It surpassed everybody’s expectations. I am a curmudgeon when it comes to professional development, and I want my time valued. This conference was the most powerful professional development experience I have been to. And that is why I would like to nominate it for an Edublog Award for Best Open PD.
It was Twitter Math Camp 2012, or fondly known by all of us as TMC. I waxed poetic on it on a previous blog post which is a better nomination than anything I could come up with now. I said:
It was like we were on first dates, which felt our fiftieth-gazillion dates. Because we all KNEW each other. We knew about each others’s schools, kids, husbands/wives/bfs/gfs, movie and music preferences, deepest fears (SPIDERS!!!)… and still wanted to meet. I think the highest praise I can give is that the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia I had after leaving from this four day conference.
Every session that I attended was great. (But of course the best session was the one I led!) I learned about interactive notebooks and foldables, about the concept of “flow” in the classroom and how to disrupt the hidden pedagogical contract that schools have with kids, and about teasing kids with motivating questions and problems…This, in itself, is powerful. There were concrete and useful takeaways for my classroom practice. But what made it all the more powerful for me is that I was getting these ideas from teachers I knew personally and trusted. Everything was vetted. And anytime I need more information, or resources, or have questions, I can just send an email, tweet, or comment on a blog. And I can give back by sharing my experience with the things I take from others. Our community is dynamic and responsive and open to ideas and change, and we’re all on equal footing. And that only comes from us being friends…
But the sessions were only part of it, and I would argue, the less important part. We broke bread together while rehashing old memories together, as old friends do. If anyone felt that what we had wasn’t real, watching me give @approx_normal a piggyback ride at the Budweiser Brewery Tour, seeing @jreulbach excitedly show us and an entire movie theater how to cheerlead-dance before a showing of Magic Mike, seeing the almost English-teacher-level of hugging that was happening in the last few days , would change anyone’s mind. My favorite thing at the conference was the laughter.
I still get a glow-y feeling when I think about those four days. Because it was the culmination of something that had been brewing for years: friendship that we developed through a common passion (and through the common trials and tribulations) of teaching math. You want to see how awesome it was? Lisa Henry links to 21 different blog posts recapping the conference, all pretty much saying the same thing: aaahhh-may-zing!
In fact, Education Week blogger Justin Reich said:
Math Camp and similar events tell a story of teachers leading the march towards better instruction, better outcomes for students, and more meaningful learning by pooling their shared experience and working together to create better classrooms and schools. In an age of a soul-crushing standardization and the reduction of teaching to poorly-designed tests and improperly used value-added scores, we need to celebrate our teachers’ incredible commitment to students embodied in an event like Math Camp (and the hundreds of other unconferences and teacher-led guerilla PD events happening around the world).
One of the ways that teachers can take back control of the narrative in education is to take the lead in improving the profession. Unions should be at the very front of this effort, but teachers everywhere should be organizing to form communities, improve their craft, and have a ton of fun doing it. Lisa echoes what I hear from so many educators who pursue this form of professional development: “Quite simply, TMC12 was the most rich professional development experience I have ever taken part in.”
We had guest stars come give keynotes at the conference (Shawn Cornally of Think Thank Thunk fame skyped in; Karim Kai Ani of Mathalicious fame graced us in person). We problem solved in the morning. We gave each other ideas and resources. We shared ideas and led sessions for each other. And these were sessions that were all the more powerful because they were continuations of conversations we had been having online for months or longer! The program is below:
We came out of the conference stronger as a community. It was a conference made by us, for us (under the leadership and hard work of Shelli Temple and Lisa Henry). And hopefully, based on the positive responses and the conversations that have been happening lately, it is probably just the inaugural one!