My learning journey, I would comfortably say, really began nearly four years ago. August 4 2014, I was the lucky person from my school picked to go to a professional development session about a new way of teaching problem-based learning activities. Having nearly forgotten that I was supposed to go, I truly had no idea it would change my teaching practice for good. Illegally using Google Maps on my phone to try and find the carpark for this session, I eventually stumble into the building and see a guy standing by the door, literally having to lean over to fit under the door frame, greeting people at the entrance. I had no idea who it was until I introduced myself and he replied, “Hi John. I’m Dan, welcome!”. (Here’s the blog post I wrote that day)
Fast-forward to four days ago and I am waiting out the front of a random building in Washington, attending the Desmos Pre-Conference. The door opened, and I walked in with another MTBoS-er I had just met at the door, Ashli (@Mythagon), and there was the same tall figure that I remember made us Adelaideans feel like ants. He greeted Ashli like they grew up on the same street and I couldn’t help but thinking, wow… Dan and Ashli are like pals! I stood behind her and peered around to see some pretty significant MTBoS pedigree in the room. Like a high school reunion, Ashli was pulled away by another friend of hers, revealing me. My first thought was oh god, I don’t belong here. Was I even allowed to register for this event or was this some sort of exclusive thing that only MTBoS superstars were entitled to???
“John Rowe, right?”
I was so shocked, I was questioning whether or not my name was actually John Rowe. It seemed more likely that I had lived my whole life not knowing my real name than Dan Meyer remembering it. Two nights earlier, Jerry Seinfeld decided to pop in to the comedy club I was at and I can say that I was more surprised that someone remembered my first and last name.
After I dragged my jaw along the ground to the closest table, I took a seat and my door-friend, Ashli, was so kind to sit next to me. Other people started to fill the seats at the table also; Jennifer (@jwilson828), Jill (@jgough), Casey (@cmmteach), Bob (@MrJanesMath), Chris (@ChrisHunter36)… Dan kicked things off out the front and someone took the empty seat on my left and I couldn’t help but thinking, why the hell would you want to sit there? There’s a massive pole in the way! I introduced myself to him and he replied, “Hi John, I’m Eli”. My jaw, having now dropped down the staircase I walked up and making its way out the door, was able to retract somewhat to have a normal conversation with one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve met. **If the rock you’ve been living under doesn’t have an internet connection, Eli (@eluberoff) is the CEO of Desmos)**
Although I was expecting these incredible people to be at a Desmos event, I would have never imagined that they would be so accessible and willing to have a chat (a lot of the time, not even about maths). To be honest, I didn’t think they would be so normal. That, along with trying to constantly recognise people from a pixelated Twitter profile picture, was consistent through the entire conference experience. To be able to bump into Michael Fenton in the exhibition hall for a chat during lunch or having Andrew Stadel, Robert Kaplinsky and Nannette Johnson recognise me at the airport gate, and talk to these great minds of maths education like they were colleagues was an experience I will always remember.
I’ve got so many things to blog about as a result of attending this conference, which I’m sure will surface as they start making the positive impact on my teaching and my students’ learning. I just feel so thankful for those who made my learning experience at the NCTM conference so much more personal and truly making me feel like a part of the MTBoS family.
It was |amazing|.
*Special mention to Sara Van Der Werf (@saravdwerf) for literally grabbing people’s arms at the Desmos Trivia Night asking, “have you met John Rowe and his wife? They travelled all the way from Australia to be here!” Thanks for making my Twitter feed come to life, Sara.