your scuffle with the boy. Was that your son?
M: Yes.
V: He seemed upset about your punishment. What were the sentences?
M: When he’s oppositional, he has to write “I will follow directions” out on paper and give it to me.
V: Why did you choose that punishment?
M: Who the fuck are you? Why do you care?
V: My name is Matt Vaudrey, and I’m a math teacher. I’ve spent the last eight years finding ways to deal with unruly students. Sons and daughters of gang members and drug dealers, students far more unruly than your son who brings a book to the airport and bursts into tears instead of yelling or punching. He began to cry while you were speaking. Was that your intent?
M: …well… no.
V: What was your intent?
M: Well, I want him to be less oppositional!
V: Why is that?
M: You’re a teacher! You know he’s gotta follow the rules. He can’t speak to me like that.
V: Okay, you say he has to follow the rules, but you also mentioned disrespect.
M: Yeah! He can’t disrespect me!
V: I agree. Here’s why I wanted to speak to you: I tried using sentences as punishment early in my career, and it only served to alienate my students and foster in them a distaste for school. It didn’t remotely earn me the respect that I wanted. However, when I switched to a relationship and asked for my students’ respect, I found that I didn’t need to discipline them very much at all. Further, they were nicer to me, not just compliant. When we disagreed, we did so respectfully, because they knew that they had my respect, as well.
Does that sound like a relationship that you’d like with your son?
M: *scoffs* You look about 16, what the hell do you know about parenting a teenager?
V: You’re definitely the expert on your son, who I don’t know at all. But I’ve taught roughly 900 students, most of which were harder than your son.
Also, do you think that writing sentences as a punishment creates a positive connection with writing or a negative one?
M: (eyes welling up with transformative tears) Well… a negative one, obviously.
V: I agree. Would you like a better way to disagree with him? Head back to his seat and apologize for embarrassing him in the airport. Then ask how he would like you to respond if he’s being oppositional. Let him explain a solution that would work for him. Sentences clearly aren’t doing it.
Then you’re teammates instead of adversaries, with mutual respect as the goal.
M: (bursts into tears) Yes! Thank you, Mr. Vaudrey! That’s what I want for my son! Waaaaahahahahaaaa!”

My wife says my imaginary conversations start out reasonable and get stupid toward the end.

 

*Ding*

“Welcome to Ontario Airport. Local time is 10:35 PM.”

John and I unbuckle our seatbelts and pull down our bags.

 

On my way out, the boy looks at me. I resist the urge to say, “Hang in there, dude. It’ll get better.”

 

Because I’m not sure it will.

~Matt “Guardian Angel of Parenting” Vaudrey

P.S. John wrote about the experience, too. And my distaste for this style of punishment isn’t anything new.