The last day of Twitter Math Camp (yes, that’s a real thing), I sat next to Ellen, who had just finished her first year of teaching. We watched [keynote speaker] Carl Oliver show data about how the Math Twitter Blogosphere (#MTBoS) has grown and spread over the last few years.
During a few of our turn-and-talk-to-your-neighbor breaks, I learned about Ellen’s foray into Math Teacher Twitter, her shyness in crowds, and her feelings of inadequacy around such “well-known” and oft-tweeted names. She said this:
I want to jump in, but I’m so shy around all *these* people.”
[points around #tmc17]
— Matt Vaudrey (@MrVaudrey) July 29, 2017
Much has been shared in the last couple weeks about making the online math community more inclusive, and I want to define some terms:
I take inclusive to mean “a group is welcoming of all who want to join.”
And relatedly, inviting means “the group is appealing and accessible to those who want to join.”
One of those is about culture, the other is about marketing.
Inclusive, but not Inviting
When I was in high school, I went to a lot of concerts. In a large crowd of sweaty teens in baggy shirts, we jumped together, yelled together, and bumped into each other. Often, we’d leave together and get late-night food with people who were strangers hours earlier, but now bonded through mutual interest.
Very few people in IHOP asked my surly crowd of boys, “Hey, can I join you?”
My new friends — the fellow fans of Five Iron Frenzy or Reel Big Fish — were very inclusive, but not very inviting.
Inviting, but not Inclusive
My daughter (4.7 years old) loves to walk the food court at our local mall. Her favorite part is getting a tiny cup of Jamba Juice or Orange Julius.
As we walk by, a perky teen in a paper cap asks, “Would you like a PowerBlast ChiaStrength smoothie?”
“Yes, I would!” responds Pickle, taking the cup.
She then holds the cup and asks, “What’s your name? My name is Cadence and I really like fun juice like this.”
The teen says with a firm smile, “My name is Amanda,” then turns to another passerby and asks, “PowerBlast ChiaStrength?”
As I herd my daughter away, I say, “Drink your juice, honey. Let’s go find you a different friend.”
What confused my daughter was how inviting Amanda appeared to be, but — since she was at work — she wasn’t inclusive.
Math Teacher Twitter
There are … let’s say thousands … of teachers on Twitter, sharing, discussing, asking questions, and generally bettering each other. For free. It’s decentralized and easily adaptable (a starfish organization; more on that here), and has mutated to fit the needs and strengths of teachers.
In the last month, complaints have surfaced about how inviting the community is or isn’t. Immediately, many responded with stories of the inclusive community: hosting events for first-time attendees of TMC, building websites full of resources, and trolling the #mtbos hashtag to offer help and support.
“We’re not inviting enough.”
“We’re totally inclusive!”
Arguing different things. Tracy noticed this, too.
Getting back to this question, Mattie, this is the one I want to reflect on. We have two goals in tension. Not sure how to resolve.
— Tracy Johnston Zager (@TracyZager) August 3, 2017
While at TMC, I was talking to a fellow attendee. They posit that Math Teacher Twitter is inclusive, but they didn’t care whether or not it was inviting.
“You’re a grown-ass adult. If you want a personalized invite to join a public forum, you gotta suck it up and dive in.”
While I don’t share the tone, I kinda see the point. And Dan Meyer (arguably the most influential contributor to Math Teacher Twitter) points out we should be the #mtbos we want to see.
Want an inviting community? Be inviting.
Want an inclusive community? Be inclusive.
I’m proud to contribute to the #MTBoS by sharing everything on this site for free (and this site for free), welcoming new people on Twitter (see Dan and Mattie for their work for this), sharing free resources in workshops (home and abroad), and welcoming and responding to every person who tweets to me with an education question.*
I care about an inclusive community, so I spend my digital dollars there. The inviting part comes along, and there are steps we can take to make that work, too.
At some point, teachers that want to get involved will get involved. I’m going to be as inviting as I can (in real life and online), so all teachers can belong to this fantastic community.
So we can all be — as Ellen said — “one of *these* people.”
Taylor Belcher threw his figurative hands in the air and wrote, “Fine. It’s a club. And we want you in it.”
I like that.
Tomorrow in Part 3, more on how I attempt to be both inclusive and inviting.
~Matt “@mrvaudrey” Vaudrey
*Except white supremacists and ad-bots.