Water the Lawn, Ignore the Weeds

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I wish I could +1 an image
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators conference in Kingston this past week.  I plan on blogging in detail about my time there, which was amazing!  At one point the #OAME and #OAME2017 hashtags were trending in Canada.  Lots of great sharing was happening, conversations were deep and rich, it was food for the mathematical soul.

Of course, as with all things social media, there were some unhappy voices.  These weighed on me, mostly because I can’t understand why an individual would be called out for mentioning a point that resonated with them.  Our institutions of education grow by sharing, not by shaming.

So this troubled me on the way home Friday night.  It stuck with me Saturday morning until I decided to cut my overgrown lawn.  Distractions are helpful, right?  I wasn’t prepared for my backyard, it was overrun with dandelions and other prickly weeds.  My kids couldn’t play on it without getting bothered.  I had to do something about it.  Out come my weeding tools and after an hour I had a nice pile of compost for the brown bag and I was ready for the lawnmower.  As I was mowing, I was noticing that there were even more weeds hiding under the surface of the grass, waiting to explode onto the scene.  Back to weeding!  Attack, attack, attack!

Clearly adding value to the discussion here

It was then I realized I was doing it all wrong.  I was spending so much time worried about the weeds, pulling them up today only to see a bunch more sprout tomorrow, that I forgot about tending to the lawn.  There was another way.  I could nurture the grass, water it, feed it, so that it would grow so healthy that it would crowd out any prickly weeds that tried to grow.  Of course a few might take root, but if I ignored them and focused on the lawn itself, they would spread much more slowly.

This is, I think, the essence of the OAME community and even the much larger #MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-sphere).  Together, we are a lush, healthy lawn.  We value opinions, we encourage discussion, we seek to help those who need it, we offer advice, we nurture, grow and thrive together.  We are the grass of a healthy lawn.  Sure, from time to time there are weeds that like to prick us when we walk on the lawn.  We could spend all of our time attacking those weeds or we can recognize them for what they really are, a pointless distraction.

We are nice people...

So the next time the implication is made that my membership in the OAME means I don’t care about the welfare of the next generation, or that my teaching style "dumbs" down learning standards I’ll just turn away from the weeds and water my lawn.