I spent a few days at the beginning of the month at NCTM headquarters. This is the second time I've visited and I learned a lot about NCTM as an organization as well as my particular charge as a member of the publishing committee. NCTM is not in an ideal space as an organization, Matt Larson acknowledges that in his most recent letter and everyone I spoke to was eager to make changes. This wasn't a broad "we need to fix this somehow" either, people are aware of what some of those changes need to be and how to achieve them. One of my favorite moments was when I was talking about the search function on the NCTM site and trying to say nicely that it needs improvement. Kevin (current board member) interrupted me to say that it's terrible and a running joke (with the sting of truth) at board meetings is that it's easier to google to find something on the NCTM site than it is to use the embedded search bar. Carl, Andrew and I were invited there on purpose. But so were Peg Smith, Chris Suurtamm and Laurie Cavey. The balance between research and practice, bloggers and published authors was fascinating and educational. Beth, the senior editor of NCTM's practitioner journals, is also a professional twitter chat leader. NCTM is making progress that is very obvious from an insider's perspective. I hope to make that perspective a bit more accessible in a series of three posts. Today's post "What NCTM Does for You" will be followed by "What You Can Do for NCTM" and "What I'm Doing with NCTM." None of this is to say that NCTM is perfect and you should stop complaining. Quite the contrary - please keep pushing and sharing ideas for improvements upon NCTM's structures, they're listening. I'm listening.
So, why might you care about this giant organization that is slow to change? Here are four reasons:
1) Whether you join it or not, NCTM is the professional organization representing math teachers in this country (and Canada). When they make a statement, it is on behalf of all of us. "NCTM constantly monitors legislative and policy developments in Washington with the assistance of Washington Partners LLC. The monthly Capitol Report is a concise timely overview of legislative and policy issues of particular interest to mathematics educators and education." An increase in membership would increase the power of the advocacy sector of NCTM two-fold. One, when lobbyists say they represent an organization of 60,000 professionals that's powerful, imagine the power of an organization of over 100,000 professionals (as NCTM was in its prime). Two, more members means more money to spend on advocacy projects. What would you like to see NCTM take a firm stance on?
2) I mostly think of the things I get when I consider what NCTM is or does. I get the Mathematics Teacher journal (with membership, or to purchase by issue without membership). I get Illuminations and ARCs lessons and interactives (free for everyone). Sometimes there are helpful compilations of all of the above: first days of school. Even without a compilation I know that all of the materials I find from NCTM are high quality. In addition to teaching materials there are also other resources including books, blogs, webinars, grants for curriculum work, a job board and more!
3) Before social media exploded, professional organizations were one of the few ways to build community. We can have a lot of our collaborative needs met in other ways now, but there's something to be said for the broader community available through a large, long standing organization. Attending conferences is a quality way to learn what's new in research, what modifications people have made to make past research work, what's new in tech... Plus it's an opportunity to hang out with other people who get what its like to spend most of your professional life as the only adult in the room! If you can't make it to an in person conference fear not, you'll be able to form communities online soon. The online portal (yet to be named) will open in October. On multiple occasions we have wished for a space where we could organize all of the resources we find around the internet into lessons, units or curriculum. The problem was this was always too big of a project for a group of full time educators to take on. NCTM has the structure and funding to make this happen. It will begin as a simple forum but as more people join and request features I have faith it will turn into the amazing tool that I've been dreaming of since I got a sneak preview of the proposal in May.
4) NCTM embodies professionalism in the ways that it represents the work of teachers. But it also gives me some opportunities to grow as a professional on a career path that doesn't involve leaving the classroom. People outside of education see administration as the next step from classroom teacher. NCTM offers presenter, committee member, content developer, author, advocate and so many more titles that can support teacher growth while keeping them in the classroom.
p.s. I was researching car insurance because Jordan is getting her license this year(!) and discovered Geico has a discount for NCTM members. Surprise bonus! Who knows what else NCTM can do for you?