I am so, so happy I decided to attend TMC in Minneapolis the last five days (counting the Desmos pre conference). I wanted to use this post to reflect on my experience.
Let’s rewind to just over a year and a half ago, while I was in the middle of my first field experience. It was a couple days before I was supposed to have a formal observation and I was in a panic of how to make my lesson exciting and interesting for my students. I cannot remember exactly what I was going to be teaching, but I remember using google to try to find some fun activities to do with this lesson. Through this, I stumbled upon some math teacher blogs. From there, I started spending hours (literally) jumping from blog to blog reading what other teachers were doing in their classroom. I eventually saw the hashtag #MTBoS, and did a google search on that to discover there was a whole network of people out there and started following some people on twitter. I have always just kind of been a lurker, so in January, I decided to try the MTBoS blogging initiative where I was paired up with my mentor Danielle. She asked me if I was planning to go to TMC and said that I should because it would be a good experience. BTW, the blogging thing apparently didn’t stick since this is my third blog post.
Come February, I must have been at the right place at the right time. I had followed TMC on twitter, so right after school one day I saw that registration was open for TMC 2016. I made an impulsive decision to register and was surprised when it said that my registration was confirmed, especially since I had heard registration usually filled up very quick. As TMC got closer and closer, I started to panic a little more each day. About 4 days before, I actually almost decided to drop out, but then I thought about it and decided that my spot maybe wouldn’t even go to someone on the waitlist because I had waited so long, and I didn’t want a space to go to waste. So, I sucked it up and decided to attend.
I am SO happy that I did. Friday started with the Desmos pre conference. I ended up arriving an hour early to Augsburg–leading me to sit in my car for half an hour before I went in. When I got inside, I was greeted by the Desmos staff almost instantly. It was nice to feel so welcomed, but I was still kind of freaking out inside. Eventually, breakfast was served and I ended up getting in line next to Lane Walker. She invited me to go sit at her table with a few other people. I started to feel less like an outsider and more like a member of the group. The rest of the day consisted of learning about and playing around with the Desmos calculator and activity builder. We also got the pleasure of hearing Sara VanDerWerf speak about being an Evangelist. After the Desmos conference, there was happy hour at Republic. I was still surprised each time someone sat down by me and introduced themselves. At one point, most of my table ended up leaving the bar to go somewhere else. Julie Wright stayed behind and invited me to go meet some people with her. I remember meeting Glenn for the first time that night and he asked me “so how is your first time at TMC? Overwhelming?” I replied “kind of” and he said “and isn’t it crazy that TMC hasn’t even started yet?” That got me even more excited for TMC to actually start the next day.
Twitter Math Camp started Saturday morning. After checking in, I was sitting at a table with a group of other attendees. We ended up being recruited to move some boxes from one building to another. This is how I met my new friend Leslie! We were both first time attendees who didn’t really know anyone else at the conference. We ended up sitting together and making plans for lunch before heading off to our morning sessions. I decided to attend Matt Baker and Chris Luzniak‘s session, “Talk Less, Smile More: Getting Students to Discuss and Debate Math.” I learned so many great things I am going to try to implement in my classroom including the words “claim” and “warrant.” I could go on and on about how awesome their session was, but it should have a post of its own.
We had a keynote speaker every day after our morning sessions and lunch. The first speaker was Jose Vilson. He talked about how we as math teachers have the ability to discuss and change the injustice happening in our country right now. We need to participate in the conversation, not just watch in the shadows. He made the point that people of color do not need mascots, they need people who are going to go out and make change.
The second day, our keynote speaker was Tracy Zager. She talked about how elementary and secondary teachers should collaborate because they both have so much to learn from each other. She made the point that elementary teachers seem to start teaching knowing so much more about pedagogy, while secondary teachers know more about their content. One isn’t more important than the other, instead you should focus on improving understanding of both. I hope to go back to school and try to discuss math with the elementary teachers in my building.
The third day, the keynote speaker was Dylan Kane. He talked about how he has become a better teacher by being a part of the MTBoS. He talked about all the amazing resources in the community, and how sometimes it can get overwhelming. You have to find what works for you in your classroom, because clever ideas =/= coherent curriculum. He also mentioned that you should expect to change over time, but it is unrealistic to try to change more than 10% each year.
Well, if you stuck with me up til this point, I applaud you. This post got longer than I thought it would be. I am not going to write about the many other sessions I attended at this time, but possibly in the future. Just know that all the sessions I went to were amazing! This is just a post to say thanks to everyone in attendance at Twitter Math Camp for making my experience so memorable. It was an amazing four days and it has definitely given me a jolt of motivation going into the next school year. I am proud of myself that I attended TMC even though I was honestly scared and nervous leading up to it. I would recommend if you have been thinking about it, to try to attend in the future. It is everything I hoped it would be and more!!