Because naturally I have an opinion on everything, especially things I love. And I love the MTBoS. By extension, I love TMC. I also, often, find that I come off sounding sort of like a jerk when I voice my opinions, so I feel that I should preface that all that is said below is said from a place of deep love for all the math teachers (and teachers in general really) who are trying to make teaching just a little bit easier by connecting on the interwebs.
There has been a little bit of concern voiced over the continued expansion of TMC because of the genuine desire to continue to expand and grow the MTBoS. Not wanting to grow TMC out of fear that it would change the dynamic of the conference directly contradicts what I feel pretty confident we all claim is our very best feature – that we are a community. The most welcoming community around. Anyone who is just trying to be a little less sucky at teaching math is a welcome addition to the tribe.
I won’t lie, I was a little nervous to be headed to TMC. Social situations in which you “know” people, but don’t actually know any of them are awkward. I mean, some of you people I have literally been talking with everyday for 4 years. There was going to be over a hundred “friends” to manage, and let’s be honest, it’s really hard to not want to miss out on something awesome, so choices in who to talk with, who to eat with, what sessions to go to, all felt a little on the overwhelming side.
Know what? Turns out we’re all just as awesome in person. And that meeting 100 people in 4 days is impossible. So I get the fear of what happens when we keep growing? How do we find time to spend with all these awesome people? And these are my thoughts.
There is never enough time. Seriously. I didn’t get to spend enough time with anyone, including Anne who I shared a room with and kept up late every single night talking her ear off. There was so little time I didn’t even meet some very cool folks I was hoping to meet. Or I just sort of waved at them and said “Hi!” but no real conversations were had. However, there will never be enough time, and that doesn’t mean I can’t continue the already existing relationships in the way we do already, all year round. Not having met people in person certainly doesn’t change our ability to have valuable online relationships. Meeting people definitely can add a richer dimension to existing relationships, but that doesn’t subtract from others. It’s not a one or the other scenario. Because of the growth in TMC this year, I got to meet some really awesome new people who I didn’t already “know” and had amazing conversations with them (sure, I absolutely wanted more time with them too.) Point being, there was this really nice dynamic of “familiar” faces and new and amazing people to meet.
That attitude of welcoming made TMC such an easy place to be and to learn. It was phenomenal to be able to talk to any attendee at any time about themselves and about math. Want to talk more? People simply took over the lobby. Want to go for supper? Attach yourself to a group and start walking. Sure, you can spend your time worrying about the experiences you’re missing out on or you can just really enjoy the ones that present themselves.
So long as this aspect of community is preserved, I really don’t think TMC can be too big. And who preserves it? We do. By being our best selves. By being math teachers who just want to suck a little less.