As I said in my first blog post, I’m not sure that I will keep this up. But in case I do, and just for the memories, I feel like I need to add my thoughts about what started it – Twitter Math Camp. (Btw – this is long and rambling… sorry)
There were somewhere around 150 people there, and that means there are probably at least 80 re-caps out there doing a much better job than I will summarizing and expressing the learning that occurred. I’ve purposely stayed away from them because I felt I should write my own thoughts first, but I’m very anxious to start clearing out my feedly and learning more from my new friends!
When I was a junior at BC, I went on a retreat called Kairos. My brother had been on the retreat in HS and I was excited to go. There was a love/hate relationship with the retreat on campus because people likened it to a cult. You would go away from campus for the weekend and return with a new necklace with a cross resembling a waffle (or, properly, the Jerusalem cross). Your friends would ask about it and you would say it was amazing and life changing, but not really give details except to those who had also been. It wasn’t an exclusivity thing, it was just… words couldn’t really capture the experience. Also, there were certain surprises that you didn’t want to ruin for people who would potentially go on the retreat at a later date. There was a significant bond with the people from your retreat. For all these reasons, I’ve taken to thinking about TMC as Math Kairos. (I wouldn’t really say that to people because I’m sure only a handful or less may know what I’m talking about!)
My TMC began in the airport in Denver. After watching Justin, Justin, and Jasmine’s road trip scavenger hunt, I took on the airport version. I had about as much fun in the airport as I ever have. I met up with Christopher at our gate, and off to OK we flew. Upon arrival I met up with Jenn and Heather and we headed to the hotel. It was late-ish and I knew Hedge was somewhere doing trivia. As much as I wanted to go find her, Jenn, Heather, and Pam invited me along to grab a bite, and so I did. I thought, hey – maybe this whole meeting new people thing won’t be as hard as I thought (but it sort of was).
The next morning I was filled with anxiety as I headed downstairs for breakfast. Where would I sit? Fortunately Heather and Rachel were in the elevator and I invited myself to sit with them. Phew. (Even though it all worked out, I still avoided breakfast the rest of the week. Despite the kindness I would encounter, the anxiety of walking solo into the room was something I couldn’t overcome. It was easier to start the day with a Sonic diet coke and settle into the day in the crowded meeting room). I headed to Jenks High School a little while later and the magic began. I won’t give a play-by-play because if you are reading this you were probably with me for the most part and those other 80+ posts have probably summarized the keynotes and sessions way better than I would!
The rest of the weekend was spent in interesting conversations, learning new things from awesome people, and going out and having more fun than I have in a long time. At one point I tweeted or facebooked something about what a great time I was having and how the smallest piece was the actual math. Don’t get me wrong – I had fun playing math games in the mornings and did about 50/50 with my afternoon choices. Just as I never pick the right lane at Costco, I can never seem to pick the “best” sessions be it NCTM, TMC, or CMC. What I always try to remind myself, though, is that there’s probably not really any “bad” learning (at least in that context). Maybe I’m not at the awesome one everyone’s talking about, but that has to be ok. I have severe fear-of-missing-out disorder though, so there’s that.
One of the fears that I had throughout the weekend was one that was echoed first by Mo and then by pretty much everyone (but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t read their posts, remember!?). That fear is the fear of being uncovered as a fraud. Frankly I didn’t need the awesomeness of TMC to make me feel that way, as I have felt that way since I first started specializing in math. I was always decent in math, but was never the brainiac like my brother. In college I did study math education. However, I always try to make it clear to people that it was an education math major, not a true math major. I’m a teacher who is good in, committed to, and likes math, not a mathematician who teaches. My deep dark secret is this: I have never taken calculus. Because of that, I always think of myself as not smart enough. Parents always send me openings at the HS when their kids move on (flattering), but I can never move up to HS because I can’t teach past Algebra 1. Frankly, I’m even a little worried about Common Core Algebra 1, but I will re-learn it and be ok. I didn’t sign up for the Alg 1 morning session because I was afraid that I would be exposed and not know how to do something that they were discussing. That’s why I stuck to the Middle School session. I am still overwhelmed by discussions that are continuing on twitter because they are so over my head. Or, at least they are over my head as far as things that are natural to me. I was supposed to teach elementary school and I am so happy that I have found my way into MS Math. I think the feeling of inadequacy will just remain my cross to bear. It could certainly be worse.
Many have been expressing their fears of not living up to the amazing teachers at TMC. I don’t disagree with their thoughts. I know the same is true for me. TMC affords the opportunity to be in the same room with your math heroes (and math crushes… ahem) and it’s hard feeling like you don’t measure up. Having attended NCTM and having had Hedge adopt me, I had gotten to meet people like Julie and Fawn and Jessica and realize that they are on a quest to learn from everyone else just as much as I am (ok, maybe not quite as much as I am!). Seeing that helped me to not be paralyzed in a state of awe by all who I met. I know that I do a pretty good job. I’m not going to be the best teacher some of my kiddos have, but I’m trying to be the best one I can be. I try to continue to learn. I am entering my 14th year next week. I have probably spent more time in the last year learning to be better and really loving the job and re-thinking my opinions than I ever have in the past. Some parents hate me, many kids love me, and the rest are probably pretty ambivalent – they know I’m going to be their teacher for 4 years, so they better get used to me. I know I have weaknesses, the major one being I suck at planning! I like doing new things and trying things like Desmos, Mathalicious, and all things Dan Meyer. I intended to spend summer reading great math books and outlining which lessons to use when. Ya, that didn’t happen. Reading the tweets from all who are already back is stressing me out, but what can I do? I will plug along and try to do the best I can with what I have and with where I am. This year’s theme for me, “just keep swimming… just keep swimming…” Hopefully I can keep my head above water! My twitter friends equally inspire me and stress me out. In one of the examples that Steve Leinwand gave in his keynote, he talked about estimating to place a decimal in multiplying decimals as opposed to counting spaces. I was like, “score – I so did that.” And in that teeny tiny moment I felt enough validation to keep trying new approaches. I feel as though I’m on an island most of the time, and this “pat on the back” about one teeny change I made that was so simple reinforced for me that I’m moving in the right direction on that little island. And so I shall continue those little changes to the best of my ability. It won’t be in every class on every day, and I’m sure most days will still be pretty lame. But I’ll try.
The thing that impacted me the most at TMC was the social side. I do not talk to strangers. I do not talk in big groups. These are just my realities. I have no problem doing things alone (I have lots of practice!). I go out and sit in bars to watch football every week of the season by myself. It doesn’t bother me. But I knew it would bother me at TMC. I was so lucky to have met Hedge and Julie and Terri and some others in April because it made me feel like I at least had some friendly faces to look for. Yet when the first lunchtime came around, I still felt so anxious as I texted Hedge begging her to let me come with her for lunch. I did and got to meet Summer and Nik. Thus was the (strange) beginning to a wonderful friendship! I felt a little awkward during that first lunch because I felt as if I was imposing on their friendship. I didn’t know the same people and didn’t have the shared history. But I was just grateful to be part of a group. By the end of the next 4 days I had someone who I hope will be a friend forever!
Over the many meals of TMC I stuck with that main core of people, though I met others at each meal. I wanted to branch out and meet others, but at the same time I was just having so much fun with them and I felt like I belonged. That’s not a feeling I have all the time, so it mattered big time. I did try to branch out by going to the Melting Pot event. What I found there was another group of wonderful people who I felt so fortunate to be able to interact with. I did tend to be the quiet one when there was a big group and that tends to makes me come off like a bitch. Ever since HS people have told me I come across as a bitch, but then they just realize that I’m shy. When I got called out on it on Friday night at Los Cabos, I knew I deserved it! Some people I related to better than others, but that’s always the case, isn’t it? I formed some relationships that I’m sure will be fleeting, and some that I know I will always look to for support. I learned to be a big girl and embrace the phrases, “I’m not sure we’ve actually met. I’m Casey” and “do you mind if I sit here?” As simple as that is – it was terrifying. I’m not (or at least wasn’t) very active on twitter, so it’s not as if I expected people to know me that way as I did them (not to mention that when I did/do tweet it’s more likely something snarky or bachelor or patriots or BC related, rather than mathy). What amazed me, though I’m not sure why, was that every single person was so kind and so welcoming. I felt grateful for my familiar faces, but I watched people who were all alone being welcomed into one group or another time after time. I knew people would be nice, but really, the amount of love and friendship on display was mind-boggling (in much the same way as my Kairos experience). The only sadness I had was that it took me a long time to start to warm up to people and that there were so many who I didn’t get to meet. On the last morning, I looked around the room – thankful for all who I had met and so very sad for those whose paths did not cross mine. There were certain people who I came to camp hoping to meet, and I had met many of them. But many others were about to leave the room without me getting to say hello, and that was terribly sad to me. Armed with some new-found courage, I went up to Elizabeth and said that I hadn’t gotten to meet her and that I just really wanted to because I love following her twitter and blog. In that moment she embraced me like she’d been waiting all weekend to do so.
In short, I finally felt like I had found my people.