Posted by: rdkpickle | 07.31.2017


Is my participation in #mtbos for me, for my students, or for the profession? (or some combination of the three?) Does it matter? Should it matter?

I’m asking this question because my intuition tells me that I need to spend some time being thoughtful about this before I can process any of my thoughts about where our community is, what it could be, and my role in its future.

Right now, my north star as I make choices about how to engage in growing professionally online is *student experience in my classroom*, while attending to personal needs and setting boundaries that allow me to stay happy, brave, curious, and kind.

I suspect this perspective will evolve as my teaching does, and over time I’ll have different goals and desires in participating in/contributing to an online professional learning community.

This post is four sentences (well, five, now) but I’m headed to dinner with Heather and her family (I’ve made very real, lasting friendships through this community) so this is all I have time for. #pushsend. Much love to all of you who are having hard conversations, listening, doing the work.


  1. To clarify, when I say “for me,” I’m not talking (only) about the personal relationships. I meant something more along these lines, the phenomenon Henri describes in his comment on Dan’s blog, and the reality that being a well-connected member of this community can potentially lead to employment opportunities outside the classroom.

    (here’s the quote from Henri Picciotto copied from Dan’s blog here)

    “@mpershan Hey, Michael: You’ve put your finger on a huge undiscussed issue. Good teachers, and really, many teachers who think about their craft, often get kicked upstairs or go into academia, so that they end up leaving the classroom after just a few years. This is a huge phenomenon, with an unspoken but unmistakable message: this profession sucks, and the better you are at it, the quicker you should get out and gain the prestige of being something other than a mere teacher. Admittedly, I’m oversimplifying, but this really deserves more discussion.”

    • I don’t have much to say, but I’m also trying to follow the #pushsend instinct for comments. At the least I can say that your post has me thinking, and the question is such a good one. Thank you for sharing it.

      The employment opportunity phenomenon is a real part of mtbos that I wished we talked about more.

      I think a lot of the recent blah blah has revealed some of the tensions that are inherent in our community. Public/private. Friendship/professional. Tight-knit/movement. Classroom/Not. Coherent/inclusive. Choosing any side of these tensions would change our community in a devastating way, I think. What we need to find are the right compromises, but nobody knows what those are, and nobody knows how to figure any of this out.

      Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on your role and the community. Hope you push send a lot!

      • I’d like to talk about the “employment opportunity phenomenon,” as you name it. It’s a confusing part of the #mtbos for me, personally, because I will admit to feeling all of these impulses to impress people that I am not really sure how to diagnose. It’s a weird extra factor in this whole conversation about influence and the direction of our community that I need to spend more time thinking about. Your naming of the various tensions present in our community is spot on. The right compromises are individual, certainly, but worth talking about as a group. I keep trying to ask myself – what are my goals? What is my North Star? And keep pointing there. Sometimes that takes me away from the #mtbos. Okay.

      • I’m really interested in talking about this. I have a lot of feelings about all this, and I don’t want to flood your post with my personal situation. In brief, I’ll say:

        (a) for me, this feels caught up in how hard it is for classroom teachers to find our place in the broader profession

        (b) I do sometimes wonder if I get less interest/fewer (or different) opportunities as I sort out find a space for myself outside math edu orthodoxy — which ultimately I would be ok with, because I don’t think this stuff is for me.

        It’s a confusing part of the #mtbos for me, personally, because I will admit to feeling all of these impulses to impress people that I am not really sure how to diagnose.

        Oh yes.

      • “for me, this feels caught up in how hard it is for classroom teachers to find our place in the broader profession”

        Yes. This really resonates with me. In addition to math teacher blogs/twitter providing me with amazing resources to use in my classroom and support as I’ve grown as a teacher, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t also feed some part of me that was looking to feel like a part of something bigger than my own classroom. Especially in early days (first few years of teaching/first few years of twitter and blogs) knowing there were driven, motivated, connected teachers online and I could talk to them and be noticed by them satisfied something my competitive, ego-driven self was craving. It’s embarassing to admit, perhaps. I also felt proud and special to be a part of a group with projects and conversations that are moving the needle on how math is taught in classrooms across the country. This desire to impress/feel special (or whatever) has shifted some as I’ve found myself in professional settings where I’ve felt more agency, potential for growth, and happiness.

        But – reflecting on my participation amidst this whole “blah blah” 😉 brings me back to my original question. Is my participation in the #mtbos for me, my students, or the profession? I think my answer to this question matters a lot – because I don’t want to be engaging for purely selfish reasons. And a lot of times, the time required to be really active here takes away from the time I could be spending on my in-person teacher community. At the same time, the people who have given up so much of their time to make this community accessible and useful to others have certainly had a positive impact on so many other teachers and classroom.

        So what is it I want out of the math teacher twitter/blogosphere? For myself? For my career? For my classroom and students? And what is my obligation to the community and to other teachers who might be looking for what we’ve managed to create here?

        Thanks for your comments in this space. Always happy to continue the conversation through email as well, if you prefer, where we both might feel more comfortable sharing freely. 🙂

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