I never went to sleepaway summer camp as a child. Sure, I went to summer camp, but not the kind where you spent weeks in the woods reuniting with old friends and making new ones. I always wanted to, though. Between way too many viewings of Salute Your Shorts, The Parent Trap (the LiLo version, obvs), Addams Family Values, and Troop Beverly Hills, I would often daydream what it would be like to be surrounded by people I like, and people who liked me, carelessly spending countless hours laughing and having a great time.
I’ve never been, but I imagine Twitter Math Camp is like sleepaway camp for adults who are also hopelessly nerdy math geeks.
I really didn’t know what I was going to encounter when I landed for the first time in Cleveland. My husband, introvert that he is, was naturally horrified that I was going to spend a week with people I didn’t know. And truthfully, I was a little nervous as well. Sure, there were going to be people there that I’d interacted with on Twitter for years, but that’s not the same as knowing them, is it?
As it turns out, it’s pretty darn similar. The people I’d befriended online were just as awesome in person. Perhaps even moreso, since there’s a certain something that can get lost when communicating through a screen. I was so excited to finally meet these folks that I had admired for so long, and they were excited to meet me, too. Me, of all people. Me, who hadn’t met a single person from the MTBoS in person. Someone I had looked up to and respected for years looked me dead in my face, smiled, and said “I’m really glad you’re here.”
There’s just no real way to replicate that online.
For as wild and extroverted as I appear to be, I can only be that way when I feel comfortable. I usually spend hours, days, weeks getting a feel for the group before letting my antics out in full force. At TMC, it took maybe a matter of minutes. I immediately felt like I belonged. That feeling only grew as time went on.
Which is perhaps why hearing Marian Dingle’s keynote hit me like a punch to the gut. In between my euphoric feeling of being with my community, I had to face the reality that other educators may not be sharing in those feelings with me, for reasons I can listen to but may truly never understand. Out of all the amazing learning I did at TMC, I think the moments that had the biggest impact came from Marian’s and Wendy Menard’s session on Taking a Knee in the Mathematics Classroom. I felt so vulnerable and exposed, even though I was sitting with twenty of my newly-claimed family members who had similar passions for social justice and equity. It’s made me reflect on the experiences of my own students. Am I doing enough to make sure every student feels welcome? Am I listening to every voice? Am I actively seeking out voices that aren’t usually heard? I’d like to think the answer to these questions is “yes, yes, and yes,” but this week reminded me once again that the work is never truly done. I’m still unpacking my feelings and takeaways from this incredible session, which will hopefully end up as future blog posts, but for now I’m just going to express sincerest gratitude to Marian, Wendy, and the rest of my cohort for creating a space where we can have continue these difficult conversations, and create plans for action.
As good as I feel, I want TMC to be a place where every person who attends feels that way, too. And if this week was anything to go on, I think we’re on our way.