That acronym stands for the bulky and unwieldy (in name, in actuality) mathtwitterblogosphere. There have been some heated discussions lately online (on blogs, on twitter, on email) around a post that Dan Meyer wrote about the Global Math Department session called “Choose Your Lunch Table: A Warmer #MTBoS” (you can watch it online). My internet wasn’t working when the session was happening so I was only able to listen in from my phone.
I don’t really want to spend the energy to engage deeply with Dan’s post, as others have done (Approximately Normal, Divisible By 3, f(t)). Briefly, I think Dan has some really valuable things to say in his post, but when it came to his analysis of the session, I believe he was misreading a lot of what was going on. (There were no “corporate resolutions.” And there was no “High Council of the Math Teacher Bloggers.”) There is no better evidence for me thinking Dan was looking at what was happening through a strange lens than simply looking at the google doc that was made during the session, where I just see a thoughtful discussion and some great points.
But I don’t think anyone there saw it as anything more than a rich conversation. (And if I saw what Dan saw, I would agree with him wholeheartedly. I just didn’t see it that way.)
That being said, I wanted to throw my two cents out there during the session, but since I could only listen from my phone, I’ll type what I wanted to say here.
My Two Cents
I love that we’re a disjointed community. There are many conversations going on in many different places. On twitter, yes. On blogs, yes. Over emails, yes. At the global math department, yes. In person, yes. On facebook, yes. There is something ridiculously amazing about how non-centralized and grassroots this all is. And that it has sustained itself for so long, and has been growing so fast.
One of the awesome-est things for me is thinking about how many different ways someone can get involved. Lurking, of course, by reading blogs and tweets. Writing your own blog. Submitting to other blogs (a special moment on the one good thing blog, a graph to daily desmos, a student misconception to the math mistakes blog, an assessment to the better assessments blog…). Attending the global math department. And even starting your own thing because heck, you wanted to (e.g. the a day in the life initiative)!
It’s disjointed, and doesn’t have a center, and that allows for so much creativity and so many different entry points for people. I attribute that this is precisely why this whole community evolves in a positive way, and can grow in the way that it has. I don’t want the disjointedness to change. I don’t want to be an organization. I don’t want a hierarchy.
However, just because we’re disjointed and decentralized does not mean that we can’t ask who we are (knowing the answers are going to be multiple and individual) and what we want to get out of this community (knowing the answers are going to be multiple and individual) and what our experiences have been (knowing the answers are going to be multiple and individual). You get where I’m going here. I think these questions are great because they can lead to some awesome stuff. Approximately Normal got it right…
I think it will continue to grow and evolve into whatever we need it to be.
But I have to say: growing and evolving doesn’t happen passively. We’re not bystanders in the process. We are actively doing it in the ways that we’re participating with the community — whether we’re conscious of it or not. So questions like: who are we? what do we want to be? how can we make our experiences better? what can we give back to others? How could those be bad questions — as long as we understand the answers are going to be multiple and individual? Those sorts of questions can lead to some awesome collaborative work by like-minded people.
Simply put, there is no taming of the #MTBoS, because it’s all of us, and we are not homogeneous. And that I love.
Engagement with the #MTBoS
There’s no right way to participate in this weird disjointed passionate community. Do what moves you. Do what makes sense for you. And give others those same allowances.
I limit who I follow and have a protected twitter account. That’s okay.
I don’t comment on other peoples’s blogs regularly anymore. That’s okay.
I have never done a 3 Act with my kids. That’s okay.
I like doing collaborative projects with other teachers online, but I rarely have time to. That’s okay.
I often ignore everything in the #MTBoS (sometimes for a month or more) because I’m too busy. That’s okay.
I almost never criticize/push back on other people’s teaching ideas. (I would rather do that sort of work in person when I have more context.) That’s okay.
I skip past almost 95% of blogposts in my rss reader, unless they give me concrete things I can do in my classroom. That’s okay.
I constantly feel anxiety that there are so so so many better teachers out there and I’ll never get there. That’s an okay feeling.
I haven’t updated my virtual filing cabinet in months or revamped my very very very outdated online portfolio or done a major overhaul on the mathtwitterblogosphere site since it was created. That’s okay.
I sometimes take an idea from a blogpost to use in my classroom, and forget to say thank you in the comments. Though rude, even that’s okay too.
I don’t care about the “big questions” about teaching and ed policy. That’s okay.
You should never feel guilty engaging with the community in ways that make sense to you . We’re all coming at teaching from such different places in our careers, such different backgrounds, and such different environments. We all need and want different things. I’m okay with that. I’m more than okay with that, because the fact that we’re all coming together from such different vantage points is what makes this little village work well for so many different people.
 As long as you’re not a know-it-all-jerk-face. GROSS.