I wish I could take credit for this clever name, but it is the name of the second mission of Exploring the Math-Twitter Blogosophere challenge (albeit the second-choice name). As expected in the title, this mission required me to dig up my old twitter handle and password (which I can see I created on a whim in June of 2009, then promptly discarded until now (October 2013) with some intermittent posts in between.
As for the mission, it was interesting–and dare I say, fun?–to see all the other teachers and people participating with the hashtag #MTBoS. I was able to link to a few blogs and even random anecdotes from different classrooms. It was a very easy and casual connection, not too deep and yet their questions, stories and experiences–even the ones that could only fit in 140 characters–resonated in their similarity and relevancy to my daily experiences in the classroom. Some showed classrooms to aspire too, others simply mirrored what I see in my own. Regardless, I did feel a sense of connection and community, even though they are with people I have never met–and will never meet–in person. The fact is, being a teacher is a kind of funny, daily experiment. I can get lost in the fury to cover more material, manage behavior, push critical thinking and remediate basic number skills. But students really are funny and crazy and say and do the most random things that catch me off guard and really do make you want to share them with anyone and everyone you see. (This is probably why teachers ONLY talk about school and work and students in their free time, a double-edged sword). And so, tweeting about it I guess is an outlet for these anecdotes, a structurally-imposed editor (the shorter the better–nobody wants to hear you talk about your students for THAT long!), a source for inspiration and commiseration by reading others, and of course, a reminder that despite the grind, there are always gems of humor and joy when interacting with so many different personality types and hormones in one class.
I remember my first week in the classroom, having just met my coworkers in the new school, new city, new state that I had just moved to, and trying to figure out how to teach, how to connect to students and stuff, and, basically, what was going on. I looked forward to the moments in between classes because it enabled me to speak with other adults, ask questions and hear even brief anecdotes. This was partly because I didn’t know how I was supposed to interact with students–be their friend? be strict? tell them about myself? be honest? and being asked “How do I feel being the only white person in the room” by one student on the first day didn’t help either. As I became more comfortable with teaching and interacting with students, I stopped waiting for the chance to engage with other teachers and started talking with my students more about non-math content in the breaks between classes, improving my relationships with students and improving my days at school. But there are still days where I’m so caught up with the daily hustle of teaching I don’t ever really interact with adult coworkers throughout the day, and sometimes that can be tough (and not something I realized at all–how many other professions do you spend all day talking and yet never talk to someone your own age?).
Anyway, this was a bit of a tangent, but I was reminded of the different circles or layers of interactions I have daily as a teacher. And I think its important to have a balance of interacting with students, and interacting with non-students, even if all we ever talk about are the students.
The other thing I liked about this mission is perhaps the more “useful” or “intended goal”: content and idea sharing. I started teaching proofs, which was the most stressful and frustrating content for both me and my students last year. So much so that by second semester the other geometry teacher and I simply abandoned them, looking for other ways to engage critical thinking and deepening logic skills, as our students struggled and hated them so much (and were failing miserably at them, really a reflection of us failing to teach them properly). This year, I didn’t think I would teach them for the same reasons, but my students seem to be grasping content better and I’ve (perhaps foolishly and prematurely) decided to give it another shot. This year, though, I’m trying to do it more sneakily, encouraging long paragraphs filled with reasons, before I show them the standard two column model and present it more as a “shortcut” (Because who doesn’t love shortcuts?).
Day 1 of teaching even this kind of flopped, so the next morning I sent a tweet out as a kind of bat signal for help. And I was impressed by the immediate responses! Certainly they are just starting points, but I like the idea that I can spark a conversation. I’ve copied that tweet here:
Anyway, I hope to continue tweeting now and then, if only for these sparks of ideas and reminders of anecdotes. Or, maybe I’ll go another 4 years without tweeting another word.
Lastly, to all my twitter followers who got immediately spammed (not including the 12 posts I made for this mission–perhaps you consider that spam and I won’t be offended–but the actual spam/virus that was sent out to all of you): I apologize. And I confidently blame MTBoS! (As this is clearly the easiest and most irrational thing to do).