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.



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

  1. Solvingforx says:

    Love ya! Had a great time talking MATH and instruction during our differentiation session. And being lovingly mocked for my Disney obsession and lack of Twitter ability. Until we meet again friend!

  2. You are a great concierge – and I’m glad that I’ve been able to get to know you. I know you said not to worry about getting together on your SoCal Labor Day visit, but I’d love to meet up another time you’re down! Thank you for this post 🙂

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