G is for…{MTBoSBlaugust)

This is by far my most favorite post of this silly little alphabet challenge! Debbie and I were driving down to the Bay Area 2 weeks ago to meet with Kathy and Diana (4 teachers, 4 schools, collaboration and fun -palooza!) and we were brainstorming all the letters I could write about. I told her of my desire to have her write G is for guest and she gave me a very hard… maybe. But you know what, that was progress! I’ve asked her in the past and she wouldn’t even consider it. Before you read her post, you should know a few things. Debbie gives me 1000% more credit for anything than I deserve. She has a hard time considering herself as part of the MTBoS, which is totally ridiculous. She saves my butt all the time. Most importantly, before I switched schools she was basically my therapist. We would meet for book club and before the other people would arrive, I would sit and dump on her and cry my little eyes out. All. The. Time. Nobody in this world cheers me on like she does. She drives my butt around on any random adventures in math I can come up with, and she does it with a smile on her face and an offer of Starbucks to boot. She listened to me bitch about textbooks every single week over lunch this summer. She will never take any credit for all the ways she has impacted my life. She’s extraordinary and keeps me sane. Her post is filled with all kinds of ridiculous flattery of me. It’s nice to read – you know I’m a narcissist by this point – but none of it is deserved. But it’s her post, so I’m not touching it. Thanks Deb – you are so much more than I deserve!

G is for…. GUEST!!!

Hi! My name is Debbie and I’m a middle school math teacher. Casey asked me to write a guest post for her alphabet series. So I’m laying claim to the letter “G” for guest although by the end of this post you might think it’s for gush.
I’m not a writer; that’s Casey’s gift. I write like I talk – very colloquial and rambling. When I write emails I crank out a Google doc draft and then try to delete at least half of it. I’m just wordy. (FYI – I just read through my first draft of this and deleted half.) This is waaaaaay out of my comfort zone but stretching is good for us all. Maybe I can check that box now for 2016 – 2017. ☺

But I owe Casey a ton (you’ll see why if you keep reading) and this post is part of my birthday present to her. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CASEY!

Now that I’ve created sufficiently low standards… what to write about.
Casey helped me brainstorm. We came up with our place in our district (we are, after all, #partnersincrime), how our school runs all of our the math meetings digitally because we can’t meet physically but we still need to learn and grow or how MTBoS has changed my classroom. I choose MTBoS!

Casey and I met when a fellow teacher introduced me to her long-time friend who just happened to also teach math. We don’t have a lot in common but I felt we clicked right away. I find Casey to be selfless, thoughtful and passionate. I can truly say I have never met anyone like her. The world can only handle so many Tom Brady fans. ☺

We teach in a large private school system but in different schools. Our ‘district’ has big time benefits and some pretty significant drawbacks. One of the most profound disadvantages for me is the quality and focus of in-district PD. After a decade of frustration I had a conversation with our assistant superintendent. I took a deep breath and just laid it out for him. After a frank conversation on both sides he eventually made a very simple statement that changed my professional life. “You know you are in charge of your own PD.”
Well of course I am but I had never looked at it so bluntly before. Coincidentally Casey and I started hanging out together a little more around this time (she’s so funny and fun!) and chatting about math. I had a Twitter account but didn’t really know what to do with it. Then Casey asked me if I’d be interested in driving two hours on a Saturday morning to go to a math workshop. Sure! That day she introduced me to the Classroom Chefs, John and Matt. Spend an hour with these two and it will change your classroom and your thinking; I got to spend an entire day with them. I almost died when Matt asked me during the middle of their workshop to ‘tell me more about that’ after I made an admittedly pretty lazy math comment (remember – colloquial and rambling) about an activity we were doing. I hadn’t put much thought into the comment and had to quickly wrack my brain. What DID I mean by that comment? How could I share more about my thinking or cover up my lack of thinking? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve asked a kid that very question in the last 3 years I would retire. Seriously that much. It makes my day now when I hear the kids say it to each other during class.

I ran back to my classroom with mullets and Barbies and new questioning skills and musical cues; my kids clamored for more. Which in turn whet my appetite to see what else was out there. Since now I was in charge…

I asked Casey what else she had. My personal concierge introduced me to MTBoS (cue glitter). She warned me it was literally like trying to drink out of a fire hose and she was right.

I readily call myself a MTBoS stalker since I don’t contribute to the community other than tweeting with the occasional MTBoS or teach180 or NoticeWonder hashtags. I have no desire to start a blog but love the personalized PD time the MTBoS blogs and tweets provide. I read them almost daily sometimes for hours at a time and make a point to give just about every applicable idea, lesson, or activity a try. It’s amazing what sticks with the kids and how quickly the variety of resources changes the atmosphere in my classroom. Kids tell me they can’t wait to come to class. I can’t imagine teaching without Mr. Meyer Mondays and Desmos and Estimation 180 and Visual Patterns and the Train Game and so much more. I can’t imagine trying to put together new math info for my team without rereading a few Sara Van Der Werf blogs or sending the famous Annie Fetter notice and wonder ignite video to everyone. I am putting together this year’s Back to School night presentation and am rewatching Matt Larson’s presentation on supporting common rigorous standards. And don’t even get me started on Twitter Math Camp which I was fortunate to attend last summer in Claremont, CA. I just started with one new warm up activity. A week or so later I added a video. Slowly but surely the culture in my classroom changed and my expectations changed. And I just kept going.

I am a completely different teacher than I was 3 or 4 years ago. I am more reflective and more interested in student conversations than my instruction (does that make sense?). I actively and intentionally seek out different ways to ‘see’ their thinking. My professional goal last year was to talk as little as possible in my classroom. Never say anything a student could say. It has been impactful. I largely credit #mtbos for that.

If for some reason you are reading this and you haven’t checked out the MTBoS hashtag or the search engine or read the blogs I urge you to find some time to drop down into the rabbit hole. You and your teaching will never be the same. They are very open and honest; I am not the only one falling flat on my face every once in a while or occasionally for a few days in a row. And some days I totally rock it just like they do. I have received a reply to every.single.question I’ve asked on Twitter. I have had entire files and presentations sent to me literally within minutes of a request. I stopped by the MTBoS booth at NCTM in April and was warmly greeted even though I’m sure they had no idea who I was. Why would they – I don’t contribute and it didn’t matter. They even gave me a MTBoS ribbon for my nametag (which I proudly hung in my classroom). We are in our third year of a MTBoS book club locally; only one of us blogs (guess which one ☺). Lately I have been able to meet and collaborate with a few contributors (one being the hostess of this blog ☺) and fellow MTBoS stalkers. I feel connected and supported and a little bit braver than I did before. And the learning in my room is better for it. I should mention all of this has cost me about $100 total and that was for a Dan Meyer presentation (worth every penny – create the headache, let the kids create the math aspirin). Even the 4 day Twitter Math Camp conference itself was free.
I AM in charge of my own professional development! MTBoS has allowed me to take that challenge and run with it. Casey – how can I ever thank you?

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2 thoughts on “G is for…{MTBoSBlaugust)

  1. What a great guest blog!
    I, too, am an MTBoS stalker/occasional retweeter. I was “strongly encouraged” by a graduate program instructor to set up an account last year. (Thanks, Melissa Soto, SDSU.) Did so begrudgingly, not seeing the point…. Until reading @classroomchef. *cue rays of sunlight* (… ‘Cause the chefs hate glitter.) I’ve been in a personal PD whirlwind since. I just heard about Twitter Math Camp from the tweets this summer and feel I missed one awesome party… My eyes will be peeled for the next opportunity. Thanks for contributing to the blog and giving voice to the “Twitter Stalkers” out there.

    • Debbie says:

      Thanks for your comment Teresa! It’s great to hear from a fellow ‘stalker.’ I completely understand your PD whirlwind. Funny how the Chefs started it all for both of us (with or without glitter)! They set the bar pretty high. Hope to meet you in person someday soon. Until then I’ll see you on Twitter!

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