One of the most positive feelings was nothing new, but rather confirmation that I shared a lot of perspectives with the group of teachers I looked up to most. Some of the more important confirmations include:
- Relationships, especially teacher to student, were universally treated as the most important thing a teacher can focus on. Creating a class culture where learners are loved, respected, and valued mattered more than any curricular ideas or mathematical practices.
- Growth mindset was simply understood to be a necessary way of thinking that needed to be taught and encouraged in students.
- Effectively working in groups was universally valued, but unlike the way I have heard some teachers discuss it, the TMC discussions had much more purpose and structure to group work. The most talked about thing was getting STUDENTS talking MATH through open-ended and ambiguous problems, Socratic seminars, debates, games, or simple class openers.
- The Common Core's 8 Mathematical Practices offer common language and a sense of balance to the nature of the tasks we plan for students.
If I wasn't impressed enough last year, the generosity and kindness of the #MTBoS community continued to blow me away. I could confidently ask for anything and know there were over a hundred people who would be willing to help me, and I would be more than happy to do the same for the others. Rarely can you feel so instantly welcomed and accepted.
One major change from last year to this year was finding a morning group with a common goal to my own curricular goals. Last year, I came into the Stats group fairly happy with the overall course framework I was using, but looking to tweak and extend it. Though I did come away with a handful of awesome activities that I incorporated into my classes, I didn't find anyone else looking to teach a project-based, non-AP, year-long stats who could co-plan with me. This year, I was looking for help thinking through a 9th grade extended Algebra course and was looking to really shake things up. The combination of teaching a very common course and being more open to new ideas helped me get a lot more out of the 6 morning hours. Max @maxmathforum and Anna @Borschtwithanna did a fantastic job of putting the minds in the room to productively discussing and building out resources and lessons that we shared with each other. Since returning home, I have filled a giant text doc with ideas broken down by unit and an overall framework to guide the course. Though a bit rough yet, I am very excited to discuss and solidify these ideas with my co-teacher this week.
One difference I found from last year to this year was the kinds of discussions I found myself in at night. Last year, I played a lot of games and joined in larger-group discussions down in the lobby of the Jenks, OK Holiday Inn Express. This year, with the large outdoor patio and many non-TMC folks at the hotel, there wasn't the same kind of "cozy" space to hang out. Alcohol was also treated differently this year than last since so much was available. I loved the conversations I was able to have this year, but I missed last-year's overall night culture. I hope the dorms at TMC16 will bring back that kind of environment.
The most surprising and amazing thing I got out of TMC15 was some magical comfort with Twitter for the first time. I have been tweeting, with teachers, since I was working on a startup in college (2009), I heard of TMC via Twitter in 2013, and I went to TMC14, and despite all of that I just didn't really "get" it. I could understand how blogs were useful for deeper reflection, but why Twitter was a useful medium still escaped me. My ahas include:
- comfort with jumping into conversations when I have questions
- tweeting out thoughts and ideas at specific people rather than hashtags (and knowing who is interested/an expert in what)
Once again, TMC blew me away with respect for these educators and left me with inspiration and tools to move in the right direction. Most importantly, I feel like I am confident engaging in the year-round discussion that makes TMC more of a reconnecting with friends than a catch-up of what I missed in the past 12 months on Twitter. We will see how this all works once the reality of the school year sets in, but my #1tmcthing is to engage in a meaningful way in the #MTBoS community to support my lesson and classroom culture design during the school year.