This is the first of three posts that are floating around in my head. We are in Cincinnati this weekend visiting my brother-in-law and his family, so I'm not totally sure if I'll get them all out or not.
I took a personal day Friday so we could be down here - DH had a vendor symposium north of Dayton on Friday and we always take the time to come down as a family so we can visit my brother-in-law and his family. Their kids are close in age to our kids and they all enjoy playing together. Some of my fondest memories as a child are times that I spent with my cousins and I certainly want my children to have those memories too. But, I digress...
I have always enjoyed connecting with other math teachers on Twitter. When I have been explaining Twitter to other teachers, I have used the analogy of it being a huge faculty lounge with the sharing of ideas and less of the complaining (not that we don't complain - we do - but there is much less of it on Twitter). When I found out that Kristen Fouss was from the Cincinnati area - I was doubly excited - not only an Ohio math teacher, but one I could hopefully meet at some point as well. So, on my (personal) day off, I went to Anderson High School and hung out with Fouss for part of her day.
We had a wonderful visit - first of all, even though it was the first time we met in person, it was as if I was greeting an old friend. She made me feel so welcome and the staff at Anderson was welcoming too. I am really glad that we had the chance to talk and share ideas in longer than 140 characters at a time. I walked away with some thoughts to explore back at our school as far as assisting students (who knows if they'll come to fruition - but it's always good to see what other schools are doing with what resources they have). But most of all, I walked out of AHS feeling that what I am doing in the classroom is not totally off track.
I think that as we are in our classrooms teaching up a storm, if we are truly reflecting on what we're doing, we ask ourselves the question if we're going about it in the "right" way or the "best" way. As teachers, we are truly isolated from adult contact for most of the day. We look at the results we get from our students and we tweak what we're doing based on our beliefs and what we know. We teach many times the way we were taught and how we go about our craft has been shaped primarily by our teachers that we learned from, our university experiences, and the student teaching experiences we had throughout our university studies. By the time we actually begin our teaching careers, we take what our past experiences have been and use what fits us and discard the rest. When we don't like how things are going, we possibly look to other teachers in our building for help and suggestions, but again, their teaching styles and philosophies tend to be similar to ours (or we probably wouldn't have been hired there in the first place). Most of who we are as teachers is pretty solid by the time we reach the end of our fifth year of teaching. Now, granted, I am making a generalization here. There are teachers who are continually changing and do go and reinvent who they are as a teacher (which is somewhat what I am going through at the moment), but it is rare I think.
I don't know if things have dramatically changed for younger teachers, but at least as I was a starting teacher, you didn't really have the opportunity to see how other teachers in your discipline taught once you were teaching yourself. Maybe you had the chance to sit in on someone else's class on your planning period in your building, but that was about it. I can honestly say that the first time I saw another math teacher teaching was as I watched how Fouss' classes went on Friday. I am so glad that I did take the time to go. I picked up a couple of ideas to look at once I'm back home. It reaffirmed for me that I am not totally off the mark on how I teach - and that's probably the best thing for me at the moment. As I read other people's blogs and I see what other teachers are looking at doing, I have wondered if those things are what everybody does in the classroom. And I think my conclusion is that many people look at incorporating some of those ideas into their class but that not everybody is doing them solely in their classroom. I needed that affirmation at this point and I am grateful for that.
So, back to the title of the post. Why do I love Twitter? Because it connects me with other math teachers and we have a great exchange of ideas. It provides me with the opportunity to meet with other like minded teachers across the world - something I wouldn't have otherwise. It challenges my thinking about my current practice as a teacher and gives me ideas of things to try. Plus, I have a forum to question and bounce ideas off other teachers. It's the huge faculty lounge in the cloud - the way you'd like your faculty lounge to be.