Every year about this time there is a discussion about #MTBoS ... especially its inclusivity or lack thereof. There is usually a discussion about how to involve more math teachers and how to help them feel welcome, connected.
I read Dan's blog about retiring the hashtag #MTBoS and his suggestion that #iteachmath might be better. I've also been reading the discussion in Twitter and the other blog spinoffs - decided to share my own 2 cents worth!
I returned to the math classroom after having been in administration for 12 years. I was excited and anxious ... knowing that I was rusty, needing a refresher on the best ideas for teaching math. I began searching online for ideas ... and that's how I discovered this group of teachers referred to as the MTBoS. I was amazed at their openness in sharing and how interesting their ideas were. I started following along as best I could - reading as many blogs as I could. At that point I was not a Twitter user.
What caught my eye in those early days were compilations like #Made4Math and #MyFavFriday. By following those and tentatively posting my own ideas in those lists I made connections with a few people.
It was not long before there was an MTBoS challenge ... and I ventured to join Twitter. So overwhelming! And so enlightening! I realized that was where the discussions were although I wish all of those discussions somehow resulted in blog posts! And it was in joining Twitter, I discovered Twitter chats - concentrated discussions at a certain hour of the week on various books, articles ... and my heart was particularly happy.
Through participation in #Made4Math, #MyFavFriday, and Twitter Chats I began to build relationships with a few teachers. It wasn't until then that I felt like I belonged ... although I'm reminded it's not at all about belonging. It's about participating!
Posting a tweet does not a relationship make!
I felt like an outsider often on Twitter among what some refer to as "rock stars." And at first I was uncomfortable and sometimes critical. But that changed. I realized that there were a group of teachers who already had relationships, who may have been among the founders, who established TMC and attended it annually. They know each other personally, with face to face connections. That doesn't make them a clique. It makes them friends.
What made a difference for me was realizing that if I had a question, wanted help, all I had to do was ask. And if I wanted to share, I was more than welcome to do so. It's about participating!
I've told every teacher I know, every teacher I meet about the #MTBoS, in every workshop, and even strangers. Yes, I find the hashtag cumbersome. I sometimes feel like I'm apologizing because it's such a mouthful. It is a bit obscure. It requires explanation. And for that reason, a hashtag that requires no explanation, one that is obvious, makes sense to me.
For me it's not the hashtag that alienates. Instead I think too often we only share the amazing ... the best of the best. Surely not every day in the classroom is a number talk, estimation, an open middle problem, a three act task, in depth formative assessment, and no notes or routine practice? What makes me want to push Twitter away, retreat in my own world is that I can't live up to all the high quality math ideas every day! So I feel bad for myself, and look at those online as "rock stars" who seem to have it all together. That's when #MTBoS alienates. And it's not the hashtag's fault at all :)
I'm so very grateful to all the math teachers who post online ... no matter the hashtag, I'll still follow, share, and encourage others to do so!