I waited a long time to sit down and write down my thoughts about my first Twitter Math Camp experience. Part of the delay was accidental, but part of it was intentional (as I’ll discuss later in this post). There’s already been a lot written about TMC (click here to see the compilation of posts) and I honestly don’t know how I could add on anything that hasn’t already been said, but this post is more for me. In order to avoid having a specific theme and make it appear that I was intentional about this format, here’s a list of what I learned at TMC!
- We all can learn from each other – I drove up from Chicago to Minneapolis for the conference and I was a little stressed when I departed home. As I began driving, I pushed away the thought of social awkwardness and decided to just go with the flow at TMC. I figured I would meet some people I talked with online and new people. I decided to be open to getting to know anyone and everyone I met at the conference. It felt awkward at first (I’m naturally more reserved), but this openness made for a great experience. While I wish I would have gotten to know some people better, I was surprised at how quickly I met people and repeatedly struck up conversations with them (shout out to Nathan Kraft, Joel Bezaire, Nathan Schoolcraft, Tina Palmer, Meg Craig, Connie Haugneland, Hannah Mesick, David Petersen, and any other person I talked with for more than 5 minutes). Especially after Tracy Zager’s keynote, I stopped being intimidated by the question, “What do you teach?” and letting conversations steer toward pleasantries when it was apparent I wasn’t teaching a similar grade/subject as a person. If anything, I let conversations become more varied and I was interested in hearing about teaching practices of people I met. All teachers can learn from each other, which is why discussing teaching with different grade level/content teachers is my #1TMCthing.
- Intervention/review needs to have a prominent a place in planning- I attended Michelle Naidu’s morning session about intervention hoping to get some strategies and ideas for my classroom. Fortunately, Michelle didn’t focus on these so-called “quick fixes.” Instead, Michelle outlined a planning process for new content that includes preassessing requisite skills and intervention for these skills throughout a unit. Rather than front-loading a class with a review unit during the first month of school, Michelle described how incorporating review/intervention throughout a class better serves the needs of students (and let teachers maintain momentum). Michelle’s session explained what I thought was a fluke last school year. Before the rational number unit, I wrote down new content and review topics. Knowing how pointless it can be to pretest new material, I gave my 6th grade students a pretest for the review skills of adding, subtracting, and multiplying fractions/mixed numbers. As I graded the pretest, I found that most students were comfortable with adding and subtracting fractions. After a day of station activities to iron out misconceptions and errors, I was able to move onto multiplication and division. I ended up saving 3 instructional days I would have previously dedicated to review concepts I thought students would have forgotten. Michelle’s session at TMC revealed that this unit structure is a not a fluke and she offered a more organized method for making this practice a normal part of my classroom.
- Be deliberate – Dylan Kane spoke about the importance of deliberate practice during his keynote. Before last school year, I picked out questioning and management as my focus areas for improvement. Just the act of writing down these goals helped me monitor my growth and provided me with talking points for discussions with other teachers and my evaluators. Dylan took my understanding of deliberate practice to a new level with his exhortations to acknowledge self-bias, acquire feedback, and move beyond looking for the next coolest idea/task/lesson/program/education fad to improve teaching. Besides Dylan’s session, Nicole Bridge’s session about math identity really hit a nerve in regards to purposeful practice. Nicole presented how math identity forms and how our words/actions shape math identity in our students. I left the session wondering how I encourage positive math identity in my students and in what ways am I consciously or unconsciously contributing to a negative self-identity.
Beyond these thoughts, I reflected in the days and weeks after Twitter Math Camp how much I’ve let myself recognize the importance of being deliberate in my professional life, but let this idea fall by the wayside in my personal life. As much as I’ve grown in the past two years teaching and I want to grow in the upcoming year, I also need to be deliberate in the growth of other areas my life (faith, friendships, family, social life, hobbies, reading more than math blogs and teaching articles, volunteering in some capacity). To quote a sermon my pastor preached earlier this summer (that coincidentally revolved around the idea of personal growth), I need to “take the time to take care of my soul.” That’s what I’ve been doing the last few weeks and what I intend to do over the next school year. I still plan to tweet and blog about my teaching (I already have a few ideas for posts), but I’m also going to make sure I’m taking care of my soul.