Author Archives: Matt Vaudrey

#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.

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.

The Givachit Scale

Yesterday, John Stevens and I have a workshop for the lovely math teachers of Madera County. It was fantastic.

John walks a crew through Barbie Zipline.

John walks a crew through Barbie Zipline.

Barbie Zipline

"Which one is more Mullety?

“Which one is more Mullety?

The drive up and down gave us plenty of time in the car to listen to Jimmy Fallon skits and female-fronted rock bands, but also time to discuss our new roles as EdTech Coaches in our respective districts.

Our conversation landed on:

Policing Student Behavior

We knew of coaches (and other adults on school campus) that tend to bark at students for wrong-doing. When we were children, the “it takes a village” mindset was pervasive;

…kids didn’t misbehave around adults quite as much. There was a good chance they’d tell your parents or just take care of discipline themselves.

In the last couple decades, many parents have been empowered to give their kids whatever the hell they want and to bark at other adults for offering co-parenting when they’re unavailable.

Comedian Chris Titus has a lot to say on the parenting shift of the last 30 years, but this part stands out to me:

I never misbehaved in my neighborhood, even though my dad worked a lot. You know why? Because I had neighbors. And if my dad wasn’t around to beat my ass… someone would pinch-hit for him.

As Coaches, we often go into classes to support teachers.

Teachers who need support have disproportionately… rowdy classes.

Today, I watched a 3rd-grade boy slap a girl on the thigh when she wasn’t looking, she squealed and hit him in the arm. No harm done.

At the high-school level, a colleague of mine watched a boy make disparaging remarks about a girl all period, until the girl stood, clocked him in the face, and screamed, “Fuck you!”

The Givachit Scale

Here’s why I wouldn’t take those students to the office if I were standing in the back of the room.

Students have a bunch of adults in their lives. The graph below (which, like all my material, is copiously researched and not at all made up on the spot) describes the Givachit value for each group.

Givachit Scale

During my teaching career, many more students “Givachit” what their siblings think of their behavior than their pastor. Teachers will have the highest return by contacting those members of the student’s social circle with the largest slice. I’ve told Grandma about a student’s behavior and gotten much more mileage than with Mom.

Notice how tiny the slice is for District Stooge? That’s why I don’t intervene with students. Because the exchange will likely go like this:

Vaudrey (tough teacher voice): Watch your mouth.
Unruly Youth: Who the hell are you?
Vaudrey: I’m a teacher on special assignment to coach other teachers on effective integration of technology into the classroom. Watch your mouth.
Unruly Youth: What if I don’t?
Vaudrey: Then we go to the office and you get written up for defiance. What’s your name?
Unruly Youth: Barack Obama
Vaudrey: Okay, that’s it. Let’s go to the office
Unruly Youth: [continues sipping sugary drink]
Vaudrey: Okay… I’m gonna go find a security officer to escort you. Don’t move.

My family is not one to gamble, but I’d wager over half my interactions would end similarly. Odds are pretty high that the student who will curse in front of a stranger in a tie isn’t afraid of the consequences.

Also, it’s not worth my time to correct a strange teenager, considering the reciprocal scale guiding my actions:

Worth My Time Matrix

 

~Matt “Go ahead and chew gum in class” Vaudrey

 

Prep Position

“Oh!… what do you train them on?” my sister asked.

“Mostly risk-taking in the classroom,” I responded, trying to sum up La Cucina Matematica into a few words. “Since most degree programs prepare teachers to teach the same way that they were taught, John and I try to get teachers to explore more interesting ways to teach.”

Good!” Bethany huffed. “You don’t hear about excellent teachers very often, just the awful ones. The ones on the news.”

“No shit,” I agreed. “Getting students excited about school is a different skill set. A teacher named Dave Burgess wrote a book about it.”

As I explained Teach Like A Pirate to my soon-to-be-doctoral-degreed sister, she exclaimed into the phone, “Like Ms. Mega!”

I asked Bethany to elaborate, and she told me this story.

surgeon

When I was in 6th grade, Ms. Mega answered the door after lunch dressed like a doctor. She welcomed us into class with her hands held up like she had just scrubbed in to surgery. Written on the board was the word PREPOSITION in huge letters.

We filed quietly into our seats, unsure of what came next. Were we in trouble? Is there some kind of outbreak? Are we in quarantine?

“I need a volunteer!” Ms. Mega proclaimed loudly from the front of the class. in front of two student desks. While all of us were curious, my friend Sheree was the only one who raised her hand. “Sheree, please come lay on the desk.”

I was so glad I didn’t volunteer; I don’t want to have elective surgery at school.

Once Sheree was laying across the two student desks, Ms. Mega wrote the word “ON” below “PREPOSITION” on the board.

“Sheree is on the desk. She is in Prep Position. Her Preposition in on. Give me an example of another Prep Position.”

And she waited.

“Under?” offered Ryan shyly.

“Sheree, please assume the Prep Position under the desk.” Ms. Mega wrote UNDER next to ON as Sheree climbed down and balled herself under the desk. “What is another Prep Position?”

A room full of 12-year-olds quickly picked up steam, “Around!” “Through!” “Inside!” and Ms. Mega wrote all the prepositions on the board as Sheree tried to wrap herself around the desk or climb through its bars.

And to this day, I remember what a Preposition is, all because Ms. Mega had an interesting lesson about it. That was… 15 years ago. Ugh, that sounds like a long time.

~Matt (and Bethany) Vaudrey

UPDATE 12:53 PM We had this conversation today regarding this post.

Bethany Text Ms. Mega

2014 Reflection

The best record of the good things in 2014 is my Twitter feed, so here are some of the best moments from 2014, in Tweet-form, semi-chronologically:

January of 2014, John Stevens and I gave a training for the Mariposa County math teachers called La Cucina Matematica.

A year later, we’ve done six or seven of them (all way better than the first one), and it spawned a website and we’re both getting calls to train staff across the country. Pretty sweet.

 

A few months later, I interviewed for a job in-district as Professional Development Specialist.

That meant leaving the classroom mid-year.

Even though I had more time at home, the job wasn’t professionally satisfying. I enjoy doing math with students, I don’t enjoy structuring curriculum maps for integrat—Yegh. I’m bored already.

I did have more time to blog, though.

So eight weeks later, I interviewed and accepted a different job. It was immediately fantastic.

In between all of that chaos, we had a baby on Father’s Day.

clayton

My wife looks terrified because baby Clayton didn’t cry/breathe right away. It was the longest, scariest 7 seconds of my life.

But he’s fine now.

If you’re curious, he has a hashtag on Instagram and so does his sister, which makes compiling pictures really easy with IFTTT.

Then I settled into the glorious routine of “figuring out a new job that has no job description, total autonomy, and a supportive supervisor who’s a hoot”.

Out of “the rat race”, so to speak, of day-to-day teaching, I had more mental energy to play with my kids, read books, and think about education and my future in it.

This new job is just as supportive as the classroom position when it comes to attending conferences and presenting. It’s notable that some of my top tweets of the year happened during CMC, CUE, and GTA.

 

Also, I had a little help compiling this list from My Top Tweet and some fancy Googling.

For 2015:

I turned 30 in 2014. While that meant throwing a 1997-themed birthday, it also meant looking forward.

What can I give to Education that nobody else can give?

While I may never have a good answer for that, I’m getting closer to a coherent response.

In 2013, I gave 150 students a fun place to talk about math; a safe place to take risks and trust each other.

In 2014, I taught (or attempted to) a hundred or so teachers about how to build their classes into that type of class. Also, some other like-minded individuals and I began to wonder, “Could we find a way to effect greater change in Education? How do we get there?”

In 2015, we will keep asking hard questions and dreaming. We’ll see what happens.

~Matt “I wanna change the world, but I also want to teach” Vaudrey

How do you know all this stuff?

That question was asked by the principal at one of my Elementary schools.
Initially, he was hesitant to ask for my help. As the new EdTech Coach for the district (hired this year), he and I were both unsure of my role at his school (or my role at any of my 13 schools).

In September, the discussion went like this:

“How open is your staff to new ideas?” I asked cautiously, seated across from the principal of one of my 8 elementary schools. As a life-long avoider of trouble, my palms sweat a bit every time I enter the Principal’s office.

“Oh, very,” declared McKee proudly. “I show them something, they’re using it in class the next day.”

“Great! Would you say you’re the leader for those types of innovations on campus?” The keys on my iPad keyboard clack as I jot down digital notes.

McKee smiles wryly, “Not exactly. We have several on campus who are trying new and interesting things, but I can relate to those who are hesitant. It’s scary to try something new. They’re scared, but open; does that make sense?”

“Definitely,” I grin, pleased that he’s so honest about himself and his staff.

Three months later, I’m back in his office as we attempt to design a Google Form where PTA volunteers can log volunteer hours (which are then counted in a pivot table). There are dozens of similar designs in my Google Drive, but I remind myself, this is the first one that McKee has done. Be patient.

He’s a fantastic student. Within 20 minutes, the form is done and he’s changed the header to his school logo.

“Sweet!” I exclaim. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

McKee’s eyebrows raise and he smiles wide. “You mean I taught something to Matt Vaudrey?” He pumps both fists in the air.

I laugh with him, glad that he can see the value in enlightening a peer. Beneath the desk, my feet tighten in my shoes. That’s the third time this week somebody’s said that. Should I be worried that I’m becoming a know-it-all?

I file that thought away for later, and McKee and I press forward, building a master roster for lock-down drills.

“Drag that gray line down to freeze the top row. That way, you’ll still see the header when you scroll down.” I point to column 1 on his massive, principal-sized screen.

McKee shakes his head, “How do you know all this stuff?” He asks with a smile.

McKee asked the question in the most respectful way I’ve heard. Typically, the comments are more like,

“I don’t know how you do all this stuff.”

coffee disgust

Well… um…

“It must be nice to be so techy.”

Uh... yeah... but...

Uh… yeah… but…

“Of course it’s easy for you. You’re young.”

Ohhhh!

Ohhhh!

I bite my tongue every time I hear that last one.

Easy?

Easy?

EASY?

EASY? Let me tell you about easy!

It’s often the more veteran teachers who pull out that line. Unfortunately for them, I taught math before I was an EdTech Coach, so I’m well prepared for that “fixed mindset” garbage.

It’s no secret that I have little tolerance for students content to be ignorant–whether a veteran teacher afraid of iPads or a 13-year-old at-risk student–but it’s tough to call out that attitude in an adult without sounding… well…

uppity.

And no amount of cute smiling will solve the problem. Believe me.

And no amount of cute smiling will help. Believe me.

This week, as I was in the Apple Store repairing my mother-in-law’s iPad, I finally figured out my response when people express awe at my tech-muscles.

“I just started learning it earlier than you did.”

…(Also, I mooch like crazy, ask questions on Twitter, and work really hard at figuring out things that are confusing.)

~Matt “Huge iPad Muscles, Regular-Sized Actual Muscles” Vaudrey