Do Better. A response to Dan Meyer’s Let’s Retire the #MTBoS

Update August 1: I feel pretty strongly about the content of this post but it’s goal was not to throw Dan under a bus it was supposed to be a wake up call. A harsh reminder of the fact that while I know he personally itches at the idea of being a leader or of this group at all having a leader at all he is it by default. By blogging first, by blogging often, by providing real classroom stuff before the rest of us, by doing a tedTalk.  While I do use the f-word in this post and it’s pretty common in my vernacular (please don’t try to see how many times I have used it here, its a lot) I understand that that came off as at least not helpful and at most pretty mean.  I also know that twitter has rallied around this post and some of that contributed to the bus throwing.
This is all to say Dan, I’m sorry. I was harsh. I hurt you and I damaged a long standing relationship. It was not my intention but as that impact matters more.

 

This is a response to this post by Dan Meyer.

Part 1

Let’s start here. Actually let’s start before here.  Is that a thing? Before here.  Let’s start with me addressing my own privilege in this community.  I have been a member of the online math teacher community since (according to my twitter) 2010.  I have about a thousand followers many of whom of are also early adopters of the twitter and blogging.  This platform reaches between one and two thousand people and some posts I have written are regularly read in teacher credentialing programs.  This is not to brag.  This is just to say, I understand my privilege in this community and my power (which is not a ton but definitely some).

Now let’s talk about Dan’s.  Seven years ago Dan wrote a post about me that actually got me a job interview. It is a lovely post. Dan has about 57 thousand followers on twitter.  For reference Josh tweeted this:

While many of us consider Sam and Kate as influencers in the math teacher community each of them have about six thousand followers to Dan’s 57. That is not including his blog or the training he does for districts. In every interview panel I have every sat in for a math teacher job someone has mentioned Dan and his work.  That is to say Dan has a lot of privilege and power within this community.

For those tl;dr friends: I have some status. Dan has all of it.

Part 2

Okay, Let’s go back to this

I’m sorry but my first response to that was actually outloud, “Well, fuck you.”

But my second response is this timeline:

  • In 2012 PCMI participants got an email sending them to the weebly and Tina tweeted requesting people welcome those newbies.
  • In June of 2013 there was State of the MTBoS global math discussion.
  • 2013 was the year of PD where a bunch of people (I think Dan included) made presentations for their departments on how get involved.
  • At 2013 TMC and 2016 TMC there were “breaking out of ourselves” sessions to discuss expanding the MTBoS
  • October 2013 was the first Explore MTBoS initiative on the explore site (exploremtbos.wordpress.com) but there had been one before that hosted on our blogs
  • We’ve done lots of impromptu blogging initiatives to help people gain momentum
  • April 2015 was the first NCTM booth and the April 2015 was also Explore MTBoS timed to go with the booth
  • January 2016 there was another Explore MTBoS initiative
  • January 2017 there was another ExploreMTBoS initiative

I guess it’s not obvious that we are trying to expand out community?  That we are attempting to make a blatantly laid out the path to gaining social capital in the community.

And again: tl;dr there are countless efforts to make the community more inclusive and intuitive happening all the time and a great number of people invested in this work (for no money or personal gain).

Part 3

Now here’s where I get real. I don’t really care what hashtag you tweet under. #MTBoS #iteachmath #statschat #elemmath. I don’t do a good job of following any of those. Carl could tell you which get used the most but it really doesn’t effect me.  I mostly follow people I know and people who tweet at me and any real good retweets.  Here at the 600 word count is where my problem with this whole post is:

Dan,

You saw a problem and decided to fix it without asking or looking first.  You didn’t consider your privilege or status as the most prominent member of our community.

Problem: People feel like the MTBoS is an exclusive club. Tweets are going unanswered.

Solution: NEW HASHTAG!!!!

This is not a solution. This is also not how to community organize.  The post you wrote hurt a lot of very active members of this community.  It made unfair assumptions (that we don’t already talk about this and worry about this all the time).  It’s tone was dismissive of the seriousness of this problem.

I am going to reference this article on how to use your privilege to structure this note:

  1. Listen and Trust. Ask first if the work is already being done.  When someone says it is, believe them.
  2. Not every conversation needs your voice…
  3. But some do. You have a large platform and you are trying to do the work get involved, awesome! This community is made up of people doing this work for free.
  4. Signal Boost. This is what should have happened in the first place.  How about a post about all the work already being done?
  5. Accept when you’re wrong and try to learn from it. There were several people on twitter calling you out on this and instead you continued to argue. In fact even in your rewording of the post you don’t ever apologize. 
  6. Don’t expect thank yous.
  7. Do something. Host an explore the MTBoS.  Have a link on your blog. Ask Tina, Lisa, Sam, or Julie what they most want amplified. 

tl;dr I am pissed not so much about the hashtag itself but actually Dan’s use of privilege and disregard for the work already being done.

Part 4

Saturday, I tweeted I was annoyed with Dan’s post and Dan invited me to take it offline:

Dan, I didn’t do that. I wrote this instead. It is long and unwieldy and not nearly as angry as it would have been had I have wrote it Saturday.  You hurt my friends and didn’t apologize.  You were condescending to me and didn’t recognize your own power.  This post may generate some some conversations and there will be people who disagree me.  I’m happy to chat about that here or on twitter.  I am giving this conversation 3 days and then I’m out.  Because as Auntie Maxine says, “I’m reclaiming my time.”

tl;dr It’s short just read it.

Signed,

Me.

p.s. I read a great article about how she loves when millennials call her Auntie Maxine and I am so in.

 

P.P.S.  Some other posts on this topic: Fawn, Kate, Grace

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9 thoughts on “Do Better. A response to Dan Meyer’s Let’s Retire the #MTBoS

  1. I am actually in tears after reading this. Many of us have given up so much of our time and our lives, even with full time jobs and families, to make this community bigger and above all, better. We really wanted to make this an amazing place, and to bring to everyone what we had. We wanted everyone to blog and tweet with us so we could all grow more. I want to blog about it all, but it is just too much for me right now. I’m not a great writer and was worried how it would come out. I honestly can’t even get my mind around it. I am so glad we have phenomenal writers like you. Thank you. ❤ Julie

  2. I have apologized to probably not enough people for the manner (authoritarian) and timing (during a festive moment) of my proposal. I remain in awe of the work Julie, Sam, Tina, and others have put in welcoming people to the #MTBoS, and helping them explore this place. I don’t want to end the #MTBoS or their efforts.

    “Problem: People feel like the MTBoS is an exclusive club. Tweets are going unanswered. Solution: NEW HASHTAG!!!!”

    This is not the obstacle to community participation I’m trying to address. I detail that obstacle in my post. I’ve tried to clarify it on Twitter. I’ve excerpted responses from our community that illustrate the obstacle. The obstacle is not one I’ve imagined. The timeline you outlined is full of efforts I’ve been awed to witness, but none of them address this particular obstacle. I’m happy to re-explain that obstacle here, but “fuck you” means I’m already on borrowed time in your home here.

    1. The fuck you was about your tone there. It felt dismissive and mean.

      And yes, in each of those meetings we discussed changing the hashtag. Tina has more detailed even notes about it. There are even specific ideas around what it could be. If you’d like to see Tina can show you. The conversation happens literally at every TMC. But you didn’t ask.

  3. I had a very similar reaction. He’ll mansplain it again if we like… to *prove* it’s the solution because N people (and he wants to know how big N would have to be) have said the hashtag was a problem for them. Erm, we get that.
    Apologizing for tone is one thing. It’s the deeply rooted attitude that creates that tone that’s still coming through, clearly.

  4. I have no comments specifically to add to everything that has been said here, echoing my impressions about this #controversynoncontroversy. But, Annie, you always tell the truth, and I love you for it.

  5. I am still new to Twitter, and definitely on the outside of this discussion. I don’t know the inner workings, or the politics, or what has or hasn’t been done to be inclusive to new people. I can see that you (and many others) are angry at the way Dan expressed his ideas. But I would ask that you set aside your anger for just a moment, and try to see that the hashtag #MTBoS can be confusing and unintentionally (I’m sure) exclusive (this is probably not news to you). It took me a good deal of time to figure out what it meant, and then that I was allowed to consider myself a part of it. As an outsider, it was the first time I had heard anyone acknowledge this. Not that it hasn’t been addressed in other ways and places, but it was the first time it had gotten all the way to me. As Dan suggested, there are probably some advantages to an additional hashtag. This is, I suppose, one of the reasons why Dan’s platform is especially useful: to reach math people who might be more on the fringes.

    1. Hey Loren!
      Welcome to the MTBoS. As you can tell from my post I have no problem with the hashtag. I really don’t care at all my problem is more with the way Dan did it. You talked about never hearing these conversations before. What if Dan had amplified ways to get involved. Would that have solved your problem? I know that it seems like I am being mean to Dan but it was more about the process

      Let me know if you need anything in this awesome community I’m happy to point you in the right direction.

      Annie

      Wre

  6. Anne: Hi. I don’t think we’ve met in person. So hi. I really appreciate this post and echo your feelings. Thank you for taking the time to write about them so eloquently, as Julie also mentions. I agree with nearly all of Dan’s sentiments (and assume he’s following this thread), but agree that the timing and taking matters into his own hands to propose change didn’t acknowledge or honor the amazing work & reflection that has been done and continues to be done every day among the entire #MTBoS community, but especially the small-ish group of teachers who are continually involved in supporting and growing our community. Most importantly, to me, is that the MTBos community was initially formed by a group of classroom teachers. I was lucky enough to meet Tina, Sam and Kate at PCMI 2011 and the ONLY reason I learned about this community is because of their encouragement for me to belong, way back then and at many explicit moments along the way. To me, what makes the leadership of this community unique (and I would argue that there are leaders…who have become that because of years of sweat equity), is that it’s led by classroom teachers. Period. As someone who left the classroom several years ago, I don’t feel my voice should be as powerful as those who are currently classroom teachers. This is a community which unites many of us in all sorts of roles, however honors the work of classroom teachers in a very unique way. To me, TMC is just that. A professional institute run by classroom teachers for classroom teachers. While others of us who are outside the classroom attend, present and learn, what makes it different from other institutes is that it was founded by and continues to be led by current classroom teachers. (Full disclosure… I have actually never been to TMC, so feel free to tell me I’m totally off base if necessary) So honestly, what rubbed me the wrong way wasn’t Dan’s sentiments at all, but that as a non-classroom teacher, he suggested a change without collaborating with the classroom teachers who are, in my opinion, the most powerful leaders of this community. I know that trusting and learning from the expertise of classroom teachers is a huge piece of both Dan and Desmos’ work and I have seen that in action over and over again. For me, in the moment of the # proposals, this core value was overlooked.

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