This past week I spent four days with the most inspiring, innovative, welcoming, joyful, intelligent, hard working group of teachers (well, people in general) ever. I had the distinct privilege of attending Twitter Math Camp '13, a gathering of about 115 math teachers who use Twitter and blogs to connect, collaborate and support each other.
I have been reading math teacher blogs for about four years. I met a friend (Ben Blum Smith http://researchinpractice.wordpress.com/) of a math teacher co-worker at a picnic who gave me his business card, with his blog listed. I saw that many of his posts included links to other bloggers. I read several of Sam Shah's posts and quickly thought, "wow, this world has some good stuff to offer!" So, I set up a Google Reader and started some hard-core lurking.
In recent years I keep hearing people say "the action is all on Twitter." I'm a late adopter in general...I got my first smart phone less than a year ago, I waited until 2009 to get Facebook, etc. I like to wait until an app has a ton of reviews before I consider trying it out. I also have quite a few friends (and I often feel this way too) who try hard to have less technology in their life. I have mostly stopped using Facebook recently as I don't want the time suck of browsing things without fully engaging and I don't like having so much screen time.
And then in walks this whole MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog 'o Sphere). I arrived at Twitter Math Camp with a handle (the word for your name on Twitter) created, but having never tweeted and not yet following anyone. I figured that if I enjoyed the gathering, then I would consider trying it out. By Friday morning, I was tweeting and trying to find how to follow this glorious community.
Much of what the general public dislikes about Twitter does not seem to be how people are using it in the MTBoS. The medium and the community allows me to connect with several hundred like-minded, helpful, passionate, intelligent math teachers. Wow! I work at an incredibly small school (80 kids in grades 7-12, one full time math teacher, two part time math teachers), so finding this world where I can share ideas with a Global Math Department is so liberating and fascinating!
I would like to write more about all of the sessions that I participated in at TMC13, both so that I can remember what I learned, and also to share with other folks. At the moment, that is feeling somewhat overwhelming, so I decided to just write about why I feel so much joy in joining this splendid community.
Throughout much of my adolescence, I was frustrated that I didn't have peers who wanted to talk about ideas, theories and connections (about everything, really) on the same level that I was excited and ready to converse at. I went to a small rural high school, and there were only a few of us in each grade level who really cared about academics. The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I attended a weekend-long women's leadership conference at Wells College. I met all of these young women, and incredible counselors, who all wanted to talk about ideas with me. Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! These people were as excited as I was to geek out about so many things and to use a large vocabulary! I had my first all-nighter, I couldn't sleep as my mind was expanding so quickly! When I came home, I decided to get out of high school as quickly as possible and applied to attend college a year early and didn't do my senior year of high school.
I say all of this because I feel like that was the last time that I remember being this inspired and having my mind opened that radically, 14 years ago at age sixteen! This is major! One of the other attendees described it as entering puberty to come to TMC; it's appealing to get to finally be an adult, but gosh is it overwhelming to learn how everything works!
So, now I'm trying to integrate this amazing experience into my day to day life. It's summer, so my schedule is somewhat more flexible, and I want to follow this passion and foster these incredible connections, but I also worry about how I will be able to maintain my participation once the school year starts.
I also have a notebook full...like we're talking twenty-five pages of single spaced writing...of ideas and leads on things that I want to study, people I want to connect with, programs I want to try, puzzles to explore. It's remarkably exciting and also cripplingly overwhelming. So, today, I'm spending my time thinking about how I will process this influx of information and inspiration. I know that when I have places to put things, I feel more comfortable and able to sink into newness; I like order.