TMC17: First Thoughts

TMC17 is come and gone. My friends in the south (and elsewhere?) have already started school again, but TMC happens to land equidistant from the end of our school year and the beginning of the next.  In theory, this should be great and allow me to take full advantage of all the awesome stuff I saw/learned/heard/osmosified and create all these new plans by school start. In reality, life always happens and sometime in September or October (maybe #1TMCthing check in day) I’ll run into my notes and get an excited spark to try something new again.

But this year, I took away two different lessons that don’t require any paper prep so that’s where I want to focus on attention. I am most certainly not an eloquent writer, so bare with me:

  1. Word choice matters. And there are many amazing teachers who really are thinking about how simple word choices affect students and colleagues. It might not seem like a huge change, but sometimes that littlest choices make the biggest changes.  Some examples:

  • “Let’s pause here” (Not: Stop Here) @PIspeak
  • “Try now” (Not: Do Now) @PIspeak
  • “Histories” (Not: History) @graceachen
  • Each Student vs. All Students @gwaddellnvhs
  • Learners vs. Students @gwaddellnvhs
  • Addressing a Group: Y’all, Guys, Boys and Girls, Scholars… Each choice has an implication @everybody 🙂

And that’s just the beginning. How we ask questions, when we choose to be silent, what alternatives we considered. It is a lot. But I don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead, I love that with everything else that goes on to compete with teachers’ time we are still willing to think about things that are not as insignificant as they might appear. And we will get it wrong sometimes, probably a lot of times, but highlighting the importance will lead to stronger more thoughtful educators.

And even more importantly, my next takeaway:

2) Our students (learners) are the most amazing and brave people. This is something I have always felt, but being at TMC makes it so much more powerful and forefront in my mind. We as teachers make so many decisions and hold a lot of the power in the classroom, and yet everything we change/adapt/do/say means that the students are asked to respond. Hopefully our change is for their benefit, but in any case it is the students who are most affected. Every time we ask them to do “Talking Points” or solve a complex problem, or “Be Less Helpful” our students have to be brave. Its easy for me to tell them (or show or model) that mistakes are okay. But they are being asked to be brave and make those mistakes and gracefully learn from them. I make mistakes and we talk about them in class, but I’m an adult and I’ve had so many chances to practice screwing up.

So keep making changes for the better, but keep your students in mind. Even good changes mean we are asking students to adapt and try something new. That is scary! And give some of the power in the classroom to your students. It is their education and their opportunity. Plus, also, understand that math mistakes are important… But so are life mistakes. Students are not robots. They will screw up on their behavior or their word choice or their attitudes. Let them make mistakes and then help them learn from the life mistakes too. Give them second and third and maybe even forth chances.  Most of the students who come to me saying they hate math don’t hate the math, they hate how they were made to feel in a math class.


2 thoughts on “TMC17: First Thoughts

  1. Well done! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and take-aways from TMC. I love that you recognize and remind us that our students are brave. Yes they are.
    It was a pleasure to meet you.


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