Session Thoughts: Shadow Con, Part 2

Shadowcon2015 Laila

So now you’re in your classroom and getting students to talk is akin to squeezing rocks for water because math. Mathematics is serious business, no? But what if the quiet of the classroom is tearing at your soul? Sure, they’ll respond when you pull out a popsicle stick with their name on it, but the hesitation you see in Adelaide’s answer doesn’t make sense when you know she’ll have her friends in stitches the moment the bell rings. How do you break through this miasma of reserve that settles over the room at the ring of the bell?

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Session Thoughts: Shadow Con, part 1

Session Thoughts Shadowcon header 2015

For those on the twitters and reading blogs, there was a nice build up in advertising to this event. I really didn’t know what to expect from Shadow Con until the day before when I got to ask some folks that were speaking at it during the math games night. The ‘TED-esque, but with a call-to-action’ description ended up being most spot on for me. This was probably one of my favorite events from my time in Boston and I greatly enjoyed each speaker. Let me tell you why.

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in which i write a <3 letter

Twitter & Blog friends are interesting things. They are these people you ‘talk’ to almost every day and whose inner-teacher-workings are out there for the world to see but often you don’t know exactly what they look like.

Let me tell you about this unique tribe of online math educators. We are tech-savvy, aggressive about our own personal development, always ready to give productive feedback, and we hold a strong belief that it is through personal effort in a community setting that we can, and will, become better teachers. No one of us is an expert, but as a group I think we can claim some knowledge in matters mathematical.

We are, at heart, a tribe of experienced novices; teachers new to the profession, teachers who are moving on to higher degrees, to research, and many others. All are welcome to join this tribe, but those who do should prepare for the ‘I wonder what would happen if…’ replies that push ideas to higher levels. They should prepare to engage on a level I have yet to find with consistency at an ‘in person’ professional development. It’s also helpful to be unabashedly excited about education. Being a bit of a geek doesn’t hurt either. Our appreciation for the Queen of Sciences binds us as truly as our love of the classroom buzz. We quest to develop lessons that help kids learn and propel them forward with more questions and a desire to know wrapped in belief that they can do so.

@Cheesemonkeysf  is an exemplar of what it means to be in this tribe. Her blog contributions to both the teaching and math spheres show a depth of reflection in her practice far beyond anything I see most ‘new’ teachers doing. Her passion for the profession is evident in the way she engages with the online community–she is always seeking best practices. Cheesemonkeysf’s care for her students and enthusiasm for their successes make me wish I lived closer so that my own students could benefit from that type of energy. I know that her cheer-leading has benefited me many times as I’ve worked up courage before a professional talk or before putting a new lesson into practice. She has done much to help us all be braver teachers.

I can count myself as one of the lucky tribe members who has met Cheesemonkeysf in real life. The dinner, consisting of several members of the tribe who happen to be in the area, was far too short and I think I could have hung out with her for several more hours, if not days, chatting about education and teaching and all those things that make up the job we love the most. There are people in this world you want to be around because of their ability to help you see and actualize your own power. Those are the people we need to be teachers, because what else is youth but that period of time where you begin to understand the effect you can have on this world?

While I don’t think Cheesemonkeysf fully understands her own impact on the tribe she has consistently and delightfully infused with humor, passion, dedication, integrity and, oddly enough, unicorns, I hope that this letter helps you understand what kind of person she is and the type of impact she can have on students.

She’s certainly had an impact on this one.