#MTBoS Life: Ramblings and Musings from an Inspirational NCTM

I am long winded.  Most of my friends and colleagues know this.  And their true compassion shows as they listen as patiently and intently as they can and ask me questions to help my thinking.  Sometimes that question ends up as “So how does this connect to what we’re talking about?”  And I usually don’t know.  Perhaps my long-windedness is my way of talking out all the thoughts in my head, and talking it all out leads to me making connections and deeper meaning.

In that spirit, this post is me talking out loud.  There’s so much to think about after the NCTM conference this week and I don’t know how it all connects just yet.  So what follows is a stream of thoughts without much thought to coherence or order.  As always, I’m interested in your thoughts and insights and questions.

  1.  #MTBoS:  The best faculty lounge around.
    • I joined Twitter and became a member of the #MTBoS community in November at CMC South 2015.  (Thank you @Math-m-Addicts and @robertkaplinsky!) It has revolutionized not just the quality of my work with teachers but how I orient myself to my work in general.  I have these amazing colleagues in my pocket at all times available for support, guidance, inspiration, and coaching.  It’s an empowering feeling to know that I have access to all this collaborative potential from such talented and giving colleagues.  And I feel so proud to offer what I can to such an amazing group of collaborators.
    • While Twitter and #MTBoS have improved the quality of my work in so many ways, my interactions at NCTM reminded me that the building of human relationships is at the core of our work and a measure of our health as a professional community.  There is obviously tremendous potential power and efficacy in our ability to tweet back and forth about resources, strategies, ideas.  But the conference was a chance to meet the tweeters behind the tweets.  So at NCTM, I intentionally sought out to meet my #MTBoS collaborators in the 3-dimensional analog world of human to human contact.  And on that journey, I interacted with so many more people than I ever had at a conference before and my #MTBoS community grew and grew.
    • Every single one of those interactions was warm and inspiring.  Here are just a few that are sticking out right now.
    • I got to finally play with the wooden tessellations of @Tranglemancsd that I had heard so much about.  And during that play, got to meet and chat with him and others while also getting my geek on with shapes.  See for yourself:FullSizeRender 2
    • I met @MFAnnie and had the opportunity to thank her in person for her inspirationally pithy talk at an Ignite! event about the power of getting students to notice and wonder.  I’ve used that strategy hundreds of times in PD with teachers and have shown that video dozens of times over. And I’ve had the joy and pleasure of witnessing first-hand how notice/wonder engages the thinking and wonderings of thousands of students.
    • I got to meet @bstockus and thank him for his inspiring work about Numberless Word Problems that I’ve been able to use to empower teachers to make their textbooks more engaging and inquiry based.   Keep banging on your drum beat Brian!  We’re all better for it.
    • I met @gfletchy in the middle of one his talks (literally) at the NCTM Central booth in the Exhibit Hall.  He was inspiring me and other teachers about the power and joy of using estimation strategies as a way to inspire elementary students in one of his 3-Act Math lessons called Array-bow of Colors.  He recognized me in middle of his talk, stopped his presentation, came over and said hello and shook my hand, then seamlessly returned to his presentation.  His energy and passion is infectious.
    • There were so many more interactions than I could possibly write about.  Thank you to all who shared time with me to talk and build the human relationship behind the tweets.  You’ve filled me up with inspiration and wonder.
  2. #MTBoS:  The most open and inviting faculty lounge around.
    • I had the pleasure of volunteering at the #MTBoS booth.  Here was a common beginning to my interactions with with people walking by:
      • Them:  “Hey, what’s #MTBoS?”
      • Me:  “The best faculty lounge around.”
      • Them:  “How do I join?”
      • Me:  “You just did.  Welcome aboard.”
    • It was wonderful to extend the same open and warm invitation to others that I had received from the #MTBoS community.  And my reward was seeing folks feel happy and excited to be a part of a community of excellence and curiosity, to feel included in the struggle to find ways to engage students, to know that there were other collaborators just like them who are striving to find solutions to the challenges of math education…and that there was a place where that could happen freely and openly.
    • And that’s perhaps the amazing thing about #MTBoS:  It’s a digital world that builds the opportunities for us to strengthen the human relationships that will create the courage to continue our work.  Shared experiences like NCTM create the meaningful connections, not the tweets.  Tweets sustain the relationships between those experiences.
  3. Matt Larson’s Ignite! talk left me thinking about many things.  One thing I’m wondering about:  Our work is often held back or derailed (at worst) by the politics of the “math wars.”  Are there science wars?  English wars?  Do teachers of other disciplines face this challenge?
  4. Andrew Stadel has asked us to think about our #classroomclocks and thinking about how we divide up time in our classrooms.  I’m eager to use his clock template as an activity with teachers and coaches in future PDs to start a conversation about student engagement and the lesson planning process.
  5. Michael Fenton has me thinking about the value of sequels and leveraging students’ familiarity with “characters” in a math problem to bring new light to old understandings.
  6. Robert Kaplinsky moved many souls with his talk at ShadowCon16 about empowerment and sharing his personal stories.  He has me pondering power versus influence and the significance of context in determining which of the two is being wielded.  How do we foster and use our influence as teachers to create a classroom culture where students feel empowered and compelled to take ownership over their learning?
  7. I wear many hats in my work.  One of them is as an author for the Center for Mathematics and Teaching, a non-profit publisher of some amazing middle school math curriculum.  So many teachers came through our booth to talk about math, curriculum, and geek out on math education.  It was so rewarding to meet so many hard-working and inspired educators.  I’m grateful for CMAT for the opportunity to attend NCTM and experience the rich opportunities for professional development.
  8. Apparently I don’t look like my Twitter profile pic.  Huh.
  9. I heard this somewhere and scribbled it in my journal:  The best questions make students more curious about the answer.  Thank you somebody.

More to come.

When you reflect on your NCTM experience, what might be your most meaningful learning that you would like to incorporate moving forward?

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