Twitter Math Camp 2016, held at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, wrapped up 8 days ago. Normally, I would have blogged right away after such a rich experience, but some extenuating circumstances led me to step back and think about the conference in a different way. You see, normally I would have written a detailed summary of each session I attended and explained how I planned to use what I'd learned in my own school. But not this time.
My flight home from #TMC16 landed at BWI around 9pm last Tuesday. I planned to stay with my parents that evening because they live much closer to the airport than I do. My parents picked me up from the airport and I texted my fiancé to let him know that I'd landed safely. He replied that he needed to attend a viewing in New Jersey the next day and asked if I would be able to go with him. When I called to find out the details, I was heartbroken to hear about the loss. His friend's 17-year-old brother Jeffrey, a rising senior in high school, had died on Saturday in a fishing accident.
By all accounts, Jeffrey was a vibrant young man. He volunteered to teach younger children and those with special needs how to play hockey. He loved to fish but often came off the boat with more than he needed, so he would share the bounty with anyone on the dock who wasn't as fortunate. He had an infectious sense of humor. Over 1500 people attended the viewing; it lasted 6 hours. The funeral
the next morning was standing room only in the large church. Though I never met Jeffrey, it is clear that his passing will leave a void in his family and his community at large.
Following the viewing and funeral, I was reflecting on what had been shared about Jeffrey. I realized one thing that seemed important: no one mentioned anything about his academics aside from a passing reference to "looking for colleges." Whether he was an exceptional student, a mediocre student, or a struggling student didn't and doesn't matter. Those grades don't make a person. What matters is the character that Jeffrey showed in his life because his loved ones will remember their joyful shared interactions much longer than his report card grades.
What I noticed this year at TMC16 was a new focus on social justice and how the climate we establish in our classrooms and schools can spill out into the greater world. Less emphasis was placed on content than at TMC14 (the only other TMC I've attended); in fact there were only a few sessions that were targeted at one specific course. I can't speak to why this shift has occurred but I am proud to be a part of the conversation about improving school for our students. After all, a good education is comprised of far more than letter grades on a report card.
How can you send the message to your students that their education is about more than grades this back to school season and beyond?