The ABCs of TMC

Full disclosure – this post took hours. There are no links. There are no photos. I may come back to it and add those later, but I just need to be done for now!

Naturally, since my alphabet book signing is one of the things that I will most remember about TMC16, I decided to write an ode in alphabet form 🙂 I am allowing myself permission that if I want more than one thing per letter, I get to. My blog; my rules. If you have a letter statement to add, please, please leave it in the comments . I will be so excited to see what other things you come up with 🙂

A is for Augsburg and Atlanta

Augsburg College was our little home for Camp this year. The campus was nice, the rooms friendly. I chose not to stay in the dorms (ac and non-communal bathrooms, please). I know that was something that was special about this year and I feared what I would miss out on by choosing not to. Judging by some of the reactions and the time that I had, I think I made the right choice for me!

Atlanta was announced as the site for next year’s TMC. I’ve already been to Atlanta (’96 Olympics – holla), so I wasn’t as excited as I was when Minneapolis was announced (a new state to cross off my list as well as an opportunity to visit a great friend beforehand). However, Heather is already planning a Coke World and Aquarium adventure and I’m thinking of trying to hit up Savannah beforehand, so those will be fun! Doesn’t really matter where it is, anyway – I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

B is for Book and for Bachelorette Party

Book is for my special souvenir – my alphabet book that became such a memorable part of this year. I will treasure the memory of it and the kind messages forever. {Side note – if you were at TMC and didn’t sign it and *desperately* want to, send me a post-it and I’ll add it. Plenty of room :-)}

One of the most fun things we did was on Monday night when a bunch of us gathered in the lobby of Anderson Hall to watch the Bachelorette. We were an hour late joining the party and I couldn’t hear a single word of the show, but the laughter and shenanigans are something I won’t soon forget.

C is for Claydon and Connie

Connie and Jonathan were my constant companions. After meeting last year and being besties from day one, it was obvious that Connie and I would room together this year. Because she and Jonathan work together and are great friends, I also got to spend a lot of time with him this year. I’m really glad I got to know him better. Starting with dinner when they got in on Wednesday night, going to the Mall of America on Thursday, and spending time with them throughout the rest of the week was awesome. They are my forever friends.

D is for Desmos and Differentiation

I am lucky enough that I got to attend Descon before NCTM and now also before TMC. I had asked one of my Des-faves, Michael Fenton, if it would be worth it to go again. He assured me it would. Not like I really would have skipped it, because, duh, but still. Michael was so right, though! In both cases, what made Descon so special was the people and the freedom to actually just work with their support. This time around I spent much of the day with Nicole. She taught me about regressions and together we built a rad number line. I mean, it wasn’t a big deal, but it made me feel successful. Sara offered a wonderful keynote and challenged us to be evangelists for something {See below}. In the afternoon Nicole and I played around with Jami to make a card sort. It was great! I was supposed to have Nathan teach me all the things about fraction awesomeness on Desmos, but he was having fun playing around with the sound feature we’d learned about, so I left him alone. Let’s be honest, it’s easier just to wait to have him create amazing things and then steal them! As always, team Desmos was kind, attentive, interested in our feedback, and all around wonderful to all of us!

Differentiation was the theme of my 3 day morning session. Again, I spent much of this time bouncing ideas around with Nicole. Michelle did a fabulous job of explaining the process she uses. I wasn’t sure which morning session to choose, but I’m really glad I picked this one. I was probably a little different than the rest of the group since technically I teach “advanced” classes, but I know I will still use a lot of what she taught us and will do my best to share with the other teachers in my school. Some of her presentation strategies are also ones that I will try using – like listing questions/ barriers and then updating a circle in front of them each day as we progressed through them, and the snowball strategy that helps give everyone a voice. (Check Heather’s blog – she’s way better at this kind of thing!)

E is for Evangelizing

In Sara’s keynote at Descon she called on each of us to decide what it is that we are most passionate about and to be an evangelist for that thing. I am definitely the math evangelist of my school. This year was hard because I was the new girl. I can’t hide my enthusiasm for what I do, but it’s usually met {lovingly} with comments like, “oh she’s our math nerd.” I have a lot to do to change the general culture and attitude about math. What I struggle with is that I am not a coach, I am not a dept. head, etc. I am *just* a regular teacher like them. So how do I take my enthusiasm and evangelize in a way that fits our school? We are k-8 with one class per grade. K-4 teach their own math class, in 5th, I take half and the homeroom teacher takes half, and 6-8, I take half and another teacher takes those 3 grades, so 8 total teachers teaching math, and they mostly think I’m just a nerd. I’ve thought of one thing to try {see O is for…}, but it’s something I really struggle with. I want the best for our school and I’m not going to stop spreading  the math love, but I need to figure out a way to evangelize in such a way that some of the other teachers will join me in the math love!

F is for FOMO, and 5 minutes

FOMO is totes a real thing, and it is on full display at TMC. If you don’t know {Ahem, roomie}, FOMO is fear of missing out. I feel this constantly when I am at TMC. No matter how much I am enjoying what I am doing, I wonder what other people are doing. Are they having more fun? Would I be having more fun if I was doing what they were doing? Are they learning the magical secret that will make me an amazing teacher? It is something that I feel is exacerbated by the live tweeting of TMC. You can be totally invested into a session or activity, but the twitter stream constantly makes you question – should I have been there? I try to be very intentional about staying in the moment, but man, is it hard! I had major worries about this when we decided to stay in the hotel, and I’m sure we did miss out a little bit on the after hours shenanigans. But we went to bed so late as it was, I’m not sure that I could have handled much more, anyway!

The last session I attended on Monday afternoon during the flex sessions {hey look – another F!} was Sara’s talk that focused on reflection and the sweet calendar she made. By the end of the session I was in tears, and I’m not entirely sure why {my memory resembles Dory’s}. Sara talked about reflection and taking 5 minutes each day to do so. I have already printed out her calendar, and I know that it will be a useful tool for me. Sara was really inspiring and I know she will continue to inspire me from half way across the country! She oozes passion and great ideas and I know I still have so much to learn from her.

G is for Google Drive

I mean, c’mon, don’t you find it amazing that we are living in a world where people’s files are so easily shared that with the click of a link we can have access to each others’ greatest works? It boggles my mind and I’m so thankful for the willingness of others to share!!

H is for Hedge

Hedge is one of the people I blame, er, thank for my involvement in this amazing community. In January 2014 I was skeptical of signing up for TMC. I put out a tweet to which Hedge and Justin responded. It said something like, is everyone really as welcoming to newcomers as they seem on Twitter? She gave me an ultimatum that I had an hour to sign up or she would hunt me down. Well, I signed up, she ended up introducing me to the world that year at NCTM which was just a few months before my first TMC, and the rest is history. I’ve been short {heh heh… short} on Hedge time this last year, so it was really important to reconnect with her at TMC. A treasured time was sitting out under the umbrellas at the picnic tables just catching up. I was sad Hedge had to leave early, but it was so good reconnecting ❤

I is for Izzy’s {and} Ice Cream and Inclusivity

On my way out to MN I read a buzzfeed article about the best ice cream in each state. Turns out the MN version was in walking distance of our hotel. It also turned out that National Ice Cream Day was one of the days we were in town. Well, that led to an obvious decision! Connie, Jonathan, and I walked over to Izzy’s and waited in a line that wrapped halfway around the building. The line moved quickly as we continued to bond. When we finally got in and ordered, the girl taking our order proclaimed her love of Desmos (b/c of Jonathan’s shirt) and we were so excited. She said it saved her on a daily basis 🙂 What I loved about Izzy’s is that one menu item allows you to order 5 teeny scoops in one cone. I’ve never seen such a thing, so I had to try it. Frankly, I don’t even know what flavors I ordered, but ice cream is ice cream, so it was a total win. Oops, sorry, Fawn… It was a total Nguyen!

Sean is someone I met only briefly last year. I have enjoyed his back and forth knock-knock jokes with Mary all year. Late one night in the lobby of Urness, Connie was practicing her My Favorite with Hedge and I was waiting for the Lyft rate to go back down to normal so we could get back to the hotel. Sean and a group of other friends came and joined the circle. He was discussing interesting stories and requested that we all think of one to share about ourselves. He said it was a way to help him remember people. I loved it. I was so sad that I could not think of one interesting thing about my life that was fit for sharing, but I loved the way Sean approached everyone with such a sense of inclusivity about getting to know everyone. I really admire that.

J is for Julie

While I credit Hedge as drawing me into the community, Julie is the one who I credit for wanting to be drawn in. When I first got involved in the MTBoS, Julie was still the reigning queen of Middle School {at least in my eyes}. She was the first teacher I followed on twitter and her blog was one of the ones that were my go to. Julie is definitely the head cheerleader of the MTBoS {and #varsitymath} cheer squad. She has an infectious and welcoming nature and I’m glad that she is a part of many of my TMC memories!

K is for Kohn and Kernodle

Heather and Rachel are a package deal! They are an important part of TMC for me because at my first one they were the first people I met in the elevator down to breakfast. I had interacted with Heather and I recognized her immediately and I was introduced to Rachel. FB memories just reminded me of that fact the other day. I’m thankful that they were the first people I met IRL there and that we’ve been able to build great friendships. Heather is also the most amazing conference tweeter! I was fortunate to be in the same morning session with her, so I knew I didn’t have to worry about tweeting anything. I was able to just re-tweet everything she said 🙂

L is for Lucce

Um… YUM is all I can say!!! Pizza Lucce figured prominently into this year’s TMC memories. I think I was there 4 times {though I ate there “only” 3}. On Thursday night a ton of us went to a wonderful dinner at a place that was not Pizza Lucce. It was crowded with so many of my favorite people. It was bliss and I would have gone to bed with the biggest smile on my face. However, we ended up taking a car over to Lucce and forget it… it was even more of THE BEST. There were multiple tables full of more of my favorite people. Just walking around and stopping to chat with them made my heart so incredibly full. And to think, this was BEFORE the conference had even started!! We ate there a few more times, and I was not sorry at all. Even though I eat the most plain thing on any menu, I still was totally delighted by the delicious pizza and the conversations that happened while enjoying it!

M is for Mall of America and Maria

I couldn’t visit Minneapolis and not visit the Mall of America. I mean… c’mon. So Jonathan and Connie came to town a day early to meet me so we could go visit. I’m glad that we went so I can check it off the list, but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be. I mean, it really is just a giant mall {with roller coasters in the middle, but whatevs}. We didn’t plan our visit, so there was a lot of walking back and forth. It’s ok, what else did we have to do? The biggest success was when we went to Marbles: The Brain Store. Each of us came away with some fun games to use in our classes.

Anyone who follows me probably knows that Megan and I talk about her darling little Maria a lot. She and I share a fascination with things that are pink and sparkly. I was so excited that I got to meet her! Needless to say, being around all those people was intimidating for a 5 year old, so I didn’t get to experience full on Maria sass, but I did get to sit and visit with her and watch her do some glitter painting. I call that a win! 🙂

N is for Nguyen and Newcomers

Where were you, Fawn???? You keynote last year and now you’re too big for us? You know what, on second thought, #nobodycares

JUST KIDDING, FAWN!!! WE MISSED YOU!

As I’ve been reading a lot of reflections from newcomers to TMC {Joel, Greta, Amy come to mind}, I realize that I need to do a better job of being welcoming. TMC is always a hard balance of truly wanting to welcome the newcomers as I was welcomed 3 years ago, but also catching up with my bestest friends that I only see once or twice a year. Sure I’d tweet out – “hey come to Jimmy John’s and eat lunch with us,” or something like that, but I realize that’s not enough. I know that if the situation were reversed I wouldn’t just walk into a restaurant even if I’d been given that invitation. I think this is something that I will always struggle with. Meeting newer members of this community is truly very important to me.

O is for One TMC Thing

As I try to be the Math Evangelist at my school, I think my #1TMCThing is going to be sending out a “Math Minute” each week. I don’t want to be annoying to my staff, so I have to walk a fine line. Over the last year I have looked at some projects that other people have used in their roles as coaches or curriculum specialists, and whatnot. I always intended to make up some kind of a newsletter to share with my staff. Thinking more and more about it, I don’t want to overwhelm anyone. So that’s why I turned to this idea of a math minute. Each Friday or Sunday or Wednesday – whatever – I will try to send one thing to the other teachers. Sometimes that may be an article, maybe a video, maybe a blog post, etc. The hardest thing {other than remembering to, you know, actually do it} will be to make sure that I find things that reach the variety of levels in my school. I hope this will be something that I can stick with and that people will be receptive of it.

P is for Periscope

Julie did such an amazing job of Periscoping all the talks for my favorites and keynotes (i think). I have been on the other end of getting to watch talks at other conferences via Periscope and it is such a cool, cool thing. I think it’s amazing that people who were unable to come to TMC were able to experience so much of it through Julie’s efforts. I know we are all thankful to her for making this happen!

Q is for Questioning 

While this really should belong under I for intention, I needed a q word, so here you go! Something I’ve been thinking about a lot during and since TMC is doing things intentionally. So the q here is for questioning my intentionality to keep myself focused. Dylan’s keynote really resonated with me when he talked about how stringing together a bunch of cool things is not enough and is not ok. Sometimes I worry a  little bit about this since I have no resources, no pacing guide or “plan” of any kind from a district, etc. I need to focus much more on being intentional about what I am doing each day. The q for questioning I think also relates to what Tracy talked about in her keynote. I have a great opportunity since I’m on campus with the elementary teachers. I need to make time to question them to learn about what they are doing in class so we can have the conversation about how it relates to what I am doing. I also hope to continue this conversation with some of the high school teachers, however we feed to at least 5 high schools, so this may be a bit of a challenge!

R is for Republic

Republic was the bar where we were hosted by two of my most favorite companies – Desmos for Happy Hour on Friday and Mathalicious for Trivia on Sunday. It was a nice little spot and happened to be right across from our hotel. That was a total bonus! On Friday after happy hour we went to the baseball game, but I would have been perfectly happy hanging out there all night in their nice little outdoor space.

S is for Shenanigans

People at school or parents of my students sort of roll their eyes when I mention TMC. If only they knew that the math was only part of the story. The nighttime shenanigans… that’s what separates this from other conferences for me 🙂

T is for Trivia

Team DIBS {Dividing is Before Subtracting; Dibs is Bringing Sparkle} was our trivia team. Jonathan called dibs on Calc Dave early in the week without telling him what the dibs was for. I found this totally hilarious and we worked to keep the joke going. The best part of the whole thing was when we all changed our profile pictures to a picture of the Dibs ice cream treats. It’s the little things that crack me up! We got Heather  and Rachel on the team – the 3 of us were members of the winning team at the NCTM Desmos/Mathalicious trivia contest, so we figured we had a good chance. We started off strong with a 10/10 in the movie round. The rest – man it was hard! We thought we were in good shape as Glenn seemed pretty confident about the calculator category. It was hard to come up with the model numbers to go along with the brand. The other categories? Forget it. We ended the night in 3rd place. Oh well. It was fun!

U is for Uber and Until Next Year

I just have to include Uber because it’s kind of a joke. When I was in SF for NCTM, Kathy gifted me credits for Lyft. I really have no use for these services where I live. But Lyft was familiar, so the few times we needed a ride we used that. Yet, I kept referring to it as Uber. Connie and Jonathan also kept making fun of me because I preferred to take a car instead of walking 😛 But, we really did walk most of the time (just not after dark, because, duh… safety).

This should come last, but the alphabet doesn’t work that way. Until next year, my friends…. Thank you for the learning, the thinking, the memory making. Thank you for the way that you see me and allowing me to feel like the very best version of myself. You have made me a better teacher, for sure. More importantly, you have made me a better person. I love you!!!

V is for Varsity Math

Jonathan told us last year about the joke that became a culture shift in his school. He did a My Favorite again this year about the progress of the Varsity Math movement – including outreach and summer school {to which I begged to be invited and was denied, btw}. Most importantly, he invited us all to be part of it and gave us stickers as part of our initiation. Our job was to tweet “I’m on the team” with the hashtag #varsitymath so that his students can see that we are all with them. I’m proud to be part of the team! Thanks, coach!

W is for Waddell and Walking Through the Door

On Tuesday, Glenn gave one of the most heartfelt speeches of the whole conference. He talked about his experience going to the first TMC and how at each stop of his road trip he had to convince himself to keep going. When he finally arrived in St. Louis he had to convince himself to walk through the door. Glenn is such a warm and welcoming member of the MTBoS/TMC community and I can’t imagine it without him. I am so thankful for the courage he showed in walking through the door and in sharing his very personal story with all of us. Empowerment has been something in my mind since Robert’s incredible ShadowCon speech in April, and I think Glenn’s talk spoke to that same theme. There are plenty of things that cause me stress and fear, and I hope that I will find the courage to face them and continue to face them. Thank you, Glenn, for your story and your courage!

X is for eXhausted and eXhilarated

Ya. I’m cheating. Whatever. TMC stretches my mind to its limits. We go, go, go all day. We multi-task with the best of them – listening, reflecting, sharing our thoughts via twitter, following others’ thoughts via twitter, thinking critically about how we can apply new ideas in our own classrooms, etc. We don’t stop. When the end of the conference day comes, we plan nights filled with fun and friends and we keep going even more. Eventually we curl up in bed and fall fast asleep with visions of math in our minds. Then we do it all again the next day. And by the end of the conference we have this feeling of total exhaustion where we mostly fall into a coma for a few days. But through it all, we know that underlying it all is the exhilaration that comes in knowing that we are doing the best for ourselves and our students and we know that we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Y is for You

You are the MTBoS. You are TMC. You are what give me my my strength. You are what fills my heart

Z is for ZZZZzzz

Because I seriously slept for the better part of 4 days when I got home…

Don’t forget – add your alphabet statement in the comments! It will make my day!

Who I am in the #MTBoS or How a Silly Idea Helped Give Me an Identity

I figured it out today. About 4 years after I joined twitter for totally non-math related reasons, and 3 years after attending my first TMC, I think I finally have a sense of my role in this amazing #mtbos community. I worry often – like, every day often – if I belong. I talk to lots of people, but frankly, rarely about math. I’m “known” for talking about the Patriots, the Bachelor, and pink glitter. Yes, these are things that bring me joy, but even more, they allow me to have an identity and mask that I really don’t have many mathy things to say very often. Sure – I tweet with Mathalicious when I teach their lessons and I lavish my praise on the amazing work that they and Desmos and Illustrative Mathematics do. Sure, I post pictures of awesome things that my 5th graders do with fractions. What I don’t do is share ideas. I don’t have great ideas to share. All my ideas already come from this community, and I guess I’ve never thought of my voice as adding anything to them. What I don’t do is math with people. I’m insecure about my math abilities. Questions, ok, but engaging in mathematical discussions? No thanks. Bryan called me out on how I always join #msmathchat but then disappear as soon as the discussion actually starts. It’s true. Whatever.

Ever since April, when the NCTM Annual was in SF and I was one of the people helping to run the #MTBoS booth, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am in the community. If last year in Boston was the best week of my life, this year in SF was a little bit tougher on me. I had a responsibility. People knew me. I try to basically stay invisible as much as possible, and I’d passed a certain point where that was not really my reality anymore. But rather than being terrified, I tried to embrace it as much as I could. It was strange for me to walk around and have people from different organizations say, “oh I totally follow you” and, like, know things about me! My only response – sometimes out loud, and sometimes in my head, was “why?” But there you have it. People gave me more credit than I deserved for my part in the booth. My role in the booth was mainly sleepless nights and asking a million questions, but I guess the questions helped things get done.

At some point in June a conversation about, what else, school supplies, led to a short conversation that had great impact on me. I pointed out that my role in #MTBoS was basically to talk about school supplies and Mathalicious. Julie and Megan gave me some kind feedback to that that began to make me reflect on really who am I in this community.

 

 

 

 

 

When I arrived in Minneapolis for TMC after spending a few days with friends in the suburbs, my first step was at a Minnesota visitor’s center. I bought a train card, got a map, and a souvenir. An alphabet picture book of the Twin Cities sat on the shelf. I recognized it as one from a series of which I probably have 10-12 others. I thought it would be a fun thing to get, and then I had the crazy idea to ask people to sign it. I didn’t know that that silly idea would have a pretty profound impact on me.

Over the course of Descon and then TMC, I walked around with my silly book and asked people to sign it. Some people signed their names, some their handles, some where they are from, and some wrote me messages. I loved it. I loved that it gave me a reason to walk up to people I didn’t know and say hi and ask them to sign. This is not in my comfort zone at all, but it is getting so much easier.

The messages that were written mean the absolute world to me. I’ve written in previous posts how my old principal and staff told me repeatedly that I had a bad attitude and what not. I guess that’s what happens when the environment is not conducive to loving you 100%. So when I began reading the messages and was repeatedly told that I was such a positive and encouraging member of the community, when Dave told me I was a shining light, when Mary told me I always belong, when Jami said I was one of her go to people, etc., I realized that my dumb idea was basically exactly what I needed, if also a tad narcissistic. To know that I am appreciated for being my own me means everything and is what makes me appreciate this community in a way that I cannot express with the eloquence I would like to.

So after reflecting on this repeatedly over the last few months and culminating with an airport meltdown as I read my book, I think I figured it out. I think I am a great concierge for this community. I will greet new people with a smile and I will do my best to point them in the right direction and offer them some suggestions of where to turn. I’m good at remembering who posted that one thing and connecting someone who’s looking for it. I’m good at introducing people to other people, and then just stepping aside and fading into the background. I will occasionally offer a recommendation on something specific, but more often I will be just happy to orient people to this crazy #MTBoS landscape. Then, hopefully, they can walk away from the concierge desk with a sense of where they want to go, a friendly feeling inside, and I can go back into the background and find my happy place with my friends, discussing who Jojo should pick on the Bachelorette.

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