Last summer, I had been blogging for about 4 months when I read about Twitter Math Camp (TMC). I had read a wrap up post or two (OK, maybe more than that) about TMC and thought it sounded like a really cool experience. So, I wanted to make sure that I was able to attend this year and check it out. As a first time attendee of TMC, I wasn't totally ready for this experience and this is why:
1) No Lurking Allowed! It's Time to Share and Collaborate!
I am such a wall flower in new situations and I like to sit back and just observe. Well, I tried that and within the first 5 minutes of the whole event starting, one of the organizers, Shelly I believe, approached me and asked why I was standing against the wall all alone. I was shocked by this! I fumbled through a nervous answer. I had never been to any other conference where people had been concerned that I was alone. I had been to a lot of events where I could just blend into the background and not be noticed. I knew networking and meeting people was a huge part of the TMC experience, but I had planned to ease my way into it. Didn't happen that way and that was a good thing! I shook more hands, exchanged more smiles, and met more people than anywhere else that I have ever gone.
Also, I have never been to a conference where I spent three morning session blocks with the same people all
three days. This is the hidden gem in TMC for me! This was what
changed the TMC from being a conference to being a collaboration.
Teachers were creating, asking questions, defining, debating, reshaping,
and collaborating everywhere. This is how community is built – in the exchange of ideas and rallying around a
common cause. Everyone at TMC was there to learn something from each
other and to support each other in making mathematics education better. It was hard not to start talking to someone about something. Also, it was a room full of 150 passionate math teachers and where else you sit and talk with any person in the room about math?!
2) Star-Struck and Finding New Stars!
I wanted to go to TMC partially because I had been reading the blogs of many absolutely amazing teachers. I wanted to be able to sit and chat with them and glean their knowledge for next year. Well, it took all of my courage to tell Sarah, from Math=Love, that I loved, loved her blog. I have stolen, I mean borrowed, so much from her. I sat one person away from Julie, who writes I Speak Math, at a session and couldn't tell her at all how much I enjoyed reading her blog. Then, I had an entire session with Katheryn, from i is a number, and said nothing! I was NOT expecting to be so tongue tied! So disappointed that I failed to introduce myself to the people I admire and strive to emulate in my own way. But then, you meet all of these other great people. People that you can't believe you never knew existed and are amazing! I know that my blog reading list has just lengthened and I am really going to have to get better at Twitter.
3) The Hotel is Like Vegas!
I didn't stay at the hotel that almost everyone else stayed. I was traveling with my dog, so I needed to stay in a pet friendly hotel. I didn't realize until the end of TMC, how much interaction and sharing happened in the hotel after the sessions were over. I wish that I had know this as a first timer to TMC. I also wish I could tell you all that went on at the hotel, but I believe the saying was "What happens at the hotel from five to midnight, stays at the hotel", so I am not any help! Although... there are some pictures floating around that show the Twitter math campers sitting in circles sharing interactive notebooks with each other! :)
So this year, as a newbie, I wasn't ready for everything. My biggest take-away from TMC14 is that there is a huge support system on Twitter. These teachers are totally awesome and are collaborating to make their classrooms better. There is no need to worry about if you are a good enough teacher or even think that you have nothing to contribute. Besides being able to put faces to Twitter handles, I left TMC14 feeling like my classroom is moving in the right direction. I haven't fully processed the entire experience yet. There are speakers, sessions, and games that I want to share, but they will have to wait for another post.