The Role of Professional Conferences in this Teacher’s Life

As this blog entry was being written, I was traveling to the California Math Council (CMC) North Conference at the Asilomar Conference Grounds near Monterey, CA. I have attended and/or presented at this conference many times over the years, and as I am putting the final touches on my presentation for this year, I am pondering why…

Why do we as professionals gather together for these things? I mean, it is a very inconvenient time, the weekend following the Thanksgiving holiday, and for me it’s the weekend immediately preceding the final week of instruction in my classes. It also isn’t a cheap trip, especially coming at a time when the holiday bills are mounting.

Yet, I still go…why?

Is it because I am so committed to becoming a wonderful teacher of mathematics? Or because I believe I have so much to give and that everyone needs to listen to me? Or maybe I see myself being in such desperate need of help that I will gather up all the hints, tricks, problems, and technological doodads I can find? The answers to all of these is no.

Simply put, I go for the joy of it. For simply being able to gather together with people who enjoy what I enjoy. Teaching and learning math is a joy-filled experience for me. The connections, energy, and enthusiasm I find color my thoughts for months, sometimes years, and have shaped my career path, putting me on new and wondrously varied branches.

Whether I am at a small local gathering of math teachers to hang, enjoy some pizza, and a chat along with a good math problem; or I am attending a National Research Conference delivering a paper, I just love being there.

I have attended conferences where I arrive with an agenda to learn all I can about a specific subject, and then other times I have gone with the sole purpose of delivering a talk and then immediately leave in order to attend to other business. Conferences have a way, no matter what I intend, of shaping my outlook.

We at AIMS have an active cadre of attendees and presenters at these conferences. My sincere hope for all of them, and any of you readers who are in the teaching profession, is that you all find the joys of camaraderie that these events foster. That joy, those connections, are the things that make our vocation attractive and keep it human. Yes, learn about Formative Assessment, and Professional Noticing, or the use of Geogebra or Desmos as a tool; also connect with others in the field, build a network, enjoy the company of others committed to the joy of learning.

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