Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Best Professional Experience of my Life

For anyone that didn't attend, "Twitter Math Camp" (TMC) probably sounds like the most nerdy combination1 of words that could be put together. While my experience may not at first seem relevant to outsiders, I would highly recommend reading through to the end.  For those that aren't aware, Twitter Math Camp was about 40 math teachers who have connected through blogs and Twitter, that came together to put on their own conference.  There are plenty of recaps of what exactly happened at TMC12, so I'm not going to bother trying to do better, especially since Rachel summed2 up my experience pretty perfectly. Instead, I'm going to go all English teacher-y and tell you how TMC made me feel. To summarize in a single sentence: I've never been more excited to teach in my life.
Oh that awkward moment when someone wants to take a "fun" picture and no one knows what to do.
That's not hyperbole3 either. After the most stressful year of my career, TMC was exactly what I needed to get back on my mathemagical steed, and ride back towards the sunset doing everything I can to make math more fun, accessible and relevant for students.  The online math community has been an integral4 part of my development as a teacher. It allowed me to incorporate amazing ideas from teachers across the world into my classroom as well as develop and share my own ideas.  It allowed me to ask questions to experts in my field and get immediate and thoughtful feedback.  Most importantly, it allowed me to connect with people who share my passion for teaching math and has kept my fire burning strong. Over the past year, as you may have noticed from my complete inactivity on my blog and twitter, I've had much less time to participate and have felt stagnant and unmotivated as a result.

TMC completely revitalized me in connecting and sharing with other teachers as well as in being the best teacher I can be.  The power of spending time in real life with so many people who share the common goal of creating the best possible math experience for their students is unmeasurable5. The presentations were by far the best of any I've seen at any conference.  They were practical, exciting and directly relevant to what I teach. 

I honestly think that our online math community and meet ups like TMC are the future of education.  Typically professional development is way too general, even in math conferences like NCTM. At other conferences, it has always felt like I was panning through tons of dirt and rocks hoping to find one small nugget of gold to bring back with me.  TMC was like looking at a pile of gold and picking out the biggest ones.  What was the difference6 exactly?  TMC was far more specific.  There is so much in common between everyone that went, which is what exactly what brought us together online in the first place. We have similar7 courses, grade levels, personality traits and even senses of humor. These commonalities allowed us to share so much more meaningfully than when the only thing one has in common with fellow attendees is being in the education field.

The icing on the cake is that we already knew and liked each other.  Many people felt a little weird at first meeting people they didn't "know". The truth is though, we already did know each other.  If anything people are more comfortable being themselves online than they are in real life.  So not only were we able to share meaningfully and professionally, we could go out afterwards and have an incredible amount of fun.  All of this together culminated in the best professional experience of my life.  Now, I'm full of excitement to make this one of my best years teaching and I have time to prepare!

If you teach anything, my advice is to get online and get involved.  Not only will it make you a better teacher,  it will make you a happier one as well. Other subject areas take notes:  Math is killing it right now.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7 All puns intended