With that said, here are my top 10 takeaways from the conference, in no particular order.
1. We need non-white & non-dude presenters
But how about female teachers and teachers of color?
I'm not going to speak on behalf of any group, but I would love to learn from you. Nanette, Dina, and Liem had incredible Ignite talks on Friday night; it's time for your voices to be heard during a session you lead. Lynda worked alongside Andrew to share about clothesline math and how she's using it; time for you to step up and own your own session.
Maybe you did, and I didn't end up in your session. If that's the case, my bad. I need to get better about seeking out your voice.
And for the rest of you, I need you. I need Javier Garcia to keep presenting about students and language. I need Anne to keep presenting about Social Justice. I need Lybrya to share what she is doing to support teachers and students. And I need you, whomever you are, to step up and know that your voice matters. If you're worried about submitting a session, get in touch with me and I'll help, but there needs to be an influx voices from non-whites and non-dudes. For those who are submitting to present, encourage your colleagues to do the same.
Oh, and we need more dudes.
I'm such a hypocrite, aren't I? But here's where we have another problem: elementary teachers. Look at a conference guide and find the elementary presentations. Chances are, they're run by women. That's great, but I would also love to see a mix of how male elementary teachers are providing dynamic instruction. Graham has helped break that mold, so it's time to step up, fellas.
Maybe a variety of presenters at these conferences would encourage a dissipation of stereotypes within our profession. On the other hand, maybe it wouldn't. If nothing else, though, a variety of presenters offers a variety of voices and, no matter what, we all win.
Since I've posted this, a few people have either DM'd me or commented here that there were sessions by educators of color, including the ones I mentioned. This is me recognizing that I need to do better, then, of seeking out those presentations in the guide ahead of time and making sure that my conference experience has more variety. That's on me, and thank you all for calling it out.
2. Desmos was nowhere
ONLY TWO?! BUT WHY?!
WHAT HAS THE MATH WORLD COME TO???
Have we moved on to the next big thing? Has the love fest with our beloved calculator worn out its welcome?
Needless to say, I was stunned when I saw only two mentions of it. I even thought about presenting a Desmos session, but figured everyone else would be, so I'll leave it alone. Either we were all thinking that or...
3. Desmos was everywhere
"As you know, you can jump into Desmos and create a model for this."
"If you get into Desmos and plot the points, you can set up a regression."
"Eh, I'm just going to do this in Desmos."
"If you enter in this code, it will take you to the activity we built in Desmos."
"On this slide, students dropped their data into Desmos to represent it in a table."
You get the point.
It's a pretty cool thing to see a product as powerful as this get integrated so seamlessly into sessions to where it's an assumption of knowledge. Two years ago, I had to explain what Desmos was before I could explain how we were using it to shift instruction during a session. Now it's a foregone conclusion and I love it. Speaking of knowing a product...
4. Teachers want to get pushed
How is your conference going?
"Well, you know, it's good... but I was hoping for more in a lot of my sessions."
"I feel like I'm looking for something to push me over that hump, and I haven't found it yet. I loved the sessions, but something was missing."
"I knew pretty much all the stuff the presenters were sharing, so I guess it's been OK."
"I came here thinking that I would get something new, but the biggest thing has been the challenge to ask less questions. I've heard that before."
I get it. Especially for folks who have been coming to CMC for years, it's tough to find a new and inspiring message to vault your teaching to another level each and every year. So, the fact that many people I talked to said that they didn't get the push that they were looking for should be seen as a failed--or stalled--conference?
Not so fast, my friend.
What I love about these statements is that teachers are coming to conferences with the high expectation that their teaching will be improved. Underneath all of this is the admission that their teaching has room for improvement. Maybe they didn't realize it, but over 4,000 teachers got a gentle nudge this weekend. Some nudges were more life-changing than others, but I have to believe that everyone will go back to their classroom with more opportunities to be a better supporter of students and learning.
Sometimes, though, a push becomes a shove, and then...
5. Teachers want to start a fight
How are we providing opportunities for our students' voices to be heard?
How are we amplifying those voices?
As the father of two, I don't want my kids to come home and talk about math as if it was something done to them, so my goal with starting a math fight is to encourage the conversation that leads to deeper understanding and investment into the content.
I shared out a tweet that offers up ways to get more conversations stirred up in math, and it's worth nothing that they are all different ways of doing that very thing our math classes are lacking.
6. Modeling is more accessible than I thought
Having students grab the materials and create a visual pattern of their choice was awesome. Even better was this, though:
7. Clotheslines are for WAY more than clothes
Maybe my earlier concern about Desmos is because everyone is stringing up clotheslines like it's 1849. What's the deal, folks?
I wandered over to Dan's session about clotheslines and was immediately floored.
I didn't go to their sessions, but Chris and Andrew each had other sessions promoting the idea and Andrew even occupied Primrose A with it. Whodathunk we would be in awe over a string and pieces of paper in 2016?
8. The inner circle is stupid
Yes, our group consisted of some people who have thousands of Twitter followers and fill up Primrose A every year.
Yes, our group consisted of published authors and editors.
Yes, our group consisted of prominent bloggers.
Even with that, I refuse to believe that this woman had breached the Inner Circle.
The invitation was extended on Twitter, and a pretty great group of folks replied. The median number of Twitter followers for the group was 276. If you're using "Twitter Famous" as a metric of the Inner Circle, 276 is certainly not a qualifying number. The mean number of Twitter followers for the group were much higher, but we have a couple outliers who are both over 6'4" tall who skewed that data set.
If you want the Inner Circle to include you, make the circle big enough until you're in it.
There have been enough posts about having a seat at the table, but my suggestion is this: if you want a seat at the table, take it. There were teachers at the table whom I had never met and was honored to share a meal and conversation with. None of us are bigger than the movement we are all working for, and please know that when attending a conference or engaging in a conversation via Twitter.
Well, except one guy...
9. Brian Shay deserves a math monument
Brian always has a smile on his face, is always busy, and is always deflecting credit for the work that he has done to make CMC-South a conference with over 4,000 attendees and wifi that works more often than not.
From a presenter's standpoint, I have never felt more appreciated.
From an attendee's standpoint, I have never felt more valued.
From an educator's standpoint, I have never felt more inspired.
Thank you, Brian.
10. Kids make me cry
In his Ingite talk, Liem spoke about the different cries from his infant son and how those can be related to the needs of our students. It was hilarious and true all at the same time. The one about poop had me absolutely rolling because my wife and I have been there... a lot.
One of Liem's last slides, and what I think was his call to action, was to "love them." He had a picture of his son alongside a picture of his class and I just lost it.
For 180 days, we have these students and are expected to educate them with content. For 180 days, we go through the trials and tribulations with them, supporting them, challenging them, caring for them, and loving them.
I no longer have a group of students to call my own, to build that relationship, or to love. Instead, I work with teachers across an entire district to facilitate those feelings. Maybe that's the best I can do for now, and it's one of the trade-offs of having a more macro impact on education.
If you are in the classroom, know that your kids want to be loved. Know that your kids want to have a voice. Know that, like those teachers who were at the conference, your kids want to be pushed.
So... what do you agree with? What do you disagree with? How was your conference experience? Share below.
Happy "Gentle Nudge" Fishing