So, in my last post I gathered some of my thoughts about the days at TMC up through the post-lunch keynotes. I did not touch on the My Favorites sessions, the afternoon sessions, or the evenings. I’ll tackle those in this post.
Each morning and afternoon we were treated to quick presentations by volunteers (well, we were all volunteers there, really) who wanted to share something brief about their classroom practice, about some project they were working on, or to share some other insights. These were all fun nuggets and I don’t want to ignore any of the treats that were shared, but I do want to single one of them out. Glenn Waddell talked about his commitment to high fives with his students. When I was a young teacher (a LONG time ago) I was encouraged to stand outside my door between classes. I try to remember this and use this as an opportunity to greet my students and other students passing by in the hallways. However, I do not have the kind of commitment to this and energy that Glenn shared. He greeted each student with a high five and discussed how he broke down the resistance of a particular student who finally joined in the fun. He talked about how on days when he had to miss class, the students would ask for two high fives the next day. I had the pleasure of picking Glenn’s brain about all of this one evening and he told me that would tell his students that he was congratulating them because they were about to do something awesome. He also said that he greeted each class with a rousing ‘Good Morning!’ no matter what time of day he met them. His enthusiasm was infectious and I could not resist giving him a high five every time I saw him the rest of the week.
I went to two afternoon sessions each day and I want to highlight two particularly fantastic ones. Dylan Kane (@math8_teacher) conducted a session called Arithmetic to Algebra: Key Building Blocks in Abstract Thinking. Dylan shared a series of fantastic questions that he had developed to extend student thinking and give him insights into their thought process. Dylan is bubbling with energy and enthusiasm and he asks great questions. He has been on fire on his blog lately – if you have not read his stuff you should change that and visit him regularly. A great conversation ensued in the room and I am looking forward to using some of his questions as class warm ups this year. Meg Craig (@mathymeg07) conducted a session called Function Transformations Without Tears. I have raved about Meg and her blog recently where she has been on a tear recently sharing tons of great files. She conducted a thought provoking session on how to approach function transformations together. What was as impressive as the thought that went into her presentation was the energy of the conversations in the room. A number of us were sharing ideas about what language to use and how to incorporate this into our classroom. Meg gave us room to debate/discuss even though it may have taken time away from what she was thinking of doing in her session. Both Dylan and Meg stepped back and let us, their ‘students’, take the conversation where we needed/wanted it to go. Nice modeling of positive teaching behavior on their part!
This just leaves dinner time and evening fun to recount. On Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting my brother for dinner. It has been well more than a year since we had seen each other. He has lived in LA for nearly twenty years and just recently bought a house outside the city. We met in a nearby town that was roughly equidistant from his home and my hotel. We were able to spend nearly four hours catching up before I started winding down and headed back ‘home’. When I arrived at the hotel a little after 10 PM I walked into the hotel courtyard to find about 40 or so conference members hanging out and catching up with each other. I was greeted warmly by three of four folks as soon as I walked through the doors and my energy was lifted. I spent some time chatting – especially with Brian Miller (@TheMillerMath) who I met last summer. Brian became my car buddy for a number of events over the time there and I tried to help him with an unfortunate battery problem his car developed. I was struck once again by how meaningful friendships can feel even though we had seen each other in person for only three days in Oklahoma. Meaningful conversations with Alex Overwijk (@AlexOverwijk), Jasmine Walker (@JazMath), and others over the time there made the hotel courtyard a warm and wonderful place in the evenings. One evening featured a barbecue at a nearby park that was funded by the wonderful folks over at Mathalicious and prepared by local hosts. It was a beautiful night to be outside, great food, good conversations, and wonderful views of the mountains nearby. Having spent most of my adult life in Florida, I am taken by mountains.
On my final night there I ended up having dinner and a cupcake run with a group of 8 terrific women (lucky me) before retiring to the hotel courtyard again. I had a very early flight back across the country but I kept myself up until almost midnight talking with fascinating folks before finally retiring for the night.
I realize I am just barely scratching the surface of the energy and spirit of the camaraderie of the folks there. I will try to capture it this way. I left for California on a Wednesday and the rest of my immediate family left the Friday before for an adventure. I was away from my wife and kids for nine days and missed them terribly. While I was at TMC15, instead of primarily dwelling on missing my family (which I still did, for sure) I felt so immersed in a different kind of family. Sure, we are not bonded by blood, but we are bonded by a love of idea, by a love of our work, and by a generosity and, dare I say it, love for each other. Although I have spent six days or less in the physical presence of this community, I feel a deep bond of trust and friendship. I have seen over and over again how a blog post about challenges and questions in my job results in thoughtful replies and sharing of resources. I have seen how a tweet sent out about a question results in quick, thoughtful replies. I have seen how the simple accident of sitting in the same place in an auditorium for three days in Oklahoma leads to a sense of camaraderie that spans the width or height of our continent. I have also seen how my wife is already making plans for me to attend TMC16 in Minnesota and how to turn it into an extended family adventure. She sees what I clearly feel. This professional community helps me grow, helps me feel supported, and tickles my brain.
Next challenge – a new school year starting in seventeen days!
Jim – your reflection is so beautifully articulated that I have gotten another true taste of what I missed, but with some great information I can borrow for the coming year. Thanks for sharing. Maybe we’ll meet in Minneapolis (although we are much closer than that…)??