These are my initial thoughts. There will be more coming.
What can I say, just as last year, it was awesome. This year it was awesomer! (Yes, that is a word, I just used it, so it works.)
Last year I was cowed and nervous. I was a “new” teacher in a group of amazing teachers who contributed and offered so much to the Math Teaching Community that I felt I had little to share or offer. I was kind of new to the community and I was uncertain about my ability to contribute something of value to the more experienced teachers. By the time I left, I realized that EVERYONE has something to offer EVERYONE else. Teaching is a craft that takes time and energy to develop, and what makes the best teachers is they have questions and weaknesses, and they are constantly trying to improve.
Flash forward to Philadelphia this year and I am more confident in my pedagogical knowledge AND less confident I am a great teacher. I have been working with and talking with this group of individuals on twitter and my blog, but I have been struggling with pushing my learners to the highest levels of rigor.
Bottom line; I am exactly like everyone of this group of collectively amazing teachers who all struggle and suck at teaching at times (although maybe I suck just a little bit more than some of them). And I feel comfortable sharing that with this group.
The first thing that makes TwitterMathCamp different than NCTM or the AP Institutes is the social element. We know each other and have been working with each other all year. We are a group of friends that have met ONCE in person if we are lucky, otherwise we have never met. This creates a trust and that carries over into the sessions. Furthermore, there are social events planned that most people attend. As I was walking home from the Trivia Night event, one of the attendees who is also a college professor said that, “The most productive time at a major conference is the time spent in the bars afterwards getting to know people.” Why? Because that is where RELATIONSHIPS are built.
Yup. That about sums it up. Except at TMC, that level of socialization occurs all day long.
Many fellow tweeps said that this conference is special to them. My contribution to this discussion is that at this conference, the #backchannel that occurs at NCTM occurs equal with the content of the presentation. Only at this conference is the importance of the sharing, retweeting and communication just as important as what is occurring in the presentation.
Someone holds up a book as a great example of content, and someone in the audience finds the book on amazon and tweets out a link. The presenter says something important, and half the audience tweets out the statement, and 10 other people comment and build on the idea. All this while a conversation is going on around the topic being presented in the room.
Notice I have not yet mentioned any content we discussed? I have a notebook full of it, but the passion for math and relationship building is what I wanted to discuss first. This is what good teaching is all about, and if I can build ¼ of that that level of relationship with my learners, I have done a great thing.