Three Days of Amazing PD, Bookended by Travel Problems (That Weren’t That Bad)

Staying up all night in an airport really isn’t my thing, but neither is trying to sleep on these uncomfortable chairs with the background hum of vacuum cleaners and occasional conversations. This is as good a time as any, I suppose, to reflect, at least a little bit, on the NCTM conference this week in San Antonio.

Let me get the travel part out of the way. I had set my alarm for 5am on Wednesday morning, but like a small child on Christmas Eve, I really couldn’t sleep. I woke up at 4:50, and was out the door by 6. My flight wasn’t until 8, and it’s really only a 15 minute drive, but I was so excited. Three days with math teachers, with my people, really means a lot to me, and since I found the #MTBoS community, I found a truly international staff lounge where I could share (and steal) great ideas. Seeing these fellow math teachers that I admire and respect in person is invaluable. But more about them later – back to the travel. I met up with Nicola (the other math teacher at my school) at the San Jose airport, and we had no problems getting on that first flight. For the first time, I had TSA Pre-Check, which was a nice novelty. Such a privilege to keep my shoes and belt on.

When we arrived in L.A. for our connecting flight, we found it was delayed. Then it got delayed some more, and some more. We were originally supposed to arrive at 3:30 for an early evening keynote by the author Jordan Ellenberg who wrote the book How Not to Be Wrong. I got to see him last fall at a Stanford Public Math Lecture, and was excited to see him again, and this time to get him to sign my book. Well, interestingly enough, I did read an interesting chapter.

Since we didn’t arrive until a few hours after his keynote ended, my book’s title page is still naked.

While waiting to eventually board our plane, I bumped into Jed, who I met last year at the #MTBoS booth at NCTM (I think?). I got to chat with him a bit about his talk on geometric transformations, which is his niche I think, the way that my niche is currently debates. Eventually, we did make it onto the plane, back off, and I took my first Uber ride with Nicola and Jed to attend the #MTBoS Game Night. Yes, it’s as geeky and as nerdy as it sounds – lots of math teachers, sitting around playing various games, including some fun Estimation 180 contests and a rock-paper-scissors tournament.

The following are the things that I attended. I’ll blog more about these after I get some sleep, which hopefully means later this week, but could mean the end of June. We’ll see.

  • Thursday morning: Math Debate with Mishal Surti and Anna Blinstein!
  • Thursday afternoon: Megan Schmidt – Statistics for Social Justice; John Urschel
  • Thursday night: ShadowCon; Mathalicious Party
  • Friday morning: Journal Writing; Josh Wilkerson – Service Learning; Mishal Surti – Depth of Knowledge; Jose Vilson – Math, Equity, What’s Not Adding Up; My Debates Talk
  • Friday night: Ignite; Desmos Trivia Night
  • Saturday morning: Chris Shore – Clothesline Math; Mark Couturier – Out of Classroom Experiences; Simon Singh – FLT to Simpson’s Math

Earlier today, I got a message that our flight to L.A. was going to be delayed, but no big deal – we’d still have an hour for our layover, and I’d still get home by 10 tonight. It also meant I got a chance to spend some more time with new and old friends from #MTBoS. Maybe we did an adult version of Which One Doesn’t Belong?

And then, another message, just as I was closing my tab. Our flight was delayed more. I met up with Nicola, and we got a cab to the airport to try to figure things out. However, our flight kept getting pushed back. We were told that we would receive a voucher in L.A., but we were considering just renting a car and driving back to the bay area. Sitting around, I found that some of the people waiting were also math teachers on their way back from NCTM…but not all. That got me thinking…how many of us on the plane would be math teachers? Seems like a good Estimation 180 task – how many passengers on the plane, and what proportion are math teachers? And who should show up, but Andrew Stadel, the developer of Estimation 180. We were chatting with a couple of other math teacher friends, waiting, and waiting, and waiting to board, and finally it happened!

On the plane we went! Seemed like a good time to pose that estimation question.

And so, after a fairly uneventful flight, we landed. Early! But that meant that our gate wasn’t ready. It took 40 minutes for us to arrive at our gate. Just before we pulled in, we did a big loop on the runway. I am pretty sure the pilot was just doing donuts.

So, we stumbled off of the plane, tired, and ready to grab our vouchers and go home. Except that the line for the Delta service desk was…about….40 people deep? That didn’t seem too bad, until we found that the people at the front of the line had been there for three hours with no resolution yet. We started exploring other options for hotels and car rentals and anything that would get us back earlier. Little by little, people in front of us gave up and got out of line, and soon we got to the front. (And by soon, I mean 2 hours). At this point, we’d tried calling hotels, but they were all booked. Also, I got a text that our flight tomorrow morning was delayed, from 8:10 to 11:30. Seemed strange, so I checked Google, and sure enough, there was a 3 hour and 20 minute delay. Then I checked the trusty Delta app, and it said the flight was on time. The gate agent also said the flight was on time. Not sure who to trust anymore, but since there was nothing more the gate agent could do except give us paper boarding passes and reassure us that we’d get compensated somehow eventually for our troubles, we went off to try to sleep or rest or something to pass the time.

And that’s where we are now…waiting for this last leg of the journey. I hope it’s swift, because I miss my wife and daughters and my bed and sleep. But really, I have to remind myself that as bad as it seems, it could be so much worse. There were people I met who had been stuck in the airport for three days, small children, persons with mobility based disabilities, and others who had every reason to be far more frustrated than I. Their difficulties don’t make mine any less, but they should change my perspective.


One thought on “Three Days of Amazing PD, Bookended by Travel Problems (That Weren’t That Bad)

  1. So awesome to meet you! I’m looking forward to reading about the sessions you went to! And I’m hopeful this morning that you’re on your way to family!


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