Author Archives: Matt Vaudrey

Barbie Bungee 2015

Resources at the end.

Twelve Days Out

In early May, Claire and I were talking about non-traditional math lessons to make her department more interesting. She’s already using Visual Patterns with Algebra students and is pleased with the spike in their reasoning skills, but…

“There’s tons of cool stuff on the internet and I don’t know where it is or how to use it.”

I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting, “CAN I SHOW YOU SOME OF IT?!

Seven Days Out

After a few prep periods of chatting about math curriculum and Common Core standards, we decide on a three-day Barbie Bungee performance task.

The last time my class did this lesson, we realized that I didn’t adequately set up the reason for this silliness. This time, Mrs. Verti and I worked hard to connect the individual data to the jumps and emphasizing their value to calculate the medium jump and big jump.

After deciding to make bungees the dependent variable, I couldn’t decide if we should have stations inside the classroom or give the platforms to each group to hang outside.

Claire pointed out that we have two wildly different ability levels (Honors Pre-Calculus and Freshman General Algebra), so we can try both methods.


Four Days Out

Claire and I meet on Friday before Memorial Day to discuss any remaining details. She confesses she’s a big nervous; that this is a weird, different way to do math class.

I assure her; weird and different is where I live. And if it bombs, that’ll be on me and not her.

Two Days Out

After three years of hauling around awkwardly-shaped platforms, I realize what’s missing: hinges.


Further, I realize, after I build six new platforms, it’s hardly any work to retro-fit the old ones so they will fold flat into my storage bin.


Plus I had some adorable helpers.


Cooed and gurgled on my back while I drilled and assembled.


Honestly, she's more interested in the tools, which is fantastic.

Honestly, she’s more interested in the tools than the dolls, which is fantastic.

Day One – Data Collection

First period is Pre-Calculus Honors. I meet them at the door and shake their hand, then they grab the study guide off the back table and staple it. Mrs. Verti gives details about the final exam next week and it’s my turn.

Deep breath.

“Good morning!” Big smile.

“Grrd Muh-huhhh.” The class moans, unsure of what to do with me.

“My name is Mr. Vaudrey. Everyone say Vaudrey.”

“Thank you. I’m here today to talk about this.”

Students: Oh, snap! Where are they? Is that a missile silo? That makes me dizzy. Mark, you wanna do that? No!

The smooth jazz fades out and Mrs. Verti pulls the lights back on. “What do you suppose,” I begin, pausing for their full attention. This class doesn’t know me, and the end of May is a pretty awful time to try a demo lesson. For the next three days to go well, I need to flex my teacher muscles early.

“What do you suppose they were talking about as they drove through the Russian wilderness to go jump into a missile silo? Talk to your neighbor; what things are important to the jumpers?”

This was a great spot for a music cue, but they wouldn’t know what to do with it, so I just wander the class and listen. After a minute, I take some student answers.

Vaudrey: What do you suppose they were talking about? Yes, go ahead.
Student 1: How to not die. *smirk*
Vaudrey: What do you mean? Can they control that?
Student 1: Well, yeah. Like, they have to have enough rope to reach across the thing.
Vaudrey: Somebody else, why is that important?
Student 2: If the rope doesn’t reach across, then they just fall into the thing.
Vaudrey: Okay, so we need lots of rope. Lots and lots of rope.
Student 1: Well, not too much.
Vaudrey: Why not too much?
Student 3: Cuz they’ll hit the bottom and die!
Vaudrey: Ah, so just barely enough to reach across the missile silo? That’s the perfect jump?
Student 2: Yeah.
Student 4: No! Cuz then you’re just hanging at the top!
Vaudrey: Tell us more about that.
Student 4: Well… like, you’re stuck on top.
Vaudrey: Isn’t that good? You won’t hit your head.
Student 1: But that’s boring.
Vaudrey: Why?
Student 1: The whole point is to jump in, not… like…
Vaudrey: Okay, I think I understand. If we use too much rope, it’s not…
[pregnant pause]
Student 5: Safe.
Vaudrey: Not safe, because (thunks desk dramatically) you’ll die. But we want to use enough rope the jump is…
[pregnant pause]
Students 3 and 1: Fun.
Vaudrey: Fun. So we want to have fun, but also be safe.

NOTE: A 50-foot jump is a little fun, an 80-foot jump is more fun because the ground is closer. I should have asked them to define the fun here. Something like, “What’s the most fun jump you could have?”
Next year.

Vaudrey: Today, we’re going to recreate that jump using…[dramatic pause as I lift the bag of Barbies and slowly pull one out] …dolls.

After making their own groups and building a short bungee, we head outside with our data-sheets, dolls, bungees, and platforms. There was a light drizzle as students hung their platforms on the fence and began gathering data.




After a few minutes, students began to notice the nearby baseball field, with its much-taller fence.

IMG_0737 IMG_0742



Then we returned to class to discuss (in groups) how many bungees we’d need for tomorrow, when we’d go into the gym to jump off the top of the bleachers.

Student 5: We’re gonna jump off the bleachers?!
Verti: No, your doll is. The one you’ve been using all day.
Student 5: Ohhhh.

First period ends and we repeat the process with two Algebra classes and two more Pre-Calc Honors classes.

Freshman Algebra is–obviously–louder, sillier, and requires more directions, but they rotate through the twelve stations around the room just fine.

Here’s a good snapshot.

Day One Student Quotes:

Can we break their limbs? Does that still count as safe?
We took our jumps too close together, we should have spread it out more.
The numbers are making me nervous, I’m gonna average to sort out my life.
I had PE first period, so I saw you guys. I don’t know what we’re doing, but I know it’s something fun outside.
I feel like this cute stuff is made for elementary school.

Student 1: This is a “performance task”? Noooo! That means it has to be right.
Student 2: Yeah, see? [holds up his phone showing this tweet]

Pre-Calculus Student: This feels like the ambiguous case. I don’t like it.

Freshman: Do you wanna join Alien Club?
Vaudrey: What are my duties as a member?
Freshman: You have to take an oath (makes the Vulcan symbol).
Vaudrey: No, thank you.

That freshman continued to talk about Alien Club the next two days.

Day 2 – Desmos and Bleachers

First period begins sweaty at 7:40.

I’m sweaty because I hauled six tubs of iPads to room 908, but I’m hoping the payoff is worth it.

On the wall is the first of several slides directing students to submit their raw data from yesterday. It’s noteworthy here that these students haven’t used the iPad much in class all year, but required very little prompting to open the internet and navigate to the URL I gave.

This wasn’t the first nor the last time I noticed rich kids are way more motivated than … well… my usual clientele.

After submitting raw data (more on that later), we directed them to the second URL, which was a Desmos graph I had built ahead of time for them to input their data.

Vaudrey: Here, you will input your data from yesterday. If you don’t have any jumps for six bungees, leave it blank. If you have multiple jumps for two bungees, enter the others at the bottom. Then… watch this… drag the sliders to fit your line to the graph. Everyone say, “Ooooo”.
Class: oooOOOOOooo
Vaudrey: Go.

One of the marks of a Common Core classroom is minimal instruction from the teacher. I am confident that students can figure out how to drag sliders and input data, so I don’t need to waste my words giving more explicit instructions.

And yes, that is a skill that classes must develop; the previous 10 years of school have trained them well to value compliance over curiosity.

It takes a while to shake off those blinders.

What do you mean,

What do you mean, “Figure it out?”

After a few minutes of playing, I show the class how to click on the intersection of the purple and green lines. We talk about what that number means and begin building a bungee with that length.

Screenshot 2015-06-01 at 1.33.17 PM

Student: What do I do if my line doesn’t hit all the points?
Vaudrey: Do you all have the same intersection?
Student: He has 16, she has 18, and I have 21.
Vaudrey: Would you rather have too few bungees or too many? Discuss with your group.


barbie bungee 20

Student: We noticed that these two add up to exactly 301, so we added the two bungees together.

Student: We noticed that these two add up to exactly 301, so we added two and seven  together.

Once groups agreed on their bungee length, we set off for the gym and dropped two at a time off the top (301 cm ~ 12 feet), bracket-style, so the most fun, safe jump moved on to the next round.


With the remaining time in class, we discussed possible improvements, then showed this video:

Verti: That’s what we’re doing tomorrow. Tomorrow, Barbie jumps off the back of the visitor side of the bleachers. Start thinking about what you’ll do.

Day Two Student Quotes

We need 18.6 bungees… what should we do?
We should get the average, like find how much one bungee gives us, then divide.
Whoa! We figured out a way to do a half-bungee!
What do we do if we have one point that’s like… out there?
Let’s set up a proportion!
It shouldn’t be this hard. If Algebra kids can do it, we should be able to figure it out.
I told you to add an extra bungee, but you said, “Noooo, we gotta be saaaafe.” Safety’s for losers!
I don’t like technology; I’d rather do a worksheet.

Day Three – The Big Jump

Screenshot 2015-06-01 at 2.27.20 PM

Students got right to work, grabbing iPads, opening Safari1, navigating to the link on the board, and awaiting instructions.

Vaudrey: Today is the day. You have a new graph where you may enter your data, AND you have the option of checking your line against the data from other classes by clicking the folder for your doll’s weight class.

This group checked their data against the class composite and felt good about their line.

This group checked their data against the class composite and felt good about their line.

NOTE: Claire and I realized that we didn’t actually tell students to input their 301 cm jump from Day Two, which might have helped their data a bit.
Next year.

After building their long bungee, we began the seven minute trek past the fence from Day One (yellow ellipse) to the back of the visitor’s bleachers.

BHS Bungee business

Bonita High School – alma mater of the guy who played the Green Power Ranger.
Go Bearcats.

Then, the fun part.


Bad Idea: attempt to have a conversation about bungee length from 32 feet in the air.

“Team Miranda! How long is your bungee and why?”

Good idea: Have the discussion in class before walking outside. It allows the meticulous teams some more time to build their 61.5-bungee cord2 while the rest of the class can be validated or made nervous by their classmate’s calculations.

We used 17 bungees yesterday to jump 301 cm, so we multiplied that by 3 to get 900, but we figure it’s gonna stretch from so high, so we left it there.

We divided yesterday’s 301 into today’s 981 and got 3.26, then multiplied that times the 19 bungees from yesterday.

Our graphs all had… um… all intersected at different spots, so we took the smallest number because we wanna be safe.

Claire and I got more and more excited hearing the variety of reasoning skills, the students got less and less certain that theirs was the “right answer”.


Day Three Student Quotes

Our data is right inside the average, so we’re feeling pretty good about our data gathering skills.

(points to a data point at the bottom of the cluster) This group was playing it safe, they probably just took the first jump and didn’t see how close to the ground they could get.

Keep the head on, if we take it off, it’ll mess up our whole calculation.

S: Is he a real teacher?
Verti: Yes, he’s a real math teacher.
S: He is?!

S2:We have 37 bungees, that feels like a stupid lot of them.
V: Someone last period used 33 and it was a safe jump.
S1: But was it fun?
V: I don’t know.
S2: Uhhhhh, I don’t like this uncertainty! This is stressful!


Day Four – Exit Ticket

This is the first year that I haven’t given the Teacher Report Card to students, so I welcomed some student feedback. We didn’t use the Exit Ticket on Day One, so we tweaked it and Claire gave a voluntary link for students to complete on Friday.

We then color-coded it; Green for Great, Yellow for Next Year, Red for Ouch.

If you so desire, have a look and mourn the students clinging tightly to final exams and grades.


Barbie Bungee is a yearly staple in Fawn’s class, and she bundled the rubber bands in groups of seven so students can’t keep any (I assume). I gave out rubber bands like Oprah and–of course–had a couple freshmen shoot each other on Day One.
Vaudrey: Come here.
Freshman: It was an accident!
Vaudrey: … you’re a freshman, right?
Freshman: Yeah.
Vaudrey: … hm. [Deliberate, silent eye contact] Don’t do that again.

Day two had no issues.

Here’s a YouTube Playlist with all the uploaded videos.


For the first time ever, I planned a lesson in Google Docs. I missed my spiral notebook, but for Claire and I to co-plan, we needed something collaborative, so this worked okay.

Here’s the folder with everything in it except the pictures. Some of Claire’s students haven’t signed media releases.


On Day Two, I was beat. My throat hurt from using my teacher voice and I was fried from plowing six periods through the gym to do bungees for a mathematical purpose that was unclear. This was the second-last week of school and it felt like it: disjointed. We got some great feedback here on how to improve it for next year.

Stacy’s head popped off years ago. This year, Grace and Sparkles lost heads, too.
Before tossing them from the top of the bleachers,  I loosened all three of their heads so they’d pop off, prompting an “Ohhh!” from the students below.

I regret nothing.

~Matt “Please, Can I Borrow Your Classroom?” Vaudrey

P.S. Attendees at Twitter Math Camp this summer can come experience Barbie Bungee firsthand, featuring Fawn Nguyen.



1. Desmos in Chrome on the iPad was glitchy to the point of unusable. More points in the “Buy Chromebooks for Secondary Students” basket.
2. One group figured out a way to tie the bungee so it’s only half as long. I asked how they knew it was exactly half. Could it be 0.6 bungees? How much of a difference does that make?

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.”



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.

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.


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


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.

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.


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 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.


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? 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.


[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


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.



The Professional League of Unconventional Risk-Takers, 


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