I returned from Utah 2 weeks ago, and am about to embark on my ‘real’ vacation – 2 weeks on Lake Dunmore, Vermont (aka heaven). My final recap and reflection has been on the to-do list since July 18, but my return to Brooklyn was accompanied by a delayed crash from the end of the school year, some home disaster and drama, and my envious observation of TMC15 as it appeared in my Twitter feed (which I couldn’t always bear to look at) and blog reader.
PCMI was a gift for which I am deeply grateful on many levels. The scholarship enabled me to attend, got me to confront a long-lived phobia (flying), placed me in the company of like-minded teachers who became dear friends that I know I will see again, and restored my teaching soul more fully than I thought possible. The challenge I face in the coming year is maintaining that restoration and energy in an environment which, while personally supportive, pretty much works in opposition to many of the mathematical and philosophical teaching practices to which I aspire.
As wonderful as PCMI was, the emotional backdraft from Twitter Math Camp is overwhelming. One by one, I have been reading everyone’s blog posts, getting a keen feeling of what I missed in California. (The top hit for this, by the way, was Fawn Nguyen’s keynote, the slides and notes of which I read in their entirety, hearing Fawn’s voice loud and clear.) But there has been a bonus for me – everyone’s heartfelt and articulate writing has left me with some TMC takeaways, and I wasn’t even able to attend. And these takeaways reflect and magnify my experience in Utah, creating some kind of ultimate fractal/exponential virtual math professional development effect (there’s an acronym or hashtag in there somewhere – I’m sure of it). Here’s what I’ve gleaned and what I continue to ponder:
- Mary Bourassa wrote so eloquently about the growth of her participation in the MTBoS and how she finally felt she made a ‘real’ contribution with the Which One Doesn’t Belong website. I’ve participated in workshops Mary has run (at Exeter), and thought she was the cat’s meow way before Which One Doesn’t Belong. I share resources and participate as constructively as I can generously on Twitter; I would love to be able to create something as broadly useful.
- Darryl Yong was awesome as the co-designer of the morning math problem sets at PCMI, but his post on Radical Inclusivity spoke directly to my heart. I have a personal goal to speak out against the pervasive tacit racism at my school, and to try and start a diversity committee. Darryl’s post eggs me on.
- Julie Reulbach and Anne Schwartz, two women who I really would like to see again after meeting them in Philadelphia at TMC13, both wrote about hesitancy in attending TMC after personally and/or professionally difficult years, and the restorative power of this community. I know that at the end of the school year, I felt quite spent in both of those arenas, and approached PCMI with trepidation. I was thrilled to find myself recharged within days (even amongst ‘strangers’), and I was glad to hear the same was true for Julie and Anne.
- Megan Schmidt, my favorite person who I have never met, looked another scary issue squarely in the face in her post Safe Spaces at TMC15. Megan’s posts speak directly to me, every time, and this post was no different. The personal issue I dealt with at PCMI was the baggage I carry and the isolation it occasionally forced on me; it was difficult (I found it impossible, actually) to talk to anyone about the ravage alcohol abuse has wreaked on my home life or the ever-present watch for cancer recurrence that has become routine for me. I’m not sure how to create those safe spaces wherever I go, but I love that Megan articulated the need for them, because there are times when group hugs just don’t do it.
In addition to the aforementioned keynote by Fawn Nguyen, there were two other quotes (below) that appeared numerous times in the blog posts that sum up, for me, not only both conferences – PCMI and TMC – but how I view my involvement online and why I continually seek these opportunities, and relish them so.
from Christopher Danielson: “Find what you love. Do more of that.”
Thanks to everyone who shared, and you can bet you will see next summer!