How the #MTBoS made me a better teacher.

tl;dr – The #MTBoS kept me in education, and I won an award because of it.

Teaching in a school was not my first, second, or even third career.  I went to Ohio University for video production (career 1), worked in production companies and a church. Went to seminary to become a pastor (career 2), moved to Florida and worked at a school as a computer tech (career 3), before becoming a teacher.

To tell the truth, I thought, “how hard can this be?”  It’s the same way I looked at becoming a father.  I can be a whole lot better than most fathers in this world and kids for the most part still turn out ok, and I can be a whole lot better than some teachers, so why not give it a shot?

My first year had many ups and many downs.  I dreaded Monday mornings and struggled each night to keep up.  After one year, I wanted out.  And I took a year off to find a full-time ministry job (remember career #2?). God had other plans, and I had a fabulous principal who hired me back, and I settled into teaching 7th and 8th grade math.  My second year teaching was better, but I still dreaded the work, the struggle, the boring-ness of what I was teaching.  That next summer I vowed to be different, to try something different, and that’s when I found the #MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere).  It’s a collection of math teachers from around the globe who have banded together over twitter to share, encourage, struggle, emote, and strive to help make Math sensible and understandable to students.

It was like going down the rabbit hole, and every nook and cranny allowed me to understand why the trick “keep it, switch it, flip it” works when dividing fractions, and then I found a whole book to Nix the Tricks and help students discover the how and why of math, versus the “just do it this way and it will work” type of math.  That comes from @crstn85.

I then found a twitter math soul mate who continually poured out his emotions on a blog post and helped me to realize that I was not alone in the daily struggle of teaching.  He also became a huge fan of some posters I created!  Truly his rawness made it ok for me to continue everyday and become a better teacher. That’s @JustinAion

Then I found out about Standards Based Grading from Dane Ehlert, Three Act Math Tasks from @DanMeyer, I found a hundred useful ideas from @saravdwerf, patterns and more patterns from @fawnpnguyen, Estimation 180 from @mr_stadel, counting circles from @wahedahbug

I put out a blog post asking for people to be in an online PLC and found @Cjeremko and @mrrajewich. We met about twice a month for a school year and encouraged each other, struggled with standards for seventh graders, compared notes on teaching in Florida, New York, and California, and shared lessons!  

The #MTBoS strengthened me as a teacher and as a person.  Because of this network of the folks I mentioned and the 100 or so others that I follow, I was able to persevere. I have since moved out of the math classroom and now work on an innovative Mobile STEM Lab, which travels the elementary schools in our district and have 5th graders come out for a 90 minute experience.  In the middle of my second year of doing this, I applied for and was named as the 2017 PBS Digital Innovator for the state of Florida.

There will be more to come on this, but I wanted to start of by saying “Thank you” to the #MTBoS.  I honestly would not be in this position without you.

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