In no particular order, these are some of my free associations and thoughts about what I found so valuable about Twitter Math Camp 2012.
TMC was marked by a pervasive spirit of generosity — generosity with ideas, generosity with listening, witnessing, and providing meaningful feedback, generosity with credit, and generosity with time and attention. In turn, the generosity shown by individuals and the collective was met with a truly dumbfounding generosity shown by institutions both private, public, for-profit, and not-for-profit. More on this in a bit.
THE POWER OF "YES"
It's rare to experience a group event that does not contain at least one naysayer or wet blanket, but Twitter Math Camp 2012 defied this trend. It was pervaded by a "can do" attitude from top to bottom, from beginning to end. There were no naysayers, no wet blankets, and also no pity-partiers and no spectators. There wasn't even very much unhealthy attention-seeking behavior. It was a marvel of the power of the word "yes."
No money for a venue? Find one that will host us at no charge (Thank you, Mary Institute and Country Day School of St. Louis — we love you!!!).
No money for big-name speaker fees? Invite speakers who want to participate and will come to the conference on their own dime.
No money for supplies? No problem. Invite people who are passionate about overcoming financial obstacles and who will share ways to do things "on the cheap." Or for free. Or people who will say, "Here, I have some extra, have some of mine."
Nervous about presenting? Don't worry about it. Come and contribute as an audience member. Or volunteer to help out in some other way. Or lurk until you feel ready to jump in.Also our benefactors were incredibly generous — and some of these insisted on remaining anonymous. I have so much respect for this I cannot begin to describe it. I wish the Gates Foundation had even a few drops of this kind of respect and humility. We were given discounts on commercial products and some free stuff.
And as if that were not enough some anonymous benefactor paid for 40 teachers' dinners at Pi Pizzeria — without even wanting to receive credit! I keep trying to imagine the Gates Foundation working anonymously but it just makes my head explode.
To whatever undercover bodhisattva bought drinks and dinner that night for 40+ excited, exhausted teachers, we all say THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.
This was authentically rigorous Professional Development — not the artificial (or faux) rigor of NCLB, standardized testing, PACT, BTSA induction, or most other PD events, conferences, programs, or fads.
ENTERING THE CONVERSATION "IN MEDIAS RES"
The fact that we know and follow each other's teaching practice and reflections, based on years of engagement in the Twitterblogosphere, I found myself starting every conversation in the middle of engagement. There was no need to negotiate or argue for your priorities. They were simply accepted as legitimate because you had showed up.
I also found myself starting from a position of believing in the possibility and potential of each session topic. When @mgolding presented on INs (Interactive Notebooks), I dropped directly in concentration and went with it. When @jreulbach demonstrated how she helps middle schoolers translate words into math or uses foldables to teach them to slow down and honor a process, I took careful notes. When @bowmanimal led us through ways to use Geogebra in different kinds of lessons, I was willing to follow him anywhere (except to see Magic Mike, but that's a different story). The ability to dispense with the "literature review" and "topic justification" portion of each talk probably freed up 30% more time than is usual at a conference or PD event.
BALANCED EMPHASIS ON COMMUNITY AND INDIVIDUALS
We came together as a community of committed individuals in an expression of healthy interdependency.
EMPHASIS ON PRACTICING APPROPRIATE SELF-CARE
In contrast to the dangerous and destructive rhetoric of doing more, more, more with less, less, less and "to hell with what is good for the teachers," we supported one another and respected people's boundaries and limits. No shame, no blame. Taking good care of oneself is the best way to ensure that we will have energy to expend on behalf of our students, schools, and communities. As the great Jungian analyst and cantadora Clarissa Pinkola Estes has written, "Insist on a balance between pedestrian responsibility and personal rapture. Protect the soul. Insist on quality creative life."
I felt encouraged to trust that what I find truly useful will be of benefit to others too, and may even become more useful after I receive positive, constructive feedback.
Attendees came as they truly are in their real teaching lives. It was possible to have a deep, genuine conversation with anybody at any time on any given day.
QUALITY OF ATTENTION
There was a wide and generous interest in what others had to say at Twitter Math Camp — not simply politeness or compliance with the expected social norms of a PD or a typical conference event.
EMPHASIS ON THE PRACTICAL
People talked about what actually works and inquired into why.
LEARNING FROM EVERYONE
It didn't matter who you were with — new, old, young, mid-career, career-switcher. Everybody brought their A-game and shared it without hesitation.
NO "IN CROWD" / NO HIERARCHY
Everyone's voice and presence was valued equally (okay, maybe @samjshah's voice and presence were valued a little more than the rest of ours were, but then, he is worth it). Everyone was valued and recognized as an equal.
COMPASSION FOR + UNDERSTANDING OF THE TEACHER'S WORLD
No airy-fairy ivory tower research perspectives about the way things are supposed to unfold. This was the real deal.
FULL MIND/BODY/HEART TEACHING EMPHASIS
Everyone at TMC12 understood that effective teaching and learning are much more than any single technique, tactic, or flavor of the month. These were teachers who were "all in" in their engagement. I felt proud to be a part of this.