three tweets, where I note that something is lost when interactions only happen online

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There are dozens of math teachers that I admire from afar, many of whom converged on San Antonio this week for NCTM. I got to sit at the feet of these – my teacher-crushes – and hear firsthand what they may not share in print.

That’s the point of conferences, right? To confer.

Online, I get a two-dimensional view of these educators. For some, it’s a highly-curated image of their best work, best screenshots, and best writings, edited to perfection. There’s a degree of anonymity online, where I can choose to show only the best parts of myself.

Look at that picture to the left. That’s the best picture of me that I have, so of course that’s the one I share.

But when I’m sitting six feet from Elham Kazemi, listening to her description of the five (six?) methods of student discourse, it’s a completely different experience than just reading her book.

In literature, the digital persona would be called a “flat” character. Two-dimensions, no depth.

By spending time in real life with colleagues from home and abroad, I can repaint them in my mind as “round” characters, full of life and detail and minutia that don’t come up in a tweet or blog post.

Chris buys me a drink as soon as I arrive, then asks, “If you could be any rockstar for a night, who would it be? I’m asking everybody here.”
Our new friends at the bar pitch their workshop to Stephanie, who listens intently and offers thoughtful feedback.
Ethan beams as he shows me pictures of his kids.
Karrine — who I’d never met — comes in for a hug: long-overdue, since she translated the Mullet Ratio into French for use in her schools in Ontario

There are also imperfect parts to our round-ness, stuff you see from staff at your day-to-day, but not from teacher-crushes.

Gray hair that’s more prominent than it was when that headshot was taken.
A foul mouth with a foot regularly placed in it.
A laugh that’s a little too loud for the room.

(Some of those are me.)

These traits, the good and the fallible, are what make us real, what make us into actual people. These are people with whom I can have personal relationships based on professional interests. An online network of math teachers is great, but shaking hands and being a smartass in person is important, too.

See y’all in Atlanta this summer.

~Matt “Interrupts sometimes and has a mole” Vaudrey