I just returned from #TMC18 in Cleveland. My head and my heart are full, and I’m so tired I can barely function, but I’m also strangely energized. Friends who had encouraged me to attend kept telling me how “different” TMC is than other conferences. I couldn’t imagine that it’d feel that different, and I honestly don’t dislike the big conference feel, but I had high hopes for #TMC18. It wasn’t until Saturday that I really started processing how TMC is “different”. Sure, there are the surface level differences – the varying session structures, (6 hour sessions over 3 mornings, hour and half-hour long talks, My Favorites and flex sessions), or the venue (a school campus, with amazing hosts), or the visible cell phone presence (it is “Twitter” Math Camp, after all). But there were some more significant differences that I don’t think I was prepared for that have me counting down the days until #TMC19 (In my neck of the woods! Woohoo!)
Never before have I attended a conference where I was presenting & not felt nervous. I was almost nervous that I wasn’t nervous, but when it came down to it, I knew we were amongst friends. I knew that whether 2 or 20 people showed up, the conversation would be worthwhile and I would get to push my thinking about a new topic.
The humanity is magical. Walking down the street without a lunch plan? Join us! Sitting in a restaurant for breakfast and more TMC people walk in? Sit with us (even, “Grab a fork! Have a bite!”)! Need to work through lunch? Let me pick something up for you! Forgot some materials? Use mine! Have some ideas to talk through? Let’s chat! Want to learn how to play a game? We’ve got a night for that! Like, how is this a real place!? I know it’s been said, but it’s the faculty of my dreams. So supportive and loving and inclusive, and REAL
- The structure – having a morning session that I got to return to three days in a row was the BEST. On days 2 and 3 it felt like walking into a homeroom where we had established a community. I attended Chris and Mattie’s session on debate, and it was engaging, actionable, and honestly, just a pleasure. They didn’t just talk about debate structures, they had us engage in and reflect on them. With multiple days to tackle the topic, we had time to process, reflect, and ask questions. It was awesome!
- The learning - I genuinely felt I could choose sessions for myself. Usually, when I'm at a conference, my choices center around what's going on at work. I don't often get to just prioritize my own learning. I didn't feel guilty about attending Amie's session on the mathematics of the game of Set (and P.S. 4D Set at game night changed my life) or choosing Annie & Joe's session even though I've heard Annie speak many times. Of course my learning will impact my work, but I got to be there for ME.
- That nearly everyone who saw my “First Timer” pin was in disbelief that this was my first TMC. It made me feel seen, valued, cared for…. and tells me I must have tweeted a LOT from #TMCjealousycamp last year! The first timer’s dinner was so special and a great opportunity to connect with others who were navigating TMC for the first time as well.
- Friendships – the mix of people who are already good friends and colleagues, and completely new or new-to-in-person friends was such a lovely balance. I got to watch fireworks with my bestie from our hotel room but also got to have many meals and convos with friends from other coasts and countries. I learned about more than just math. Like, did you know that Lisa B. raises bees? Or that Amie is going back to school to get her secondary math credentials (she’s already a professor!)? Or that Derek is a Science teacher who came to TMC because he recognizes how important math is in his courses? Or that Casey’s favorite standards to teach are ones about triangles? (Kidding about that last one)
So, a sincere thank you to everyone at #TMC18 for a fantastic first TMC experience. Still pondering my #1TMCthing, but I know it will be about relationships with teachers and related to community building & I can't wait to share.