The longer I am a teacher and the longer I am active in this thing called #MTBoS, the more I seem to be taking on. My first TMC I just showed up. Last year I did a “My Favorites” and a short afternoon session. This year Chris asked if I wanted to do a Morning Session with him. Well, morning sessions are crazy. They’re awesome to lead, but also stressful to plan and run, especially for someone like me that struggles with self-confidence. I mean, I just finished my third year teaching and I’m telling 15 year veterans they should be doing new stuff in their classroom? Right, sure. And Chris is old hat at it by now, but I’m still figuring out how to do it. Add to that the stress of two dozen people coming up to us over the last few days letting us know they were planning on coming to our session, and I start to regret some life choices. Needlessly, as it turns out, because things seem to be going well, but more on that in a sec.
The first day of TMC always starts with each person that’s leading a morning session giving a short intro. We wrote a little rhyme for ours (which you can see if you watch the first 54 seconds of Julie’s periscope ) that seemed to go over well, then off to our rooms. We had a small room for about 25 people, which we had to fit 40 people into. Good problem to have overall, but we had to think on our feet a little bit. We did intros with a Talking Circle, previewed Talking Points, and started introducing Chris’ debate stuff with the “My claim is… My warrant is…” structure. All the feedback we’ve gotten so far has been great, and I’m looking forward to Day 2.
After lunch at Seward Cafe, we had a quick My Favorite’s session. Jonathan spoke about his awesome Varsity Math program that he does every year, and then called me out for my love/need of stickers for my clipboard. Then we heard a bit from Hedge about SnagIt and a bit from Deb about a cool-looking PacMan transformation activity.
We then had a keynote by Jose Vilson, who founded the #EduColor movement. He talked to us about the fact that as teachers, we are in the best position to have conversations about race issues. Because I got my Masters as part of a program designed to help me teach in an urban environment, these conversations are something I’ve been talking about since Grad School. We’ve had several conversations within our school about ways to increase diversity among the student body and staff. I think this topic is so important for teachers, especially for those that don’t teach minority populations (since minority students are usually painfully aware of how messed up things are). That said, I wish he had included more strategies and suggestions about HOW to have these conversations. Whenever the audience asked, for example, “How do you have this conversation with your students that might have opposing viewpoints?” he would say “That’s a great question.” It was a great question, and I wanted to hear some more resources for that. As a math teacher, even one that uses a lot of discussion and has kids that discuss a lot in other classes, I struggle to have proper structures for having serious-but-awkward conversations in the classroom. I’d be interested in seeing the MTBoS put together sets of strategies for these sorts of talks. Having resources helps to enable these conversations happening.
After the keynote, we had two afternoon sessions. The first one I went to was led by Sheila Orr about including Social Justice issues in the classroom through Problem Based Learning. I love, love, love this idea, and want to include more opportunities to apply math to these sorts of real situations. But like I thought last year during Alex and Mary’s morning session, I keep thinking that I’m not quite smart enough to create these activities for problem-based learning on my own. I’m going to be digging through all the resources she gave to get some more inspiration. The second one was from Wendy about using problem-solving strategies in class. She used Crossing the River with Dogs to create a problem-solving course for off-track upperclassmen. I have the book and tried to use it last year to have a problem-solving unit in our class, but it flopped, so it was really interesting to see how she put together a whole semester-long course on it. I’m going to think about ways to include some of the strategies (and more importantly the mental flexibility) that comes from such a course.
After the afternoon we had a dinner for TMC newbies. This is the first year we’ve done it and I think it was so great. Hat-tip to Glenn for organizing it, I think it was so important to help people feel more a part of it. The three ladies I sat with were awesome and they seem to really be enjoying their time here. Twitter Math Camp is such a hugely important part of my year and my identity as a teacher and it makes me so happy that more people are coming and experiencing it. Even if you can’t make it every year, I think just being exposed to these crazy-awesome educators makes us all better. Next year I’m going to lean heavily on more of my department to come and experience it (especially if it follows the pattern and moves east!)
Then, rather than hanging out, Chris and I worked for over an hour to prep our morning session for today. So I didn’t get to talk Algebra 2 with Lisa and Jonathan, or dance with everyone in the dorms, but it was good. Like I said before, giving a morning session is such a different kind of beast when it comes to TMC. It’s really interesting to work with all the teachers and hear their questions, because there are so many things that I’ve internalized after working with Chris and being in my own environment that I don’t think about (or that I’ve gotten sloppy about) and I’m surprised how much I’ve learned myself just from explaining what we do to others.
I’m going to be late for the afternoon my favorites so I must go.