So far I’ve been to two Twitter Math Camps. My first was in Jenks, OK in 2014, and my second was in Claremont, CA in 2015. The second year I had my co-worker come with me, and she was almost the ultimate TMC and MTBoS newbie, and it inspired me to write a quick survival guide for future teachers that still have their first Twitter Math Camp in their future. This won’t be the most eloquent #TMCSurvivalGuide but hopefully it will be funny and hopefully you will find it useful.
BEFORE LEAVING FOR TMC
- Join Twitter – This may seem obvious since it’s called “Twitter Math Camp” but every year there’s one or two people that get there and say “Oh, I’m not on twitter.” I’m not saying you should start live-tweeting your day, but it’s a quick way to become familiar with some of the people you’ll meet. And once you’re there it’s a convenient way to connect with people that you might want to follow-up with later.
- Become familiar with some of the basics of the community – Matt and John have done a terrific job of assembling most of those here. I think many of us just take for granted things like Visual Patterns and Estimation 180. If you don’t already have even just a slight name recognition with those things some conversations will be confusing at first. Again, you don’t have to be an expert on everything, just vaguely familiar.
- Find a social media interface that works for you – For twitter I love Tweetdeck in my browser and Tweetbot on my phone. I use Feedly to follow blogs that I like. There are a hundred more options out there if you start looking and asking for recommendations. But things get overwhelming very quickly if you’re not at least sort of organized.
WHILE AT TMC
- Don’t be afraid to jump into conversations – I know this is easier said than done for many of you. I was extremely lucky that at my first TMC I already had two friends from home, so I always had at least one person in the room that I recognized. And even with that I was still nervous walking in to new workshops. But the great thing about our community is that everyone is so friendly and nice, and you very quickly start to have shared experiences. If at all possible, make sure you attend the social gathering on the first night, as it’s a great place to meet people. There will also frequently be open invitations to lunch and dinner. If you are just a little bit brave to say “hey, could I sit here” you will find you are rewarded with great conversations.
- FOMO is a serious problem – There is so much awesomeness that takes place in the three days of TMC that it can be overwhelming. Just choosing which workshops to go to is nearly impossible, and then there are all the social gatherings outside of that. I remember at my first TMC, we arranged to meet in the lobby to discuss Geometry courses next year, which then transitioned into a whole other group talking about Interactive Notebooks. All while there were 10 other conversations happening all around us, all about math, 9 of which I wish I had been a part of. It’s normal to feel overloaded, sometimes, which is why you need to…
- Make time for yourself – Some people thrive on being 100% social for four days straight. I am not one of those people. I need half an hour after each session, before dinner, to decompress and reflect on my day. There are many others in the same boat. It’s really difficult for me but I have learned to say “That sounds awesome, but I need some alone time right now.” I don’t say it as often as I should, but it’s still a big step for me.
AFTER LEAVING TMC
- You don’t have to become besties with everyone you meet – TMC is full of math teachers trying to be the best possible versions of themselves that they can be, and I respect everyone for that more than I can say. But there are definitely people that I just don’t click with for whatever reason. It’s impossible that with 200 people I would want to be best friends with everyone. I feel like this isn’t a thing we always say out loud, but I think it’s important to acknowledge. And maybe this goes into “While at TMC”. But anyway, it’s an important mindset for me to realize that I don’t have to love everyone I meet, so that I can focus my time on the people I do love.
- Take some time to reflect and evaluate – I have a bad habit of being at TMC and thinking I want to do literally every cool idea that I see there. Standards based grading, interactive notebooks, better questioning, Desmos for everything, Mathalicious and Illustrative Mathematics for everything also, redoing curriculum, etc, etc, etc. Then I get home and I think “Well that’s impossible.” Pick two bigger, or three smaller things that you will focus on for the year and commit to those. Last year we had a #1TMCthing and it was so helpful just to
- Take what’s most useful to you – This overlaps with #2 a lot. At my first TMC Lisa said that after two months I should sit down with a glass of wine and thin the herd of blogs and twitter followers a little bit. It was good advice. Twitter can very quickly become overwhelming.
- Start planning for next year – Before we leave we find out where the next TMC will be. It immediately goes into my calendar, and I email my entire department saying “Hey, this is awesome, you should go!”
- Appreciate how awesome we have it – To the best of my knowledge there is no Twitter Science Camp or Twitter ELA Camp. Whereas we have this amazing experience every summer that helps us all become better. And as we grow I know that things will change in different ways, which is why I want to appreciate everything as it comes.
I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of things that are important that I will remember the second I get to Augsburg College, but until then, this is a start. I can’t wait to see everyone!